Working smarter, not harder. We all have 24 hours a day. Are we spending it in the best way?

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Start by doing what is necessary, then what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible. Saint Francis of Assisi

A New Zealand company is encouraging all of New Zealand to try a four day work week. Legal Services trust Perpetual Guardian began a six-week trial in February 2018 in which each employee had an extra day off per week. The founder of the company says he will never go back.

The moral is up, they didn’t cut pay to give the extra day off. Staff retention is up, stress levels have dropped and productivity has gone up. Andrew Barnes the founder of the company feels this is an important issue for New Zealand.

The majority of the workforce is now millennials and they are looking for flexibility. He is worried they will resort to unstable “gig jobs” which he feels will have lasting repercussions for New Zealand.

“Gig jobs” don’t have pensions, healthcare, or sick pay. He feels that New Zealand will end up paying that tab. Aren’t gig jobs are just another form of entrepreneurship?

Any kind of contractor has a “gig job” meaning they do work for someone until that project is finished and then they get another project. Painters don’t continue to paint one house. Mechanics don’t only fix one car.

Someone is getting the jobs, and someone is doing the work. In a “gig economy” many entrepreneurs are playing both roles. They get the work, and they do the work.

For some people, this is their idea of freedom. Other people find this lonely and they run out of contacts. Service businesses have a problem in that we can only do what we can do. Is the four hour week the answer for many people who push themselves to get through the day without being really productive for all of the time they spend on the job.

Do we delude our self thinking I’ll get more done, I’ll work evenings and weekends? Instead, do we need to realize there is a limit to the amount of productivity we can get out of our self over the long haul? We can work that weekend, but can we make working weekends the way to handle our workload?

Work expands to fill the time allotted to it. Unknown

A goal is a dream with a deadline. Napoleon Hill

Is the answer working smarter and not harder? What does that look like? It sounds great to say I’m working smarter instead of harder.

Do we need to focus when we are working on work, and when we are not working focus on other things? Are we messing things up by being too focused on work and our productivity is going down? It sounds like an oxymoron, working less gets more done, and working more gets less done. How can this be?

How do we work smarter?

The 80/20 rule suggests a small amount of inputs contributes to a much larger amount of outputs. We need to minimize the time spent on what is unproductive.

Parkinson’s Law states that “work will fill the time available for its completion.” Can we focus on accomplishing the task instead of just filling the hours? If we give ourselves deadlines to finish the project, or at least break it down into chunks we can accomplish in an allotted amount of time we will accomplish more.

Energy management versus time management. We can force ourselves to think of results as a function of energy, not time invested. Working intensely for a short period of time can accomplish more than working for days, tired and distracted.

Work in bursts. Divide yourself between complete rest and complete focus. Switching in-between leave us neither rested nor productive.

Kill projects. Don’t spread tasks that only take a few hours over several days. Sit down and finish them in one sitting. When we kill projects we feel energized, and like we’ve really accomplished something.

Make time for rest, relaxations, exercise, health, fun. Enslaving our self to work can actually accomplish less. We need to master the ability to recharge.

Only use sharp tools. There is a story of two lumberjacks. One grabs his rusty ax and heads for the woods. The second spends a good part of the day sharpening his ax and then heads for the woods. He then fells the biggest tree.

Track your accomplishments. Test out different methods. Figure out if there are better ways of doing things, do A/B tests.

The marginal rule of quality. By putting more time into the project are we really making it better? Would taking more time mean less mistakes, less redo”s? We need to find the most effective way to be the most productive. Are we better if we slow down and do it right the first time, are we better if we speed up and get it out? Are we striving for perfection when good enough is okay?

Canadians spend 300 more hours at work than people in Germany, the Netherlands, and Norway. Are we really more productive? Long hours do not necessarily go hand in hand with increased output.

A study from Stanford shows the productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours, and productivity declines so much after 55 hours there is no point working anymore. They say the people who work as much as 70 hours per week or more actually get the same amount done as people who work 55 hours.

As little as 30 minutes of planning our upcoming week can yield significant gains in productivity and reduced stress. Many of us think how can I fit that into my schedule? Many productivity experts recommend  30 minutes on Sunday as the time to plan our week.

Designate mornings as “our” time. If we can find a way to engage in an activity we are passionate about first thing in the morning this can pay massive dividends in happiness and cleanliness of mind. Our mind achieves peak performance two-four hours after we wake up. The recommendation is to get up early, do something physical, and then sit down and engage in something mental while our brain is at its peak.

If I didn’t write this blog in the morning before 9:00 it wouldn’t get out most days. At the end of the day, it would be much harder to get done. I don’t think I would have over 200 posts, my output would have been a lot less. By getting it out almost every day, I feel I’ve already accomplished something before I go on with the rest of my day. It’s a boost to the whole day.

Scheduling micro adventures is a way to bring more fun, exercise, and adventure into our lives. Instead of getting on the treadmill we can go for a hike. Studies show that anticipating something good is a significant part of what makes the activity pleasurable. Knowing we have something fun planned for the weekend will not only be fun on the weekend but will also improve our mood all week.

