Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Listen to yourself

A while back, I gave a speech for Toastmasters called "Get rid of your buts." I based this on a conversational quirk I've observed in most people (including me). Instead of listening, acknowledging, and confirming understanding when someone says something that we don't agree with, we tend to immediately rush in with our rebuttals. This is true even for personal statements, such as "I'm so nervous about that test tomorrow," and not just political statements such as "I hate Democrats!" You can read the whole speech at the above link.

But "buts" are not just about conversation.

Sometimes it seems like any idea I think up is immediately followed by a "big but." It can be mundane, as in "I need to get batteries, but I can't do it right now so forget it." It can be personally important, as in "I need to ask X if what I said was inappropriate, but that's too embarrassing to even think about."

This is not a good way to keep the flow of ideas coming. That's like calling your dog when she's wandering too far and them reprimanding her when she comes bounding up to you. She might keep coming when you call, but don't expect enthusiasm or joy. And she just might stop coming altogether.

Writing that speech got me thinking about how often I do that to myself, and if it's affected how I think.

I don't know how many times I've had a thought, and just dismissed it without comment or action. Something like "Oh yeah, I have to get a card for so-and-so," or "I should really be exercising now, instead of reading." Whether it's something unpleasant, something that I can't do immediately, or even some doubts that I'm having, it's a small blip and then it's gone.

So one day I decided to try to pay more attention to the blips. Ok, not every thought is worth the effort, but I do dismiss or ignore more than I should. As I went through my day, I jotted down as many stray thoughts as I could. At first there were a lot of silly ones, like "my nose itches," but my brain soon got the hang of it and I could safely omit the truly momentary and trivial thoughts. Good thing, too, or I would never have gotten anywhere.

This can be taken to extremes, as in this example:
BBC NEWS | Magazine | This man wrote down his every thought - why?

But for those of us who could be more efficacious and maybe have a teensy bit more self-confidence, I think this is a valuable exercise to try.

What I found is that not only do I sometimes dismiss potential ideas immediately, instead of jotting them down and thinking about them later, but sometimes I don't even listen to myself at all, or acknowledge what I say to myself.

I found that jotting down the important stuff using David Allen's "Getting Things Done" methodology helped clear my mind of a lot of free-floating junk. I'm not there yet, but I'm beginning to understand what he means when he talks about "mind like water." *

And sometimes just listening to the doubts or negative emotions and acknowledging them is enough to let me move on. For those, I use some tricks from Susan Jeffers, as in saying to myself, "Yes, I am nervous about that. That's normal -- I'm trying something I've never done before, and I'm learning and growing."

Lion Kimbro, the Seattle programmer who wrote down every thought for 3 months, says of his experience:
It may feel that for the first time in your life, you really have a clear idea of what kinds of thoughts are going through your head....And you find answers. Basically, it feels like watching Atlantis come up.
Even though I only did it for a day, I felt excited by my discovery, energized by the positive results, and even, yes, more self-confident about my own voice.

And that's what I call moving towards joy.

* Here's what David Allen says about the "mind like water" simile in Getting Things Done, as quoted in an article by Ana Maria González.

In karate there is an image that’s used to define the position of perfect readiness: “mind like water.” Imagine throwing a pebble into a still pond. How does the water respond? The answer is, totally appropriate to the force and mass of the input; then it returns to calm. It doesn’t overreact or underreact.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Even passion has its crappy days

One blog that I subscribe to and read regularly is The Occupational Adventure (sm), written by Curt Rosengren.

One recent post, entitled "Even passion has its crappy days," resonated with me.
Part of the misconception about passion is that it means that life is always like skipping through a field of daisies. The reality is, pursuing your passion is probably going to be more of a challenge than jumping on the treadmill and following where it leads. But it is also going to be infinitely more rewarding.

There are going to be crappy days when you pursue your passion. There are going to be days when you wonder what in the hell you´re doing. There will be days when you will be tempted to skulk back to the treadmill and jump back on.
I've been under the weather lately, and feeling stressed from all the commitments I've made. They're all good commitments, but I was starting to doubt my abilities to do any of them, and thinking how much easier it would be to have no ambitions or dreams. Then there'd be nothing to hurt, right?

