Winning by Accident?

Some people don’t like him at all. They say he’s too loud and that he asks too many personal questions. Others love him and vow to follow his guidelines to financial freedom. I’m referring to Dave Ramsey, financial guru whose creed is “Be debt free.”

Personally, I like him. At least I like listening to his podcasts. At the moment, I’m not gung-ho enough to take the course or buy the books. I’m happy listening and taking baby steps. For instance, I’m totally into the debt snowball, so I’m paying off my car and then using that $411 per month to add to a house payment.

But the purpose of this post isn’t to convince you to become debt-free. Its purpose is to share Ramsey’s ideas about goal setting. I’ve been reading and teaching about how to set goals for decades, and I’ve practicing a little of what I’ve been teaching too. But Ramsey’s ideas and the way he presented them on a recent podcast really spoke to me. Maybe it’s because I needed a reminder. Or maybe I just like his direct, “pull no punches” personality and style.

Without further ado, here are the seven areas for goal setting:

  1. Financial
  2. Physical
  3. Social
  4. Family
  5. Career
  6. Spiritual
  7. Intellectual

Easy so far, right? I thought so too. For the first one, I decided that I wanted to save more money and that for the physical goal I’d drink more water or something. All was well and good until Ramsey elaborated on the seven areas by telling his listeners about the criteria each goal must meet.

Because of the time element (working on spiritual goals at church soon), I’m merely going to list the criteria and will elaborate later. In the meantime, maybe you can start thinking of some things you want to accomplish.

Each goal must be:

Specific. It’s not enough for me to say that I want to save some money. How much?

Measurable. Saying, “I think I’ll add a few dollars to my car payment each month” is not measurable. How many dollars?

Yours. You own it. Not your mama. I especially like this one. I want to be a more prudent and provident person because I want to, not because others are pushing me to.

Time-based. Saying, “I’m gonna pay this car off as soon as I can,” is a pitiful goal. “I’m going to pay my car off by this summer” gives the goal more punch and certainty.

Written down. Love this one. If you don’t write it down, it’s an idea, a dream. I’ve always known this, but the way Ramsey elaborated on it drove the point home.

Throughout the podcast, Ramsey threw in little extras that are right up my psychological alley. For example, he talked about how some people give up too easily and act like victims. “Don’t be a wussified victim,” he exclaimed.

And then, there’s that part near the end when he told his listeners, “You don’t win by accident.” No one wins a Grammy by accident. No one wins an Olympic medal and wonders, “Gee, how’d that happen?” I know that’s common sense, but as Voltaire reportedly said, “Common sense is not so common.”

I often see people who are spinning their wheels and wondering, “Why can’t I have a decent job, a degree, peace of mind, well-behaved children, or good health?” As Ramsey reiterated a couple of times, those things aren’t accidental. You need a plan. I need a plan too.

What about you? Which one of the seven areas appeals most to you?

Five Letter Word

books

A week has passed since my last post, the one that announced that a word of the year would be forthcoming. I’ve considered several words over the past several weeks, and I was this close to stealing (sharing) Connie’s word, mindfulness. Heaven knows that would be a great one for me. With all of the busyness and coming and going and distractions of life, well, you get my drift.

One day last week, as I prepared to go out for my daily walk, I couldn’t find a pair of ear buds. It was almost more than I could handle. How was I supposed to stay in motion for an hour without my music or NPR? Then my husband suggested that I just listen to the birds or cars or something. And what a novel idea! I was forced to go back to listening to the world around me and letting my mind wander. It was a splendid hour of mindfulness. Actually, I’ve tried to do that quite a bit this past year. I seldom get annoyed at the sounds of crying babies, coughing, or throat clearing in church anymore. Those are the sounds of life itself.

But back to my word. I thought of peace, both inner and outer, but that’s something I pretty much always work on. Then my husband suggested that I recycle focus, my word for 2012. But no, I discarded that idea right away, knowing that focus is something that I’m going to have to work on for the rest of my life, but with a new year, I needed a new word. After several more options, I chose my word. It’s not fancy or deep or especially inspiring. And actually, it’s a word that conveys one of my overall attitudes toward life. It’s just that this year, I’m going to use it to direct my behavior in a more focused way.

