Focus on your path

 CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!?!?!?! 

We have reached the end of summer – WHAAAAAAT? 

Labor Day Weekend (the unofficial end to summer) begins in a matter of hours! School started back this week (at least for my neighbors kids – check local listings for times and days in your area). All of which leads me to the classic question:

What did you do this summer? 

For me it was a busy summer. Full of Farmers Markets and work; Wildlife and new friends; small adventures and learning new things;  sea turtles and WOW is that just amazing; and just getting off the couch! It was a summer of doing things! (and still there was plenty of couch time). I read more, I complained less.  In years past plans would be made but when it came time to do – – the appeal of relaxing won!

It is easy to justify enjoying the air conditioning after working 8-10 hours in the sun! It’s effortless to give in and choose ease over exertion. But not this summer! This summer a conscious decision was made to do things. I made a conscious decision to live life! I saw the beach and sat on the beach more this summer than I have in probably 10 years.

Beach Time

 However, the most important thing I did this summer – – I stopped comparing my life to someone else’s life!

WOW! Is it freeing! 

You see when you are in that comparison game it is easy to find a plethora of people who fill the need of your comparison. (I know that’s a strange sentence – so, let me explain). I can make myself seem better, or worse, depending on who I use as my comparison stick. But my life, my talents, my interests do not always align with the person I use for comparison.

It is like comparing apples and oranges. 

One of my all-time favorite quotes is from Albert Einstein:

picture from Pretty Spiffy Art

picture from Pretty Spiffy Art

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”  ~~ Albert Einstein

It is difficult to not look at other peoples lives and compare. It is difficult to hear someone’s story and not wish to one-up them or to tell them how your life is worse (maybe that’s one-down them?).

I almost believe it is human nature. To use others to build ourselves up or to use our story to break others down. However, it is VERY freeing to decide not to compare! In the end, we are all walking a hard path, but it is our path. We may have friends who join for a while. We may share burdens. In the end we all walk at our own pace on our own path.

I implore you today to enjoy your walk. Focus on your path!

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Dealing With Disappointment in Elections and Life

I was determined last night to not watch the election returns. To be honest…I didn’t want to know! It wasn’t that I was invested in any candidate or was apathetic. Mostly, I just wanted to relish the fact that we could get back to normal conversation, interesting and fun tweets and facebook posts. Let’s face it, the things that bring us together are far more fun and interesting than political banter or differing philosophies! I’d much rather read jokes, see cute pictures or well just about anything other than divisive rhetoric.

However, how did I spend my evening last night? Incessantly refreshing my twitter and impatiently searching for the election results even as my ‘planned distraction’ – – television, played on in the background.

Have you ever seen an accident happening?

You want to look away.

You don’t want to know what happens.

Yet, you are drawn to it and can’t help but watch.

That is how I felt last night!

Please don’t misconstrue, I’m not saying the election was a train wreck. What I am saying is that the feeling of wanting to turn away yet being unable to stop myself was the same.

This morning I have again watched my social media sites with a mix of horror and fascination. The cries and lamentations of those who were not victorious interspersed with the taunts of those who were.

Watching the process has made me think about ways we deal with life’s disappointments. And sadly, there are far too many in most of our lives. From job disappoints to family; from economic to social disappointment; from being disappointed with yourself to being disappointed in others.

Helen Keller said “We would never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world.”

Here are my three four steps for dealing with post-election disappointment (and other of life’s disappointments):

1.  ACCEPT: I get it we all want to rail against the machine! We want to buy “I didn’t vote for __________” bumper-stickers and refuse to be an active participant. But the reality is that this action does nothing for your mental health. The healthier approach is to accept the situation and if possible find the commonalty and move forward.

2.  PUT THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE: My friend Tony Mellencamp won his bid for Adams County Council last night, but as you’ll read in this article his win is but a footnote to his life. He almost lost his wife on the day of the primary. His wife Kaye shouldn’t be here (according to the experts)…..perspective!

It is easy with any disappointment to feel so overwhelmed that it seems as if the world might end. Yet, the reality is nothing is permanent. The sun will come out again.

3.  GET BUSY: The longer you dwell on the disappointment the larger it seems. Get your hands working and your mind engaged. I recommend doing something for someone else…you really will feel better!

4. BE THANKFUL: The majority of the world doesn’t have the ability to go and vote. (I don’t feel the need to expound on this, but if you feel the need leave me a comment or offer to buy me coffee).

Whether your candidate won or lost last night, I still think you are awesome!

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Play to Your Strengths

Do you ever think about your character? You know – those innate traits, characteristics and features that form your individual nature. I sometimes think of character as the person you are when no one is looking. Just to be clear, I do not mean this in a moralistic sense, although I do believe morality can play a role in character, but that’s a different post.

On Sunday I was reading The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work (affiliate link) by Shawn Achor.  In the book he suggests taking a test that will help determine your character strengths. You too can take the test at http://www.viame.org. This site explains that “Your character strengths are already within you, but isolating and identifying those strengths can be complicated, confusing and incredibly time-consuming. The test is designed to help you easily discover the strengths you already have and gain deeper insight into what makes you who you are.”

The test gives 24 characters strengths and arranges each highest to lowest for you. My top five came back like this:

Okay, so this is a fun little exercise and maybe, just maybe you learned something about yourself or at the very least confirmed information you already knew.

But why am I sharing this today?

Well, here’s the exciting part! A group of volunteers (577 of them) were asked to pick one of their top five character strengths and use it in a new way every day for a week. At the end of the week this group was happier and less depressed than the control groups! You’re starting to get it aren’t you?

But HERE’s the REALLY exciting part!

