Determined

I have had a reputation of being a bit of a control freak. Okay, I added ‘bit’; I am sure others leave it out of the sentence when they say it. I prefer to think of myself as being determined; it has a nicer ring to it. I am growing, I have and do, let go of things. I don’t let some things bother me as much, I don’t feel like I need to be in charge of everything, I don’t feel like it all has to be done my way. Other things, I still feel that way. I am growing but sometimes it feels like my growth isn’t keeping up with schedule, the procedures, not producing the outcomes at the right times. Not even my growth can follow instructions!

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Although I have been known to be a ‘bit’ of a control freak, I think I am also known as someone who gets things done. I am the manager of certain things. I am not the manager of other things. If I am managing a towel closet and want the towels folded a specific way to help in the management of the towels, then I am doing my job. If procedures are followed, then I don’t have to overhaul that closet weekly. If I don’t have to overhaul that closet weekly I have that time to devote to something else. That may mean managing another closet.

I listen to podcasts regularly and very often highly successful people are interviewed. They often have 7 businesses and 3 charities and they work out and have families. They are not controlling the minutia of each event in the businesses and charities, but as they built their companies one at a time, systems were put in place for employees to follow. They have some control but they have delegated what needs to be done within the systems.

When our kids were young, and I managed the house with kids who are young, we had a lot of rules. If I had to outline them to someone…there were a lot of rules. In fact one time I was talking to someone and she said, “Wow, you have a lot of rules”. That’s when I thought about it and realized we had a lot of rules. The rules didn’t get written down or spouted off or even made at any one time, they evolved with each ‘crisis’ that happened.  “I cleaned up the cat puke last time” and “Why do I have to take out the compost” became: the pet person of the week (weekly rotations) cleans up all pet messes and the sweeper takes out the compost. So many rules, so little conflict, so much security, so much initiative, so little management.

So, back to control. A little can go a long way with systems. I fall so short on this when managing myself. I struggle with my own systems and rules. An example, writing my weekly blog post. If I were a control freak with myself, it would get done earlier in the week, or on a specific day (I actually had that in mind when I committed to one post a week) and a specific time. If I were to make and follow a system, I would block out a specific time to work on and complete it. I would have a backup rule. Despite getting it done later than I plan most weeks, I am determined to get it done and I have been getting a post done a week. Perhaps I need to reevaluate my systems.

If I were more of a control freak I would exercise more. It seems to some I do a lot but there are times I struggle to get my 10,000 steps in for the day. Not always because I don’t have ‘time’, but often because I just don’t want to go for a walk or run. I am determined to get steps in, and to exercise so I sign up for bootcamp, dance class, commit to wallyball and basketball; it is my way to override my lack of drive with my determination.

When spring eventually comes and I will have a chance to ride my bike, I will have to put systems in place. I will find reasons to not go for a ride, I will struggle with motivation. It is all fun and exciting for the first trip out, then the memories of sore seat and the efforts required for a long ride will be realized and the next time will be more difficult to begin as my brain tries to protect my body from doing that again. I will have to get tough with myself because one of the systems I put in place is a small cycling trip coming up soon. I need to have a little experience on the bike for the season to be successful when the time comes.

Whether it is control, determination, management, systems, rules, paths to success, there are many reasons someone may seem like a control freak, and they may just be. I will neither admit to nor deny it, but I will continue to call myself determined while constantly working to be more of a control freak with myself. It is the path to success, in many areas of life, that I am choosing.

 

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Cracks In The Pavement

Hours in the hot sun, heat reflecting off the highway asphalt, baking and parched, feeling the strain from the prairie winds, seeing for miles but not seeing relief in sight. There were days out on the dusty trail exactly like that. Sometimes the wind was with us, sometimes not, but the heat was great and the road was long.

