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Enjoy Your Day, Slow Things Down

The rate of the passage of time is largely based on your perception

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Happy Independence Day! On this day, as with all days, the purveyors of news and information, as well as of spin and propaganda, and outright distortions of reality, would prefer to have you ingest their ‘products’ 24/7/365. Fortunately, you have options.

Most of what you experience each day, in terms of the passage of time, is based on your perception. As such, you can ‘slow down’ time if you choose. How? Whenever you feel you’re racing the clock or trying to tackle too much at once, try this exercise:

Close your eyes for a minute and imagine a pleasant scene. You might be surrounded by trees or with a loved one. It could be something from childhood. Let the emotions of that place and time predominate. Get into it! Give yourself more than a New York minute for the visualization to take hold.

Trending on PolitiCrossing.com: Academic Underachievement As a Permanent Condition

Then, open your eyes and return to what you’re doing. Your task now is never quite so bad and whatever pace you were working at is never quite so feverish.

More Reflection

Imagine you’re flying on an airplane. You have a window seat, and it’s a clear day. As you gaze down to the ground below, what do you see? Life passing by. Cars the size of ants. Miniature baseball diamonds. Rivers the size of streams.

There is something about being at great heights that enables you to reflect on your life. The same thing can occur place from the top of a mountain or skyscraper.

As often as possible when things seem to be racing by too fast, get to higher ground for a clear perspective. If you’re among the lucky, perhaps you regularly allocate time for reflection or meditation. If you don’t, no matter.

Change Your Medium

I have long used water to reduce stress. For eleven years, I lived in a high rise condominium in Falls Church, Virginia, complete with its own 25 meter pool. No matter how hard I worked during the day, even if I did a 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. stint, at 6:05 p.m. I was in the pool.

After 30 minutes of laps, I had swum out many of the stresses and strains of the day. So, find the swimming pool nearest you!

Rely On The Animal Kingdom

If you have a dog or cat and do not consider it a drain on your time, here’s a little something about Rover or Mittens that you might not have known. In recent years, as reported by U.S. News & World Report, scientists have found proof for what was only once suspected: that contact with animals has specific and measurable effects on both your body and mind.

The mere presence of animals can increase a sick person’s chances of survival, and has been shown to lower heart rate, calm disturbed children and induce non-communicative people to initiate conversation!

The exact mechanisms that animals exert to affect your health and well-being are still largely mysterious. Scientists suspect that animal companionship is beneficial because, unlike human interaction, it is uncomplicated. Animals are nonjudgmental, accepting and attentive; they don’t talk back, criticize, or give orders. Animals have a unique capacity to draw people out.

Even if you only have goldfish, simply staring at them in their silent world might help deaden your traveling pace.

But Wait, there’s More

Want other ways to make it all “slow down”? After the workday, listen to relaxing music with headphones, and close your eyes. A half hour of your favorite music with no disturbances (and your eyes closed) can seem almost endless. When you re-emerge, the rest of the day takes on a different tenor.

Another effective method for catching up with today is periodically deleting three items from your “to do list” without doing them at all. Before you shriek, consider that much of what makes your list is arbitrary. Often, eliminating three items won’t impact your career or life, except for freeing up a little time for yourself in the present.

Ideas for Catching up with Today
1. Constantly read your list of priorities and goals.
2. Challenge and defeat your own ritual behavior.
3. Consider the outcome of not handling something.
4. Convincingly, but politely, say no.
5. Call rather than visit.

6. Clean off your desk of everything but the task at hand.
7. Clear your files of everything that can be recycled.
8. Cancel something that you had already scheduled.
9. Covet what you already have.
10. Choose to get a good night’s sleep every night.

Ideas for Catching up with this Week
1. Telecommute at least once a week.
2. Consume vital information, not what you think you must know.
3. One day each week, don’t read anything.
4. Get dressed each morning without a radio or TV on.
5. Weekly, do something fun on the way home from work.

6. Select news shows that astutely cover issues.
7. Wed out extra paper entering your “personal kingdom.”
8. Begin thinking about your next vacation.
9. Make a lunch date with a friend, not a co-worker or client.
10. Pause for ten separate minutes throughout each day.

Allow yourself to take breaks. When you consider the ways you add unnecessary pressures to your day, you begin to see many ways to catch up with today, or at least with this week.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



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Education

Academic Underachievement As a Permanent Condition

Academic achievement occurs through individual effort: One boy and one girl after another rising above

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On the state and local level, as decisions are made about how and in what form we will educate the nation’s children, an age-old issue remains. The underlying causes of income inequality and civil unrest likely has less to do with media-inflamed coverage and more to do with a lingering issue that few people want to earnestly discuss: educational disparity.

In virtually every U.S. school system, the disparity year after year, decade after decade, and even longer, in mathematics competency, reading proficiency, test scores, honor roll status, and graduation rates, between African American students and other students is disturbing.

A Disturbing Reality

Here in the third decade of the third millennium, with a male African American high school dropout rate at 40% across the U.S., can anyone view the situation optimistically? Any responsible American would understandably be concerned.

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As Eric Hanushek, who is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, as well as a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, exclaimed “It’s remarkable.” Following his extensive analysis of the situation, he remarked, “I knew that the gap hadn’t been closing too much, but when I actually looked at the data I was myself surprised.”

