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Mental Health

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Didn’t Patty Smythe once sing, “I am the worrier?” No, wait…

This one goes out to the worriers, the procrastinators and those like me with a propensity to gaze inward rather than outward.

Introspection is one thing, but sometimes the inward gaze is insidious. It can take us into dark imaginings and a landscape from which escape is dicey.

How many times have we fallen down the rabbit hole of indecision, mulling over every scenario we can possibly dream up until we wind up lost, confused and in much worse shape than when we started?

Have you ever stalled so much that an opportunity simply passed you by?

Inaction robbed you.

I can’t begin to count the hours I have wasted, waiting for the “right time” to do something – and the sad thing about this is that the something in question might not have been consequential to begin with.

It’s mountains-out-of-molehills, worst-cast-scenario thinking at its finest.

As the years go by, the more I am convinced that action is far superior to inaction, and that executing even an imperfect plan is head-and-shoulders above a well-intentioned delay.

Why?

Because we can usually correct course as we go.

A good plan doesn’t have to be perfect – but without action, any plan is useless.

The magic happens when we take action.

Take it from “Old Blood and Guts” himself, General George Patton:

“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”

There comes a time when we must put the ball in motion, to “pull the trigger,” as they say.

I have experienced firsthand the benefits of taking action – and it could be as simple as making that phone call, attacking that overdue project or simply showing up where you need to be – and it feels good, every time.

I’ll leave you with the words of Albert Einstein:

“Nothing happens until something moves.”

Begin.

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As we slouch into 2021, I have so far resisted the urge to participate in my usual self-imposed orgy of navel gazing…

I don’t know if I can hold out much longer, but I hope to take a different tack this year by being kind to myself instead of running down what I did wrong or failed to do altogether.

Should I enumerate all of the times I have been disingenuous this year? Did I fail to show compassion to others? Was I greedy? Was I selfish? Was I arrogant? Did I talk more than listen? Did I procrastinate?

Yes on all counts.

But given the duality of humanity, I don’t think I’m putting together a laundry list of personal shortcomings in my journal this year.

Have I been kind? Have I loved? Have I laughed with others? Have I hugged (Damn you, COVID-19)? Have I been sincere? Generous? Gracious? Of service?

Were my intentions understood more than they were misunderstood?

The longer I live, the more I realize that I have been lucky – and this is coming from a man who has been through the proverbial wringer more times than he would like to admit.

To any thinking person, the choices I have made resulted in the obvious outcomes, positive and negative. The old saw from the bygone commercial, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature” is a bit erroneous.

We can’t fool mother nature. And as much as our magical thinking would like it to be true, there is no skirting of universal laws. If you think this is not so, give it a bit more time.

You’ll see.

Cause and effect, y’all.

Come on, 2021. Happy New Year to all.

Be nice.

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That moment when you’ve had enough…

That moment when you say “to hell with this” to a situation and begin at last to correct course…

That moment when the pain of the status quo becomes so unbearable that you put the steps in motion to rise above it at any cost…

That deep realization that “insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result…”

The knowledge that “what got you here won’t get you there…”

That nagging and persistent feeling that you were made for more than this…

The acceptance that your challenges are uniquely yours, and the only person who can pull you out of them is you…

The quiet assurance that you can overcome…

The confidence that others have risen from much more difficult circumstances…

The upward thrust of action…

The moving toward…

The leap of faith…

On any given day, you will find me randomly humming, beatboxing or singing parts of a song that somehow crept into my subconscious. The annoying part for those around me is that it’s just a snippet – and that snippet is repeated on a semi-regular endless loop.

But it has to come out – and it doesn’t matter where I am. I mean, I can stop myself if I am at a funeral or a wedding – or an otherwise important meeting where I don’t want people to see how I really am. But those moments are, thankfully, few and far between – so I basically do this with impunity. Even at work.

But I have recently made a personal observation – and it hit me out of nowhere…

When I am going through some sort of mental or emotional issue – or if something is weighing on my mind or I am uncomfortable – it’s like a switch goes on and the singing ramps up. That realization hit me out of the blue, and I’ll be damned if it isn’t true.

It’s like a car in neutral.

I have already said I do this anyway, but it’s more intense in these cases – like sending up a flare or a mayday call.

My brother has a really cool song called “In Distress.”

I believe the endless-loop-singing stops if I make a decision or take action. I will be on the lookout for evidence of this.

But – what about the singing when all is well?

Sorry not sorry. That ain’t gonna stop.

What do you do to cope?

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There’s a Bible verse about worry, to the effect that each day has its own trouble and that we shouldn’t entertain thoughts about what drama tomorrow might bring.

It’s Matthew 6:34:

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” [NIV]

I have also seen or heard riffing about the fact that a large percentage of the things we worry about never come to pass. It’s all in our heads…

Here’s some input from 16th century French essayist Michel de Montaigne:

“My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened.”