Well, maybe, except that feeling no pain because you're numb is much worse than the occasional pain that's a part of growing and stretching. That's what Curt's post helped me realize.

That also ties into something a friend said a while back, that I've been chewing on. He said,
"Happiness is the goal, not the standard."
What that means to me is that, while not everything I do in pursuit of my dreams will make me happy at the moment, doing the right things will make me happier in general and in the long-run. And also that something that may make me temporarily happy might not be the best way to achieve the goal of lifetime happiness.

It's a good thing I've got blogs and friends to help keep me moving towards joy!

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Planning Joy

This past week was a miserable one for me - sinus infection got me down and I was convinced that life is just one damn chore after another in a life filled with fatigue and misery.

But in my perpetual search for joy, I came across a web site with some ideas for putting pleasure back into my daily slog through life.

Creating a comfort list and pleasure program is the page I wound up on. This woke me up to the fact that I've been forgetting to have fun, lately. When I look around, all I see are the chores and what I "should" be doing. Somehow I think I can't have fun until I've gotten out from under those chores.

In an effort to squeeze in some fun, I bought a jigsaw puzzle and set it up on the dining table. Not a good idea. While I do enjoy a bit of that from time to time, I can't say I really think of that as fun, as in make me laugh and spark my imagination. Plus it's in my way when I eat (which is a lot more fun to me than any old puzzle!)

What I like about this list at the Straight from the Heart website, is that you can plan fun things of different time requirements, so that there's always something you can squeeze in if you want. Also, looking at the example list reminds me that I do some of these things already, but don't remember to enjoy them as much as I should -- I think of them as escape, which invokes guilt and resentment, instead of as respite, renewal, and comfort, which I so richly deserve.

This list also reminds me to think about what I really like. And one of the things I'd forgotten about was -- novelty. I don't like doing the same things over and over, even fun things, such as reading a good book. I need to see new places, or try new things. That's a big jolt of fun for me.

But what I really like about this list is that it reminds me that I can have fun if I want to. And that gives me the most hope and joy -- to remember that it's all under my control.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Objects in motion will not stay in motion all by them-goddamn-selves

I remember back when I was learning to play squash. Tiny room, hard, bouncy rubber ball, running people, flailing rackets. I spent a lot of the time getting:
a) round bruises from being hit by a ricocheting ball, and
b) footprint-shaped bruises from being run over by my teacher.

This is because I was so astounded every time I actually hit the ball, I would stand in place and look to see where it would go.

"Get out of the way," my teacher would yell as she shoved me aside. "Stop admiring yourself and keep moving!"

It's good to celebrate what I've done, such as write posts in this blog. I'm proud of them.

It's not good to keep reading and re-reading the posts over and over, marveling at my brilliance (but it sure is a nice, cheap thrill). That way I'll never move beyond just writing, to writing better. I'll never get enough distance from the writing to finally see the flaws and less-than-perfect phrasing, so that I can move towards improving and getting stronger.

I used to think, "I don't want to be a writer, I just want to have written."
Now that I've started writing this blog, I've changed my mind. I want to write, and keep writing better and better.

Otherwise, what's the point?

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Get rid of your buts

Here's a speech I gave at a Toastmasters meeting a few months ago:

There’s a big but problem in America today, but it’s not what you think.

You’re probably thinking I’m talking about smoking, right?

Or maybe you think I’m talking about losing weight?

Well, I am. I’m talking about losing a weight that really drags a conversation down. You see, in Toastmasters, one of the things we try to do is to get rid of what they call “verbal crutches” – ums, ahs, you knows. Those get in the way of clear communication.

In my never-ending quest for the secrets of clear communication, I’ve become aware of something like an um or an ah – a phrase we interject a lot in conversations that’s definitely an obstacle to communication. I call it -- “the Big But.”

Here’s an example:

I was talking to a friend a few weeks ago.

“Gee, I’m a little nervous about the conference call I’m having in an hour, so I’ve been doing some deep breathing, and getting myself calmer.”

“But you don’t have anything to be nervous about,” she said. “You’ve been on lots of conference calls before.”

