Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Patriotism


I just can't help but think about what it means -- today -- to be patriotic. We have installed a new President and -- no matter which way you voted -- I think you have to agree it was a historic day.

In my opinion, our nation has elected a new leader. His successes are now our -- my -- successes and likewise, his failures our failures. That he is a Democrat or an African American or a man actually has no bearing on that. He is our President and as a patriot, I am devoted to his success.

Here are some of the things that make me proud to be an American:

For the 43rd time in our 233 year history, we had a change in power. This change was not because an heir assumed a throne, but because American adults of every stripe voted in a free election and were not impeded from voting their conscience.

The change in power was not a military action, nor was an assassination necessary.

The man assuming power had a cordial cup of coffee with the man leaving power, and tonight, he and his wife will sleep in the same bedroom the Bush's slept in last night -- without fearing for his life.

It was a peaceful election with a peaceful change in power. And it is how we have always done it; it's the American way. I think we too often take that for granted.

So tonight, I am inspired. I'm hopeful. I am proud to be an American.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Free "Won't"


It turns out it is all in your head!

In our culture, we hear a lot about "free will." It has all kinds of connotations: social, religious, political, parental! We are told, often, "It's your choice," or the parental opposite, "Well you chose to do that. You have free will. If little Timmy jumped off the roof, would you?"

I don't know about you, but I have - at times - basically bought into the notion that I can do anything if I only want to enough. And yet, we all know that isn't the case. Because if it were so, we'd all be worshiping at the shrine of Noman Vincent Peal (The Power of Positive Thinking) or The Secret would no longer be one because we would have all attracted money, love and power and either destroyed each other by now or engaged in a world wide group hug.

Okay, I am being extreme. So seriously, what's the deal? Why is it that I, for instance, am capable of sticking to a diet and exercise plan for sixth months of every blessed year and not at all for the other six months? And why is it that though we want to love our irksome neighbor, for some reason we can't? Well, I have both good and bad news. It's because of our brains!

That's right! Researchers have discovered that in the frontal lobe -- where free will is thought to "reside" -- there is also a veto power. And this veto power can override a "conscious" decision. So you may make a conscious decision, for example, to stop smoking. And when the impulse to light up hits you, you can say no. That's where the veto power comes in. It overrides your conscious decision. It becomes active when you inhibit an impulse. It really explains why some people have more trouble than others in breaking bad habits.

Did I promise some good news? Oh yes. We can retrain the veto control by practicing the more desirable habit over and over. This is where support systems, plans and processes all come into play. Repeating that new, chosen behavior over and over retrains the brain. So get yourself a plan, a cracker-jack support partner and your odds of success will be greatly improved. Hallelujah.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Not the same auld lang syne



The auld lang syne -- the old times fondly remembered -- are with us. Yep, it's January 6 and believe it or not, lots of people have already given up on their new year's resolutions. This is true nearly every year. Depending on whose statistics you trust, within 6 to 8 weeks, 87% of those resolutions will be out the window.

Going to the gym in January can be a challenge. All those "resolutionaries" are in there and the place is packed. I just take a few deep breaths and remind myself that by March, only about 1 in 10 of them will still be showing up.

So how do we break the cycle and be part of the minority who truly change our lives? Here are some quick tips:

Get support. Find someone who will walk the walk with you and is going for similar change or someone who will "hold your feet to the fire" when you forget why you're doing this.

Write down not only realistic and attainable goals, but incremental ones, as well.

Look at the stumbling blocks of the past. Did you resolve to spend less money -- but fail to create a budget? Notice what snagged you last time and do it differently.

M
ake it a habit. I once read that if you do something 21 times in a row, it becomes a habit. This appeals to me. So if I resolve to -- for example -- eat healthily for 21 days and long before day 22, I no longer have to think about it. It's part of my life! (This works in reverse as well -- NOT doing something 21 times is like magic to break a bad habit.)

Plan for setbacks and how you will get back on course afterward. We have our agenda and life has its. The true learning comes in dealing with the things we don't expect.

Celebrate each success -- but not with something you will have to make another resolution on next year! In other words, don't make your celebrations around food or spending money. Celebrate by paying attention to how you achieved your goal and noticing what it took to do it. This will provide true fuel for moving onward.

So . . . did you make any resolutions? If you did and you are off track, it's not too late to get back on track!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Love, Actually


I can't believe it. I have been married to Paul for 14 years! When we first met, we were pretty smug about how well we got along. Now we know that there is a little more to it than that. In honor of our anniversary, I'm passing along Paul's top tips for building a strong relationship, in his own words:

* It's like investing, you're in it for the long haul. It's not like day trading. It puts things into perspective if you remember that it's forever.

* At first -- not so much now -- it was helpful to have our vision. When I was dating, it was helpful to have a relationship vision because it made it easy to separate the wheat from the chaff. It's also helpful to remind me, periodically, as to how and why I got in this in the first place!

* It sounds kind of simple-minded and maybe chauvinistic, but it helps to know your place. Both of us have our strengths and our weaknesses in the relationship. If you fit well together and know your places, it's like two gears that fit together as opposed to ones that grate against each other.

He's my hero. I'm sure you can see why!

(By the way, when I asked him for the tips, he initially said-- with a wink in his eye--"Drive, Pay and Carry!" I must admit, that also helps.)
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