“Seek out opportunities to make the perfect gesture”

“Seek out opportunities to make the perfect gesture.”

Sometimes the perfect gesture means the world to a person. It’s wonderful to receive that perfect gift, or hear the perfectly timed words you need. Even more wonderful and empowering is being on the end to give the gift, or say those perfect words. When things fall into place, everyone is happy, so seek out opportunities to make the perfect gesture.

What is the perfect gesture? Having paid attention to the world around you, to your friends, and family, and being able to do something for them at the perfect moment, in the perfect way. Maybe someone really needs guidance on something, and you find them the perfect professional to speak to. Maybe someone has secretly been eyeing a book, game, or clothing, and surprising them with it makes their month. Maybe someone close really needed a hug, but was too afraid to ask for it.

The perfect gesture requires you to look around you and be attentive to the needs and wants of others. It is a completely compassionate act that is rooted in seeing someone else happy (not that it doesn’t help make yourself happy as well). The old expression goes: “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” The perfect gesture is more along the lines of “Do unto others as they wish most done unto them.”

Birthdays are the easiest opportunities for making perfect gestures. You have a whole year to gather information and find that perfect gift. But the joy you will be creating has irreplaceable value, and will stand the test of time. When you see an opportunity to make such a gesture, don’t hesitate, don’t second guess. Jump for it. It could mean the world to someone.

“Visualize the good in your life.”

“Visualize the good in your life.”

I’m still trying out different kinds of meditation. I know that many different techniques suggest that you try to clear your mind, but recently I’ve found that filling your mind can be equally (if not more) beneficial…But WHAT you fill your mind with is critical since it can set the tone for the rest of your day.

I was trying to clear my mind when a thought entered my mind from a moment when I was happiest. Rather than try to push it out in favour of “mind quiet”, I decided to let it stay for a few moments. It was followed by another very happy thought, and then shortly after that, another. In what felt like only a minute, 10 minutes had rushed by, and I had been thrust into a series of very positive, happy, memories.

When I was done the meditation, I found that my spirits were very high, and that there was much that I had to be thankful and appreciative of. The troubles of the day had completely vanished, to be replaced with something much more useful, much more beneficial.

Regardless of whether you are meditating or not, take a few minutes, 5-10 maybe, and let your mind wander into some of the happiest memories you have. Let yourself indulge in them, let yourself get lost in them for the moment. There are few things more rewarding than a reminder of a time when you were happiest, and knowing that simply by accessing that joy, your present can be influenced as well.

Happy Mediator

“The greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.”

“To laugh is to risk being a fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out to another is to risk involvement.
To express feelings is to risk exposing your true self.
To place your ideas, your dreams, before the crowd
Is to risk their loss. To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To hope is to risk despair.
To try is to risk failure.
The person who risks nothing,
Does nothing,
Has nothing and is nothing.
They may avoid suffering and sorrow, But they simply cannot learn, Feel, change, grow, love or live.
Risks must be taken because, The greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
Only a person who risks is free.”

– Leo Buscalia

It’s very easy to take the path of least resistance. That’s why its called the path of least resistance. We can all sit back in our comfort zones and hope for excitement to come at us. And sometimes it does. But more likely is that it won’t as long as we are sitting back.

The brain craves stimulation. As humans, we crave new experiences, new stimuli. Perhaps our most helpful skill is the ability to adapt, but much as we can adapt, we can also get bored easily. New experiences force us to break free from our own expectations, from what we feel are the limits of our capabilities. We push back on the walls that for so long we’ve believed, and are introduced to worlds never before imagined, or even dreamed.

To life, is to risk dying. But we take the risk anyway. Why? Because it’s worth it. If we were to let the fear of death completely consume us, our lives would never progress, we would never learn, or grow, or feel, or love.

Sure, there is a part of us that is devoted to self-preservation, that says “taking risks will threaten that self-preservation”. But the things in life that challenge us are the ones that make us grow the most. Self-preservation does not have to be preservation of one state of being. People change. People grow. Times and environments change and grow also.

And when the ride of life ends and we look back, we will never regret the things we did, as much as the things we didn’t do. Take a risk. Embrace your possibilities of potential.

“We are our parents’ children.”

“We are our parents’ children.”

Pretty obvious statement right? And it doesn’t matter if we have adoptive or biological parents, we still are their children. The debate continues over whether nature or nurture is the predominant factor in determining who we are, but there can be no denying that our parents do contribute significantly to who we end up.

Take a moment right now and look at your parents. Do they have qualities that you see in yourself? These qualities can be positive, or negative. The most obvious one can be physical features (if you’re biologically related), but perhaps more importantly are personality traits. What are some of the quirky things that parents do that you’ve noticed yourself doing?

