Hope is Easier to Find When We’re Looking For It

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a great start.

There’s an old saying that comes to mind this morning – you can’t ignore the elephant in the room. As a comedian, that meant if a waitress drops a tray of drinks in the middle of your show, you had to say something funny about it. “Just set those down anywhere!” That was a time-worn favorite. Not that the servers enjoyed it too much. On the other hand, if they hadn’t dropped the tray in the first place …

Something I learned early on is that if you single out the wait staff for anything, they had ways to elicit payback. Like throwing beer bottles in a trash can right next to your audio recorder or talking loudly with the patrons at Table 2 in the middle of your funniest joke. One of the first rules we learned is to treat the club staff with respect. Still, when that elephant appears, you can’t just pretend it’s not there.

The elephant, in this case, appeared yesterday afternoon for the whole world to behold, and we can’t just look the other way and whistle softly as we walk past. The spectacle in our nation’s capital was one of the worst displays of human behavior most of us have ever witnessed. And I’m not entirely sure it was a one-day thing. I guess time will tell.

But, in any discussion of positivity and trying to elevate our lives to a higher level, we can’t just ignore events like this as if they don’t exist. This is a very real part of the world in which we live. An ugly part, to be sure, but I’ve often said we sometimes need the really bad days to help us appreciate the good ones. Without a frame of reference, good becomes mediocre. Just another day in Paradise.

We can lay the finger of blame for yesterday’s events in several different areas, and we’d probably be right on each of them, at least to some extent. But people don’t behave this way just because they’re bored and looking for action on Saturday night (or Wednesday afternoon). They don’t do it because one person suggests it. And they don’t do it because they feel wronged. They do it out of complete despair.

Now, we could talk for hours about the root cause of that despair, and I’m sure we all have our opinions. And I do believe there was an element of opportunity that factored in, a chance for some very angry people to lash out in the safety of a large mob. But it’s hard to completely separate anger from despair. They feed one another and, left unchecked, the result is predictable – almost inevitable.

To be sure, some people seem to choose a life of anger and despair. When things are going well, they actively seek controversy and discord. I’m no psychologist, but I believe it stems from a basic lack of inner peace. They can point their finger at any number of reasons for their anger, but the fact is it originates from within. If we want happiness, we have to be willing to find it and embrace it.

There are very few things we can truly control in life. We can’t control the weather. We can’t control the economy. We can’t control how other people behave, and we have only limited control over our own health. What we can control – what we must control – is our reaction to these events. Because it’s our reaction to the world around us that defines our level of serenity.

That doesn’t mean we’re happy about everything. I’m appalled at what we saw in our nation’s capitol yesterday, and I have my own feelings about the people who fed that anger. But I can’t change any of what transpired. The only thing I can change is my reaction to it. I can choose to sulk in a corner, lash out online, take to the streets in anger, or try to turn a national embarrassment into something constructive.

We all have the same power. We can’t dig through a pile of negativity and expect to find hope. The thoughts that control our outlook are a direct reflection of the thoughts we consume. Eat enough carrots and your skin will turn orange. It’s inevitable. The same is true of our brain – garbage in, garbage out. That’s why it’s so vitally important that we put more emphasis on controlling what goes in.

History will judge yesterday’s events and the political motivations behind it, but I wonder if our grandchildren will read anything about the underlying emotions that drive such behavior. It’s easy to analyze and assign blame. But it all starts from within. Until we control our thoughts, we’ll never be able to control our actions.

Find something uplifting to focus on today. You may not be able to wipe out the negativity, but you can certainly dilute it. And on the worst of days, that’s enough.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2021 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Sure, it’s What You Do … But is it Getting You Where You Want to Be?

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a nice start.

Yesterday, my four-year-old grandson decided he didn’t need a nap. After all, he’s “almost five!” Never mind that his six-year-old sister was on the couch next to him sawing logs. You don’t have to tell that little girl to take a nap. She looks forward to it. And woe be to the person who tries to wake her up. With that little lady, you let her come around in her own sweet time.

Naturally, by early evening the lack of sleep was starting to manifest itself with horns and a forked tail. I even warned him that would happen. “What happens when you don’t sleep? You get tired, and then you start doing things you shouldn’t, and then you get in trouble.” His solution for that is pretty simple – look the other way. Then everybody’s happy.

It’s all about habits, or what we’re used to doing on a regular basis, often without even thinking about it. I touched on habits yesterday. It was easy getting into the habit of getting up a little earlier and writing a morning message. And it was just as easy getting into the habit of sleeping a little later and saying, “maybe tomorrow.” In fact, that one didn’t take any effort at all.

Habits are like that. They don’t even care if you’re doing the right thing or not. They just care about doing the same thing the same way, every single day. And not for any good reason other than, “That’s what I do!” As a business analyst, I constantly challenge that kind of thinking. Do you do it this way because it’s the best way, or because that’s the way you’ve always done it?