Traveling 90-140 km a day by bicycle is not for those who are not weak in spirit. Back before children, I went on a cycling trip with a friend who was a self professed non-athlete. People who knew her doubted her ability to cross the mountains. I knew her well enough to know she was stubborn…hmmm I mean had a strong mind. It doesn’t take a strong body to cross mountain ranges and hot prairies on a bicycle, it takes a strong mind. Life’s endurance competitions and challenges follow the same rules. Whether it’s sports, business, relationships or any other long term goals, a little strength, a little talent, a bit of knowledge helps, but it’s the persistence and resilience that comes from the mind that gets you to the finish line.

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Just like cracks in cement, frost heaving creates cracks in the asphalt. For the cyclist they are an annoyance when they run across the highway. The constant bump each time you hit one is annoying, and you don’t want to hit a wide one, they hurt. In the mountains, they run down the hill. Riding down the hill, you avoid them because the tire can roll into them and cause a disaster, especially at high speeds.

Riding along the shoulder of the road, one can see resilience in the weeds that grow in the cracks. Sometimes it’s greenery but other times there are tiny little flowers blooming. Even the tiniest of cracks can have a weed growing up, sometimes a single little plant. Riding along the shoulder for hours gets a person to thinking and pondering. One can think and ponder on the heat and the distance yet to go, or how painful one’s backside is getting; or one can contemplate the distance one has traveled, envision the destination du jour; dream of the shower and meal at the end of the day. Or… one can get more philosophical and consider the things of weeds and flowers growing in the cracks on the shoulder and on the side of the road, covered in dust and looking a little more haggard than the cyclist with 20 km to go.

The weeds in the cracks are very much like negative thoughts that creep in as we go about our lives. We have a little upset in our day and those negative phrases pop up, making that frost heave more apparent and continuing to grow, creating a bigger crevice. We need to guard against those weeds. When something doesn’t go as planned, look at the positives. Not every crack in the road will turn out to be a positive but we can guard against the weeds of thought that drag us down and discourage us from pushing forward. As we focus on the positives, we are able to be resilient; we are able to have endurance and ride out the storms in life.

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We can learn from the resilient plant. We can guard against the weeds of negative thoughts that crop up. We can emulate the tiny flower that grows up in the sandy spaces of the concrete or pavement. Because they are resilient, they endure, they reach for the sky. We can do so much more with so much more. Reach for the sky.

 

Just Move

A couple weeks ago I heard a story: A farmer and his wife were retiring for the day after a satisfying day of work. As the farmer was falling asleep he heard a sound just outside the window. Alerted awake, the farmer listened intently. Sure enough he heard it again; the dog outside the window on the porch moaned. “Did you hear that?”, he asked his wife. “Yes”. Then there was a small whimper. They listened a little longer and there was a tiny whine from the dog. The farmer got up, put on his robe and went to check on the dog. A few moments later the farmer returned. “Is the dog okay?” the wife inquired. “Yes” was the reply. “What was wrong?”, she queried. “He was lying on a nail” the farmer responded. “Well why didn’t he move” the wife asked? “I don’t know; I guess he was comfortable”.

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Ohhh…I have been guilty of that. I can’t even claim that it was when I was young and less experienced in life. How often do we whine, moan, and/or complain about something in life but when it comes to making a change, we don’t because we are comfortable.

Change isn’t comfortable; it can be downright uncomfortable. It is easier sometimes to stay on the nail, whine and moan, complain to whoever will listen, probably feel sorry for oneself, rather than to do something that has an unclear outcome.

It’s not even just the big things, like when feeling trapped in a job. Some of the most common areas of comfort and complaint are not complicated to change. How often do people complain about being overweight, then reach for seconds or snacks? How about those who say, “I need to exercise” but then say “I just don’t like to be sore”, or “I don’t like the feeling of being breathless” or “I would love to ride my bike but I don’t want a sore butt”? Maybe those things aren’t for you. Maybe your nail isn’t very sharp. Perhaps yor pain point isn’t to the level of wanting to change. If you are complaining, whining, moaning about your situation, perhaps it’s a sign.