I have written here before about my moments of mountains-out-of-molehills, worst-case-scenario thinking that runs counter to my predilection for personal development – and I know that concocting scenarios can come to no good end. At best, this thinking saps my energy and makes for a “blah” day. At worst, I might be summoning a wave of negative energy that could be very difficult to quell.

Which brings me to a contrasting question:

When something good happens in your life – especially something that you have been wishing, hoping and praying for – how does that make you feel?

It could be something as simple as an unexpected check that covers an overdue bill, a passing grade on a daunting test, a phone call you have been waiting for – or as dynamic as a job offer from the ideal employer or a much-needed reconciliation.

When cool things happen like that, I feel a rush of joy, well-being and gratitude.

It’s important to be grateful.

If you are like me, you have experienced so many wonderful and serendipitous moments in your life – so many blessings – that, in the moment, you know these to be brushes with divinity.

I have experienced too many of these “God moments” to ignore them. That being said, however, why do we sometimes have trouble realizing that the “troubles of the day” can be met and overcome by the same cosmic presence?

Memory is a funny thing.

If we know that many of our worries never come to pass and that we have experienced examples of what I’ll call divine providence, why is it so easy to revert back to limiting beliefs and overthinking?

I want so much to remember once and for all that we have the power to choose our responses to any situation. We have complete control in this realm, whether we believe that in the moment or not.

Take it from the “Father of American Psychology,” William James:

“Human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.”

Yes, please.

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On an otherwise awesome trip to Asheville, somebody jacked my favorite hat.

I wouldn’t even consider myself a hat guy, but this one fit me right – and the brim was bent just how I wanted it….

And now it’s gone.

Am I really grieving the loss of a hat?

It was made well, a Legacy baseball cap, grayish dark brown with the words TINDER BOX (I work there) emblazoned on the front. It was my go-to whenever I reached for a cap on the way out…

…and it was almost like a signature or calling card.

I have many other caps – and some have emotional significance for me. I want to treasure a couple of them into my old age – like the Marine Dad cap my son gave me or the College of Charleston Dad cap from my daughter.

Why – oh why did I take it off when I was checking in at our hotel? Why didn’t I just leave the thing on instead of laying it on the front desk? Thing is, I wasn’t even gone ten minutes until I realized I had left it there and went down to check on it.

I asked – and the manager (I think) told me he hadn’t seen it and “maybe it’s in the car.” The guy who checked me in remained quiet.

My girlfriend thinks his answer was a little too quick.

But of course there’s no way to prove who took it – and it’s astonishing in this age of COVID-19 that anybody would be interested in somebody else’s hat.

Maybe somebody else took it while they were checking in.

This was one of my “overthinking” moments – creating a veritable game of Clue in my head, all the while knowing that I would never get it back.

The hat was old, but it was cool – but it was my hat. The sense of violation and loss about this was acute for a couple of days. Now, it just stings a little.

So long, my friend.

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There are so many avenues to explore – but be mindful about the potential rabbit hole of having too many options – or believing you do.

There is only so much we can accomplish in our lives, but what we can accomplish is likely vastly more than we believe we can.

Someone once said that we overestimate what we can accomplish in a week but underestimate what we can accomplish in a year. That makes sense. We cram so many activities and “busy work” into our to-do lists that we always have items left undone at the end of the week. But many people surprise themselves by the progress they have made at the end of the year – especially when it comes to the action they took toward a specific goal.

But we can also crash and burn if we lose sight of our goal, failing to see that consistent action throughout the year would have brought us the result we were after.

We all know about how crowded gyms are at the beginning of the year and how attendance usually flattens a short time later. Bloomberg cited an analysis from Strava, a fitness-tracking app developer, that found most Americans giving up on their fitness resolutions as early as mid-January.

We give up so easily.

What if we made consistent progress on that one thing– the overriding thing that keeps us awake at night – the dream we can’t shake…

Just a bit of progress every day…?

One of my favorite writers and broadcasters, Earl Nightingale, “The Dean of Personal Development,” is attributed with the following quote, but he might have found it somewhere else:

“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal.”

Makes sense to me. To-do-lists are one thing – but taking daily action on that one thing can make all the difference in the world.

Remember: Successful people get that way by doing the things that others are not willing to do.

Of course, success means different things to different people.

This could be about getting exercise every day, saving money, or waking up an hour early (or going to bed an hour later) to learn a new skill or write that story, or devoting quality time to your family.

And make your bed.

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The overthinking demon has been at work in my psyche today.

In spite of what I know to be the truth, I’m concocting scenarios again…

If an email or text goes unanswered for longer than I think it should, my mind races to what I might have done or said – or what I didn’t do or didn’t say – to make this person want to ghost me.

Come on, man – ghosting you?

In my heart of hearts, I know that this is usually not the case. I don’t recall a recent instance of having been deliberately ghosted. And I have written about intentions several times on this blog. I would like to think my intentions are pure – and 99.9 percent of the time, I get an appropriate response in due time.

