Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A New Year, A New Priority

I've enjoyed writing these weekly blog posts for the past eight months, but it's time to move on. I may come back to this on occasion and add new posts, but, for now, I have other priorities demanding my attention. Perhaps I'll take this up again in a few months. For now, though, thanks for reading. I hope to come back soon.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Be It Resolved . . .

Resolutions for a new year or any time

It’s a tradition some people hate and others embrace – the creation of resolutions for the new year. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, creating resolutions can be a healthy and helpful way of improving your life. They don’t have to be made just at New Years, either.

There are three main problems that I see people encountering with their resolutions

  1. scale
  2. intention
  3. belief

Let’s look at scale.

A lot of people seem to think that a resolution is no good unless it’s big. And sometimes that means too big. Someone who’s $10,000 in debt might make the resolution to get out of debt before the end of the year, but that’s setting themselves up for failure. By resolving, instead, to pay down their debt and not incur any new debt, they stand a much better chance of meeting their resolve.

What do I mean by intention?

The way a resolution is worded is important. When a person who’s overweight resolves to lose 50 pounds, they’re likely to get discouraged if they skip a day at the gym. And sometimes that discouragement is enough to make them lose their resolve altogether. If, however, they resolve to work on creating a healthier lifestyle, then skipping a day at the gym isn’t going to be seen as a failure. By going to the gym they’ve already met their resolution. They’ll only fail if they continue skipping days.

Finally, there’s a person’s belief about their resolution.

This is exactly what it sounds like. Many resolutions seem to be made without the belief that they’ll be met. Perhaps they’re only made because someone feels they’re “supposed” to make a resolution. Perhaps because they want to reach the stated goal. Whatever the reason behind it, if someone doesn’t believe in the resolution they make, chances are they won’t follow through.

Resolutions are a good way to set yourself on the path to a goal. People who state their goals, especially in writing, are much more likely to attain them than those who simply have a distant goal in mind. But don’t cripple yourself by creating resolutions that are destined to fail. Create realistic, attainable goals, and you’ll find yourself reaching them.

What resolutions will you make for the coming year?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter's Tale

As the earth spins on its tilted axis we mark the longest night.

Solstice. It’s a mere moment. Not even five minutes long. It marks the shift from lengthening nights and shrinking days to longer days and shorter nights. And it brings with it millennia of ceremony, mystery, and celebration.

Many cultures, both ancient and modern, have found something magical or mythical about the winter solstice. From the layout of ancient sites such as those at Stonehenge and Newgrange we know that people granted importance to the winter solstice as long ago as the Bronze Age. Today many communities celebrate with bonfires, song fests, or drumming circles to welcome the light.

Whether you choose to welcome the sun through celebration and ritual, or just recognize the lengthening of days and the lessening of seasonal affective disorder (many people grow depressed during the darker winter months), winter solstice is worth five minutes of reflection.

What do you find when you take five minutes to think about the history and significance of the longest night?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Two Thumbs Up

Your opinion only matters if someone knows what it is.

I was shopping online today, trying to figure out which video to order for my nephew. There were three titles that sounded promising, but I wasn’t sure which one he’d like most. I did it what a lot of people do. I looked at the reviews other people had left.

One title had just a couple of reviews. It obviously hadn’t inspired many people to write about it. I crossed it off the list of options. The other two titles both had several reviews. I read the top and bottom few reviews for both titles. While I think he’d like either video, the descriptions and reviews of one of them seemed to just scream his name. I ordered it. I’m certain he’ll be happy with it when I give it to him.

This got me thinking about reviews on sites such as IMDB, Yelp, or Amazon – places where huge numbers of people leave reviews. I rarely write reviews for these sites. Why not? I certainly use the reviews other people leave. I often use reviews to help me make purchasing decisions. I appreciate it when people take the time to leave a thoughtful review. Shouldn’t I give back in the same way?

The answer was obvious. Of course I should. And so should anyone who uses reviews. Actually, anyone who’s read a book, watched a movie, been to a business, or used a product should write reviews. It’s a quick way to share knowledge, to share experience, to share expertise. It’s a quick way to give something to everyone.

What can you take five minutes to write a review about?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tell Me a Story

People want to be known. We want to be understood. We want to feel like we’re a part of something. One of the fastest ways to make those connections is through story.

Stories are everywhere. Not just on screen. Not just in books. Not just behind the words Once upon a time . . . . They are all around us. They are part of us. We are part of them.