You are not a tree, just move!  If taking a leap of faith isn’t the solution, then taking one small step on firm ground is. Not every step will look the same but we must be willing to take the step.

At the beginning of the year we were looking at little to no vacation time. In January we went to a vision board workshop and made vision boards. One of the items on our boards is cycling/cycling trip. To continue our trip across Canada we would need 3 weeks worth of time to make the trek to Sault St. Marie to begin and to ride for a couple weeks and return. We have not been able to continue our trip for various reasons over the last couple years and this year is no different. About a month ago, my husband informed me he has a bit of vacation time. Being obsessed with doing a little riding, I considered some options. One of the things I have been planning after finishing our cross Canada trip, is to go to Vancouver Island to cycle. So, because of the vision board, because of thinking outside the box and because of past thoughts, an idea was born. Then I talked to a few people about it. We like to have a support vehicle. Our daughter called one day and said her friend would like to go with us and if we go at a specific time she could be our support. So a date and support vehicle were set, and in a couple of months a cycling tour should happen (barring emergency/tragedy situations). I am pretty pumped and looking forward to begin training (cycling) as soon as the weather permits. Small steps…goal in sight.

What do you do when moving seems impossible? That’s when thinking outside the box comes in. That’s when you pull out all the crafty supplies and magazines and make a vision board. That’s when you start talking with others about what you want to do (accountability and collaboration) and over time, the path you are on changes. A small shift in what you do daily will make a big shift in where you end up.

 

 

The Upside of A Hill

Although there is something to be said for warm weather all the time (living in those tropical places where the seasons don’t change much) there is also something to be said for living in a place where the seasons are so distinct. Each change of seasons brings a bounty of memories and thoughts of the activities that come with the season. The first signs of spring, sometimes late in February or early in March (but not this year) induce longing to get on my bike. But before that ever comes to fruition, there are other things that make spring such a blessing.

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One of the things I love about spring when the weather starts to get warmer is opening the windows. Nothing like airing out the place. Spring cleaning is an activity that has spanned a lot of lifetimes past. It is that time of opening the windows and cleaning in preparation for the anticipated time when we will be outdoors and no longer have the time or energy to spend on working on the menial tasks of deep cleaning. When I lived in a larger house one of the things I loved to do was change around the furniture. Changing ones environment is a sure way to keep the juices flowing and the motivation high. What an awesome feeling to walk into a room that has been cleaned but also looks so new and fresh. In my home now, changing the position of furniture isn’t as possible but I love to change the accessories out from winter colours and items to spring items, a little white; some lace and flowers make the space feel like spring/summer.

I love that the changes are a comfort. So often we look at change as something that isn’t comfortable but these types of changes make me happy. Who doesn’t like freshening up? Who doesn’t enjoy a nice serene environment? There are times though that we think a change will be bad or uncomfortable so we avoid it. We perceive the change to not be helpful or painful or more work (so is cleaning the house and changing furniture) and once we do it find it was so worth it.

Exercise is so much like that but I want to get back to cycling because it’s on my mind, so I will use the example from an article I wrote for a magazine a few years ago:

The ups and downs are better than level ground. I remember when I started cycling and didn’t want to ride where there were hills. I have introduced a number of people to distance cycling and they all have voiced their preference for riding on flat terrain. There is something to be said for flat terrain; it is easier than climbing a hill. When you are going up hill, you have to push harder. Yes, you gear down and yes you go slower, which all helps but it is still more effort to go up than it is to ride on level ground. The reward after the climb is more often than not, the ride down the hill. Some are afraid of the downhill speed so they don’t like hills up nor down.

