Posts tagged: creativity

The Case for Doing Nothing

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Plans for the Weekend?

When someone asks me what my plans are for the weekend, I often answer.. nothing. In fact, my goal is to have nothing to do. My other answer is… “my goal is to do less, and then do less than that.”

The Cult of Productivity

If this doesn’t make sense to you, I understand. We live in a world where doing is more important that being.

“Ours is a culture that measures our worth as human beings by our efficiency, our earnings, our ability to perform this or that. The cult of productivity has its place, but worshipping at its altar daily robs us of the very capacity for joy and wonder that makes life worth living.” Brain Pickings Newsletter

The Case for Stillness

Are you a human being or a human “doing?” Learning to just be took practice for me.

We each have so many gifts; a unique way of looking at the world. We need that. We need you to be you. If all we do is, well… do…then we don’t take the time to know ourselves. To hear our own voice. To cultivate our own thoughts, to pay attention to our feelings, to remember what is important.

For today, can you stop doing so much? Can you sit in a chair and look out the window? Can you take a 5 minute walk? Can you step outside and look at the trees and the birds? Try it and let me know how it goes.

Image Credit: To Do List

The Sugar In My Gum

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How Sweet It Is

When you put a new piece of gum in your mouth, the sugar is so delicious, right? After a while, the gum gets stiff and the flavor dulls but we love how sweet the sugar tastes in that first minute.

Chasing the Sweetness

We spend a lot of our lives chasing that first chewy minute of yummy. Whether it is new love, a new job, or new experiences… we are willing to sacrifice a lot in order to recapture it. We get bored with what we’re used to and sometimes this leads to bad decisions. Think about it for a minute. When was the last time you “chased the sugar”? Do you understand why you chased it? Were people in your life telling you that it wasn’t a good idea? Did you keep doing it anyway? Yeah, we all have.

Looking For A Sugar Substitute

If chasing sugar gets us in “trouble”, then we need to find a way to get something sweet, without all the ‘bad.” This is why sugarless gum was invented.

The job of a grownup is to find the sugarless gum in life. We still get the sweet but without the bad stuff. Sometimes we chase a dream… looking for the sugar… and it’s good. We learn and grow. Sometimes we chase a dream… and it’s bad. We crash, we burn. I am at a point in my life where lots of sugar isn’t necessary; an occasional dish of ice cream goes a long way.

Five Things

Pick 5

If you could pick 5 things… right this minute… that you would like to have… right this minute… what would they be? Quick, write them down.

Be sure you write them down since having them in your head doesn’t count. Why? Because it’s easy to lose the lesson if you don’t. Do it. Write them down.

What Did You Pick

Let’s look at your list objectively. Did you put down ‘things’? Did you put down abstract concepts like love? Did you wish for things that would benefit someone else or just yourself? Look at your list. When you’re done, put it in a drawer, take it out next week.

My Picks

I am fortunate to work at home these days. When the weather is good, I’m lucky. When it’s not good, I’m lucky. I get to be out in it. This morning the temperature was perfect 70 degrees. Soft breeze blowing, lots of birds singing and swooping, my dog is pulling on her leash as we stroll the neighborhood.

When I thought of this question… I knew my answer immediately. I want my 5 senses. That’s it. I know I already have them but I don’t want to take them for granted, for one second, of one day.

  • Take a look at your hand and marvel at the wonder of all you can accomplish. Wiggle your fingers. Jump up and down.
  • Put a piece of bread in the toaster and smell the sweetness.
  • Look out your window and see, whatever you see. Revel in the miracle of sight.
  • Listen, really listen to the voice of someone you love. Can you hear the feelings behind the words? How often do you really hear their voice?
  • Yeah, ok, go get the chocolate or coffee or beer or whatever… really taste it.

You get the idea. Pay attention to your senses today.

Image credit: Five  Woodley Wonder

The Case for Kindness

“Practice kindness all day, to everybody, and you will realize you’re already in heaven now.” Jack Kerouac

Why Kindness? Why Everyday?