This is an important exercise because it really helps you consider the possibility of where some of your best and worst qualities may have originated from (that isn’t to say that you dump all the blame or credit to them). By recognizing similar traits in your parents, you can determine whether you’ve acquired some of their more, or less attractive qualities. It’s important to recognize this because its so rare that we get a mirror clear enough to see ourselves in it. Parents can offer this mirror (and we are mirrors onto them as well). Take a look into the mirror and see what qualities you have that you’ve noticed they also share. Are they good? Are they bad? How can you improve on both?

Of course, despite genetics, or upbringing, we are all ultimately masters of our own destiny. See a personality trait in your parents that you share which you don’t like? Acknowledge it within yourself, and change it. See a personality trait you like, and would like to integrate in yourself, inquire about it, practice it, and slowly let it integrate itself into your life.

In essence, parents are teachers, whether or not we want them to be. They can teach and influence us not only through example, but also as examples of what NOT to do. Take a look in the mirror. What do you see?

Parents and Baby

“Teach someone something new.”

“Teach someone something new.”

There are few joys as beneficial to the self, and to others, as teaching. There are many stages of understanding something, and it is said that being able to teach someone truly demonstrates that you have grasped the information. But beyond that, it also reinforces what you have learned, and helps you process it even better. That’s the benefit to the self.

Teaching others gives them the benefit of the information you already know. Taking the time also shows your enthusiasm, and your desire to teach them, which has a tiny feelgood effect as well for everyone involved. They walk away having learned something new, and you walk away having learned how to communicate and articulate what you’ve learned. Everyone wins.

Take some time today and think about the things you have learned. They can be philosophical, inspirational, or topic related. It can be a skill that comes naturally to you, or something that you have made a habit. What are some things you are very knowledgeable about? Who can benefit from that knowledge? Then, think of the reverse: what are some things you would like to learn? Who are some of the people who know enough about the topic to teach you?

There is something truly remarkable about teaching, and learning between friends. Humans aren’t born knowing many of the skills they use in their lifetime, and although the most basic skills we figure out ourselves, the ones that allow us to function and contribute to society are those we have learned through others. As children, we have no shame asking for instruction. It’s why children are infamous for that wonderfully enlightened question: “WHY?” Don’t shy away from learning, or teaching. Continue that wonderful cycle, and teach, and learn, and enjoy doing it while you’re at it!

Teacher

“Consider whether its time to vent.”

“Consider whether its time to vent.”

When something goes wrong, it’s natural to want to vent to someone else. As social creatures, we enjoy sharing our joys, hopes, and dreams with one another…and sometimes we seek out sympathy from others for our troubles. But recently I’ve been wondering if venting for the purpose of venting is really a good idea. Sure, it helps us reflect and externalize any internal thoughts or concerns we may have, but it can also drag us back into the mud instead of helping us move on.

I’ve found that if you’ve already processed or reflected on what went wrong and have moved on, maybe it would be best not to vent. Venting can take you back to the point when things went wrong, and rather than helping you move forward, it can drag you backwards unintentionally. We vent, and sometimes in doing so we end up triggering the very emotions that we felt shortly after something went wrong.

When we vent, we don’t usually seek advice. In fact, if you’ve ever wanted to just vent and someone offers their advice (“Here’s what I think you should do…”), the reaction is almost always defensive in nature because we feel we aren’t being listened to. Venting isn’t something that needs fixing, its something that needs ‘doing’, and as good natured our friends may be in offering some advice, we may simply not be receptive to it.

Venting Person

Venting can be very healthy however, but perhaps there should be a bit more consideration on what the purpose of venting is before venting actually begins. Is it to generate sympathy? Is it to help you understand what happened? Is it to let off some steam? Depending on the purpose, venting may or may not be a good idea.

Recently, I’ve realized that once I’ve already reflected on something that I previously wanted to vent about, venting later on has a negative effect because it only triggers the same frustrations that I had supposedly moved on from. Emotions can be very addictive, and the act of constantly venting can help feed and enable that addiction.

So the next time you want to vent, take one small step back and ask yourself WHY you are venting, and whether venting will help or hinder you from moving on. Sometimes you may even have to begin venting before you realize exactly what positive or negative effect it has on you. If you do decide to vent, give whoever is listening a heads up that the point is just to vent. It can help them better help you in the situation as well.

“Follow completion with a reward.”

“Follow completion with a reward.”

We all have ways of unwinding after a long period of hard work. Maybe it’s a long day and you’re finally home to relax. Maybe you’ve just handed in a paper. Maybe you’ve completed a project. Whatever it is, take some time and truly appreciate the hard work you put into it, reflect on why it mattered, and then indulge in a little victory celebration.

For many who still remember their college years, it was not uncommon to head out to a bar following the submission of a major project, or finishing a final exam. A “victory celebration” can take many different forms. It could be a night in to relax. It could be some exercise. And yes, it can be a night of shenanigans. However you celebrate, be sure you do something to reward yourself so that the next time you are in the thick of things, you have something to look forward to.

Having something to look forward to can be a powerful motivator when energy runs low. We are so used to instant gratification that we can sometimes lose sight of the big picture. Having a reward to look forward to is a good way to stay focused on the bigger picture, and push ourselves that extra stretch to get done what needs doing.