Spend time with our family. We need fifteen hours of uninterrupted time per week with our spouse to create a great marriage. We need to spend time with our kids, parents, siblings to build and maintain strong relationships. Family meals are a great way to fit everyone in, talk, laugh and enjoy each other.

We need to find time to exercise, reflect, and rest. Is building a well-rounded life is worth doing?  Will we reap the benefits in all areas of our life? Can we become more productive, improve our relationships, get the exercise we need, eat well, and pursue our passion? We will not have the same amount of time and energy to give to each of these at different points in our life. We will have to find the balance. Is it worth finding the balance?

We may find it easier to find balance than trying to fix the mess we have by letting things get too unbalanced. If we don’t give our spouse 14 hours of uninterrupted time we may have a hard time fixing that when they ask for a divorce. If we didn’t find time for our children, we may never repair that relationship.

Life is a balancing act. The better we get at finding balance the more we will enjoy our life, the more productive and happy we will be. There may be things in our life we think we have to do that aren’t as important as the things we never find time for.

Is our life in balance? Is there a way we could work smarter instead of harder? Are we focusing on the most important things, or are we spending too much time on what seems urgent, but in the long term unimportant.  Life is all about choice, are we making the best ones?

Working smart is harder than working hard. It’s just less visible, and we care too much about what others see. Unknown

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To sleep perchance to dream. We need the rejuvenation of sleep.

To sleep perchance to dream. We need the rejuvenation of sleep.

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Even a soul submerged in sleep is hard at work and helps make something of the world. Heraclitus

My son’s girlfriend came over on Saturday with a pillow she bought him. A Bamboo memory foam pillow. On the radio, we hear the host  waxing poetic over “My Pillow” which he uses and endorses. After she scrunched it to get it to pop up to its natural shape and popped it in the dryer on low for 15 – 20 minutes, we all touched it and thought we want one too.

A Kitchen Warehouse store has popped up at a mall where they are selling these pillows. My husband and I went there yesterday. All we could find were the King size pillows. We asked an employee do you have these in Queen size? She said, “no.”

I asked, “have you ever had them in Queen size?” She said, “no.” We were going to take the King size pillows even though they would be huge. My husband found the bin with the Queen size pillows. The only ones left were lavender scented. We grabbed two and put the King size pillows back. Why would the staff not have said she didn’t know, instead of lying?

The problem with these stores is they have so many things that are useful you can walk out with more than you went for, and of course, we did. We bought a solar scale. I hate getting on the scale and it no longer works because the battery is dead. These are first world problems, but still irritating. The spring scale worked for years but everyone in the house complained about it. Here’s to hoping this solar powered scale works for years.

Yesterday morning my son reported he liked his new pillow. This morning I can report I like my new pillow as well. We watched a YouTube video comparing the bamboo memory foam pillow to My Pillow and the reviewer didn’t like either. He thought they were too high and would give him a crick neck. He didn’t appear to sleep on either of them, so what kind of a review is that? My neck is fine this morning.

My husband’s glowing review is, “it’s a pillow”.

Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night. William Blake

Anything that can give us better sleep is likely to improve our health, our mood, our life.

Poor sleep is linked to obesity. I thought it was the chips and ice-cream, and not walking enough. Short sleep duration is associated with a drastically increased risk of weight gain and obesity, in both children and adults.

Good sleepers tend to eat fewer calories. Poor sleep affects hormones that regulate appetite. When we get adequate sleep we tend to eat fewer calories.

Good sleep improves concentration and productivity. It has been shown to improve problem-solving skills and enhance memory performance of both children and adults.

Good sleep can maximize athletic performance.

Poor sleepers have a greater risk of heart disease and stroke. Sleeping less than 7-8 hours per night is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Sleep affects glucose metabolism and type 2 diabetes risk. Experimental sleep restriction affects blood sugar and reduces insulin sensitivity. In a short study of healthy young men, restricting sleep to four hours per night for six nights in a row caused symptoms of pre-diabetes.

Poor sleep is linked to depression. Mental health issues such as depression, are strongly linked to poor sleep quality and sleep disorders.

Sleep improves our immune function. Even a small loss of sleep has been shown to impair immune function. Too many late nights can make us feel like we are getting sick.

Poor sleep is linked to increased inflammation. Sleep deprivation is known to activate undesirable markers of inflammation and cell damage and is strongly linked to long-term inflammation of the digestive tract. One study researched sleep-deprived people with Crohn’s disease and they were twice as likely to relapse if they were sleep deprived.

Sleep affects emotions and social interactions. Studies have confirmed this using facial recognition tests. Another study found people who had not slept had a reduced ability to recognize expressions of anger and happiness. Poor sleep may make it harder to recognize important social cues and process emotional information.

Looking at recommendations for pillows, Consumers Reports say almost 70 percent of us are side-sleepers. A firm or extra firm pillow is recommended to give us the proper alignment or curve of the neck and head. The most comfortable height is about 10 centimeters, about 4 inches off the mattress.

Sleeping on our back is often associated with snoring or more seriously sleep apnea. Here’s to hoping this pillow keeps me sleeping on my side which may lead to better sleep for both of us. Anything that helps combat the little irritants in our life is worthwhile.

