Sunday, October 26, 2008

Original Thought

In a recent NPR fundraiser, I heard that Joshua Bell has a new recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. I can’t even imagine how many recording of the Four Seasons are in existence. But my next thought: If Bell can record the Four Seasons again, and people will listen to it, as they surely will, what does this say about originality in art? My clients (and I) often wonder if the thing we’re trying to create is really new, creative, original, worth doing and so forth.

Part of the problem is our gremlin, or inner critic, who tells us we’re not good enough, no matter what we do. The inner critic, of course, applies not only to artistic endeavors. It is often quite active when we consider personal decisions, make life choices and even when we decide who we’re voting for. In short, the inner critic or gremlin, is that nagging voice of reason, or perhaps unreason.

Why write about originality, the gremlin asks? Surely others have been there, done that and got the t-shirt. Heck, they’ve designed the t-shirt. And they’ve probably done it better and created a cooler t-shirt. So says my gremlin.

But I say, you can do it. We can have personal takes and creative ideas about subjects that have been done and redone. It doesn’t matter that John Updike’s new novel will have an aging theme, and that it’s been done before quite well by others. I’ll still try to read it because I like Updike and I know he’ll have something interesting to say and he’ll say it in a remarkable and completely engaging way.

We can even have original thoughts about our own original thoughts. Updike himself has written about aging before. Occasionally I read something I’ve written a year or more ago, okay, even 8 weeks ago, and see it differently. I start to have new ideas that are linked to the original, yet different. I do a new group on life balance and start with a somewhat different organizing theme and it turns out to be a totally different experience. And, stay tuned, I plan to write about life balance again from that perspective.

Granted, we’re not all Joshua Bell or John Updike. That’s not the point. We’re who we are, original by definition, and the joy and fun of it is in just doing it. Whatever “it” is.

I saw Coldplay sing Viva la Vida on SNL. They’re doing a tour by the same name. I can’t even imagine how many times they’ve done the song. It sounded new and different, and man did it look like they were having fun.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Today is not that day

I don’t generally get blog ideas from quotes, but here’s the exception:

There will be a day when you can no longer do this. Today is not that day. This was attributed to Laura Kloepper, who tells me she borrowed it from someone who borrowed it from someone…I love it.

What do you imagine “when you can no longer do this” refers to? Eating, sex, playing soccer, talking, writing, thinking? It could be anything. Kloepper uses the quote to inspire herself to run.

She was answering a question from Runners World: Why do you run? Enumerating the reasons we do things, or want to do things, is often motivating. Having the reasons or goals visible, also helps. Kloepper tapes her “mantra” to the wall.

Consider what you’re trying to accomplish in your life right now. Why are you doing it?

Dieters who are trying to bring their blood sugar or cholesterol down, look better in clothes, feel healthier and improve their race time, could have these goals in mind. Keeping an index card with the goals handy, gives you a little extra push. Posting the goals on the fridge or having reminders pop up on your computer are all ways to hold your focus on the goals.

Exercisers (or would be exercisers) who want to feel healthier, decrease stress, control weight and socialize at the gym, can use these goals to push themselves out the door.

Meditators who want to feel relaxed, be at peace, gain clarity and will world peace (why not?) sometimes need reminders to keep them focused on their practice. The beaded bracelet that reminds you to be mindful is one way.

So, today is not that day. What’s your mantra? And how will you remember it?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Can you walk and chew gum at the same time?

In case you missed it, multitasking is not all it’s cracked up to be. We think we can get more done and be more efficient when we do two or more things at once, but, as in so many things, more is not necessarily better. More shoes, more friends, more books and more money do not necessarily make us better, happier or more fulfilled. Okay, maybe money. But really, it’s quality, not quantity that matters, right? Okay, except for money.

I recall the time I was driving back from the airport, a trip I’ve made countless times, talking on my hands-free cell phone. I added about 30 minutes to the trip circling around Atlanta after missing my interstate exchange. Had I waited to make the call once I arrived, 30 minutes earlier, I would have had plenty of time to really focus on the call, and my exit.

This is something that comes up in improving life balance. The idea is to mindfully focus on what you’re doing so you get the most out of the experience and put the most into it.

I’m watching Grey’s (trying to relax), doing my nails (trying to engage in self-care), folding laundry and baking cookies (yup, having a homemaking moment). McDreamy won’t care, but my nails will probably leave a little to be desired, the cookies may not be perfect (no surprise there) , it will undoubtedly take me at least three times as long to get the laundry folded and I seriously doubt that much relaxation is occurring. So much for life balance, mindful focus and getting the most out of my experience. But if it all gets done in the hour, and the cookies aren’t burnt, it’s all good, right?

This is something that comes up in improving attention. The idea is to really try to get yourself focused on what you’re doing in order to be able to do a good job.