In the long run, this little break to celebrate small and large victories is a great way to prevent burnout. In the time we are relaxing, we are recouping, giving our minds and bodies a chance to relax. Emotionally, we should all give ourselves some freedom from stress immediately after finishing something.

With increasingly busy lives, taking this moment to pause a little longer than usual, and indulge in the things we most enjoy, immediately after finishing something big, is critical to our long term happiness, and short term motivation.

Victory

“Take a moment to reflect on national pride.”

“Take a moment to reflect on national pride.”

Today is Canada Day. In 3 days it will be Independence Day in the US. In both countries, people will be celebrating the birth of their nation with the waving of flags, loud cheering, and a sign of tremendous national pride.

But behind the very strong sense of connectedness that people may feel today (and on other dates that represent the birth of other nations), its a good practice to stop and pause for a moment and invest a few minutes into remembering WHY you have pride in your nation.

Give yourself a moment on those days, and pause. What is it about your country that makes it worth celebrating? Is it the people? Is it the history? Is it the culture? Is it all of the above? Something more? Perhaps something else entirely?

What are the things that make you proud to call yourself a citizen of that nation? What are the things that make you proud to be there? What are the reasons that you or your families migrated to where you are now? Greater freedom? Better health care? Better education? Freedom from harsh weather conditions? Oppression?

Whatever it is that fills your heart with a sense of national pride, take a moment and understand it, and appreciate it. Remember what and why it is you are celebrating.

…and then return to the thunderous applause of your fellow nation members.

Happy Canada Day to everyone in Canada!

Canada Day Ottawa

“Learn to write for fun.”

“Learn to write for fun.”

Throughout the day, we have to write for a variety of tasks. We prepare reports, memos, research, take notes, all of which require writing. But the more we write in these formats, the harder it may become to just let ourselves write creatively, and for fun. As important as it is to exercise our minds and bodies, its a good idea to exercise your ability to just write without inhibition.

Maybe its writing a letter, maybe its writing in a journal, maybe its just writing in point form, prose, or story. Whatever it is, practice the art of writing so that you give your mind a chance to explore without the confines of the usual structures of reports or essays.

It doesn’t take much time, or effort, at least not first…and if it really does take effort to simply write, then its a good idea to make it routine so you don’t lose the freedom to be creative. Set aside 10-15 minutes (or more if you want) each day to clear your mind by taking whats in it (troubles, worries, hopes, dreams, events that happened during the day), and putting it out on a page.

In a short while, you will have a record of your thoughts, hopes, dreams, a reflection of the person you are. Many years down the road, you will be thankful you spent a little bit of time on yourself. Externalizing the internal helps us process it, and writing is a perfect way to channel it.

It really doesn’t matter what it is you write, as long as it is written instinctively. Don’t worry about perfect grammar, don’t worry about bad hand writing, don’t worry about the quality of writing. Write without inhibition. Close your mind to the distractions around you, and just write. Without any barriers holding you back, you will be writing honestly, and straight from the heart.

Create without restriction. And have fun doing it.

Live to Write

“Start the day with an excited refreshed attitude.”

“Start the day with an excited refreshed attitude.”

I’m not a morning person. I don’t do mornings. Never have, and likely never will. When I get out of bed, it takes me a full hour to be truly alert. During that hour, I am sluggish, half conscious, and need the space I need to undergo my morning transformation into a fully functioning member of society. That said, I’ve noticed that setting the tone in the morning definitely has an effect on the rest of the day.

Cranky

Regardless of whether or not you’re an early bird or not, its a good idea to wake up every morning feeling refreshed. Part of that feeling comes from having received enough sleep the night before. Another part is purely psychological: its the attitude we wake up with. Now although your body may be sluggish and your mind may be slow, its still possible to have a positive attitude towards the day.

Rather than seeing waking up as an inconvenience (believe me, it sure feels that way sometimes), treat it more as an opportunity to start anew, a chance to be better, do better, live better. Spend a few quick moments in bed (without falling back asleep) to think about what you have accomplished, and what you have to be thankful for. Then do the same with what you hope to accomplish throughout the day. Then, get out of bed and begin your routine.

If you have a list (and I suggest preparing one the night before), add to it, review it, and start conquering each item one at a time. If you have morning routine, enjoy it as much as possible. If not, consider starting one that works for you and doesn’t leave you rushed and out of energy by the time you start your day.

Attitude can be a snowball effect, so the earlier you start during the day, the more momentum it can gain. Start with a negative attitude in the morning and it could be difficult to break later on. Start with a positive attitude in those first few moments and you will have significantly more momentum and inertia to accept and conquer the challenges of the day.

And if worse comes to worse and the day still doesn’t improve, let go of your negativity and remember…Tomorrow is a new day 🙂

Sunrise Tree

Additional Food For Thought

Upgrade Your Morning