I recently was surprised with a service award for volunteer work. I was mortified that they were recognizing me at their annual luncheon and I was caught off guard. (If they had told me they were going to do it, I would have said no so… it was the only way it would happen.) Despite my “self-conciousness,” I was very grateful for their kind recognition of my effort.

When I was giving my (unexpected) acceptance speech, I heard myself say, “the first 40 years of my life were tough but the last 25 have been good.” I didn’t plan to say that, it’s just what came out.

I think this explains why I remember so many kindnesses (large and small) that have been shown to me over the years. I hope it explains why I try so hard to be of service to others.  I know that many people I meet are in the middle of some difficulty. If I can show them a little kindness, a smile, just reach out and be human… maybe their day will be a little bit better. And maybe mine will too.

Intention

Kindness doesn’t cost anything. It only takes the desire and intention to show as many people as possible, everyday, a small kindness. I suppose it’s possible, that this is how the world gets changed.

Image credit: Begin the Beginning

The Case for Silly

What Ever Happened to Silly?

If you’re fortunate enough to be around kids under the age of 10, you know you’re going to get into the sillies. One kid says something and then soon everyone is giggling and carrying on. I love this. I live for this.

Younger kids aren’t all judgy. They might try to one up each other in the silly department, but mostly, everyone settles in for a good snort.

Something happens to us when we become teenagers. Most of us become silly-averse. We decide we need to act ‘grown up’ and our silly days are behind us. We get cynical, ‘cool’, and generally stuck up. The disintegration into hilarity rarely happens any more. What the heck happens to us?

Even as parents, we seem to forget to encourage the sillies. We’re so busy ‘teaching’ our kids to talk, read,  study, practice, whatever (all very important duties!), we seem to forget that laughing, and laughing in most basic way, is key to a happy life.

Let’s Revive the Silly Tree

I have the great good fortune to have 7 grandchildren, several of whom live in the same city as me and all of whom are under the age of 9. My ability to get to some silliness is pretty easy. But what if you are one of those people who doesn’t have access to little ones, you have to improvise. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Remember what’s it’s like to be kid, find a kid to hang around, volunteer around kids, etc. The fastest way to get there is to go to those who are closest to the source. Laughing is really good. If you need some hints, ask people what they do.
  2. Making people laugh is the purest form of ‘pay it forward.’  Watch this Ted talk on the power of laughter to save lives. (It starts off slow but it’s worth it if you can stick with it).
  3. Laughter yoga?  You exercise your body and your mind (and hopefully your spirit), but do you know how to exercise your silly muscle?
  4. Here’s what the world renowned Mayo Clinic says about laughing.
  5. Go to the library or the bookstore (remember those buildings that house real books?), go to the humor section. Read the joke books. Read funny authors. I happen to like Dave Barry, Steve Martin, Jim Gaffigan, and a raft of kids books like Amelia Bedelia. Don’t forget the movies! I’ll recommend a few of my favorite but what I think is funny may not be your cup of tea. Anything by Monty Python, Airplane!, The Jerk.

But I Want to Be Grumpy

I understand. Being overworked, under appreciated, running around, busy all the time, leaves us very little time for silly. But somehow, I hope we’ll all, just for a minute, today, pretend that there is nothing more important than seeing the silly in the world.

Q: What did one toilet say to the other? A: You look a bit flushed.

Read more at: http://www.ducksters.com/jokes/silly.php
This text is Copyright © Ducksters. Do not use without permission.

Photo credit: Typical Riley Pose  peasap

But I Had No Choice, Did I?

I liked both of these images! Why not put them together..??

It’s unlikely you have no choice. More likely: There’s no easy choice. No safe choice, that also embraces your potential. No choice you can make that doesn’t cause short-term misery in exchange for a long-term benefit. Seth Godin

Do I or Don’t I?

When I hear myself say, “I had no choice,” I know that I’ve stumbled. In my time on this planet, I’ve come to realize, I always have a choice. (ok, you can probably think of some time when I might not… but I’m talking about “most of the time.”) When I say, I had no choice, that means that I..