Learn. Learn is my word. I’m fascinated by all there is to learn about in this grand world and daunted by the fact that I know so little. Over the holidays, we saw Lincoln and Les Miserables, and those movies inspired me to learn more about American history, Lincoln, Mrs. Lincoln, the French Revolution, and the French language. About the latter, I took French in college, but now I’m thinking of refreshing some key terms. It’s not enough to know oui, oui.

The other evening as I was pondering about half a dozen words, a scripture from the Doctrine and Covenants, one of the four standard works of the LDS church, kept coming to mind. Here it is, a verse about things that we need to understand: “Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms.” D & C 88:79

My friend Judy and I discussed “things both in heaven and in the earth” a little last week. How little I know about either realm! In 2013, however, I plan to gain some more knowledge about both. With LEARN as my word, the sky’s the limit!

Focus, Connie. Focus.

About five years ago, my friend Connie and I began coming up with a “Word of the Year,” something that would direct our thinking and acting throughout the upcoming year. Weary of making resolutions that bit the dust after a few weeks, we thought that a word that could encapsulate several goals would work better. Turns out we were right. Not only did we make most of our decisions based on our individual words, but we also found ourselves permanently changing our behavior. Well, semi-permanently. There are still times when I have to remind myself to have COURAGE, to BELIEVE, and to say YES more often.

After much thought and deliberation, Connie came up with her word last week. It’ s EXPLORATION. Curious, I asked her whether she meant exploration of other places, interests, and ideas or whether she meant inner exploration. Was she planning to take more trips, hike on the Appalachian Trail, take up painting, or discover inner talents? “All of it. Everything,” she answered. And guess what? She’s already started. If the fates are with us, we’re going on a road trip to Washington, DC with a couple of friends later this month.

Enough about Connie. What about Jayne? My word for 2012 is FOCUS. That doesn’t sound as exciting as EXPLORATION, but it’s something I definitely need to work on. Besides, I’m pretty good about the exploring part. I could stand some improvement in that area, but I need a huge amount of improvement in the focusing department. My husband often says, “You just need to concentrate on one thing at a time,” or “If you’d just pay attention and do one thing at a time, you’d get more accomplished…and maybe you wouldn’t misplace so many things.”

Then too, there are several projects I’m working on, and I know that I need to focus on one at a time. Should I correct the galleys for a book I’m self-publishing? Should I write a few paragraphs for a ebook that I’m writing about what every technical/community college student needs to know? Should I clean out the refrigerator? Should I mail the packages to Olivia and Carrie? Or maybe it’s time to clean out some closets. Or no, that can wait. What’s really important is playing Words with Friends with my brother. Then again, classes begin next week, and we’re using a new text for an intro class so I better get busy on that. But not until I start reading this new book I ordered for my Kindle.

See what I mean? I need to focus focus focus focus.

I knew my decision was a good one when I went to church today. During Relief Society, Michelle shared her enthusiasm for a blog she’d read about using a word to guide one’s thinking instead of making resolutions. She encouraged us to use verbs and then shared examples of some words that we might like. Several class members, including yours truly, participated by sharing their words.

Here’s what I found especially interesting. While talking to us about THE WORD, Michelle used some variation of focus at least a half a dozen times. Then Kitty spoke up and said that she needed a word that would help her focus. Another person said that she was trying to focus on gratitude, and yet another said that she was focusing more on being fully present.

So FOCUS is my word for 2012. I’ve already cleaned out the refrigerator tonight. I have my to-do list ready for tomorrow, and I’m going to focus on doing one thing at a time…and on being mindful of the tremendous opportunities and blessings that I enjoy.

What’s your word?

Untied Shoes and Barbeque Sandwiches

It’s time to write  something about Sunday’s OBX half marathon. As I sit here thinking about it this afternoon, I keep thinking of the lessons inherent in such an event. Is that the school teacher part of me? Can’t I ever just enjoy something without trying to turn it into a lesson? Apparently not!

