Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What GOOD will it do?

I've been thinking about all the actions we take and the talking we do that really doesn't lead us in any kind of productive direction. Shaking a fist (or a certain finger) at a driver in a parallel lane on the highway or sharing a less-than-positive comment about a friend, relative, or even a grumpy server at a restaurant just seems a little pointless to me.

The question that keeps occurring to me as I decide what actions to take throughout my daily life is "What good will it do?"

When I hear that question in my head, it really doesn't have a defeatist attitude, as it could, depending upon the intention and inflection. It's really a very objective question: "What good will this action (or thought or word) do in the world?"

I participated in an activity at a retreat a while back in which the facilitator handed out mini Hershey candy bars and instructed us to take whichever kind we liked. There was actually one person who immediately popped it into her mouth and started chomping, which is what many of us probably would do without thinking. (She had to get another candy bar to participate in the activity.)

The instructions were to take this mini candy bar and to take the next 5 minutes - in silence - to eat it. We were to have at least some part of the candy left when the time was up.

Wow. That was a great eye-opener for me. I noticed things about that candy that I had never noticed before because I'm always so busy wolfing down three or four of them in that 5-minute timespan.

The purpose for this activity was to help us practice mindfulness - awareness - thinking - and to really feel what it was like to slow down and be present.

The movie "The Peaceful Warrior" has a great message about being mindful. In fact, at one point the main character, Dan, tells his mentor, Socrates, that he's out of his mind. And Socrates lets Dan know that that's the point. When we can be in the moment, we get out of our minds ... our "monkey minds" which are always chattering and reacting.

Just stop at some point today and think about exactly what you're thinking and what you're doing. Ask yourself, before you react, "what GOOD will it do?" and then make your choice.

I'm confident you'll see things you never knew you never knew.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What's Wrong With Being a Pollyanna?

OK, so recently the term "Pollyanna" has come into my awareness as someone who is idealistic and outside the realm of reality, as in "quit being such a Pollyanna."

My only personal context of Pollyanna is from the 1960 Disney film starring Hayley Mills, but the movie was based on the 1913 novel by Eleanor Porter. To make a long story short, Pollyanna is a young girl who always has a positive outlook on life, even though she's had a lot of adversities to overcome. She is sent to live with her aunt Polly, a wealthy and prominent woman who is very much a glass half empty kind of person. Pollyanna brings with her a game she learned from her father called the Glad Game in which she always finds the good in any situation. In fact, her father gave her a brooch with this inscription on it:

"When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will."—Abraham Lincoln

(Sound similar to what we've been talking about in this blog recently?)

So when Pollyanna is sent to live with her aunt in the town of Beldingsville, which, since her aunt pretty much runs the town, has taken on her dour attitude, we see how one young, positive girl can actually change the entire town. Despite the fact that her aunt puts her in a stuffy attic room without carpets or pictures, Pollyanna is glad for the wonderful view out the window from her high perch. When her aunt punishes her for being late to dinner by making her eat bread and milk in the kitchen with Nancy, the servant, Pollyanna thanks her aunt because she likes bread and milk and she likes Nancy.

Does it remind you of another young girl who saw the good in the world despite her own situation? I'm thinking of Anne Frank.

So I want to know what's wrong with being a Pollyanna. Seeing the good in every situation by playing the "Glad Game" can't be a bad way to see the world, can it? The cynics of the world may call you naive and they may fight to be right about their cynical attitude. As Richard Bach said in Illusions: "Argue for your limitations and sure enough, they're yours."
Think about Pollyanna during this upcoming election season. Which candidates will you stand for ... the ones who stand for their own positions or those who fight against their opponents?

I'll take Pollyanna any day.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Am I crazy ... or crazy like a fox?

I'm at a coffee shop this afternoon finishing up some slides for a new presentation on Saturday and the man behind the counter came over to where I'm sitting because the TV is on above my head. He's worried because the Dow keeps going down. He wanted to engage me in that conversation by asking whether I thought it was because the Fed is waiting for the government to do something or other (or maybe it was the other way around).

To be honest with you, and with him, I'm just not that involved in the Dow or the rising gas prices or the weather or other things I really have no direct control over in this moment.