As children we know this. We look at a tree and know its story (gnomes? fairies? eco-system?). We find an unusual pebble or scrap and create a history. When someone asks what we did last night, we tell it as a story with rich detail and texture. Somewhere along the path to adulthood, though, most people seem to lose this. We forget to look for the stories behind every day phenomena. We answer questions about our day with truncated episodes lacking color. And we don’t even seem to know something’s missing.

Storytelling was once considered an important, even sacred, act. Storytellers were respected. Now storytelling is too often reserved for children’s parties, kindergarten, and summer afternoons in the kiddie section of the library. But we all still crave stories. And you can learn to tell them.

There are lots of types of stories you can tell. You can tell fairy tales and fables. You can tell myths and legends. You can tell stories of people and events in history. You can tell personal histories. You can make up your own stories. If you tell a story that someone else created, make sure you give them credit.

The mechanics of storytelling are basic.

  • Know your story’s beginning, middle, climax, and end.
  • Use sensory details to bring the story to life – how things feel, taste, smell, and sound, as well as how they look.
  • Keep it short and simple, including all that’s necessary to the story while avoiding tangents.
  • Make the story your own. Even when telling a story that came from another source, own it. Use your descriptions and perceptions. Use words and language choices that are comfortable for you.
  • Don’t worry about mistakes. If you get things out of order, if you leave something out, even if you skip an entire scene, it’s okay. Just keep telling the story. If you absolutely need to include something you’ve skipped, do so, otherwise let it be.

Stories are what connect us to each other. They connect us to our past. They connect us to cultures that seem different from our own. Stories highlight both our uniqueness and our sameness, showing us how we fit into our world. Those who share their stories offer a special gift to everyone who hears them.

What story can you share in just five minutes?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Listless: lacking spirit, energy, enthusiasm

I know a woman who creates lists for everything. If she goes to the store, she has a grocery list. If she’s working on a project she has a list of every step. She has lists for major things to get done each season, each month, each week. And, of course, she has a daily to-do list.

She doesn’t care if she doesn’t get everything on her list done. The lists are guides, not intractable laws. By having lists, she knows what she wants to get done. She can prioritize her time. She can choose to accept or ignore interruptions, and understand what affect that choice will have. She minimizes the chances of unnecessary surprises and catastrophes.

I’m not suggesting that you start creating lists for everything you do, though if that’s what works for you, go for it. But I do think you should be creating a daily to-do list. Having a basic to-do list focuses your day and helps you realize which things are most important.

You can create your list the night before if that’s when you’re at your sharpest. Just be sure to read over it in the morning before your day begins. Or you can create it in the morning so it’s fresh in your mind. The list should be fairly quick and simple to create. It doesn’t need to include every step of every task you set for yourself. It should, however, include all the tasks you want to complete.

You don’t have to follow the list. You don’t have to check items off. You can, of course, but it’s an individual choice. The act of simply creating the list can give you the focus you need, can help you plan and prioritize throughout the day. And when you know what your day holds, it’s easier to garner enthusiasm for things, to find energy that’s often lacking when the day’s demands seem overwhelming. It helps keep that listlessness at bay.

Take just five minutes to create a to-do list that will help you focus your day.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Thanksgiving is in two days. Take five minutes to remember why it’s celebrated.

Not the controversies. Not the turkey. Not the stress. Not Columbus, Pilgrims, or Indians. No, we celebrate Thanksgiving to remember the help that one group of people gave to another. Strangers helping strangers through a harsh winter in an unfamiliar land. Take five minutes to remember.

When the Pilgrims came to this continent they were woefully unprepared. They knew nothing about agriculture here. They were unfamiliar with the soil and crops. They were unfamiliar with the growing season and climate. The crops they planted failed. They were facing starvation.

The Wampanoag Indians had no such problems. They knew the land. They knew the crops. They knew how to grow them. They had an abundance of food and shared with the Pilgrims throughout the winter.

Although their crops had failed, accounts show that the Pilgrims had a harvest feast that year (1621). They invited Wampanoag sachem (chief), Massasoit. Massasoit brought many of his people and most of the food, including five deer. There were nearly 100 Wampanoag and approximately 50 Pilgrims who shared that harvest feast – allies who offered each other help and protection.

Later years brought pain, sorrow, and enmity to the relationships between the European settlers and Native Americans, but don’t let that sully the unselfish acts for which we give thanks.

What can you take five minutes to be thankful for?