The pillow we bought is firm but very comfortable. Touching it makes one want to lay one’s head on it. It is probably a pillow best suited for side sleepers, which we are.

In the end, it is just a pillow. If it can help us sleep better, with all the benefits that entail, then it is a small thing that can make a big difference. In life, we need to change the things we can, live with the things we can’t, and have the wisdom to know the difference. Finding a better pillow is one of the things we can change.

Do we sleep as well as we could? Would a change to our routine, pillow, mattress, or temperature make a difference? Is lack of sleep keeping us from being all we can be? Are we accepting as normal something we can change? Don’t we long for sleep perchance to dream?

Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. Victor Hugo

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Our thinking makes it so. Cognitive biases and truth.

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One of the biggest things we have to be able to do is handle conflict and handle it correctly. We’re able to look at our biases, look at our frustration, look at our sin in this area, our pride and our selfishness. It allows us to move forward. Benjamin Watson

Hamlet’s truth, that we don’t know what is good news and what is bad news shapes our life. Only going forward do we see what unfolds. Some people are better at seeing the potential in situations both the good and the bad. Some people can read other people, but that can be good and bad. We may not give people who deserve the chance a chance, because we thought we could see something coming that wasn’t coming. We take chances the other way, we give people chances and ignore the signs of what is coming.

Our choices shape our lives, but we don’t always know what the best choices are. We had an amber alert in my area last night. My son in law just filled me in. An eleven-year-old girl was with her father and there was concern for her safety. She was found too late.

How do we process information like this? How does someone in their own mind justify this action? In a Psychology Today, article the author writes. Devoid of empathy, and pathologically self-obsessed, he allegedly blames the mother for fueling his revenge. The only victim that matters is him. Sure, his daughter is dead, but look how cruel this woman has been to him. From his perspective, the blood is on the wife’s hands. He’s just a poor, forlorn guy, who in Othello’s words, “loved not wisely but too well.”

It is scary to think someone can think this way. Yet, it is the only kind of thinking that makes sense. The fact it happened on Valentine’s Day is probably not an unimportant fact. This would be a case of the very worst happening from unmet expectations, and someone not being able to deal with how their life unfolded.

How do we navigate and process painful biases and conflicting emotions and press on to be sacrificial and suffer in the struggle? And what do we do with images and depictions that, known or unknown to those perpetuating them, may contribute to the impediment of human progress? Bernice King

Is there a lesson for us in how far down we let our thoughts take us? We like to think we are rational and logical, the sad fact is we are constantly under the influence of cognitive biases that distort our thinking, influence our beliefs, and sway the decisions and judgments we make each and every day.

The confirmation bias. Through this bias, we tend to favor information that confirms what we already believe. We don’t stop to question our beliefs.

The hindsight bias. We tend to see events, even random ones as more predictable than they are.

The anchoring bias. We tend to be influenced by the first piece of information that we hear.

The misinformation effect. Our memories of particular events tend to be heavily influenced by things that happened after the actual event itself. We may think our memory of a certain event is crystal clear, but researchers found that memory is surprisingly susceptible to influences.

The actor-observer bias. The way we perceive others and how we attribute their actions hinges on a variety of variables, and this can be heavily influenced by whether we are the actor of the observer of a situation.

The false-consensus effect. We have a surprising tendency to overestimate how much other people agree with our beliefs, behaviors, attitudes, and values. We don’t question our own thoughts.

The halo effect. Good looking people are often rated better than less attractive people. They are thought of as smarter, kinder, funnier, more qualified and of higher moral character. They are given more chances and more excuses are made for them when they fail at something.

The self-serving bias. We tend to give ourselves credit for successes, but lay the blame for failure on someone else.

The availability heuristic. We tend to base the probability of something happening to us based on how many examples readily come to mind.

The optimism bias. We believe because we are involved things will go better for us than they have for others. They were stupid, not hardworking enough, didn’t do enough research. We won’t make the same mistakes they made.

This goes to show that in our own mind we justify what we are thinking, our actions, our beliefs, prejudices, fears, and judgments. It all makes sense in our own mind. That we can somehow make it make sense in our own minds is the scary part. That we don’t see it as wrong thinking is even scarier.

How can we identify and deal with our cognitive biases that distort our thinking?

We’re all biased, right, in many different ways – politically, religiously, ideologically, the way our family raised us – and that’s find. Nobody wants to live in a world where everybody thinks exactly the same. The key, though, is to try to figure out where your biases are holding you back from solving problems. Stephen J. Dubner

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Life is a journey, stop and smell the roses, and give a hand when you can.

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Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. Lao Tzu

Yesterday my brother called me and we had a lovely long conversation.

We talked about anything and everything. He told me about two books he’s been reading about sailing around the world. The authors of one of the books met a man sailing solely around the world who said, “I’m going to be the first person that sailed around the world and didn’t write a book.” It’s a shame he didn’t because people who love armchair adventures are missing out on his.