This has nothing to do with romance. I have a longtime girlfriend. We live together. I’m sure she feels like ghosting me at times, but that’s another matter altogether.

What I am talking about here is mountains-out-of-molehills, worst-case-scenario overthinking in my day-to-day interactions with others. Because I believe that I have an above-average EQ (or emotional intelligence), this doesn’t mean that the very same gift might not be misfiring.

You can’t interpret somebody’s aura unless they are interacting with you.

Am I some sort of entitled prick who thinks I deserve top priority at all times? Am I a narcissist?

Not tonight, Narcissus, I have a headache…

I think this really goes back to intention and process. My friend, motivational author and speaker Jeff Yalden, always says to have patience in the process, and that makes sense to me.

Roger: Nobody’s ghosting you. It’s all in your head.

“When you get in your head, you’re dead.” – Tony Robbins

options | The Relationship Architect

Can being a generalist be better than specializing?

That’s a good question. Being a specialist makes sense in some ways because you are laser-like in your precision when it comes to your area of expertise. But it must also be true that we become so caught up in our respective niches that we fail to see the options.

There are blogs about blogging – and presumably there are blogs about petunias. And many hard-at-it bloggers extol the virtues of a niche.

If there was some one thing I would blog about as a niche, it would be personal development. I am drawn to this because we are all on paths that could culminate in a zenith of self-aware bliss. Of course, another outcome could be the train wreck of nihilism.

But could I really add to this conversation? You bet. Anyone drawing breath can do the same. We all have something to bring to the human party, and we all come to it in varied ways and with diverse perspectives. And we all have a platform – a group of friends, perhaps, to share our views with.

Hell, some crash the party looking for free drinks or company with nothing to give in return. But at least they showed up.

But there has to be such a thing as too many options.

All my life, I would thrill to what I perceived as an endless supply of available options. I would love to be able to explain the excitement that welled up (and still does, for that matter – only in smaller doses) in the face of such intangibles. And it seemed (and still seems, although I am keenly aware of the inexorable march of time) like anything was possible – as if one could order and consume every existential item on the menu.

You might be able to order everything on the menu, but there’s no way you could finish it in one sitting. Let’s say this “one sitting” is your life. You now have all of these options sitting in front of you. It doesn’t matter to the restaurant owner what you do with them. In point of fact, the lion’s share of that stuff will wind up in the trash.

But you paid for it.

On the set of “Turner’s Island

I was recently patting myself on the back because I thought I was procrastinating less. I’d like to think that I take care of things in a much timelier fashion than I once did. That includes handling deadlines, paying bills and getting where I need to be when I am supposed to get there.

Perhaps this is because I am 57, and somehow I’m acutely aware that the clock is ticking and that I had better get cracking on the things that matter – and I’m much better on that score.

But on closer examination, there is still a great deal of kicking-the-can-down-the-road going on.

For decades, efficiency experts have extolled the virtues of handling a piece of paper once. If that paper is important and needs to be retrieved later, then file it away with a “tickle” on your calendar – but by no means let it get lost in a jumble of mounting paperwork…

I get it.

But my digital life is another story. I have an email folder called “reading list – emails,” into which I have stuck everything that I’d like to revisit that isn’t urgent. Sounds like a good idea, but is it really? I also have an app called Pocket, a really useful reader. Every article I find interesting at a given time goes in there.

Here’s the thing. My list in Pocket is bulging at the seams – and only because I have been making a concerted effort to whittle down my email reading list, I’m proud to report that I have only 150 items in that queue at the moment. But if I hope to get that to zero – I need to handle my incoming emails only once – unless they need to be addressed later, much like the paper that the efficiency experts talked about.

Don’t even get me started about my photos and assorted cloud storage. I am about as fragmented as I can be.

Thank God my Word files are properly tagged for easy sorting and retrieval. That’s a win.

But I have been storing photos for more than a decade – and a great deal of them have not been properly renamed.

Much like I do with other keepsakes, I have these photos squirreled away for enjoyment later, but there is no rhyme or reason at play when it comes to finding something from a certain time period.

I have gotten wiser over the years and have tagged most of my newer photos for easy indexing.

I am guilty of not only procrastination but of digital hoarding as well.

But here’s the thing. These things are not half-eaten boxes of cereal or expired Spam. I’d like to get these things organized.

I suppose my flawed thinking centered around the “one day” when I would have the leisure to go through it all. I am beginning to sense that that “one day” may not come in the way I imagine it would come. Compound this with the march of time and all of the “live in in the now” rhetoric (I really should try that sometime), and you have the makings of a perfect storm.

As soon as I am done with my email reading list, I’ll be reviewing my notebooks – mining for potential gold, getting my digital hoard into a manageable state and working on my Pocket reading list.

The key to all of this? Consistent action.  

I know I am not alone.