“Yeah but, this time my boss wants me to lead the call, and do the introductions. I’ve never done that, so I’m a little nervous.”

”But, you’re in Toastmasters, you should be used to that by now.”

"Yes." I said, "but this is in front of my bosses – I’m leading the call. It’s something different, so I’m a little nervous.”

“Well, I don’t think you should be nervous.”

Yeah, but that’s how I feel.”

Do you see what was happening? Did you hear how many “buts” we used?

When I said something, and she responded with a “but...,” I felt invalidated. To me, it sounded like she was saying, no, you’re wrong – you don’t have the right to feel this way.
So my natural reaction was to come up with more reasons to be nervous –which did not help me calm down at all.

My friend, on the other hand was trying to help me by giving me reasons why I should not worry. Yet I was buting her, same as she buted me, which had the effect of saying to her -- my reasons to be nervous trump your efforts to reassure me.

My friend and I aren’t the only people doing that.

Here are a few more examples:

A child says “I hate school. I’m not going.”

Mom says, “But you have to go – you’re not sick and I can’t leave you home alone.”

What’s Mom saying to her child? It doesn’t matter what you feel! While it may be true that the child has to go to school anyway, it certainly isn’t true that it doesn’t matter how he feels.

Or a woman says to her husband, “I don’t feel like watching that movie tonight, honey.”

And he replies, “But you’re the one who told me to get it at Tommy K’s. It cost $4 bucks, you know.”

Well, he might be missing out on something even better than a movie if he doesn’t shut up and listen!

When a but is brought in too soon, it doesn’t aid in communication – it obscures it. When you but in right away, it’s a sign that you’re not letting the other person fully express his or her thoughts and feelings.

Steven Covey, of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, says that in conversation, you should “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

In other words, when someone says something, don’t just jump in with your objections, counter-arguments, and opinions. You may have a good viewpoint, you may even be right. It could happen! But if you chime in right away, you might be missing the real message.

One way to do that is to stop yourself before you’re about to say “but…” Remember: buts don’t belong in front.

Instead, really listen to what someone is saying without thinking about your counter-points. Respond instead with something that shows you understand what he or she has said (you don’t have to agree.) Or, respond with a request for clarification.

This may take a little more time – you’ll have to wait a little longer for your turn to straighten that person out! Steven Covey also says, “With people, fast is slow and slow is fast.” In other words, if you really want to connect, take some time in the conversation. You’ll connect sooner than if you rush in with a big but.

And there’s another plus -- when your conversational partner feels understood, she might will be even more receptive to your viewpoint, because you’ve given her time to explain hers.

For example, when the child says "I hate school; I'm not going," her mother could have responded with something like, "It sounds like you're angry about school."

"Yes, I am. Tommy called me a name! I hate him."

This way, she can get to the root of the problem, which is not that her child hates school.

And how about this alternative to the movie conversation:

Wife: "I don't feel like watching that movie tonight, honey."

Husband: "Gee, yesterday you told me to go get it -- what changed your mind, honey?"

Wife: "Why you, big boy!"

And here’s how the first conversation could have gone:

Me: “Gee, I’m a little nervous about the conference call I’m having in an hour, so I’ve been doing some deep breathing, and getting myself calmer.”

Friend: “You think your nerves might interfere with the call?”

Me: “Yes, it’s an important call for me – my boss will be there, and he wants me to lead the call.”

Friend: “You’re nervous because you’ll be performing in front of your boss.”

Me: “You bet!”

Friend: “Are you afraid you won’t do well?”

Me: “A little. So I’ve been preparing – got my notes; and I’ve been rehearsing. Plus I’ve been doing deep breathing exercises.”

Friend: “It’s good that you’re working to control your nerves. Yet it seems to me that you’re focusing on the negative. Have you thought of any reasons why you might do well?”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Aha! Then she could bring out all the same reasons as in the first conversation. The difference is that this way, I’d listen.

I’m not saying you should never say “but” -- that would be impossible! But’s a good word, and we’re all attached to it.

I’m saying with every conversation you have an opportunity to really communicate and not just talk. So, from now on, remember -- if you want to really communicate, you’ve got to kiss your buts goodbye.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

What is the joy of movement?