My brother tells me “the girls” at the library he goes to want to read my novel. It isn’t published yet but he has a printed copy. How great is that? Like Drake said last night at the Emmys, “if you can get people out in the cold and the rain to hear you perform, you don’t need an Emmy.”

It may be, some of the artists and writers that remain connected with their fans, who never become famous enjoy their experience more. My writer’s group would probably love to have a famous author join. It would change the dynamic, would J.K. Rowling, Daniele Steele, or Stephen King fit into our writer’s group? Probably not, but not because of them, but because of how the rest of us would react toward them. The feeling of being trapped by our own talent is a phenomenon written about in the Harvard Business Review May/June issue in 2017.

Once talent turns into a set of expectations is where people feel trapped. When stars can no longer live normal lives it is isolating. They become defined by one small part of who they are. This also happens in organizations where someone becomes “the star employee.”

The more you like yourself, the less you are like anyone else, which makes you unique. Walt Disney

Some people quit at the top of their game or on the way to the top because somehow their success is robbing them of being themselves. They are becoming only what their talent is and they are no longer seen as a rounded human being.

Once you become a star by definition you don’t fit into the group. Most of us think it would be a good problem to have, but a lot of us spend a lifetime feeling like outsiders. Belonging is important; not wanting to rise above the pack may be something we unconsciously engineer into our lives.

I just took a quiz on my wolf personality. I came up as “the wild one”. ‘You are almost always happy and optimistic. You would fit easily into a pack but would also do fine by yourself. You like to cheer and help whenever you get the chance. You are a fragile flower and easily swayed by love, though you don’t let it rule you.’

It doesn’t mean anything, but it’s interesting. The more we learn about our self, what feeds our spirit, what motivates us, the more we can become the best us. Learning to love our selves, how we are, embracing our talents, our gifts, and our contributions. We have our contribution to make to the world. Someone else’s contribution we may envy, but it is not our contribution.

If all of humanity is like an entity, a body so to speak. We can’t all perform the same task. We can’t all be hearts, or brains, or fingers, or toes. Whatever we are to do, we can do it to the best of our ability. Embracing who we are, loving our self and others, this I believe is our task. Finding our place in the world and making our contribution is the journey we are on. Where are we on the path?

I told my brother I would recommend the books he told me about. He especially liked that they talked about what was going on in the world during their adventure. He was young and remembers that time as well. We can’t find all the great books out there by our self. It is through other people’s recommendations we find some of the books that speak to us. It is one of the great joys in life to recommend a book that touched us and have it touch someone else too.

The journey is never-ending. There’s always gonna be growth, improvement, adversity; you just gotta take it all in and do what’s right, continue to grow, continue to live in the moment. Antonio Brown

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Finding inspiration and creating our life with mind, body, and spirit.

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What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals. Henry David Thoreau

Where do we get our inspiration? Where do we get the resilience to keep on going, creating, doing what needs to be done?

We create a life with mind, body, and spirit. It takes energy to be the mother, father, partner, employee, entrepreneur, politician, artist, writer, musician, athlete, we want to be. Where do we get the inspiration and energy to build the life we want? We can’t just make withdrawals, we have to make deposits.

What we eat is a deposit, what we think is a deposit, how we exercise is a deposit, what we think about and what we read is a deposit. If we are alive we are depositing enough to stay alive. Are we depositing enough to create the life we want?

Are we eating the best food to fuel our body? Do we move, exercise, walk, and stretch? It will be hard to live our best life creatively if we can’t move because of pain, and stiffness.

Do we get enough sleep? Research tells us hardly any of us get enough quality sleep. Are there things we can do to improve this? Do we watch what we eat and drink before bed? Have we created a good bedtime routine? Do we have a good morning routine?

Everything we do supports everything we do. On days we don’t bother to cook or eat nutritious meals we won’t feel as well, we won’t have as much energy, we won’t have as much to give.

If we stay away from exercise our energy flags, we get stiff; we develop aches and pains caused by inactivity.

It takes discipline to create the life we want, to cook the food we need, to read the books to feed our mind and to stay away from negative thoughts. We need to create positive habits to create the life we want.

Small daily improvements over time lead to stunning results. Robin Sharma

We can start at any point in our life to be the person we feel we should be. It all starts with a decision, and the easiest way to change our life is in small increments, hanging a new habit on something we already do.

We need to congratulate ourselves for something we start doing that is good for us. Today at The Writers Group a new person attended and she had never read her poetry out loud to an audience. She was encouraged to do so by my friend, she got up and read a poem when she sat down she looked like she had conquered a fear, and taken a step. She says she will be back. None of us know if that was a huge step for her or just a small step. It was a step. If we keep taking steps, big and small we accomplish things.

If we put ourselves out there we need to be able to accept criticism and grow from it. A friend’s daughter performed a one-woman show recently. I had another engagement and couldn’t attend. Last night at an event I ran into her, she started going after her dream years ago of acting and singing. As she was leaving she said, “The work of being self-employed never stops.”  I think she understands cultivating one thousand true fans. She is doing what she loves; it isn’t about fame and fortune so much as following our path, creating something meaningful and living the dream.