  1. Didn’t see any choices
  2. Didn’t like my choices
  3. Didn’t want to admit I was wrong, change my attitude or stop blaming someone else

But What If I Don’t Like What Happens

I’ve spent the past several years learning to understand that I have choices and then taking responsibility for the choices I make. I’ll admit, it’s been painful and hard. It was much easier to blame someone else for my divorce, my unemployment, my blah, blah, blah. Once I learned that when I default to the choice that is obvious, it’s often NOT great. When I take the time to consider my options and act responsibly towards my own well being, things get better. I could blame my parents. I could tell you a story about their addiction. But the truth is, once I got to be an adult, the responsibility was mine to get help and make my life better. If I’m not happy with my life, I need to make it better.

One fear is that if I make a choice, I might not like the outcome. In some ways, whatever the bad things are, they are “known” bad things. And the “unknown” bad things could be worse. Fear kept me stuck.

Choice is Freedom

When I see I have choices, even if I don’t like the ones I have, I am free. Freedom isn’t just a positive attitude, it’s also accepting responsibility for understanding my choices and then acting on them. It’s often not popular to make certain choices. When you rock other people’s boats, they get hurt and angry and if I change, then people close to me must also change. I’ve learned, when the choice affects others, that I need to act slowly and thoughtfully. But I still need to act. I’m grateful to be free to make choices. Good or bad.

Image credit: Fork in the road   Jrdn7730

The Case For Adaptation

Look at the picture, really look. Think about what might have happened. Did a child ride this bike into the woods, lean it against this tree and then forget it?  The poor tree was left to adapt to this ‘leaning thing’. What choice did it have?

What’s leaning against you? Loss? A person? An opportunity? Sadness? Take a minute and think about what is leaning against you.

Now imagine yourself adapting. Have the intention to adapt. Don’t try to ‘figure out’ all the steps to adapting, just imagine that you not only survive, but you are transformed.  To be even better than before. That this ‘thing’ that is leaning on you… will change you, for the better. It will make you unique, stronger, and interesting.

It’s easy to blame, rant, whine and moan about how this “problem” is weighing on us. If we can be like the tree and adapt, we’ll not only save ourselves some suffering, we’ll find new energy seeking out the inevitable changes ahead.

Photo credit: Even Trees Want to Cycle

Are You Loved or Hated, Success Guarantees Both

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If you don’t know James Altucher, I recommend that you check him out. He’s one of my favorite thinkers/truth tellers. I may not agree with everything he says, but I respect his ability to see the world … and translate reality into words that help me acknowledge changes, even (and especially) when I really don’t want to.

Choose Yourself

Here’s the write up on his book, “Choose Yourself“.

The world is changing. Markets have crashed. Jobs have disappeared. Industries have been disrupted and are being remade before our eyes. Everything we aspired to for “security,” everything we thought was “safe,” no longer is: College. Employment. Retirement. Government.  No longer is someone coming to hire you, to invest in your company, to sign you, to pick you. It’s on you to make the most important decision in your life: Choose Yourself.

This is scary stuff. You mean, if my kids go to college and work hard, they might not get a good job? Maybe this reality doesn’t surprise you. Maybe your family knows this first hand, maybe your neighbor or your work colleague. Altucher tells us that:

New tools and economic forces have emerged to make it possible for individuals to create art, make millions of dollars and change the world without “help.”

But How?

There are people out there doing just that. I hear a lot of negative things about 20-somethings. They don’t ‘fit in’ the workplace. They don’t have a good ‘work ethic’. Look at the You Tubers ** and social entrepreneurs,  two examples of how to do it differently. But more importantly, look at all the people who are ‘doing it their own way.’ There’s not a formula, not a single path to finding this ‘freedom’. What we know is that disruption is a way of life for us. And we can either complain about it or we can capitalize on it. For more inspiration, read this story about a young man who went his own way.