Lisa, one of my sisters-in-law, drove us to the race start. She’s a trooper, a stalwart supporter, and had gotten up and dressed to make sure that we arrived before the 7:00 a.m. gun sounded. Once we got out of the car and sauntered (yep, we were taking it easy then) to the start, we were inundated with the noises that accompany pre-race excitement. And the music. Wow! It was loud and energizing. Plus, there was the beautiful Atlantic Ocean on our right. What a feast for the senses!

Almost immediately, the three of us separated, and I went to the back of the pack with the other slow folks (walkers).Interestingly, it was called “F.” While that didn’t make me too happy, I came up with lesson #1. It’s crazy to start in a category for which you are unprepared. You’ll soon find yourself out of your league and floundering as you realize that you’re being passed by those with more experience.

That brings me to lesson #2. It’s closely aligned with the first one and has to do with preparation. A person who doesn’t put in the time and miles is not going to make it. Sure, he or she might finish the course but will suffer consequences of serious soreness, all over fatigue, strained muscles, and so forth. Preparation is key in most life events.

The gun sounded for us, and people took off running. Huh? I thought we were supposed to be walkers in Category F! I jogged along beside them, letting the crowd surge push me forward. That was another important lesson, #3. Sometimes, for better or worse, the crowd mentality can get a person stoked and involved. I slowed down after about a mile, however, because I knew I’d be in trouble otherwise.

After a few miles on the highway, we branched off into a nice neighborhood, and I took a few pictures. Soon I saw a child wrapped up in a sleeping bag in a driveway. He had a pot over his face and head, and his father reminded him that he was supposed to be making noise with it. All along the route, people were ringing cow bells, playing music, shouting encouragement, and blowing horns.  I could hear all this despite the fact that I was listening to Pat Conroy’s My Reading Life on my iPhone. It was awesome to walk/jog in this beautiful setting and listen to a great Southern author read his book about the effect that reading had on his life.

We rounded a curve, and there I saw a person dressed like an old lady who kept running out in the street yelling at people. I think she was shouting good stuff, but I’m not sure. It was a little bizarre. I also saw some water in the bay and some beautiful homes. Breathtaking. Lesson # 4 There are always some unexpected treats along the way of a journey. It might be something like the bubble gum that a woman was offering the walkers and runners or it might be some of the beauties of nature.

We walked and jogged on the highway some more and then through another neighborhood. I’d like to say, “THANKS!” to all of the people who came out of their homes to cheer us on that morning. It’s amazing how much difference encouragement and an occasional, “You can do it!” can make. Oh, and the people providing water and Gatorade were wonderful too. That was some of the coldest, most refreshing water that I’ve ever tasted. Some tables offered power gel, but I relied on my power bar for energy bursts. Lesson # 5. People need people.

Soon I found myself looking at the bridge signaling that I was about to leave Nag’s Head and enter Manteo. One of my brothers had told me that the bridge was the ten mile mark so I was feeling encouraged. Hmmm. Did he say that the beginning of the bridge marked ten miles or was it the end? This was a major question because that bridge was daunting! Long, steep, and noisy (because of the cars passing and the wind from the sound), I just had to know. There was no sign, however, so I just basically took off thinking, “I can do it…I can, I can, I can, I will, I will….”

People on all sides seemed to be struggling just as much as I was. Some were in even worse shape. Still, I trudged on, knowing that it was the only way to Manteo and the race finish. Lesson # 6. Crossing a bridge will take you from one destination to another, in “real life” and in a half marathon.

Bridge behind me, I turned right towards Manteo. I needed a potty break, and since I hadn’t heeded Lisa’s warning about the perils of wearing new shoes on race day, my feet were hurting. I was tired and running out of “juice.” Then Elizabeth called asking for my location and told me that my brother Dave and his son Chris were stationed along the way looking for me. That was something to look forward to.  I soon spotted them, sights for sore eyes, and a signal that I was within a half mile of the finish.

Lesson #7. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. By this time, my left shoe had come untied, but it didn’t matter. I just wanted to cross that line!! I rounded the corner of the last leg and spotted Becky, my other sister-in-law, smiling and waving me on. Just before crossing the finish, I saw the rest of my support group: Elizabeth, Sarah Beth, Lisa, and Mike. Someone put a medal around my neck, and then off I went in search of my free barbeque sandwich.