Last night at the event a performer sang, she isn’t an artist I recognize. She has a powerful voice, put on a good show and I heard a guy in the audience say to my husband, “finally, the song I came to hear.” This was another example of someone who has a following of true fans. We went because our friend was one of the DJ’s.

Someone I grew up with is promoting a Country Festival in my hometown; I have never had the pleasure of attending, yet. I hope the stars align and one year we can attend. She and others are building something. It takes work to create and promote an event year after year.

It might seem like a leap to think of yourself doing what you dream of. After you start doing it, it becomes part of you. You grow and morph into the goal and dream you’ve set for yourself.

At the writer’s group yesterday one of the members had her photographs on the cover of two anthologies put out by the writer’s group. The speaker suggested she get a picture taken of her holding the two books and find a space on a wall where she could hang other pictures of her accomplishments and see what pictures end up populating her wall. What a great suggestion for all of us. Isn’t this why we take graduation pictures, and wedding photos, we are celebrating the beginning of something.

What accomplishment can we congratulate our self on? What picture could we frame that will continue to inspire us as we continue on our journey? My daughter gave me two framed pictures for Christmas; one was me holding her when she was about three. The second was her and I on her wedding day with foreheads touching. It was a lovely, thoughtful gift.

Celebrating our achievements is part of the journey. We should acknowledge the moments that build our life, big and small. It may be a big or small step that leads us somewhere we want to go. Every journey starts with a single step. Aren’t we all on a journey? Don’t we all have something to celebrate?  Can we find inspiration if we look around us? Is it other people, nature, other great works of art, writing, or music? Many of the great works of art were created by depicting Biblical scenes. Finding what inspires us is part of our creative journey.

When the awareness of what is achievable brushes your life, your journey has begun. Lorii Myers

Inspiration: Your Ultimate Calling by [Dyer, Wayne W.]
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My quest to become a good pack leader.

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All fear must be cast out; it should never exist in the human mind and is only possible when we lose sight of our Divinity. It is foreign to us because as Sons of the Creator, Sparks of Divine Live, we are invincible, indestructible and unconquerable. Dr. Bach

Dogs are good at picking up on our emotions. It’s one of the things we love about them. Can our emotions affect our dogs?

Anxiety is our body’s natural response to stress. It’s a feeling of fear or apprehension about what’s to come.

My little dog makes a big fuss every time she hears the basement door open. She barks at the newest member of our family when she sees him. If someone is home whenever someone else comes in, she barks, and she doesn’t like to see people leave.

She starts waiting for my son and daughter to get home at about four o’clock. I’m sure we are part of the problem, are we the whole problem? Yesterday I bought Bach’s Flower Remedy for animals.

I do not consider myself an anxious person. Yet somehow I do believe my little dog is a mirror. I don’t sit on the step waiting in anticipation until my kids come home, yet I always feel a little easier when I know they made it home safe and sound. Is this being anxious?

I’m reading an anxious mind is a strong, powerful mind. An anxious mind can outrun, out power and outwit rationality and logic. Can we harness the strength and power of our fiercely protective mind to work for us instead of against us?

When the brain is oversensitive to a threat, it puts us on high alert even when there is no need to be. This is when anxiety becomes intrusive and hard to live with. It turns from the gentle security guard who shows up when needed, to the crasher who steals our joy and tells stories about nameless dangers.

Part of my dog’s problem is a habit. I wish I could just tell my dog, you are safe, you are secure. This behavior of hers is the excitement in her life. Why would she want to give it up?

Paradoxically it seems the more we try to change something the more energy we give it. It is very hard to ignore a barking dog. I believe she would protect us with her life. We don’t need the kind of protection she wants to give. She loves to have something to patrol. All twelve pounds of her protect us. She doesn’t know she’s a little dog. She is fiercely loyal, protective, gentle and loving. All she wants is a little love and attention, to be constantly at our side, a bit of cheese, and a potato chip now and then.

I’m looking up Cesar’s Way, Dealing with dog separation anxiety. He says there is real separation anxiety and simulated separation anxiety. I think we have a problem with simulated separation anxiety. If my husband and I go out and come back in together she doesn’t bark or act badly. If I come in alone and my husband comes in after I’ve shut the door. She barks and carries on.

Cesar says we need to let our dog know what is expected of them. Our dogs are not happy if they believe they are in control. This may be part of the problem we have. Perhaps we need to get in the habit of making her do something before she gets something? Maybe I need to get her crate out and put her in it when people are expected home? Maybe I haven’t been a good pack leader?

Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe. We are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made. Roger A. Caras

Cesar says the goal is to have our dog accept all the normal everyday movements, noises, and happenings within our home. It is not necessary for her to be involved in everything because we are the ones in charge.

Learned behavior is probably what we are dealing with. I have allowed her to develop bad habits. She gets attention and even bad attention is rewarding because she gets noticed.

I was talking with my brother who just acquired a new puppy. He said, “it’s bad when a dog is smarter than its owner.” This is my problem, I have to fix it. It is hard to believe we cause the problems in our life. When we accept the truth we can change them.

My dog is teaching me things I didn’t want to know. Many of the lessons we get in life are not welcome. Only after dealing with what we can no longer ignore do we understand the worth of the lesson.

