Attitude Matters

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Do you have a special coffee cup? You know what I mean; it’s the one you reach for even though your cabinet is full of clean coffee cups. If might have a chip, it probably has a few stains, but to you it spells COMFORT. It fits your hand just right, or it has a particular message or design that rings true for you, or it was a gift from someone you care for deeply. As I write this newsletter I’m sipping my morning coffee from my special cup. A cup I bought for someone twenty six years ago, but never gave away.

I met Melinda when we were both students at the University of Missouri.  She was wacky, energetic and a definite risk taker. We hit it off immediately. For the next three years we shared frustrations, dreams, and all the other bizarre things that happen to you in college. We very much had our separate lives and worlds, but we would regularly check in and update to make sure we were on the right course. Melinda was a total original. If I heard rocks hitting my dorm window I knew it was Melinda and she needed to talk. When she was chosen to represent her sorority in a formal beauty contest competition, she whisked me off to The Wardrobe used clothing store to buy a hand-me-down formal so she could make a political statement about priorities.

Over the next twelve years we would graduate. She would marry and move twice.  I would marry and move once. She would divorce. I would separate. She would find herself alone in Minneapolis with breast cancer and move back to Missouri. I would divorce. The fall of 1986 found us sitting together in her hospital room at Ellis Fischel Cancer Hospital in Columbia, Missouri having our own group therapy. She would listen for hours to my woes and regrets. I tried to make her comfortable and smuggle in foods she wasn’t supposed to have. I brought drawing paper, color swatches, and other art supplies so we could brainstorm and create. We were both a mess but we were still having fun.

Thanksgiving of that year my mom and I made our usual marathon-shopping trip to Kansas City. I found a Christmas gift for Melinda, a coffee mug. The entire outside circumference was filled with graphic renderings of artist’s brushes, a paint palette, tubes of paint and colorful paint pots done in primary colors; the perfect gift. Two days later her mother called to tell me she had died.

I don’t share this story to bring you down, but rather as a reminder. It’s not what happens to us that’s important, it’s how we handle what is happening. Melinda was fun and hopeful through tragedy and pain. In my ‘Attitude Matters’ presentation I share my top ways to improve your attitude with #7 being ‘Encouraging Others’. Melinda and I each had a lot on our plate, but by encouraging each other we not only got through it all, we were able to enjoy life. Our attitudes made the difference and it was a choice.

I left the mug wrapped up for a long time, but finally decided Melinda would have wanted me to use it, and that’s what I do. I have other mementos of Melinda in my home, but this one reminds me everyday to get outside of myself, encourage others, make the choice. Don’t get me wrong, I still have bad attitude days, we all do. But having the tools to deal with them makes all the difference.

As an experiment, try encouraging family members, co-workers, siblings, friends, the mailman, neighbors and basically anyone you encounter for one week. Make it a point to notice the positives about someone’s work, appearance or behavior and tell them about it; you will be amazed that something so simple can make a difference.

 

 

 

5 Ways to Cope with a Bad Day

It happens to us all, you wake up feeling out of sorts, crabby or cloudy.  You don’t know why, you just do.  If someone asks what’s wrong you have no answer.  If they ask you more than once you might bite their head off!  You don’t want to feel this way but you can’t seem to shake it and it’s just not in you to fake a good mood.  When those off days happen and you’re not your best self, there are ways to manage yourself so your mood doesn’t get out of hand and ruin your entire day.

 1. Bite your tongue!  Don’t say everything out loud that pops into your head.  Activate your inner filter and block statements that could sound hurtful, out of line, or crass.  This is no time for bloviating; say what needs to be said with the least amount of words and move on.

 2. Do no harm.  Lashing out at others physically or verbally, will make matters worse and could escalate into conflict you will regret later.  In every situation there is a choice point; choose to deal with your mood in a positive non-confrontational way instead of blowing it out of proportion.  I still struggle with this and beat myself over the head later when I realize how one comment or attitudinal gesture left undone could have saved the day.

 3. Breathe.  I’m not talking about the shallow, automatic, keep you alive breathing we take for granted.  Sit back in your chair, close your eyes and breathe deeply, from your diaphragm, in through your nose and out through your mouth ten times.  It sounds simple and you’ve heard me say it before but millions of people tap into this powerful practice that brings relaxation and clear thinking, and I believe you are worthy of it too.  Just when you can’t stand ‘it’ one more minute, purposeful breathing can bring calm to your chaos which is why it is often a key component in anger management programs.