The benefits lasted for a full six months after the experiment.

I encourage you to take the test, and find a way to play to your strengths. You’ll be happier!

I’d love to hear your top strengths and how you plan to put them in action. Just leave me a comment 🙂

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My Latest Adventure

sil•ly adjective \ˈsi-lē\, sil•li•er, sil•li•est,noun, plural sil•lies.
adjective
1. weak-minded or lacking good sense; stupid or foolish: a sillywriter.
2. absurd; ridiculous; irrational: a silly idea.
3. stunned; dazed: He knocked me silly.
4. Cricket . (of a fielder or the fielder’s playing position) extremely close to the batsman’s wicket: silly mid off.
5. Archaic . rustic; plain; homely.

I feel reasonably confident that silly is not a word oft used to describe me. Although I can, in unique situations when the sun, the moon and the stars are all properly aligned, be down right silly (it never lasts, and is witnessed by few).

However, I have embarked on an adventure which can be deemed nothing less than silly!

AND, I am inviting you to come along!

I have a love affair with squish toys (yep, those little stress relief thingys people hand out as free give aways).  I can’t help myself, I pick them up and bring them home (the more outrageous, the better). In 2008 I attended some nerd conference in Atlanta with Jenn. She was presenting her poster which explained her Chemistry Masters Thesis (Yes, I know what the thesis was about – because Jenn explained it to me many times over the years she did her research and wrote the paper….OKAY, I don’t remember – so, shoot me!) Anyway, I picked up a cow squish thingy at this event.

The cow quickly took a prime spot among my ever growing population of squish thingys!

Last week, the cow began to complain (it sounded a bit like moo-ve Meee).

So, Moo-ve him I decided to do….and therein begins the silly portion.  I decided to carry the cow with me and take his photograph wherever I went. Like a photo a day thing, but not limited to just one a day and not dependent on good photography skills 🙂

But first, the cow needed a name! I was blanking on a good cow name!

Like the good advice I always write about here, I decided to just start the adventure, the name thing would work it’s self out. So, I took the cow to dinner on Thursday Night. As I pulled out the cow and began positioning him for a photo, My friend Mary Martha said, ‘I think his name should be Mr Beau Vine – moover and shaker’! So, Mr Beau Vine it has become!

Yes, this is a silly project. But it make me laugh (and so far it makes those around me laugh) and I’m having fun and Research has found that people are happier when they have more FUN in life!

According to everything I have read about happiness – Truly happy people know how to enjoy themselves.  They can find humor and amusement in simple, everyday things.  Happy people have fun and enjoy things more. So, Mr Beau Vine has had a busy five days full of laughter, adventure and fun!

Mr Beau Vine and I invite you to follow along on our silly adventure at http://gayletabor.com/MrBeauVine/ come have fun with us!

 

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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 –

PRACTICE!

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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Be kind to one another…forgiving each other…do do doodlie do

Do you ever sit in Church on Sunday and think…’WOW! Has the preacher been peaking in my windows? or is he mind-melding my thoughts?’ Yesterday was one of those days for me. If you read my blog often, you’ll know that I rarely speak on religion but this blog is burning in me. So, bear with me.

The sermon started with a cute ditty I learned in Church camp at Christian Acres a life-time ago. It’s the words to Ephesians 4:32 set to a cute tune that includes do do doodlie do (maybe you remember it too). But yesterday the words to the scripture really resonated with me: Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

You see, forgiveness it NOT my strong suit!

I have been struggling to write a blog post for weeks. I have many starts – but no finished posts. Yesterday, sitting in Church I realized, I can’t write because I am angry! It is nothing specific and maybe it is just a WHOLE LOT of little things all strung together.

Yesterday Curtis (he’s the preacher) talked about anger….slow burning anger. I realized that I suffer from slow burning anger. Anger is my default emotion! I’m worried about paying my vet bill = I’m angry. I am angry some one ran-over my cat and killed her = I’m angry. My business was approved into Whole Foods and I must figure out bar coding and potentially large scale sales = I’m angry. I just passed the 15th anniversary of my daddy dying in a car wreck = I’m angry.

I don’t often use the word angry (although I do on occasion). However, the word “irritated’ is often on my lips. For variety I may change it to exasperated, annoyed, peeved, bothered or aggravated. When what I really mean is I AM ANGRY!

At the root of anger is self-doubt little things don’t throw you into a rage unless you’re feeling helpless, harried, overextended, or otherwise victimized—says Steven Stosny, PhD, a Maryland anger specialist who has treated more than 6,000 people and written  You Don’t Have to Take it Anymore (affiliate link). I believe this is true for me.  It’s the small things that may cause an erupt but it is the feelings of being helpless, harried, or overextended that are the root of my anger.

One key to letting the anger go is to practice forgiveness. I wrote about this back in January in my post Forgiveness is not an Occasional Act. True forgiveness isn’t easy, especially when it comes to forgiving yourself! If you are like me, you remember all the hurtful things you said. You dwell on your shortcomings (real or perceived) and you hold a lifetime of missteps against yourself. You coddle them and cherish them until they have taken over and your self doubt is all you have left and then you are angry. Angry for what you should have done but didn’t. Angry for what you did but shouldn’t. Angry for the words you wish you had forced your mouth to express but waited a day too long. Angry for the words you wish you could suck back into your mouth and stop from passing your lips.

Start now, work on forgiving yourself!

Also decide today to start living more in the moment. Stop wishing you could change the past and start living right now. Here are 8 tips to get you started. I’d also love to hear things that have worked for you or about how these tips or ideas may resonate with you or maybe you just want to say ‘Hi Gayle’ (just leave me a comment).


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