Approval

The biggest problem with going my own way is that there isn’t anyone outside myself saying, “good job.” There’s no boss. Families often don’t understand what we are doing when we don’t conform to the “old way.”  We don’t get society’s approval of our path. The ‘good’ way is to go to high school, go to college, get a job, get married, etc. Many of us don’t fit that mold. And somehow, we need to understand that whether we succeed (whatever that means) or fail, if you walk the road less traveled… you make people uncomfortable. People are afraid of what challenges their security. If you need approval, you’ll probably have an unsettled time. If you don’t need approval, welcome to the club. I approve of your journey… and I hope you’ll approve of mine.

** Full disclosure – My daughter Jenna Marbles is featured in this video.

Ch-Ch-Changes

When I was young, my dysfunctional family made daily life very chaotic. While I wouldn’t wish that type of churning nuttiness on anyone, it did several positive things for me. One was that it made me adaptable. I certainly wasn’t going to have things my way, so I had to learn to go along and get along.

I remember reading this:

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Creating Change Makes It Easier to Manage

I knew that the best thing I could do, was always be ready to change. To always be looking for a way to improve and create something better. This way, change wasn’t thrust upon me. I noticed that when change happened TO me, I was resentful. But if I was part of the change process, I was ok, even joyful at the chance to try something different. I learned to be somewhat of a ‘victim’ from some people in my family. It’s a most unattractive and problematic position to be in. The victim doesn’t have to do anything, the victim can just blame someone else. But even true victims need to be responsible for taking actions towards their own healing.

Turn and Face The Strain

If you’re out of practice with creating change, try these:

  1. Practice daily gratitude. I kept a gratitude journal for about a year. Everyday I wrote down 5 things I was grateful for. The habit of focusing on all the positive things in my life (my eye sight, ability to walk, breathe, laugh) became second nature.
  2. Find a way to meet new people. I know, I hate this idea but when I do, I learn so many things about myself. The easiest way for me to meet new people is by volunteering.
  3. Stop acting and being so grown up. If you have a chance to be around small children, do it. If not, look at things the way a small child would. Stop being all “judgy” and prissy. Act like a fool. Who care if someone sees you? They’ll just be jealous anyway.

What are your favorite ways to help create change in your life? Look out you rock n’ rollers…

Image Credit: David Bowie Masayoshi Sukita

Self Respect and the Joy of Self Reliance

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“The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life — this is the source from which self-respect springs.” Joan Didion Slouching Towards Bethlehem

But I Don’t Want To…

I hate discipline. I mean, I like it and appreciate it and then again, I loathe it. Why do I have to do so many things I don’t want to do? Dishes, listening, talking to strangers, doing my job? Why can’t I just do what I want, right?

The Journey to Self Respect

Maybe I can get self respect from having stuff, maybe I can get it from other people’s admiration of me (fame, money, position), maybe I can get it from ______ (fill in the blank). I can only speak for myself:  there is a direct line from discipline and self reliance to my self respect. There’s a Billie Holiday song, “God Bless the Child (listen here)” with these lyrics;

Money, you’ve got lots of friends
They’re crowding around your door
But when you’re gone and spending ends
They don’t come no more
Rich relations give crusts of bread and such
You can help yourself, but don’t take too much
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own, that’s got his own

The Struggle Is Real…Really

Sometimes I think we’ve forgotten what it’s really like to struggle. We have less money to spend on clothes or going out to eat so we’re upset. But we are not Syrians or Southern Sudanese where bombs drop on our homes every day. Most of us don’t want for food or shelter. In the most privileged country in the world, we still feel entitled to complain. This is not to take away from real problems and struggles of abuse, poverty, equality. We must fight to improve how we help and change the world.

People ask me how I raised my children to care about the world and not be materialistic. I hope I taught them to value experiences over things, to value a person and their dignity over, well, maybe anything. I have a long way to go in improving myself. I’m happy to report it’s a life long journey. I’ll let this serve as a reminder to myself to pay attention to my own ability to depend on myself and the joy and serenity that brings.

Image credit: Picture Quotes

Billie Holiday lyrics: God Bless The Child