When I quit smoking, my first thought was, “What will I do after dinner?” I always had a cigarette. Well, that one was easy. I just never stopped eating. Twenty-two years later, the proof is hanging in my closet. A friend suggested I’d be equally lost for something to do after … you know. Let’s just say that one doesn’t work like eating. Believe me, I tried.

I’ve suggested in the past that habits are easy to form and even easier to break. But I guess that depends on the habit. If it’s something good you need to start doing, those can be the hardest habits to form. Likewise, if it’s something enjoyable you need to stop doing, those are the hardest habits to break. On the other hand, I stopped talking back to Mom in one try. I had help.

You can form (or break) any habit in 21 days. That’s not to say the behavior will become so ingrained in you that you can’t possibly do anything else, and there will be days when you still struggle with it. But in a matter of three weeks, you can repeat a behavior often enough that it becomes the default response to a given situation. After that, it becomes easy.

I’ll be writing more on this in the coming months. In fact, I may write a book on it. Because the one thing that stops us from modifying our habits is fear. How will I ever do this? It’ll take forever! Well, when we put fear aside, great things happen. Unless somebody triple-dog dares you and your response is, “Hold my beer!” I’ve seen those videos. They’re not pretty.

But that aside, if there’s something you want to change, all it takes is 21 days. Or less if my Mom is the motivating force. All you have to do is decide what you want to change, and why. Get that firm in your mind, and the rest is easy. And you can do anything for three weeks. Almost. Once those three weeks are over, it’s a simple matter of lather, rinse, and repeat.

Which habits are keeping you from reaching your dreams? Which habits would bring you closer? If what you’re doing now isn’t getting you where you need to be, then something has to change. Don’t let that change alter your dream. You can accomplish pretty much anything you want, if you want it badly enough. Start with the habits and let’s check back in a few weeks.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2020 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Successful Habits Can Only Lead to Success

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a great start.

I slept a little later than normal today. That’s what happens when you don’t use an alarm clock. Most days I wake up within five minutes of the same time, a time when most sane people are still sound asleep. It started two days after I quit smoking, and that was almost 22 years ago. I have an alarm clock, but I don’t know if I could set it to go off because I’m pretty sure I threw away the instructions.

I used to be the guy who was late for everything. Dad always used to say I’d be late for my own funeral. He said it like it was a bad thing. Personally, I don’t want to arrive early for that one. The later the better. But if being somewhere relied on my ability to wake up in the morning, all bets were off. If I had to catch an early flight, I stayed up all night because I knew I’d never wake up on time.

But as I said, two days after I quit smoking, that all changed. I woke up that morning rested and ready for the day, with a level of energy I hadn’t seen in more than 20 years. There’s something to be said for giving your lungs the ability to exchange oxygen. And in the months that followed, I became more rested and more energetic by the day. That, alone, was worth the price of admission.

Habits can be hard to break. I smoked for 24 years. And it’s not like I picked a date on the calendar and mentally prepared for it. The date chose itself. I didn’t even taper off. The day before I quit, I smoked almost three packs. I had no thought of giving it up until that morning when my body said, “Enough!” As I spent the first two hours of my day hyperventilating, the choice was made for me.

I’d tried to quit before, but never made it past the first couple of days. And I was a grumpy SOB the entire time. Everybody around me paid for my begrudged decision to quit something I should never have started in the first place. Normally, by the third day, my wife would buy a pack for me.

But something happens when you make the decision to do something because it’s what you want to do. Not because you know you should, or even because you know the consequences of not doing it. Those reasons are forced on us, and we naturally fight back. Even if we know what we’ve been doing is unhealthy or destructive. “I’ll change when I’m good and ready!” Sound like anyone you know?

That was the first element in my success – I quit because I decided it was time. It was a decision I made on the spur of the moment. I’m not really even sure I decided to quit for good that morning. I just made a decision not to smoke that day. And then I made that same decision again every day. I never really quit. I just said, “I won’t smoke today.”

It’s been suggested that it takes 21 days to change a habit. I’ve quoted that a few times in my posts. But in researching that topic (yes, I really do such things), I’m learning that three weeks is just the beginning. Depending on the source, it can take anywhere from 66 to 90 days to make a behavior so automatic that you no longer even think about it – you just do it.

But it’s during the first 21 days that you establish the behavior that will eventually become a habit. That’s when you figure out how you want things to go, and how to get back on track when you stumble. By the end of that time, you know what you’re doing and any discomfort with the new behavior is gone. It’s become a natural part of your life. Now, it’s just a matter of repetition.

There’s nothing you can’t change if you want to make that change. You can drop an old habit or form a new one. Both are pretty much the same. It’s all a matter of changing a certain behavior to become the person you want to be. Do it consistently, one day at a time, and in just a few weeks you’ll be well on your way. The remaining month or two is simply for reinforcement.

Habits are simply behaviors that we repeat instinctively. We can choose the behaviors, and we can choose to repeat them until they become a natural part of our day. Pick the behaviors that will lead you closer to your goals and success is not only possible, it’s inevitable.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved