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Archive for January, 2013

No Fear

I just finished a really great book – it’s called “Who Moved My Cheese?” It’s about change management. It’s a short read, and a great read, and I’d recommend it to anyone who cares to listen.

One of the things the book talks about is fear. It asks “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

Granted, fear is not always a bad thing. It often keeps us from doing silly things (i.e. jumping off ofbuildings, leaping out of perfectly good airplanes, or running with the bulls – no offence to all the adrenaline junkies out there).

But a lot of times, fear stops us from reaching for the unknown. Fear paralyzes us when we are faced with a new challenge. Sometimes it’s the fear of the unknown; often times it’s the fear of failure. But if you look back over your life or your career (or both), ask yourself: What would YOU do if you weren’t afraid?

I believe that fear (like chocolate chips) is good in moderation. I believe there are times when risks must be taken and fears faced in order for us to move to the next level or obtain the next success. Don’t be fooled: You won’t always win and you won’t always succeed. But chances are you will fail 100% of the time that you don’t even try.

Here are a few easy examples for me:

  • Starting Grade 1. I know what you’re thinking; but ask my Mum – I was terrified! I didn’t know how to write!! How could I go?! I was unprepared!! Well, 30 years, one degree, one certificate, and countless other learning experiences behind me…’nuff said.
  • A job change. It’s scary! Absolutely! What if my new co-workers don’t like me? What if I’m terrible at my new job? For me, looking back, I have no regrets of any of the changes I’ve ever made professionally. And that makes me feel satisfied and proud.
  • Getting married. That was a scary one. Not because I wasn’t sure of who I was marrying or what I was doing, but because I was afraid of what others thought. I was young. We came from different lives. Etc. But if I hadn’t said YES, if I hadn’t faced my fear – I would have missed out on the best thing that’s happened to me in my life to date.

Don’t get me wrong, and do not suddenly decide that you can leap tall buildings in a single bound or become a sword-swallower. But ask yourself what’s holding you back.

If it’s the fear of the unknown – look it in the eyes and honestly ask what’s the worst that could happen.

If it’s the fear of failure – remember that 100% of the times you don’t try something you WILL fail, so in all odds (including mathematical ones), your odds are better if you just give it a shot.

No fear.

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The Complacency Fog

My definition of complacency fog is: The kind of fog where you feel settled and comfortable where you are and with what you are doing.

Don’t get me wrong – sometimes this is not a fog. Sometimes this is a great thing!

BUT. And here’s the B.U.T. Ask yourself a question: Are you really happy? It can be hard to tell… Here’s a few guidelines that I have been known to use:

  • Do I feel happy – or do I feel comfortable? These are not always the same thing
  • Do I feel challenged? To me, where there is no challenge, there is no real happiness
  • Do I think about where I am and what I’m doing when I’m not doing it? To me, if something does not creep into my conscious uninvited, at least every now and then, it means that I am comfortable and not happy

I’ve learned a lesson lately – complacency, to me, is arguably my least favourite place to be.

Complacency is defined as: “self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies”.

AHA! See – it even says it’s a dangerous place/way to be!

I am at my happiest when I am uncomfortable, even if only slightly; it means I’m growing, learning, and evolving into a better me.

I have also discovered that it’s very easy to become complacent, especially when things have been tough for long periods of time. You feel like enough is enough! Stop the world, you want to get off! Give you a break! You are tired. You just want to be for awhile; just rest.

Trust me, I know. I’ve felt that myself, time and time again. And it’s definitely OK to do just that – give yourself a break. But give yourself a deadline with that break. Write it down somewhere, so that it’s not harassing you on a regular basis. But make sure you have it.

Don’t give yourself permission to give up, give in, or take a seat in the back row for the duration. You owe yourself more than that! You owe it to yourself to ask the question:

Am I happy? Or am I complacent – and it has lulled me into a false sense of happiness?

If you are happy – all is well. Congratulations! Enjoy the feeling. We don’t always need to be growing, stretching, and evolving. It’s exhausting! And we all deserve time to savour our successes and be comfortable in our own skin.

But if you are complacent – if you are settled for the sake of being settled or comfortable in the name of avoiding a challenge – ask yourself if that is really where you want to be. If it is – don’t sell yourself short; re-asses and maybe you’ll see that you are actually happy and should allow yourself to be just so.

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But if you are not, you may be in a complacency fog. And it’s not a place I recommend.

I’ve been there. I’d bet we all have.

When auto-pilot is on for 90% of our day. When everything is easy and our attitude becomes more laissez-faire (let it be; let them do it) and less laissez-moi le faire (let ME do it)!!

Step back. Clear the fog. What are you missing?

Give yourself time and space, and see what the new horizon brings.

 

You might be surprised what you find.

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Like most people, I work during the day. However, I have been known to record Ellen Degeneres‘ talk-show at times, for a pick-me-up when I’m cleaning on the weekend or if I need some distraction. I’ve noticed that Ellen always ends her show by saying “Be kind to one another”. I love it. Here’ s why.

 

It’s sucniceh a simple request.

Such a simple concept. And yet – so lacking in this world I see around me.