Maybe next year or next month I will be looking at this opportunity and challenge with gratitude. Being a good pack leader is an ongoing challenge. I have to step up and be the pack leader my dog needs. I owe it to her, myself, and the rest of the family.

I’ve seen a look in dog’s eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically, dogs think humans are nuts. John Steinbeck

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Are we comfortable with compliments?

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Sincerity is the highest compliment you can pay. Emerson

Last night I was listening to the radio as I came home from the gym. The radio personality was talking about how we don’t seem to be very good at receiving compliments. He was talking about an interview with quarterback Tom Brady being called the Goat (greatest of all time). Tom Brady said, “It makes me cringe, I guess I take compliments worse than I take, ‘you’re too old, you’re too slow, you can’t get it done no more.’  And I would say, ‘Thank you very much, I’m gonna go prove you wrong.’”

There are four reasons given why we are uncomfortable with compliments:

We have low self-esteem. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found people with low self-esteem have the most difficulty accepting compliments. According to the study, compliments aren’t likely to improve our self-image. Sometimes people feel they are being lied to, that the compliment is not genuine.

Our self-image doesn’t line up. The compliment doesn’t line up with the way we see our self.

We are uncomfortable with big expectations. Studies show people with self-worth issues prefer to set the bar low. If they meet the expectations they are pleasantly surprised. High expectations may make self-doubt creep in and cause anxiety. We may feel it is only a matter of time before we disappoint someone.

We want to be humble. It’s hard to know how to react when someone showers us with accolades. Saying “Yeah, I know,” puts you in jerk territory. Even a simple “Thank you” can feel awkward. Studies link humility to a variety of positive outcomes, increased self-control, and effective leadership.

We need to learn how to accept a compliment gracefully. The best response is a simple “Thank you”. We need to resist the urge to criticize our self, and if others have helped in our success we should be sure to spread the limelight.

Next, to a sincere compliment, I think I like a well-deserved and honest rebuke. Unknown

When we read self-help books we are often advised to look in the mirror and say good things about our self. If we get used to being able to say good things about our self, we may be more comfortable when someone says them to us.

Maya Angelou said, “Others will not remember what you did or said, but they’ll remember how you made them feel.” When someone gives us a compliment it isn’t only about us, we need to be careful not to make them feel diminished for saying it. If we brush off their compliment we may make them feel stupid, awkward, or like they’ve done something wrong.

Learning to give and receive compliments is a skill worth developing. When we say “Thank you” to a compliment we are acknowledging what the other person sees in us.

It may be “Thank you” for recognizing our individuality.

It may be “Thank you” for acknowledging our contribution to something.

It may be “Thank you” for offering space for our purpose to serve the world.

It may be “Thank you” for allowing us a chance to shine our light in their life.

It may be “Thank you” for seeing something in us we are only starting to see in our self.

It may be “Thank you” that our vision is worth striving for.

It may be “Thank you” that they too see the world how we do.

It may be “Thank you” we’ve found a group, a friend, or space where we feel we belong.

Being fueled by wanting to prove things isn’t necessarily bad. Not wanting to rest on our accomplishments but wanting to continue to move forward is inspiring. Genuine humbleness is a great quality, so is being able to accept a genuine compliment.

Are we comfortable giving and receiving compliments? Not all compliments are sincere. How should we handle the insincere compliment?

Do not offer a compliment and ask a favor at the same time. A compliment that is charged for is not valuable. Mark Twain

Simply Charming: Compliments and Kindness for All Occasions by [Matheson, Christie]
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Your shame, my shame, we are “enough”.

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There’s something liberating about not pretending. Dare to embarrass yourself. Risk. Drew Barrymore.

It is the false shame of fools to try and conceal wounds that have not healed. Horace

Last night I didn’t go to Toastmasters. I didn’t have a role, and it was cold outside. Any excuse will do if you want an excuse. I got on the scale this morning; I’ve been using the same excuse to not get to the gym.

In Brene Brown’s book I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t) she says women have described various physical reactions to shame, including stomach tightening, nausea, shaking, waves of heat in their faces and chests, wincing and twinges of smallness. She says she didn’t even recognize her own physical response to shame at the beginning of her research. Only after she interviewed about fifty women did she begin to recognize her own reaction to shame.

She realized some women with high levels of shame resilience recognized and could describe their physical reaction to shame. It seems to recognize our physical reaction to shame, and naming it, increases our opportunity to be mindful and to react consciously. When we recognize these triggers we can take some time alone to “pull ourselves together” or “sort through our feelings.”

Brene Brown tells us vulnerability is not weakness. When I see vulnerability in talks at Toastmasters I see it as pure courage. It takes courage to tell the truth, in many ways I believe it is true, “the truth will set us free.”

Vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity, adaptability, change, and innovation. She tells us we need to talk about shame. She says we can’t address our problems with race relations, police brutality, corruption, or anything else without addressing our shame. We failed at doing what we should have done. Many of the ills in the world shouldn’t have happened. We know this and so we feel shame that they did. We can’t fix anything unless we face our shame and the situation that has been created.