Having ridden long distances in the mountains, on hills and across the prairies, there is something I learned pretty quickly. When doing 100 km a day, 4-6 hours in the saddle, you don’t want to in the same position for the whole time. It becomes very uncomfortable; when you change position it feels better. Think about when you sit on a hard chair for hours. After a time you start feeling uncomfortable and you might move around a bit, lean forward, slide down and slouch, cross your legs etc. When you are on a bike seat, you have limited movement on it when your feet are clipped in to the pedals while peddling. You are moving your legs, might move your hands around to different positions but your seat is really taking sitting the same way unless you stand a bit or slide forward or back. However, when you start to up a hill, you change the position on the seat slightly, more of a change of angle of pressure points. When you go down the hill, the same thing happens however you are not peddling so you are able to lift off the seat while standing on the pedals coasting. This relieves the pressure points for a time. Over the course of the day riding, these small movements can have a big impact on what one is feeling in the saddle, first physically then mentally. Change in terrain makes a huge difference and is more comfortable than 100 km of flat terrain. The downside of a hill is the upside, and the upside of a hill is the downside.

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I love the change of the seasons and each year look forward to new things as the seasons change. I am so looking forward to getting out on my bike this year, in some ways I feel more than other years and I don’t know why but I will will take it. I am looking forward to riding with new people this year. I am lining up some people and dates will follow. If anyone in the area is wanting to ride with me, let me know. Also, planning a cycling trip. It is in the baby stages so far but definitely will blog about it.

I hope you are all having a great spring start and find one thing that you can change that will bring about joy in your life.

Change Perspective

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change” (Wayne Dyer). This quote caught my attention this past week in a podcast I was listening to. Seems a coincidence that I decided to have ‘change’ as the theme for the month and a few days later I hear that quote. It likely isn’t the first time I have heard the quote, but it seemed ironic in it’s meaning as well. It wasn’t just change, it was about seeing things differently. In actuality it is ‘frequency illusion’ (also known as Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon). The example often given to explain frequency illusion is this: when you buy a new car and then you see that same vehicle everywhere when you didn’t see them before. It’s not that people went out the same day and bought the same car, it’s now that you have familiarity, you have a heightened awareness and notice it.

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Aside from the frequency illusion perspective, which is really great for kickstarting a change, changing the way you look at things will have more concrete outcomes in changing what you look at. But what does it mean to change how we look at things. For myself, I have been reading a lot of books over the last couple of years. I have been listening to a lot of podcasts. I have talked to a lot of people. A couple years ago, I knew nothing of real estate investing. I knew nothing of social marketing. Exposing myself to new ideas and trying different things, I have become familiar and comfortable with new ideas.

The saying ‘you are the average of the ten people you spend your time with’ is another way we change our perspective. If we spend time with negative people who moan about the sky falling we may have the perspective that the sky is falling and over time we will believe it and believe we are realists. If we remove from that group of people and spend time with people who believe (and live like) the sky is the limit, we will gain that perspective and start living like the sky is the limit.

Changing perspective by changing how we look at things is so much easier said than done. The sermon at my church this weekend was another cog in the wheel of this theme.  Like the Israelites wandering in the desert after leaving Egypt, we want to turn back to what we knew before, rather than continue on a path that might bring about uncertain change. We fear the unknown, are comfortable in the known,  and comfortable in our slavery.

As we age, I believe it gets worse. People as they get older become more comfortable in their world and their world gets a little smaller year by year as they feel less able to do some of the things they did in the past. How do we then prevent our world from shrinking and actually have expansion in our life.

Do things that scare you. Push through the fear of new things and do it anyway. Do the hard thing. Get out of your comfort zone.

Exercise. Yes, I said it. When a person exercises, gets the heart pounding and causing laboured breathing, he/she will have a change in brain chemistry but also a different perspective. Not the first one of “What the heck am I doing; I hate this”, but the mindset of “I did it, and didn’t die”. This helps a person feel like they can do things in other areas of life as well.