Be nice. Be kind.

It’s not as though it’s an end to hunger or a ceasing of war (although these, too, would be nice).

Just a simple request to treat others as you’d want to be treated.

With kindness.

 

I think if we all tried this, we’d be amazed at the change we’d see in the world. For example:

  • Next time you walk through a door, check to see if there’s anyone behind you; if there is, hold the door
  • When a waiter brings you your food at a restaurant, say thank you with a smile, and mean it
  • If you see someone drop something on the street, stop and pick it up for them; don’t just walk by as if didn’t notice
  • When you walk by anyone, be it a stranger or someone you see everyday in your office, smile or say hello

Be kind to one another.

It’s not hard. It’s not expensive. And it’s not time consuming.

Let’s all follow Ellen’s advice.

 

 

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Mindfulness

I have touched on this countless times, but I’ll say it again. We are a bunch of busy people. We are a society of go-getters, and we are a people for whom enough is never enough. We work long hours, pursue thousands of goals at once, and are forever multi-tasking in the hopes of checking one more thing off our to-do list before tomorrow starts. But what if tomorrow doesn’t show up? What if tomorrow decides it’s just not happening? We will be left with only today. And if we’ve spent today thinking about tomorrow, then we’ve missed it. And we’ll never get it back.

Are you dizzy yet?

I received a wonderful link via email this week (a TED talk – Andy Puddicombe: All it takes is 10 mindful minutes) about spending 10 minutes a day, doing nothing, being mindful, and letting yourself refresh. I watched it twice, from start to finish. And it didn’t take long for me to see the connection and apply this idea of mindfulness on a broader scope in my life. It occurred to me that mindfulness, not only in meditation, is really key.

I am one of those busy people I talked about, earlier. Professionally, my work is wonderful. I love it and I’m passionate about it. But it is crazy-busy and I run from morning until night, often putting in hours at home. I am also fortunate to be teaching technical writing online – this eats up the evenings that I have left over after work ends. I’m also working on my Harperness Project, which demands time because I’m working on my overall health (newsflash – it takes time and effort to be healthy!) In the midst of all of this, I always make a point to make time for my most important focuses: my husband and cat, my friends, and my family.

Stepping back, I can clearly see that I race through most of my days, working hard to finish things today so that tomorrow is palatable.

I, too, am missing the point.

 

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Today is where I need to be.

When it’s today – I need to be in today. I need to see today. Enjoy today. Focus on today.

I need to work on being mindful of where I am, when I’m there.

Put my whole self into the moment of what I’m doing, at that particular time and not doing 101 things all at once.

Do what I am doing, when I am doing it.

 

 

I think trying to be mindful also fits in well with my Harperness Project, in the mental category. I did a little experiment this past week. When I was working – that’s all I did. When I was exercising – that is where my mind was. As I made suppers, even if it was a simple salad, I focused on what I was creating and why. When I was sitting with my husband or playing with my cat, that’s all I was thinking about. When I was marking and interacting with the students in my course, I focused 100% of my attention for the time it took on the task at hand.

Although I can honestly say that last week was one of the busiest weeks that I can personally recall, for some time, I can also say that I accomplished all of my to-dos and had energy left over for the fun stuff. I even found I had more time (not less) when I simply focused, mindfully, on one task at a time.

Try it. Next time you are doing something, no matter what it is – be mindful. Be there. Be present. Enjoy what you are doing, when you are doing it, and see how centered it makes you feel.

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A Precious Commodity

Time is relative, when you think about it. It’s a bit like money. We all spend time where we choose (also like our money). And although we are all busy; there is always time to be made or found — and spent where it needs to be. However, time is not limitless. And that makes it a very precious commodity.

Sometimes, don’t get me wrong, time is spent where it has to be – we all need to work, and buy groceries, and do certain things on a regular basis that we would prefer not to have to do but that is necessary to our daily life. But for the most part, we can choose to spend our time where we would like to.

 

 

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In my opinion, time is our greatest treasure and the greatest gift we can give to those around us.

 

 

 

But how much time do we all waste, on a regular basis, doing something we don’t want or need to be doing? And as we spend our time doing these things that are sometimes mindless, often thankless, and always time consuming – how many times have we suddenly realized that we’ve lost time with someone or doing something really important, and that no matter how much we try, we’ll never get back?

Therein lies the lesson. It’s important to use time wisely. None of us know how much time we or those we love have left. If we make a conscious effort to spend our time doing what we love with who we love, we could say that our lives were time well spent.

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This year is brought to you by The Happiness Project. It’s a very good read (and blog) written by a woman named Gretchen Rubin. Her idea is that you can become happier than you are by changing some simple things around your life. You don’t need to be terribly sad or unhappy to do this; you can be quite happy in fact and still become happier by making a few changes.

Gretchen followed up her Happiness Project book with a second book titled Happier at Home. She follows similar ideas to her first book, except this time she focuses on her home. This book is also a terrific read!

These books both inspired me – I read The Happiness Project some time ago, and I’ve just finished Happier at Home over this past holiday season. I love Gretchen’s ideas. They are simple, compelling, reasonable, and most of all, do-able by the average bear.