I’ll admit it, I do a lot of multitasking while on the phone, even when I’m not driving. But if I’m really honest about it, I know that both my conversation and the task I’m trying to combine it with, suffer as a result. I’m simply not paying enough attention to each task. I know that while kids are texting in class, they’re not hearing the teacher. I suppose that’s their plan.

Consider having a tiff with a friend on the phone, trying to pay bills on line and cooking dinner, all at the same time. You friend might rightly feel like they’re not being heard, AT&T might get the mortgage payment (surely your cell bill isn’t that high) and who knows how dinner will turn out. I know these things all seem easy, but consider that your attention isn’t really on all three things simultaneously, it shifts from one to another rapidly, missing little pieces of each.

So whether you’re trying to achieve balance or trying to concentrate, it’s worth considering limiting yourself to one thing at a time. And sure, I can walk and chew gum at the same time, but not while talking on my cell, holding an umbrella and walking the dog.

For an oldie but goodie, listen to The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) Simon & Garfunkel for inspiration to slow down..

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Kamikaze Moves

My September newsletter is about mindset. Examples that reveal mindset abound. I recently read that Lance Armstrong came in second in a 100-mile bike race in Colorado. Instead of quitting, being a failure or dropping out, the loss apparently inspired him to return to attempt an eighth Tour de France win.

What a great example of a “growth mindset.” Carol Dweck, in Mindset. The New Psychology of Success, talks about “growth” and “fixed mindsets.” Those with the fixed mindset believe their abilities are fixed and unchanging. Their goal is to repeatedly attempt to prove themselves. Those with a growth mindset believe their abilities have the potential to grow and change. Their goal is to put energy into improving themselves.
Which are you?
Fixed…what have I done to deserve this...just call me loser…it’s not fair…


growth…what can I do to get past this…I better try harder on that next one…it is what it is, now what..

In my newsletter, I made the point that if you have a fixed mindset, you can change it. As I edited I thought, oh my, that’s a bit harsh isn’t it? It’s like telling someone that the way they think is wrong, a psychotherapy kamikaze move. What’s more likely to generate resistance and hurt feelings than telling someone they’re wrong?

Just as I was about to make a change I thought, you know what, coaching is about telling people the hard truth. Indeed, psychotherapy is about the hard truth as well, it’s just a kinder, gentler truth. And the fact is, fixed mindsets only work well until you encounter failure, which is, alas, inevitable. So the hard truth is that, unless you’re a kamikaze pilot, you’re going to be a lot more successful if you can cultivate a growth mindset.

Try to set it aside for a moment if I’ve offended you. Which mindset do you want to have?
Consider the efforts those you admire have put forth to get where they are.

Consider that you could have tried harder, worked harder and pushed harder to get something that you wanted.

Consider situations in which you throw in the towel before it’s really time.

So you’re having trouble losing weight. Are you just a victim of bad genes, or do you need to get focused and come up with a better plan?

Your job is so boring you can hardly do it every day. Is it the only job in the universe, or are you just a little scared of upsetting the status quo? How about at least looking around a little?

Think you’ll never meet mr/ms right? Are you really looking, or are you a little nervous about the possibility of rejection? It wouldn’t be the first time, right?
So consider that even though you have some fears and misgivings, it might be time to start facing the hard truth. Flying can be such fun.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Raindrops Keep Falling

I try to stay away from religion and politics in this blog. It’s difficult with everything going on today, but probably sensible. Current events not falling into one of those categories are okay and I just had to say something about Paul Newman’s death, even though everyone else in the universe has, as well. Talk about a dark day.

There are many of us who grew up in the greater New York metro area spending hour upon hour, many a rainy afternoon, with Million Dollar Movie. To us, the movie stars of the 50s and 60s were as familiar as the boy next door. And I surely loved them as much. Well in truth, probably more. Paul Newman, though, with his longevity, is almost in a class by himself. I have to put him right up there with Cary Grant. Intelligent, sexy and often mysterious, along with many others, they created images of what men were supposed to be. Woe to the men in my life. There’s a lot to measure up to there.

One of the things I love about Paul Newman is the irreverence in many of his characters. But it always came along with a heavy dose of goodness and caring about others. I can’t recall if he’s ever played a real bad guy. Okay, the NY Times tells me he did in Road to Perdition. Maybe a few more. Certainly some bad boys, but they were usually good at the core. And in life he was a humanitarian, giving back in so many ways.

I can actually remember more than a dozen movies without googling. I’ve always had heartfelt thanks for those brave souls that put themselves out there in order to entertain us. Yeah, I know a lot of them get paid an awful lot, but not all, and definitely not for as long as Newman. It’s hard to have staying power in that business. So many must be in the same situation as the rest of the country, seeing their retirement savings dwindling. But I’m digressing.

So this is a small homage to the hombre. Without resorting to google, I can say my favorite Paul Newman flick is Butch Cassidy. With gratitude I’m planning to spend some serious time reviewing the films, just to remember and honor all he gave, in my small way.

May the raindrops keep falling on your head.