We were made to move. It's important to move.

I sometimes get very grim when I'm working towards a goal -- ok, one step down, 42 to go. I focus on all the undone things. I forget to celebrate what I have done, and to realize that having done it makes me that much happier, that much closer to a dream, or at least, away from some anxiety at having something important undone.

That's what I call the joy of movement. I think we forget about the joy when we focus on the discomfort or pain.

But movement does not equal joy. I'm not happy when I'm moving in circles, spinning my wheels, chasing my own tail. Where's the fun in that?

Maybe it's that we just can't avoid moving while we're alive. At least not for long, if we want to stay alive. So then the choices are: move forward, move backward, or move in circles.

So I choose to move forward as often as possible, only look backward at good memories and to see how far I've come, and move in circles just when I'm dancing.

Living out loud

Last night, I won!

3 years ago, I joined the Eagle Toastmasters club, in Wallingford, CT. My goal then was simply to stop panicking when speaking in public, and to avoid the "deer in the headlights" reaction which would come over me when I looked out at an audience and realized they were looking back.

I've mostly gotten past that. Oh, there's still a little twinge from time to time, but I now realize that there'll always be a twinge, and it isn't fatal. I know that I'll probably always be anxious when trying something new, and the way to alleviate that is to go out and do it anyway

I made a commitment to myself this year to enter the twice-yearly contest that Toastmasters has. I always hated competing as a child, and refused to enter contests of any kind. "I never win, so what's the point?" I used to say.

But, as a Toastmaster, I knew I needed to do it, because it would push me to a new level. I got my CTM², but I knew there was more. And I knew that winning wasn't the only way to get something good out of competing. I've been in a few contests, so I know that's true. Any movement forward is a good thing!

So last night was the club contest: Humor, and an Evaluation contest. For humor, I had to give a 6-7 minute speech, a story, not just a string of one-liners. Mine was called "Don't try this at home," about the perils of Do It Yourself home-fixing up.

The Evaluation contest is a little different. The evaluation, or feedback portion is an important part of the club meeting. That's a 2-3 minute presentation given at the end of the meeting, one for every speech given that night. Evaluators are assigned in advance, so they can work with the speaker to make sure they give useful feedback.

So, Toastmasters made a contest out of it. One volunteer gives a speech. The contestants take notes, and then have 5 minutes after the speech to quickly outline an oral presentation. Then the notes are taken away and all contestants but the first leave the room. Then, one by one, all contestants evaluate the same speech. That way the judges are comparing apples to apples.

Last year I won the evaluation contest.

This year I won both contests!
1 Thanks, Susan Jeffers!
2 Competent Toastmaster (first achievement award in Toastmasters)
back to top

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Valid comparisons

A friend was visiting recently, and scoffed at my choice of breakfast cereal -- Kashi Go Lean Crunch. It has listed 13 grams of sugar and 3 grams of fat per serving.

His choice -- regular Kashi (stats unknown) and All Bran (1 gram fat, 8 grams of sugar) per serving.

I brooded about this for a day or so. I decided to implement one thing he does, which is to measure portions. So I got out the All Bran and looked at the serving size. It's 1/3 of a cup. Go Lean Crunch has a serving size of 1 cup.

So, in a cup by cup comparison, the fat works out to: Kashi=3, All Bran=3. The same.
Sugar: Go Lean Crunch=13 g, All Bran=16. Aha!

Now I'm on a mission to track down the stats for regular Kashi. They may be the best of the 3 brands.

But I don't eat even 1/3 cup All bran, and I only eat 1/2 cup Go Lean Crunch. So I think I'm doing ok on breakfast.

However, All bran does have 13 g fiber per 1/3 cup, or 39 g/cup. That's amazing. If you eat a cup of all bran, you'll have met Dr. Gabe Mirkin's daily requirements for fiber. And Dr. Gabe does say that sugar bound up in fiber is not as bad as plain sugar. So I know All Bran is better in that respect as well.

This neepery is fascinating to those of us trying to move towards a more healthy weight.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

The joy of sitting still

What an emotional roller-coaster I've been on in the last hour!