 

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So I’ve decided to create my own Harper-ness Project. I’m going to try and combine all of her elements from both books into a year of self-reflection and self-improvement.

 

 

I’ve picked twelve things that I’d like to focus on for each month in the coming year. As months go by,  I’ll focus on that month’s goal as well as the previous month’s goal. The farther I get into the year, the more focus I hope to have!

December will be the most interesting month of all, where I’ll combine all of the goals and changes over the past 11 months and take note of where I’m going strong, where the wheels have fallen off, and the why surrounding it all.

I hope to gain a few things out of this, not the least of which will be a better understand of what makes me tick. But most of all, I’m keen to see if I can spend 12 months sticking to 11 particular goals. I find it an interesting challenge (says the woman who can’t even commit to flossing for more than three days at a time).

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January: Health

  • Mental (happy mind)
  • Physical (happy body)
  • Emotional (happy heart & soul)

 

 

 

Mental

We are our own worst critics, and I’m trying to change this. For me, this means being aware of negative thoughts that creep in (can’t, won’t, NO) and make a conscious effort to replace them with positive thoughts (can, will, YES). It means trying to avoid words like should (unless it’s related to something crucial; let’s face it, we still have to go to work and pay the bills). And it means making more time for myself (whatever that might look like, to me), by both feeding my mind with music and books that make me happy and stretching my mind with new ideas and approaches and maybe even trying some of them.

 

Physical

Most of us have a pound or six we don’t need. But I’m not approaching physical health from a single standpoint (weight loss). Instead, I’m focusing on a healthy lifestyle. Making smart nutritional choices. Getting at least 20 minutes of exercise a day. And finding time to sleep and rest and let myself recharge regularly.

 

Emotional

To me, this means allowing myself to be open to really feeling things; good, bad or otherwise. And learning to let it be.

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So here we go. Bring it on, January!

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This past October, my husband and I were fortunate enough to go on the adventure of a lifetime! We went on a cruise on the Oasis of the Seas (Royal Caribbean) to Jamaica, Haiti, and Mexico. What a whirlwind!

I’d definitely be remiss if I didn’t start off this post by talking about the ship itself. The Oasis of the Seas is 362m in length, weighs 100,000 tons, and carries something like 8,000 people (including over 2,000 staff members). However, none of these impressive numbers do it any justice whatsoever! It is truly a floating city, with every type of food, drink, and entertainment you can think of, and then some. And it provided us with some of the most spectacular views of Caribbean sunsets…Image

 

Our first stop on the cruise was the island of Labadee, Haiti. The island is owned by the Royal Caribbean – they trek all the food & drinks off the boat for the cruisers, for our day on the island.

 

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Labadee boasts some spectacular landscape, however, it was a bit of a facade.

When we looked a bit closer, it was obvious that we were in a very contrived place; a place created for cruising tourists.

Upon even closer inspection, we even realized that we were separated from the actual village of Labadee by barbed wire; we were fenced IN (and perhaps, the Labadeeans (sp) were fenced OUT).

How unfortunate to separate people from people.

 

 

Our next stop was FalmImageouth, Jamaica.

This was by far my favorite island on the cruise. We were lucky enough to secure the services of a very kind taxi driver who took us out to Montego Bay – beautiful!

We even had authentic jerk chicken for lunch. Those of you who know me know this is quite a departure for me; I was a bit terrified that I’d get sick from the food (the jerk chicken shack, yes I said shack) was just off the side of the road, and honestly, it looked a bit sketchy at first glance. But with a bit of convincing and a reminder that we only live once, we went for it – the risk was 100% worth the reward!

We listened to lots of reggae and met more kind Jamaican people. Jamaica honestly had blue sea and sky for miles and miles. Truly a place where heavenly memories are made…

 

The last stop on the cruise was ImageCozumel, Mexico.

We spent most of the day walking through the city and exploring on our own.

The poverty was heart-wrenching in some spots; similar to what we’d seen in both Haiti and Jamaica.

Another reminder of where we’d come from back home and how lucky we are for what we have in our lives. It’s incredible to travel halfway around the world, only to be reminded how good you have it where you came from…

Such an incredible trip, for both my husband and I. We absolutely loved our time on the cruise. We traveled with another couple, who were fantastic companions and with whom we had a great time, shared so many memories, and made new and stronger friendships.

Most importantly, this trip gave my husband and I chance to reconnect.

This time away was just what I needed to remind me where I come from, and to help me re-focus on what’s truly important.

It reminded me, quite vividly and repeatedly, how lucky I am to live where I do and have what I have.

The simplest things like having a glass of water from a tap or waking up under a roof with four walls everyday and having a warm shower and a fresh cup of coffee are things that many of the people we met will never experience. Things that I do, on autopilot, every day. Without a second thought. Without a second moment spared for gratitude at the luxury in which I live.

So easy to take it for granted. So fortunate to be reminded of all that we have.

In this crazy, fast paced world of consumerism and workaholism, it was indeed a blessing for us. We enjoyed every minute of it; safe to say I think we might have the cruising bug!

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