Change is Harder than moving Hands on a Clock

Last week, I wrote about small circles of change. And I have been working hard at putting that principle to work in my life.  However, this message became very clear to me this morning via an unlikely source….my dogs.

Time changed over the weekend! For most parts of the United States we changed our clocks on Saturday Night to go from Daylight Savings Time back to standard time. This time of year we “Fall Back” Which means we get to do things an hour later.

Except my DOGS, who are VERY accurate at time telling, don’t use clocks!

They are blissfully unaware that when they wake everyone up at the usual 7:00am time that they are really waking up an hour earlier. Breakfast and supper time did not change for them; they still think it should happen at the ‘usual time’ no matter what the clock says.


Wrigley's 'Do You Know What Time It Is?' Look

We, the humans, try to make the change easier by shifting the time a little each day until we have convinced them, the canine units, to eat and wake on a ‘new schedule’.

It occurred to me this morning as I was grumbling about being “awake an hour early” that as humans we often expect change to be automatic.

We start a diet – and immediately start to weigh ourselves to see the change.

We begin and exercise program – and immediately think we should feel better.

We begin to practice playing an instrument – and expect to play Mozart.

And on and on and on…….

Change is hard!

I am still creating small circles of change and defending them. I’ve  just added in a new one (getting the dogs to change their ‘tummy clocks’).

What about you?

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A Monkey Can Do It (yes, that’s a challenge)

In 1996 at University of Texas Medical School at Houston in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy there was a study conducted by Nudo RJ, Milliken GW, Jenkins WM, Merzenich MM. The crux of the study, as I understand it, was to track the changes in the brain of a monkey as the changes relate to motor skill training (yes that’s an over simplification – but you can read the whole thing by clicking here). In the book I am reading, The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work (affiliate link) the author, Shawn Achor, refers to the study as a famous study – And maybe it is but not in my world.

The crux of the study is that the monkeys, squirrel monkeys to be exact, were tasked with putting their hand in a small hole to retrieve food. In order to survive they were required to do this repetitive motion virtually all day. As they became proficient at the retrieval, their brains changed and enlarged in the areas related to motor skills.

London Taxi Drivers have large Hippocampus

In another study the brains of London cabbies were studied. This study showed that the portion of the brain which controls navigational skills was greatly enlarged in these individuals.

By now you are wondering why I am prattling on about these studies. I know it’s not the usual here’s a everyday story or two now relate it to your potential growth format we’re used to me following. But here’s the exciting part –

these studies show that our brains CAN change!

Let me repeat that, these studies show that our brains CAN change. Our brains can evolve right before our eyes (okay that may be a stretch) but change they can!

So why is that important?

In August of last year I wrote about Ways to Overcome Your Happiness DNA in that post I gave, what I still believe are, good tips for how to improve your outlook on life – Bla Bla Bla – and so forth and so on….

Here’s the really exciting part – ready – If you want to be happy –


Yep, just like learning to play the piano, or speak in public, or run faster! Practice is the key (I didn’t tell you THAT last August).

This week I have tested the theory (don’t you think I’m a cute guinea pig? don’t answer that).


My Happy Brain

On Sunday after reading about the study and having my little a-ha light bulb go off in my head, I began to test the theory. I sang (something I do when I’m happy), I acted silly (something I do when I’m happy) and I pretended to be happy. The result?

VOILA! I felt happier!

So, I am continuing to practice my happiness. I’m continuing to evolve my brain into a happier, or at least a more conducive and receptive to happiness, place. I’ve decided that if a monkey can evolve it’s brain, maybe, just maybe there is hope for me! <;and you :)>;

As usual, I invite you to join me on my journey!

(note for my regular readers, this is the post I intended to write on Monday but was too distracted to pen)

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FEAR – The Final Frontier

My dog Wrigley is a very fearful guy. His fear manifests it’s self in many ways – the most amusing is his fear of jumping on the bed. Wrigley is tall and can easily rest his head on the bed and with most beds he could just step up and be there. However he lives in fear of hopping on the bed. We have cajoled, and offered cookies. We have begged and yelled. Yet, the result remains the same – the fear negates any efforts.