When I told him that in just a few words, he asked whether or not I had money in the stock market. I told him that I do, but I have someone else worrying about that for me. He looked at me as if I'd just grown another head.

Am I crazy?

I decided a couple of years ago that the energy I wasted worrying about those things I can't control was taking its toll on my effectiveness and creativity and I gave it up. I also gave up guilt at that time and began concentrating my energy and efforts not on the past or even in the future, but became much more present. What I realized today during this encounter was that I may have lost some money in the stock market, but I've gained some peace and clarity - a LOT of peace and clarity, in fact.

I wrote a post in July called "It's All Made Up" where I talked about this elusive concept of money and value we've made up. If I'm worried now about something that has happened with my money which I'm not going to need until some future time when the value will be completely different anyway, it seems to me that I'm giving up my opportunity to be happy right now by worrying about it.

This was a great reminder to me that I really have been happier in the past couple of years - and have been even more effective in my business and my relationships. This reflection actually offered me a chance to realize how grateful I am (I almost spelled that "greatful" because of the influence of my friend Phil, the Make It Great guy!) for this awareness!

So, what do we say to the people who call us irresponsible or out of touch or idealistic? Maybe it's not what we say, but how we be. Actions speak louder than words, after all.

It reminds me of Pollyanna ... but that's for another post.

Crazy? Maybe ... but maybe crazy like a fox.

(image from

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Find Purpose in 2008

Why is it that most New Year's Resolutions don't see the light of February? Probably because they go the way of many goals in our lives: they are not inspiring so they fade away. If you set resolutions or goals because you think you should or because someone else tells you to, it's much more difficult to actually stick with them.

That's probably why we're not so great at keeping our resolutions. According to Goals Guy, the top 10 New Year's Resolutions are:

1) Lose Weight and Get in Better Shape
2) Stick to a Budget
3) Debt Reduction
4) Enjoy More Quality Time With Family and Friends
5) Find Your Soul Mate
6) Quit Smoking
7) Find a Better Job
8) Learn Something New
9) Volunteer and Help Others
10) Get Organized

Goals Guy is Gary Ryan Blair, the inspiration behind New Year's Resolution Week. This annual event was founded on the premise, that a single resolution can positively and profoundly create lasting change in your life and help to make the world a better place.

If you are not personally inspired by your goals or resolutions, there is a much greater chance you won't follow through. But if you find the purpose behind any change you want to make - if you really get clear on WHY you want to achieve something - there's no stopping you.

Another reason we may not achieve our goals or keep our resolutions might be because we don't see how we will be able to do whatever it is we say we want. Getting caught in the HOW causes us to set really low goals that don't inspire us, but that at least give us hope of achievement.

If the WHY is big enough, the HOW will take care of itself. The WHY is the PURPOSE. When we're clear on the WHY, then we can set the vision, which will break the WHY down, maybe into time chunks, for example. Then goals will take a bite out of the vision, and allow us those measurable milestones.

If you decide today - January 1 - that you want to lose weight, for many people that's not all that inspiring. We know we should, and in our experience we might see losing weight as having to give up all the good stuff we like to eat and forcing ourselves to work hard in a gym. But if we can alter that mindset to see the purpose, we might find it's not as difficult as we thought. See if you can find a reason for wanting to lose weight - like hang gliding or climbing a mountain or getting into your high school prom dress. Don't tie the weight loss together with something that feels like a punishment. And don't worry for now HOW you're going to do it. Just get really clear on the WHY - the PURPOSE - and let the how take care of itself. You're much more creative than you realize and when inspired by a bigger purpose, you'll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

That's my intention for this year - drop the weight in 2008 - and I'm working daily on determining and keeping in mind the purpose behind that. I'm betting that Tony Robbins' mantra will be part of my plan: "Nothing tastes as good as thin feels."

What inspires and excites you? Allow yourself some dreaming time today to determine the answer to that question and keep the purpose in front of you. I'm betting your entire attitude will shift as you concentrate on the purpose and become more mindful and present in the moment. I'm counting on that formula to drop the weight in 2008. I'll let you know how it's going!