4. Don’t fight it.  Your off feeling will not last forever and soon this bad day will be history.  As my mother always said, “This too shall pass”, and while I hated hearing it I have to admit she was right. (But don’t tell her that, okay?)  Accept your feelings as transient and get busy with life.  When I have off days I draw a sad face or write the words, ‘bad day’ on my planning calendar; more often than not, a week later, I have no idea what that bad day was about!

 5.  Be antisocial.  Really.  If you are having one of those days it’s a good time to avoid the water cooler, put off lunch dates and isolate yourself.  The time alone can be rejuvenating and keeps you from being aggravated by others.  Retreat into your personal cave of choice and emerge tomorrow a better person.

Multi-Tasking

Βethan / Foter

You hear it on the nightly news and network morning shows. You read about it in newspapers, self-help books and magazine covers. Everybody is supposedly doing it and wanting to learn how to do it better. Therefore, it must be a good thing-Right?

Wrong, just because it makes a good sound bite and EVERYBODY wants to say he or she is doing it does not make it right for you. (Didn’t your mother ever give you the ‘If everyone is jumping off a cliff does that mean you should’ speech?) Are we so programmed that we are eager to jump on the latest bandwagon without questioning the validity for ourselves?

Multi-tasking sounds like a great idea but the premise is false; you cannot possibly be doing several tasks with equal attention and emphasis. If you have ever driven on the interstate and watched someone put on their makeup, tie a tie, or dive for something on the floorboard as they hurl their vehicle down the road at 75 miles an hour, you know what I mean. That being said, I admit to being a victim of the multi-tasking mindset until I realized that I was losing focus. I was doing several things in mediocre fashion and not even remembering most of it.

There are plenty of people, organizations, and companies ready to solve your time management dilemmas. I did a Google search for time management and came up with 756,000.000 sites. If you really want to multi-task and waste a lot of time, sort through all those someday! In the past couple of days I have run across the following article titles:

-11 Time Management Tips
-5 Categories for Effective Time Management
-12 Easy Ways to Organize Your Work Life
-10 Quick Time Management Tips
-Top 10 Time Management and Productivity Tools

Titles like these leave me wondering, is it 10 tips or 11? If more is better, maybe I should go with the 39 tools. Is a category better than a tip? How can there be 39 tools if someone just told me there were 12 easy ways?

Time management tips, books, and articles are as prevalent as diet books and should be treated the same way. There are undoubtedly some good ideas in all of them, but that does not mean every method or idea is right for you. You will have to make choices. Choices require thought, reflection, and being honest with yourself.

It is often easier to accept someone else’s solution or opinion, but they rarely work for us. Multi-tasking can be a form of avoidance used to distract us from facing the situation and doing what needs to be done. To gain focus so you can make intelligent choices on how to best use your time, try the following exercises.

1. During the day, preferably first thing in the morning or last thing at night, empty your mind. Do this without distractions and interruptions. This can be done by writing out everything that is on your mind or sit quietly and mentally click through what is junking up your brain and visualize dumping the contents into a dumpster. Experiment and find out what works best for you. As you do this, you will begin to notice recurring patterns, concerns, and even worries. List them, invest your time, and deal with them so you are free. Often dealing with them means changing the way you view them or your attitudes.

2. You may not realize it, but every waking moment your brain is filled with mind chatter. This internal conversation is framing the way you see yourself and everything that happens to you, and most of it is negative and judgmental. Your mind chatter, or whatever you choose to call it, makes you feel both afraid to do something and guilty if you do not. Good news! Research shows that even a slight decrease in your negative self-talk increases your ability to respond to the world more creatively. My favorite way to combat negative messages is the rubber band trick.

Wear a rubber band around your left wrist if you are right-handed or your right wrist if you are left-handed. Each time you catch yourself thinking negatively, pull on the rubber band and give yourself a flick. I guarantee this will wake you up and make you take notice! If your wrist is red and swollen at the end of the day you know your negatives out weigh your positives. I use it myself and like it so much I had special rubber bands made to use and share with others

Darla Arni 2011