I know what you’re thinking – what’s amusing about a 80lbs dog

Wrigley and Marshall on the Bed

trembling in fear? The amusing part is that once a human touches him somewhere about the neck and shoulders he leaps victoriously on the bed and proceeds to do a victory dance that would shame Rocky! His pride in accomplishment is down right funny – since most likely he has cried whimpered for a long time before someone gave in and helped.

Last night during this process, I realized I am just like Wrigley. I look at things and I see all that could go wrong. And rather than take a leap of faith and try, I whine and cry (both literally and figuratively) and take no action.

How do you over come fear?

I discovered a blog post – 33 Powerful Ways of Overcoming Fear … Right Now – that I thought had some good ideas (although some, like hypnosis, therapy or hiring a life coach seem extreme in most cases {read my case}). However, I  have come up with my own 6-steps to overcoming fear; because I do think overcoming fear comes down to a few simple steps (six to be exact):

1) Accept the Fear – acceptance in no way means give in to the fear! Acceptance means accept the presence of fear. Observe the feeling in your mind and body without labeling or judging it. Surrender to the fear instead of fighting it. As you do this the negative energy will pass through you and your body will release it. And you can return to focusing on the task at hand. Focusing on the now not only reduces fear but also increases the chances of you succeeding as your mind is focused.

2) Find the reason – Write down all the wonderful things you will gain in your life by overcoming this fear. Do it now – Take out a piece of paper and a pen. And write down all the wonderful ways you can come up with how overcoming fear will improve your life.

3) Take Small Steps – sometimes when I watch Wrigley and his hopping on the bed phobia, I think ‘don’t try to jump so far – take smaller steps’. This is so true of the fear we have in our own lives. Our fear can become so overwhelming that we are paralyzed and unable to act. Break it down in to small manageable portions and begin moving forward.

4) Live right now – The basis for our fears come from past experiences and imagined future experiences. Stop thinking about the failures of the past or how you should have made different choices. Don’t borrow trouble for the future by imagining what might or could go wrong. Do what you can right now. Make your best possible choice. LIVE NOW!

5) Accept Help – I probably have the hardest time with this one. I like to believe that I can handle it all on my own. It is hard to accept help. But sometimes we must accept that we can’t do everything and need help.

6) Celebrate Success – I wish I could celebrate with the complete and unadulterated joy that Wrigley has when his feet land on the bed. He does not contemplate the fear, or lament the need for help – he simply dances, and celebrates his victory.

Be fearless today, My Friend!


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The Most Effective Yes is NO

This morning I noticed that my blotter paper was beginning to look ragged. Over the years I have used many different types of blotters, some have calendars, some have cute pictures, and this one is plain paper. I use it to write myself notes. I use it to doodle. But the most important thing I do is write my words of encouragement.

Out with the old blotter paper

For 2012, I deviated from my usual three words to only choose one word – YES!

I have been pleased with the places YES has taken me in 2013 – ziplining, competitive dining, concerts, woodworking, parties, shooting range, and most recently marathon training <eeek>. The list is far too long to share here of all the things YES has made (allowed) me do! There is not one I regret giving up laying on the couch for (except maybe marathon training <grin>).

As I was replacing my blotter with a nice new clean sheet, and writing YES! In large letters on the new one, I began to think of the opposite side of yes – NO. I occurred to me that saying no is just as important to my successful yes campaign as saying yes.

Effectively saying no is difficult. Especially when you know you have the ability and possibly even the desire. You, nor I, can be all things to all people. Like a lot of people I struggle with being overextended. I see things that I want to do. I belong to organizations where I want to give more.

We must be ever mindful of the finite amount of time available to us.

That annoying law of nature that makes time a fixed amount each day will not allow us to do all the things we want to do. It is a constant struggle for me. When the civic organizations I belong to say they need something I know I can do well, it is hard for me to not say yes. When my church needs people to do things I know I would enjoy it is hard for me to not say yes. When I am asked to participate in an event, it is hard for me to not say yes.