Hang out with people who bring you up. Be with people who will challenge your thinking. Find someone to exercise with and push you to do physical things you wouldn’t normally consider. Don’t find like minded people, find people who will challenge you to be who you want to be.

Take time for silence with your sights and sounds. All around us we are bombarded with ads, with voices of other people, with social media and with television and radio. There is a rushing around to get things done and often crowds of people. In the silence, just breathe.

Control the input. All the things bombarding us can be overwhelming. We can decide what we watch, listen to, and what we are looking at on social media. Make sure it is driving you forward not digging you an emotional grave.

Practice gratitude for your attitude. When you are grateful it is difficult to be miserable. If you are grateful you are able to get through tough times and when you are grateful you have more energy and light in all you do.

Finally figure out what you want. Who do you want to be? The tasks you do today become your results for tomorrow. What are you doing today to get the results you want tomorrow. If you don’t change your perspective, things will stay generally the same until there is a forced change (no one likes that). If you orchestrate the changes, and construct your vision for yourself and start taking steps in the right direction, you will grow and you will see things differently.

Change

The only constant in life is change. Each year a couple months after New Years I have another opportunity to reflect on my life. In reality, I don’t wait for a special occasion but you know…sometimes a birthday makes one think on the past year and reflect on the ramifications of getting older. Don’t get me wrong, getting older is better than the alternative. Despite the rolling over of the calendar however, one doesn’t need to become laden with the foreboding feeling of the years passing by as many do. Some people are known to mourn the loss of a previous decade or worry about entering a new decade…that’s so not me. Maybe it’s because I don’t always act my age.

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What is acting your age? Age is such a specific number that has such variable meanings on people’s bodies and minds. There is no denying as we grow older our body does age and the reality is we won’t be getting out alive. The changes we experience are created by variances in each individual. Much of the changes are can be modified by how we think and what we do.

Having read Spark by John J Ratey MD, and Fast After 50 by Joel Friel I have realized there is science behind the idea of our bodies not aging to the extent we may believe. I am inspired by those athletes in their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s who push the limits of societal markers for age, who are dispelling myths of how one imagines those ages to look (or who have seen it first hand in themselves or others) and who are breaking down barriers in what is ‘deemed’ physically possible by society. Sadly most people look at those inspirational people and believe them to be anomalies in physicality and don’t recognize the anomaly is actually in their mindset: what they are willing to accept (or not) and what they are willing to do to that end.

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Barring illness and injury, we can apply this to so many aspects of our life while we age with only a sprinkle of realism. Let’s face it, realism will pop up it’s ugly head without our help, so don’t entertain it more than a sprinkle at a time and only for health and safety reasons. Whether you think you are too old for something, or think you aren’t, you’re right!

I have decided to do monthly theme’s for my blog posts and thus my personal growth, because when you have a word of the year, or word of the month, you will think of it, it will pop up in conversation, you will question it, you will notice it and you will work on all those things to grow. So for me this month’s theme is change and the next few blog posts will focus on change. I am getting this post out a little late in the week but want to continue to push toward consistency. It is International Women’s Day today, so a shout out to all the women who push the boundaries of expectation and age in all things they do.

For all those reading, I want you to journey with me this month in thinking about change. In this post I talked about what we can physically do in a broad sense. Are you doing all you can or are you using age as a reason not to? Are you sure you can’t do something? Yes I realize we don’t want to do some things; is not doing what you don’t want to do, serving you? Is there something (a way to get your heart pumping, get more steps, move your body) that you prefer over others? Are you willing to entertain finding something you will like (or tolerate) to start? We all struggle with the barriers in our minds; questioning our thoughts is a huge step in breaking away the barriers sometimes a pebble at a time.

As spring is approaching I hope you are encouraged by the promise of new beginnings, continued growth and increased abundance. Have a great rest of your week.