I've gone from self-doubt (will I ever be able to do what I want to be doing?) to depression (expensive bad news from my dentist) to calm, to amusement.

At least I had the wisdom to recognize the downward spiral I was on, and try to stop it. I was already in a mood where I felt frustrated and in doubt about my abilities at work, when the dentist office called. Yikes! I can't afford any more dental work. I was ready to tell them to yank 'em. What's the use? I thought. I spend and spend, but it seems never-ending. All the negative scripts came pouring out, and I accepted them all without question, until I was almost in tears.

I've gone down this road many times before, so this time I decided to try to get off, while I still could. I now know myself enough to know that if I can just distract myself for a little while, I can usually stop the bad scripts from running.

Deep breathing & meditation help, so I went over to Canyon Ranch, which has a free "meditation room" with calm instructors guiding you through (Flash high-bandwidth) deep-breathing exercises. In with the good air, out with the bad!

It worked -- not only did I get calmer, I also started thinking about blogging, instead of the dentist.

And now I'm laughing, because it always amuses & amazes me that I'm so easily distracted from doing bad things. This works for chocolate attacks, too. I've saved at least $10.00 this month that I haven't spent at the snack machine by deciding to wait until later instead of getting candy right when the urge hits. Hmm. Less candy = fewer cavities, therefore less candy = more $ in my pocket and less money spent at the dentist.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004


Here's an update on one of my activities, mentioned in this post.

I submitted an article via email to a med tech magazine way back in July, and blithely anticipated getting some sort of email shortly, to tell me the article had been received. I didn't hear a thing for what seemed like a very long time. I was planning on sending an email after a month, just to make sure my submission hadn't been mistaken for spam.

Today I got a response that the editor was interested in publishing the article online, rather than in the magazine. They have an online component with web exclusive content.

The editor wants to edit the copy of course, and will send me the rewrite in a few weeks. More waiting. I'm dying to see what he does with my wonderful prose. I hope he doesn't take all the good stuff out. (But it's all good stuff!)

This is still no guarantee that this article will ever see the light of day, or earn me any money. But it's a start.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Move past your mistakes

I can't say it any better than this:

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

What that means to me is to learn from a mistake and then move on. There's too many miles to go to keep circling around past errors with regrets, should have's, embarassments; berating myself for not doing it right. It's too late for that.

Sometimes I spend too much time with those type of regrets. It's like I think if I keep making myself feel bad about a mistake it'll prevent me from making that mistake again.

The trick is to recognize the same mistake the next time before it gets made. If I can concentrate on the future, I won't get bogged down in the past.

The next step after that is to then not make that same mistake.

Easier said than done, of course. But I have to think it, understand it, say it to myself, before I can do it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

What gets measured gets attention

Last weekend, I had a talk with Mary Ann about staying on track on a diet, and over the long haul. I said that I didn't want to have to keep track of points, or calories, because I would never do that for the rest of my life -- too much work. I'm in favor of the gradual lifestyle changes that cause me to lose weight slowly.

But I've been re-thinking that. One reason is that, as Mary Ann pointed out, after a while, you learn your points, and it's not so hard to keep track. Another is that I'm just not losing weight -- I've lost 11 pounds and I've plateaued out. The third reason is the "performance-shaping" one: what gets measured, gets attention.

Why it's good to have some way of measuring progress:
  1. It holds you accountable. If you say you're going to walk 3 times a week, and you log it, you'll know how often you kept your promise. If you say you're going to stick to your budget and you use budgeting software, you'll know whether you did or not.
  2. It gives you an objective standard. You know what your goal is, and you can measure your progress as you continue towards it.
  3. It keeps you focused on the goal. 22 points is 22 points, not 35!
  4. It motivates. Having the result in black and white gives just a little more incentive towards achieving that goal. If you're doing poorly, you might want to try harder, or try a new tactic. If you're doing well, it's an ego-boost.
  5. It helps prevents denial. You can't say you did something faithfully if you haven't.
This works for any goal -- whether it's time spent writing a blog, or number of resumes sent out, or whatever. The trick is to have a metric that you can use and then use it.