So how do we cope with the ever-increasing demands on our time?

First, accept the fact that you can’t do it all. WOW, is that hard for me!

Second, know what you really want to do with your life and time.

And lastly, develop strategies for saying no.

Here is a excerpt from a great article I found ‘Five Ways to Say ‘No’ Effectively

It may surprise you to learn that the most frequently used and most ineffective way to say “no” is to declare, “I don’t have time to get involved.” Nobody cares if you don’t have time because they don’t have time either. So what happens? You allow yourself to be persuaded (out of guilt) to accept the assignment. But it doesn’t have to be this way. There’s more than one way to say “no” effectively. The next time Tom Jones, chair of the “Run for Healthy Hearts,” asks you to “just show up for a few short meetings,” take advantage of one of the following techniques to protect your time and still preserve the relationship.

The pleasant no

“Tom, the run sounds a lot more fun than what I’m going to be doing at that time, but I’m going to have to say ‘no.’ Thanks.” Said sincerely, this response upholds the value of the other person and the request. It is a kinder, gentler no — but still a no.

The conditional no

“Tom, I can’t be at the meetings, but I’ll be glad to help set things up the night before the run and be in charge of registration the day of the event.” Often overlooked, this is one of the most versatile and valuable ways of saying no. You’ve set conditions for saying “yes” without giving up your higher priorities.

If Tom counters that he needs you to stay for the complete event and help clean up at the end of the day, be sure to weigh your priorities before reacting. Remember you are still the one in control of your response.

The sleep-on-it no

“Tom, let me think about your request.” Often a quick “yes” is a reflex reaction to feelings of guilt, fear of hurting someone or the strong desire to serve or have fun. Giving yourself time to assess your priorities ensures a sincere response on your part. To assuage the person’s legitimate fear (based on past experience with others) that you might never get back with an answer, add these words: “… and I’ll let you know by noon tomorrow, Tom, if that’s not too late for you.” If, after thinking about it, you deliver a negative reply on schedule the next day, Tom will know at least that you’ve given his request serious consideration.

The alternative-solution no

“Tom, I can’t help out with the heart run, but I know Dr. Markus will be glad to assist you.” This tells the person with the request that you value him or her and the investment of time he or she is making. It also shows your willingness to help solve the problem. Obviously, any time you volunteer someone else, you should check with that individual first.

The secret-weapon no

“Tom, I’m not able to make the heart run a priority right now.” That’s all you say. Tom will probably expect you to explain and may even say, “Well, what are you doing instead?” No explanation is needed. It’s really not anybody’s place to ask you to defend your priorities. So, if you really know what your priorities are and you want to protect them at all costs, this no is for you.

I also really enjoyed the article ‘Seven Ways to Say ‘NO’ and Keep Good Relations‘ in Psychology Today. The most effective way I have found to say yes, to thing I want to do and be, is to learn to say no to the things that distract me or take time away from my goals. What about you? Are you saying yes to things that get you closer to YOUR goal? Or are you saying yes to things that distract you from reaching your goal?

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You Can’t Always See the Monkey on Their Back

A man worked in a post office. His job was to process all mail that had illegible addresses. One day a letter came to his desk, addressed in shaky handwriting to God. He thought, “I better open this one and see what it’s all about.” So he opened it and it read:  “Dear God, I am a 83 year old widow living on a very small pension. Yesterday someone stole my purse. It had a hundred dollars in it which was all the money I had until my next pension check.”

“Next Sunday is Mother’s Day, and I had invited my last two friends over for dinner. Without that money, I have nothing to buy food with.” “I have no family to turn to, and you are my only hope. Can you please help me?” The postal worker was touched, and went around showing the letter to all the others. Each of them dug into his wallet and came up with a few dollars. By the time he made the rounds, he had collected 96 dollars, which they put into an envelope and sent over to her.