It is the same in our own life. We have to face the things we aren’t proud of. The failures in our life, the things we didn’t do, didn’t finish, the mistakes we made, where we weren’t perfect. “Never good enough,” and” who do you think you are” is what shame tells us. Shame is “I am bad,” guilt is “I’m sorry I made a mistake.” Shame is highly correlated with negative behaviors, alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling addictions, domestic violence, anorexia, etc. Guilt means we can change something, because it is outside of us.

Unlike guilt, which is the feeling of doing something wrong, shame is the feeling of being something wrong. Marilyn J. Sorenson

Never feel shame for trying and failing for he who has never failed is he who has never tried. Og Mandino

Shame for women is this web of conflicting expectations we don’t feel we meet. We aren’t good enough, pretty enough, thin enough, good enough. Shame paralyzes us, guilt can energize us. “Do it all, do it perfectly and never let them see us sweat. “This is who we want to be, we feel shame because we aren’t that person.

For men, shame is one thing, not being perceived as “weak.” Men feel women would rather see them die on top of their white horse than see them fall down. When a woman can sit with a man in his incredible vulnerability and shame, and empathize with him he feels understood, valued, that is empathy. The worst thing we women do to our men is shaming them. Men feel that women are harder on them than anyone else. When men can sit with women in their vulnerability and shame, and listen to her so she feels heard, not try to fix it, just listen, that is empathy.

Empathy is the antidote to shame. Shame needs three things to grow exponentially, secrecy, silence, and judgment. When we can say to someone, “me too,” this is empathy. This is the antidote to shame; we are jumping into the puddle with them. We are letting them know they are not alone. We have been there too, and it’s okay to feel what they are feeling, think what they are thinking, and move forward in their lives. Even if we become as good as we can be, we will never be perfect. We need to be okay with daring greatly, failing greatly, and trying again. We need to be okay with this when it is ourselves, our families, our partners.

Are we able to empathize with others? Can we feel guilt instead of shame, and use it to fuel our lives?

Your shame hides in many places – in anger, blame, denial, workaholism, perfectionism, drinking, and anything else you compulsively engage in to make yourself feel better. But if you could just learn to be vulnerable for one second, and open up to the pain, you would find there’s no place left for your shame to hide.  Adam Appleson

Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough. Brene Brown

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Confidence and courage build great lives.

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You just have to be yourself and go full with confidence and be courageous. Gabby Douglas

Confidence is feeling you can get another job if you leave the one you hate. It is believing you can head off to parts unknown to build a life. Believing you can build a life wherever you are, that you can bloom where you are planted.

There is not one recipe for happy productive lives. If we stay in the area we were born we can build happy, productive lives. We may try our hand at many things or become an expert at one. Our lives are up to us, we make our choices but sometimes after we make certain choices we begin to feel stuck.

Some choices we are happy with, but outside circumstances are changing, and we must change with them. We may love our job and the life we’ve built but the company is moving away, shutting-down, downsizing, or closing. Retirement looms and another set of choices must be made.

We need confidence and courage to deal with life. We can make all the seemingly right decisions and still find our self in uncomfortable situations we never thought we would be in.

My son recently introduced me to a blog called Mr. Money Mustache. It’s a money blog about retiring early, he started it in 2011 and has with his wife and child been living on $25,000.00 a year. This does not include business expenses. When I looked up the blog, the first post I saw was he and his wife are now divorced. My son was shocked.

One of the reasons given for the early retirement was so they could raise their son together. How hard it must be when the decisions made bring you to the one decision you thought you would never make. It takes courage to leave a marriage; it takes courage to make a bad marriage better, a cold marriage warm.

Decision is a risk rooted in the courage of being free. Paul Tillich

One of the problems with writing a blog is we may seem like hypocrites because we can’t possibly follow all the good advice we write about. Everyone who is married is in one of the four seasons of marriage, spring, summer, fall, or winter. It might be very hard to discern if a winter marriage is dead or just dormant. Is it beyond repair or a little tender loving care would revive it? It takes courage to leave, and it takes courage to stay and make it better.

All of our decisions may be second-guessed by our self and others. Its part of life knowing when we turned left, it might have been better if we turned right. Not making the decision is when we don’t live with courage and confidence.

We may have to live with the knowledge we didn’t make the best decision. Making a decision is better than being stuck.

I look at the television show where couples are shown three houses and they have to pick one to make their home. Did they really only look at three homes? Probably not, but we are told more choice does not make us happier; it makes it harder for us to choose. Sometimes the choice is so hard we don’t make a choice, by not making a choice we don’t move forward in our life.

Mr. Money Mustache was told to get an education and he did, he became a software engineer. He retired from that at age thirty-one and now does carpentry which he loves. Because he lives frugally he wouldn’t need to work, but he has given himself the freedom to do something he loves.

Frugality to him equals freedom. To some people being that frugal would be oppressive. Last night I listened to my son, his girlfriend and my daughter discussing how much money could be saved over ten years if going out for coffee was given up.

Going for coffee may be one of the ways we spend our fifteen hours of uninterrupted couple time. It might make sense on paper, but it might be the worst decision, and very expensive if giving up a little out every day makes life much less enjoyable.