Movement towards a goal is the right kind of movement. And the joyful part of this is that it's under my control.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Talking out loud

I spent this past Saturday at TLI -- Toastmasters Leadership Institute. That's the annual all-day training for club officers. This year I'm VP of Public Relations for my club, Eagle Toastmasters, #3161.

One of the members of my club, Ute Brinkmann, was conducting a session -- Leading for Success; actually, she had to give it twice that day. She asked me to help her, by being a timer and giving her an introduction at the beginning of the session. She wrote the into, I just had to deliver it.

Ute is a real inspiration. She's always moving towards the next challenge. This session at TLI was a new step for her, too. She did wonderfully!

I didn't have much time to read the intro over, so I did the best I could. I was very nervous the first time -- embarrassing, considering I have my CTM.* I did a bit better on the second try. But still not very polished.

So what? I'm glad I did it. What it shows me is that you can't rest on your past achievements. The theme this year in our Toastmasters District is "But wait, there's more!" There's almost always more. More to get out of Toastmasters. More ways to learn and grow. Every achievement is a stepping stone to the next achievement.

As Susan Jeffers says in Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, it's normal to feel some fear every time you try something new. Interestingly, this time, instead of making me not want to repeat the experience (as in all my pre-Toastmasters speaking experiences) I feel inspired. I need more time in front of strangers -- that's the only way to lessen the fear. My Toastmasters goal this year is to compete in all the club contests (humorous, Table Topics, Evaluation, International).

Wow! 5 years ago I'd never have been brave enough to even think about competing. That's a big step for me.

But wait, there's more!

* Competent Toastmaster; an achievement award given after completing the 10 speeches in the Communication & Leadership manual.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Keep moving

This morning I did not want to move.

I overslept, getting up at 5:41. Not enough time to walk, I thought.

I had a throbbing headache over my left eye -- sinuses fogged in due to the rain.

It was raining, for pete's sake. I'd have to wear a poncho and look dorky. And I'd still get wet where the poncho didn't cover.

But I kept moving as I thought. I got dressed, put on my sneakers, found my poncho -- mentally bitching and moaning the whole time.

And I got out and walked a mile.

It wasn't really raining, only drizzling. No one saw me, except one guy going to the gym. I felt smug because I was saving money and getting exercise. My headache went away. I thought deep thoughts as I walked. It only took 28 minutes. I felt refreshed from being outdoors and got rid of the slight stiffness I'd felt when I got out of bed. And I really did one impossible thing before breakfast!

Sometimes I just need some momentum. Maybe that's what habits do, give you the momentum you need to get over the small obstacles. The habit of movement can help keep me on track.

Monday, August 02, 2004

The more you move

This weekend, my friends Mary Ann and Brian took my sister Rosemary and me to Watkins Glen, to hike the Gorge trail. This isn't a steep hike, but does involve 800 steps over about 1.5 miles, each way.

The next day, I wasn't very sore, until after I did the 5.5 hr drive home. Getting out of the car, I felt stiff and sore, especially my calves.

This reminded me of how, in high school gym class, we'd have these incredible bouts of calisthenics, which would leave me sore for days. The teacher always said to stretch and walk to get out the soreness, but I never believed her because it hurt so much to start. So I never did, and sometimes it'd take a week to lose the soreness.

Then as an adult, I started hiking, and I found that if I was sore and stiff, the best cure was more hiking, or at least walking. Not only did the soreness lessen after a few minutes, but I usually was fine the next day, or shortly thereafter.

Keeping still because of the soreness = longer duration of soreness. Hmm.

The more you move, the more you can move.

I'm astounded at how true that is, about any sort of action at all -- from my Toastmasters efforts, to exercise, to creative efforts.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Skin in the game

I've never been able to find out the origins of that phrase, although I gave a speech with that title once at an Eagle Toastmasters open house.  Here's an excerpt from that:

I don't know what sport that comes from, but sources seem to agree that it means to have a stake in the outcome, to make an investment of some sort in the endeavor. Having some skin in the game shows your commitment to the outcome. It also makes the game much more meaningful, exciting, and involving. It's the difference, for example, between just watching a horse race, and watching a race you've bet on. But it's also the difference between watching and participating. Think of how exciting the race is to the jockey, for example, and the owners and trainers. Not to mention the horse! They all have some skin in the game.  