The eight of us walked around gawking at the sights and taking pictures. It had been an arduous trek, but the sights, sounds, and feelings afterwards made it worthwhile. Will I do it again? No doubt about it! Lesson #8: Setting a difficult and then accomplishing it is sweet.

Shake it Off

Some of my friends and I have been tossing around some ideas about things we want to try, things we want to accomplish. It’s more than checking items off of a bucket list like visiting Italy, riding an elephant, or bungee jumping. Not that those things aren’t worthy of our endeavors; they’re just not on our lists. The things we want to do involve WORK on our part(s), and they also expose us to teasing, ridicule, and snickering behind our backs.

Some of my friends and I have been tossing around some ideas about things we want to try, things we want to accomplish. It’s more than checking items off of a bucket list like visiting Italy, riding an elephant, or bungee jumping. Not that those things aren’t worthy of our endeavors; they’re just not on our lists. The things we want to do involve WORK on our part(s), and they also expose us to teasing, ridicule, and snickering behind our backs. Hmmm, now that I think of it, sometimes the criticism and skepticism are right up front.

So should a person go for it or continue playing it safe? I think you know my answer to that! It’s tied into positive psychology, a mindset that emphasizes optimism, personal choice, and happiness in human development and overall mental health. Generally, the so-called lay person thinks of psychology as a field in which people with mental and emotional disorders are helped by talk therapy, drugs, or ECT, and while those things happen, psychology is much, much more.

Here’s a neat story that fits nicely into this topic. A couple of Sundays ago, I attended church in Myrtle Beach and heard a story about an old donkey who fell in a deep, dried-up well. His owner tried to get him out, but his efforts were in vain. Finally, he realized that nothing he did was going to get the donkey out of the well, so he came up with an alternate plan. He called his neighbors and asked them to bring their shovels so that they could help him fill in the well. After all, it was dry and useless, and the donkey was old anyway.

At first, the donkey brayed and carried on something fierce. He was scared and angry. Still, the men persisted in their dirt shoveling. Suddenly, they realized that the donkey was quiet, and when they looked down into the well to see what was going on, they saw something remarkable. Every time someone hurled a shovel of dirt on him, the donkey shook it off and then stepped up on it. The men continued shoveling, and the donkey continued climbing until eventually he was above ground.

You don’t have to be a psychoanalyst to see the moral of the story. When life throws dirt on you, shake it off and keep stepping up. You don’t have to get buried by dirt. You don’t have to stay trapped at the bottom of a well. No matter how many people are actively involved in shoveling dirt on you, you have a choice to shake it off and step up…or not.

One of my friends got a rejection letter about a story she had submitted to a magazine. I wrote her on Facebook and said, “Yay! It means you’re actually doing something instead of just talking about it.” Another had a poem of hers criticized for having too many gerunds. Did it bother her? Probably. And yet I know she’ll shake off the dirt and try again. As I write this, I’m thinking of people who are making jewelry, drawing birds, writing stories, writing books, and training for a marathon. I feel certain that in all of their lives there are people with their shovels raised and ready to use.

I hope my friends stay the course. I hope they keep shaking off the dust regardless of who’s shoveling it or how much gets dumped on them. I hope they’ll read this donkey story and that it will help them the way it helped me.

Do It Anyway

If you read the blog entitled “Guiding Word,” you know that some friends and I choose a word at the beginning of each year to serve as a guide for our thinking, feeling, and acting. If you haven’t read it, you should. Ha Ha. I’m feeling pretty upbeat this morning, perhaps because of the gift of extra morning time. Church begins at 12:30 for those of us in the Camden Ward this year, and generally speaking, my mind works better during the first part of the day.

But I digress. The purpose of this post is to talk about Christy’s word a few minutes: Courage. It’s something we all need a double dose of from time to time, and her post about it is so inspiring that I can’t stop thinking about it. Check it out at http://christypeake.blogspot.com.