The rest of the day, all the workers felt a warm glow thinking of the nice thing they had done. Mother’s Day came and went, and a few days later came another letter from the old lady to God. All the workers gathered around while the letter was opened. It read, “Dear God, How can I ever thank you enough for what you did for me?”  “Because of your generosity, I was able to fix a lovely dinner for my friends. We had a very nice day, and I told my friends of your wonderful gift. “By the way, there was 4 dollars missing. It was no doubt those thieves at the post office!!

I have heard some variation of this story for years. It is funny but it also drives home a point, we don’t always know the whole story of what is happening.

I had a conversation with my friend, Clementine*, yesterday that made me think of this story. Clementine is giving a surprise party for another friend. Because of the party, she had to decline and invitation to attend an event they regularly attend together. The party girl is angry with Clementine for declining the invitation and the vicious cycle of everyone being angry has begun.

I am a big fan of Modern Family. Last night we watched an episode where one character, Phil was trying to fire another character, Mitchell. Mitchell has been providing discount legal work for Phil’s office as a favor. He’s been late with a couple of reports, so everyone thinks he’s lazy. Nice guy Phil is looking for a way to gently fire his slacker brother-in-law. As it turns out, Mitch was tardy with those reports on purpose so he would seem less appealing to his temporary colleagues. In other words, he was looking to get out.

How true is this for most of us? We are so caught up in our own issues, struggles and life that we are unable to see those around us. Our me-centric way of thinking doesn’t allow us to see the struggles of others. Ian MacLaren, a noted Scotsman, author of “Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush,” is oft-quoted and his words offer wise counsel: “Be kind. Everyone you meet is carrying a heavy burden.” Be kind. Everyone you meet is carrying a heavy burden.

I am trying to change the way I look at everyone, and the way I treat everyone. The woman who flips me off in traffic is carrying a heavy load. The check-out clerk with extreme piercings and body art is carrying a heavy load. My critical in-laws and all those who have been mean to me over the years are carrying a heavy load.  My neighbors who drive too fast are carrying a heavy load. Their load isn’t made lighter because I can’t see it; Just as my load isn’t made lighter because you are unaware.

I am spending some time evaluating how I treat other people. I’m taking the advice of Sean Bean‘s mam who according to Sean said ‘Listen to people and treat people as you find them. There’s an inherent goodness in most people. Don’t pre-judge people – that was me Mam’s advice anyway.’ Perhaps you’ll join me?


*names changed to protect the secret

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The Power of Negative Thinking

I haven’t written in a while. Not because I don’t want to write; not because I haven’t tried to write; and not even because I have nothing to say. I haven’t written because the words can’t seem to funnel out of my head, through my fingers and onto the page! It is discouraging!

The Power of Negative Thinking

I chalked it up to writers block or perhaps, just being unfocused. Then today in one fell-swoop Jenn hit the nail on the head when she said ‘Can you just say ONE positive thing!’

It’s true I’ve been on the negative bandwagon for the last week or so!

Many years ago I remember reading that humans only use 10% of their brain power. I have since learned that this isn’t true but the fact remains that the human mind is a wonderful and amazing thing. I often wonder where my feelings and thoughts; my experience of negative or positive emotions; or my encouraging or discouraging interactions with others come from. It seems to me that there are times when my brain acts on it’s own to flip a switch from positive to negative in a matter of seconds.

But if we do not control our thoughts, who does? If we are not masters of our emotions, who is? If we cannot choose our words carefully, then who can?

Can you really just put a happy face on it? Yes You Can!

I find for me that there are two huge factors that get in the way of my positive! They are:

1 Obsessing about the past

Life’s full of woulda, coulda, shoulda moments….let them go and focus on what you can change today!

2 Dwelling on the future

Yep, stuffs gonna happen! If you can control it or fix it get on it….if not worrying ain’t going to fix it!

It’s hard to do things in the past or the future. Go ahead and try it. (I’ll wait)

You can not change what you wore in 1980? You can not plan for everything that might happen in the future (you can plan for some things but not everything) If you find that you’re caught up in wishing you could change the past or worrying about the future, STOP IT!

Tell your thoughts you’ll get back to them later. And go do something that makes you feel good. Do something positive for someone else.

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