It's so easy for me to get caught up in the mundane mertutials* of life, that I forget how much fun it is to challenge myself in some way. It's exciting to see what I can do.

I've been working sloooowly on my free weight program, from the book Strong Women Stay Young, by Miriam E. Nelson, Ph.D. And I do mean slow. But that's ok. But I've been working on the upper body stuff with 5 lb weights, and realized that it was becoming less of a challenge. So I tried 10 lbs for the first set (2 sets of 8 for biceps curl, overhead press, and upward row) back to 5 for the second. That was tough, but not too tough. So the next session, I decided to try 10 lbs for both sets. I was surprised to find myself getting a bit excited! Would I be able to do it? Would I be able to lift my coffee cup afterwards?

Yes, to both.

This may not be the big thrill of winning the Tour de France for the 6th time, but it was a small thrill for me.

My other attempt at putting some skin in the game was submitting an article to a newsletter. I only did that yesterday, so it'll take a while before I hear anything. But, did it put some zest into my day. I submitted it electronically, so there's a good chance that I'll hear something any day -- even if it's only a canned reply about receiving my submission. But I think about someone other than my sister reading the article and what a rush.

From Sniglets, by Rich Hall: mertutials are the daily, boring things we need to do, such as brushing teeth and doing laundry.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Staying on Track

That's the hard part of any exercise/weight-loss plan.

Well, heaving free weights around or trekking up Sleeping Giant are no small potatoes, either. But I have a habit of starting enthusiastically, and then wandering off the track after a month or so. I just get busy, or I miss a few days and then forget: "Oh yeah, I was going to exercise this morning*. Oops."

This blog is one way I'm going to try to stay on track, but what will remind me to blog after the initial enthusiasm wears off, as I know it will?

I just read an article on Staying On Track, which has some tips. The two ideas that really grab me are: Three Most Important Goals, and Keep Your Goals in Front of You.

If I can reduce my goals to 3 important ones, then they're easy to keep in front of me, right?

So I think Ben Franklin summed it up pretty neatly with "...healthy, wealthy, and wise." Not necessarily in that order of importance.
  1. Wise
  2. Healthy
  3. Wealthy
These three might mean something different to someone else. Wealth to Bill Gates, is something I'll never have, and what I have now would be considered wealth to a lot of people in the world today. So I'm going to spend some time thinking about what they mean to me. I'll post anything meaningful (to me) that I come up with.

But for a short, pithy, easy-to-remember set of goals, they're hard to beat.

* Or, this month

Thursday, July 22, 2004

6 Impossible Things

This morning I did one impossible thing before breakfast -- a session with my free weights.

At the time, I really didn't want to, but I've been slacking off lately, and I just started this blog, so I would have been embarrassed if I'd skipped it, even if no one is watching.

I felt pretty darn good about myself afterwards, and thought "The rest of the day will be wonderful, since I started it off so well!"

But I was wrong. It was a sucky day. I got concerned that maybe I'd peaked too soon, like, right after my shower. Maybe exercising so early isn't a good idea.

Now that it's almost bed time, I realize that it was a good thing after all. No matter how sucky the rest of the day was, I did one impossible thing before breakfast!

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Why the joy of movement?

This morning I woke up at 3:49 AM, after having fallen asleep somewhere around 10:30 PM.    That's only about 5 hours, which isn't enough for me.  But I couldn't fall back to sleep, so I tried: 

  1.  reading (Terry Pratchett's Small Gods)
  2. listening to Radio FreeBeanie (FM transmitter hooked up to my PC, RealAudio set to NPR, radio tuned to 88.6 FM)
  3. listening to a book on my Audible.com Otis player (Working with Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman).

Nothing worked, so at 5, I decided to get up, and go for a walk, thus getting in the exercise I'd been skipping for the past 2 days.

But my bed was so comfy, even though I wasn't sleepy. 

"Why should I leave my nice, soft, cozy bed?" I asked myself.

I answered, "For the joy of movement."

It worked, and a blog was born.