Her post reminded me of a book entitled Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers. Dr. Jeffers says that people see fear in the wrong way, and that it’s actually a green light to keep going. Trepidation is undeniably real, but we just need to push forward, to feel the fear and do it anyway. Sure, security and routine are safe, but can’t they be a little risky?

Jeffers believes that the killer fear is that you won’t be able to handle something, and she suggests practical ways to help you get to the point where you know you can handle anything that comes your way. You must practice positive thinking every single day until sooner or later the positivity you create will begin to seem more real.  

We all know this already, but there’s just something about Jeffers’ writing that makes you really take heed to what she’s saying. She says we need energizing everyday, and that just like eating breakfast energizes and fuels our body, reading inspirational quotes and books fuels our psyches. Take control of your mental inputs, Jeffers advises. Say things like, “I am a confident person in every situation.” Never be fearful of mistakes. Lighten up and be happy that you had the experience…that you tried.

Wouldn’t be awful to come to the end of your life and still be thinking coulda, shoulda, woulda.  From teaching Human Growth and Development, I’ve learned that the #1 regret of elderly people is that they DIDN’T give things a try, that they let their fears hold them back. By that time, it’s too late to make that call, start that business, write that article, or fly around the world. I don’t know about you, but I will not be one of those people who says on her death bed, “Sure wish I’d taken more chances.”

Jeffers offers a perfect example of how she worked through humans’ #1 fear, rejection.  These are her words lifted right from her website:  “It took many, many rejections before my first book, FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAY, was finally accepted by a publisher. The worst rejection letter I ever got was that “Lady Di could be bicycling nude down the street giving this book away and nobody would read it.” Can you imagine being told that? I bet that publisher has regretted that snide comment hundreds of times. What if Jeffers had listened? What if she had given up? What if she had felt the fear and stopped?

I want to be more like Susan Jeffers and Christy Peake. I’m going to feel the fear and be courageous enough to do it anyway. What about you? As they say, life expands or contracts according to one’s courage.

A Step Farther

I recently read a sad but interesting story about Dr. John Gray, the psychologist who wrote Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.  Apparently, this story served as an impetus for some of his thinking and writing, and it was especially instrumental in the creation of Men, Women, and Relationships.

One night Gray’s father picked up a hitchhiker who proceeded to rob him and then lock him in trunk of his own car. A couple of calls alerted the police to an abandoned car, but they weren’t able to locate it. Finally, the third caller gave better directions, and the car was found. Unfortunately, by that time, Dr. Gray’s father had died of heat asphyxiation.

When Dr. Gray came home for the funeral, he got in the trunk so that he could experience what his father experienced. He could see the multiple dents that his father’s fists had made and could also put his hand through the busted out taillight. Gray’s brother suggested that he stick his arm out just a bit farther  and see if he could hit the release button for the trunk. He did and it opened. If only his father…….Dr. Gray saw this situation as a metaphor for some of life’s emotional challenges. In his mind, the trunk release button was like a person’s emotional release button;  IF they could only reach out and push it, their lives could immediately begin to change for the better.

 I, one the other hand, looked at this story as illustrative of the power of going one step farther. So many people give up and quit right before their dreams or goals are reached. I  know about a dozen people who are literally one step away from earning a Ph.D.; they’re known as A.B.D.’s, all but dissertation. WHY? Oh, I know some of the whys, and I know it’s a long, hard road to earning this degree, and yet one step farther and you’d have it, the sheepskin that would open so many doors. Is it about industry? Perseverance? Confidence? Time management? I don’t know.

I do know that when you think all is lost and you just cannot make one more step or try once more, you should keep on keeping on. It took Leonardo da Vinci years to paint The Last Supper. From what I can read, this accomplishment is even more amazing because he was reportedly a known procrastinator famous for leaving projects unfinished. If he hadn’t completed this painting, there’d be others to see and admire…but not this marvelous depiction.

I’m not up to painting any masterpieces today. Nor do I have a dissertation in the works. However, there are several unfinished projects I need to go a step or two farther with. It sounds trite, but there’s a heck of a lot of truth in the adage, “Quitters never win and winners never quit.” What’s something you need to reach a little farther for?