Coloring our hair is also expensive but not something many women especially, are willing to give up. Some of us embrace our gray hair, and if you do, I applaud you. If you don’t and a little box of hair color, or a trip to the hair salon, makes you feel like you, and not a little old lady when you look in the mirror. Then, by all means, color your hair.

Frugality has its place but we need to make decisions that make us feel good. This is our life, it is easy to look at other peoples choices and question them. When we look at our own lives and question our choices, this is where we find benefit. Building our life with courage and confidence is the way to build a good life. My choices are not your choices, and if we are to have a happy life we have to be confident in making unpopular choices sometimes.

It may be leaving a stable job, career or business to take a chance on a dream. We regret the things we don’t do more than the things we do. We can always pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off if things don’t work out. The saddest words are what if, but when faced with a fork in the road we can only choose one of them. We may think we can go back and choose the other path, sometimes we can, often we can’t.

It is with confidence and courage we must make our choices. Not choosing is still a choice. Is there a choice looming in your life?

Everything you want is on the other side of fear. Jack Canfield

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by [Gilbert, Elizabeth]
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Listening to understand.

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The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply. Unknown

Talk and listen, listen and talk. Isn’t this the recipe for good communication and a happy life? We try to listen and we try to talk but sometimes talking makes things worse and not talking about things makes it better. How could this be true and when do we know if we should be talking about issues or not?

The answer according to John Gray lies with whom the issue is with. Women tend to assume that men will calm down through talking. According to John Gray this is only true if she agrees with what the husband says. In most cases when a man is upset the more we get him to talk the worse things become. If the husband has an issue where the wife does not agree with his version of the story, then talking makes it worse. If she agrees with his version of the story then talking can be okay.

According to John Gray of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus men have more of a need to be right when they are feeling hurt, disrespected, etc. If we can’t agree with their version of events, especially if it is a problem between husband and wife then we should try to acknowledge their feelings without talking about it. Talking seems to make it worse. There is nothing the wife can say that will make it better unless she agrees with his side of the story. She is likely to get defensive if the conversation goes on for very long, she will not change his mind, and more hurt feelings will come out of long conversations. John Gray advises even though it may seem a little rude, do our best to cut the conversation short.

According to relationship expert, John Gray women figure things out through talking. Men often need to go into their cave to figure things out. When they are alone, they cool down and things begin to fall into perspective.

Before you speak, think: Is it necessary? It is true? Is it kind? Will, it hurt anyone? Will it improve on the silence?  Sai Baba

This may be why relationship coach Laura Doyle recommends we just say “ouch” when something critical is said. By saying “ouch” we acknowledge it is hurtful. Marriage therapists all seem to agree we should never let hurtful things be said without acknowledging they are hurtful. We should also not engage in an argument or get dragged into a fight where more mean and hurtful things are said.

The advice seems to be: try to let them know, you know the person you fell in love with is still in there even as “the mean alter ego” has taken over. One word of advice is to “see criticism as a sign of others belief in our abilities.” We have to be a saint for this one. We need to cultivate a “growth” mindset.

Experts say we are less likely to get defensive or hurt over something when we know for sure it’s not true. When we are secure with our self, and we don’t feel the need for outside validation. If we have a healthy amount of narcissism it is actually good for us. It allows us to handle harsh criticisms, broken promises, or miscommunications with others. We can resolve issues when we are criticized by talking calmly without being defensive because we know who we are, and we are good enough.

If we really listen and stop our self from retaliating, we will understand the issue. We could come up with a mantra we say to our self instead of getting defensive.  “We could say to our self “this is about you, this isn’t about me.” When we do respond we should use “I” statements. If we find we are getting defensive we should end the discussion before it escalates

We should think long term. We do not want to win this argument but the damage done to the relationship is irreparable. There is a way to have a positive outlook while still protecting our identity. We need to really think before we respond. Once more we are getting into “saint” territory, but if we can do it we will be better off.

We need to learn how to receive harsh criticism. There are benefits to getting feedback even when we don’t want it. We can learn and grow from every situation, it’s hard but it can be done. If we keep that in our mind it will help.

We need to give ourselves permission to be wrong. We also have to give other people permission to be wrong. We need to understand why our partner is feeling the way they are. Even when we don’t believe their view of the situation is correct, it is their view, and they have a right to how it makes them feel. We can take a moment, acknowledge what they are saying, we can be considerate, straight forward in acknowledging their feelings and point of view.

We don’t have to agree with it, we don’t have to get defensive. After we’ve acknowledged their point of view we can get on with doing what we need to do. We should act as if what we are doing is normal, and everything is fine. Disengaging allows him to save face, and cool off. If he is trying to leave without saying anymore we should not follow him and try to continue the conversation. He knows he needs to cool off, let him.

Are we getting defensive? Are we rehashing the same thing over and over again? Does it get worse by talking about it?

The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t being said. The art of reading between the lines is a lifelong quest of the wise. Shannon L. Adler

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Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, Book of Days by John Gray (1999-07-01) Paperback – 1750