In one community after another, and one school system after another, when strenuous efforts to bridge the gap do not bear fruit, invariably someone yells “foul,” as if some grand conspiracy is occurring and a magic wand, yet to be waved, could suddenly redress all. And, as if hard-working, dedicated teachers are not attempting their utmost for each of their students.

An Undesired Path

Consider the school system in Chapel Hill-Carrboro, North Carolina. This locale, deemed, “The southern part of heaven,” by a variety of writers, is among the most progressive in the United States. The teachers and educators here have a vested interest in demonstrating that their school system, beyond all others, can succeed in the vital area of closing achievement gaps between whites and minorities.

Nevertheless, year in and year out the gap remains. So, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education becomes primed to try anything! Another in an endless line of supposed “fixes” was to eliminate the advanced math classes in the middle schools and to lump all non-pre-algebra students together, with similar plans to eliminate other advanced classes such as in language arts.

Just as you cannot easily erect a sound building on quicksand, and you cannot expect to solve a decades-old problem by starting with a shaky foundation. Taking a lowest common denominator approach to developing school curriculum has never consistently worked, anywhere. It frustrates the students and dramatically increases a teacher’s burden – all such students must then be taught at individual learning speeds. Do you know any superhuman teachers? If so, could you afford them?

Face the Real Issues

Permanently closing the academic gap between underachieving students and the rest of the student population requires addressing reality – airing the truth about the disparity – not resorting to politically “correct” psychobabble and curricula finagling for another ten years, and then another ten, and then another.

This disparity encompasses such issues as the number of hours the television is on in given households, family or parental encouragement for completing homework assignments, a regular workspace, and established hours for studying in a quiet environment, among other factors.

Until solid analysis, exploration, and programs that address these issues are undertaken, no amount of wrangling with classes will prove to be the “winning formula.” And, school boards will have no chance of effectively addressing the continuing problem of poor academic performance among student groups.

In Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story The Sign of Four, detective Sherlock Holmes says, “…When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” The schools in U.S. communities routinely exhaust talented teachers with a task that cannot be solved by them, nor is it theirs to solve.

Students Eager to Learn

However improbable to those who wish to pretend otherwise, academic achievement occurs through individual effort: One boy and one girl after another rising above and cracking the books, then coming to class as serious students, eager to learn, and primed to excel. Such achievement is not likely to occur any other way.

Otherwise, expect that income inequality and civil unrest will continue for decades into the 21st century.

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Business

Common ‘Wisdom’ that Just Ain’t So

Much of what we read, think, and repeat is not accurate, at all…

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Much of what we read, think, and repeat is not exactly so. For example have you encountered the phrase, “Those who give up liberty for security deserve neither”? Often incorrectly attributed to Benjamin Franklin, the phrase is nonsensical. With no national security, soon enough you’ll have no liberty.

With complete security, you’ll have no liberty as well. A trade-off is always needed. For the record, Benjamin Franklin actually said, “Those who would give up essential liberty, to pursue a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” That makes more sense.

‘A penny saved is a penny earned’? Once again, Ben Franklin is in the mix. A penny saved is not a penny earned. A penny earned is a penny earned and even then it might not be a full penny depending on taxes, inflation, and other hidden costs and expenses. If you save your money in a long-term CD, you can’t have access to it months. If funds are tied up when you need them that is not a pretty penny.

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Not Actually

Consider the phrase, “Experience is the best teacher.” Perhaps, this is so, but not as a given. Generally, an excellent teacher is the best teacher. Experience might teach us the wrong lessons or send us down another blind alley. If we don’t fully comprehend the meaning of our experiences,we’re as likely to make bad decisions in the future and have unfortunate experiences as a result.

Closely related is, ‘practice makes perfect.’ Practice does not make perfect. If your practices are off the mark, then you will continue to be imperfect and you might be reinforcing a bad habit. As they say in Tae Kwon Do, “Practice makes permanent.”

On my daughter’s softball team, a young girl named Whitney was regarded as the star pitcher. Yet during the pregame warm-ups, time after time, she could barely throw a strike. With luck, she averaged 20% strikes out of all her pitches thrown. Sure enough, when the game started, she was no better. Why would anybody expect the outcome to be different?

The best chance for you to excel is to have perfect practices. An array of imperfect practices leads failure.

Lemons and Life

‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.’ This sounds like good advice, but to actually make and sell lemonade, you’d also need to have clean water, a good lemon press, some type of sweetener, a paring knife, a pitcher, an implement for stirring, and cups. Such bromides leave out 90% of what else you’d need.

Periodically, I encounter authors and speakers who write or say ‘to live life more fully’ by pretending that “you have six months to live.” If you had six months to live you’d engage in behaviors different than now.

You might sell your house. You might go on world travel, or at least travel more than you’ve been doing. You might dissipate your assets. You might spend your money down to nothing, or give it all away. Then, when you undoubtedly live beyond six months, you’re likely to be penniless!

Thank You For Sharing (!)

‘Think outside the box.’ What does the “box” even mean? The phrase has been so overused that it is now rendered meaningless. Would it be better simply to say “expand your thinking,” or “brainstorm,” or “reach beyond the norm”?

‘There is no ‘I’ in team.’ Michael Jordan once remarked that while there is no “I” in team, there certainly is a “me.” Acronyms and creative word use might have their place in a corporate pep rally, otherwise let them be.

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