Dawn

 

Better Together

Having strength and independence can be a driving factor for success in life. Knowing what you want and how to get it, standing through the trials of life is not always easy; Having personal tools to get through the tough times is important. Despite being strong and independent having a partner not only helps on the journey but makes it so much more pleasant. Throughout life we have opportunities to work with others and partner in different areas of life, whether life (spouse, family, friends), work (partners, coworkers), sports (team mates, fellow participants) and a few more areas. Some people are there for the long haul, others in a moment. Going along together not only brings more joy but also connection which as humans we long for.

I am thankful for my husband. We work really well together. Not always…that would be weird. But as we have grown together so has our ability to work better together. There is a comfort in knowing one person will take care of something when it needs doing. There is a comfort knowing someone will do something for you when you are less knowledgeable or comfortable with the task. And there is an ease with which each person fulfills the duties needed to get to an endpoint.

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This was back a number of years ago at the beginning of one of our bike trips. I really need to get more photos of us together when we are cycling.

I was thinking of this topic yesterday morning. One of the things I love about winter is Sunday puttering. Since we have both taken to reading our Sunday mornings start with coffee and reading whatever each of us is reading. When there is something interesting we take a moment and share and discuss a bit about it, then resume. Ideally we would read the same book and discuss as we go but we aren’t there yet, having our own book lists we are trying to get through. Once spring comes we will be pressed for things to get done as well as trying to get out on our bikes training for some longer distances.

One of the things about cycling long distance is the challenge of the journey. Most of the time it is an individual challenge. We each ride our own bike. We aren’t chatting along the way. Really we are moving along spending time in our own heads. That in itself can be a positive (or not) experience. Of course there is the odd comment about something we are riding past and we stop for breaks along the way. I need to stop more often as I am not as strong. I know my limits and make sure we stop when I need to even when he doesn’t need to. Although Lorne doesn’t often initiate the break, the breaks are helpful to his wellbeing as well. Breaks are necessary when you are going day after day unless of course you have trained for one of the long completion tours which we haven’t and we are not as young as those people either. So we take breaks, we check in on each other. I usually lead to set the pace but if there is a strong headwind he will go ahead and draft for me. We compromise…I will push harder than I might otherwise because I don’t want to slow him down and he will concede to end our journey at 100 km instead of the 120 he was wanting to reach, because I am thoroughly exhausted and don’t feel I can go any further. Cycling is just one snippet of our lives. We do so much more but it is the one thing we love together.

We also love to travel and have had the opportunities in the last 5-6 years to do a bit more traveling. We have traveled as a couple and we have traveled as a couple with other couples. Traveling with someone else changes the dynamics of the trip of course. Knowing yourselves and the other people is helpful in knowing where you might clash. We have been fortunate to travel with people who we mesh well enough with and whom we have created cherished memories through wonderful experiences.

Working well together and partnering with each other takes a lot of work and it isn’t always pretty. We are human and have our ‘things’. Willingness to do the work required to make it successful it probably the biggest contributor to partnering. My husband and I have that commitment and generally we are pretty nice people so that helps. It also helps when working with other people.

We had the opportunity to joint venture with partners last year on a project. The success of the joint venture partnership through trials faced can be attributed to each person’s willingness to work hard, to be strong but flexible, to work independently but together, to do what each is good at, to have the willingness to learn new skills to contribute to the project, to concede to someone’s vision and have them concede to yours, to negotiate, to forgive, to be forgiven, to sometimes feel inadequate and others to feel like you made the jackpot happen. There are so many growth opportunities in working and contributing together. Working with other also makes us better in working with each other.

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From last year at a wedding in Colombia. We traveled with our business partners and are grateful for that time.

Over the years we have grown. There is a comfort in knowing my husband and I are each taking care of the things we take care of. Not a comfort of complacency; that may happen if we weren’t challenging ourselves in so many other areas, but a a comfort in knowing while we challenge ourselves, the basics are cared for. Sure we could each go it alone, but as long as we don’t have to, we won’t. We are better together.