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Life

Optimism in the Face of Challenges

Boldly explore new ground and establish goals that might have seemed beyond your grasp at an earlier time

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In mid-2020, President Trump promised that a COVID vaccine was on the near horizon, a contention relentlessly mocked by the mainstream press. Then President Trump, to the relief of the entire planet, delivered multiple times on his promise.

Dr. Vincent Racaniello, Ph.D, a Professor of Microbiology and Immunology in the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University, nevertheless, has some significant finding.

Based on his studies, at 320,000+ different viruses currently infect mammals, and that doesn’t count other viruses that affect other vertebrate species. In all, the professor concludes that there are tens of millions of viruses in the world; a figure so large, it is unknowable.

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Starting today, and for decades thereafter, regardless of the breakthroughs in virus-related issues, other concerns will linger. Against this backdrop, optimism for oneself, for one’s family and friends, and indeed, for humanity, seems challenging.

Optimism: Now and Forever

A question for our era: In times of high uncertainty, is maintaining an optimistic outlook warranted or even possible? Yes. Research reveals that some people are apparently born optimistic; some individuals naturally exude optimism, often to the utter bewilderment of others.

Although it seems as if prevailing circumstances dictate how we will act and how we will feel, probing slightly deeper shows that that can be a false cause-effect relationship.

If you’ve passed a certain age and are thinking, “I have this big dream, but I’m too old,” take heart. If you’re in your thirties, forties, or fifties, mile-high goal achievement could still be in store for you – even if you’re past 60, 70, or 80! Why do I make such a statement?

Human longevity is increasing. Insurance actuaries indicate that you might live longer than you think you will. There’s no telling what you’re capable of two, three, or four decades hence. The legendary Grandma Moses became famous as a painter in her seventies and eighties and still was creating notable works of art past age 100.

Multiple Careers?

In Age Wave, Dr. Ken Dychtwald explains how it’s likely that you’ll have several careers within a lifetime, some totally unrelated to each other. After all, if you graduate college at age 22, you can work for 15 or 17 years in human resources or in training, not even hit your forties, work 25 years in another industry, and even receive your pension, and still work another 12 to 15 in another profession, and only be in your 70’s!

Some day soon, an octogenarian – an eighty year old – will be elected president of the United States.

As average life spans extend beyond eighty and ninety, and the health and well-being of the typical professional continues on at an advanced age, it’s not unrealistic to assume that you might achieve some spectacular goal in an arena of your life that is not even in consciousness for you at this moment.

Taking Root Long Ago

The seeds of what you might be doing twenty, thirty, and forty years from now are likely already in formation, if only at the cellular level! When I took the course Technologies for Creating, designed by Robert Fritz, author of The Path of Least Resistance, I encountered one of the most powerful affirmations of my life to this point.

Imagine, Fritz encourages, that everything that you’ve ever done is preparation for what’s coming next… All the successes, all the failures, everything that went well, all the things that went up in flames, and all of your experiences are learning to be applied for the highest good for what is coming in your life.

So, in a manner of speaking, you’ve incurred no down time – no wasted jobs, wasted years, or wasted efforts. Your life has been a laboratory of sorts, helping you to prepare for some grand good the likes of which might still not be clear to you.

To Boldly Go

As the philosophers say, the pattern of the universe (or, more specifically for your purposes, the pattern of your life) is right there, visible in everything you do. You have only to recognize how to work with your strengths and limitations, aptitudes and blind spots so as to transcend yourself.

Don’t live life as if looking through a rear view mirror. Boldly go where you’ve never gone before, and eventually set and reach goals that in an earlier time might have seemed beyond your essence, yet on some level, perhaps were within you all along.

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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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Faith

Unleash the Spirit Within

It doesn’t take considerable effort to engage in spiritual-type behavior that will benefit everyone

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You can practice being more spiritual in little ways that add up quickly to your being a more spiritual person. For example, there are relatively minor things you can do to start the process, although nothing is minor when it comes to acting spiritually. As an example, if you smile at someone, they tend to smile back. If you go out of your way to help someone, that person might in turn help another and so on.

Spirituality certainly does not have to be restricted to the confines of organized religion. Freed from the rules, restrictions, and impediments that organized religion may impose upon you, how and where might you be more spiritual in your life?

Each little action sets in motion the potential for greater good. So, as you proceed through six items below, do not discount the value of engaging in any of these. Each has the potential to add up to more.

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Spirituality While Driving

Researchers report that when people get in their cars, they think they’re in some type of invisible vehicle. No one sees them as they motor down the road. If you curse or scream, who’s to know? Obviously, you’re not invisible and the way you conduct yourself as a motorist potentially impacts other motorists, as well as pedestrians.

The next time someone cuts you off in traffic, fails to use their turn signal properly or otherwise engages in improper driving, practice maintaining your composure.

Don’t curse, scream, or honk your horn. If the other person is in view, look at them blankly, but not with disgust or anger, or a mocking smile.

Often, the other party knows what they did wrong. If not, venting your spleen is not likely to change their behavior.

If you travel frequently, say as part of your job, and often traverse high traffic arteries, chances are you’ll have an opportunity at least several times a week to practice engaging in small displays of spirituality. As a goal, why not establish for yourself one composed response per week?

Each time you can remain composed, you increase the probability that you will be more composed in other aspects of your life. Perhaps you’ll even be kinder to people in face-to-face encounters when they commit a transgression.

Comfort the Less Fortunate

As a small gesture of spirituality, what can you do for someone you see right on the street? It’s one thing to write a check to charity; it’s another to encounter someone who is in need and aid that person on the spot.

When you have shoes that you no longer wear, but are not necessarily in pieces, keep them in your trunk as you motor around town. Then, if you see a homeless person with less than sufficient footwear, and it looks like you might be roughly the same size, pull over.

Promptly get the shoes from your trunk, walk up to the person and say that you want them to accept the shoes. If he or she accepts, fine, bid them good day, and be on your way. If he or she chooses not to take them, that’s okay too.

Your goal in this area could be to give away each pair of shoes or other worthwhile item of clothing that you no longer want, perhaps on a monthly basis.

Participate in Group Action

If this is not for you, volunteer once a month to serve a meal at a local shelter for the homeless. If you’re a busy career type, perhaps serving dinner will work best for you. Whatever your preconceived notions about this may be, once you actually serve dinner to real live people, you’ll see that reality is different than you thought.

Perhaps you think that people would be reluctant to speak up for what they wanted. Or worse, they’d be groveling, and you would have to do your best to remain humble. Perhaps you feel like you’ll seem to be some kind of “goody-two-shoes,” dispensing dinners with an overly pleasant, “And how are you this evening? Here’s a nice dinner for you.”

Actually, none of the above usually happens. Person to person, you simply serve another, as if you were in partnership. More peas? Fewer carrots? It’s much more matter-of-fact than you might imagine. They’re appreciative but not groveling.

Note: Some people who show up at a shelter are well dressed. Perhaps they’re temporarily unemployed, or they had a financial emergency they were unprepared to handle.

The more often you serve others in this way, the easier it becomes to do it again. You start to get the notion that there are a lot more similarities between human beings than differences. The old axiom, “There but for the grace of God, go I,” is much more true than we all often acknowledge.

Look for the Good in Others

Is there a co-worker with whom you have had a nasty relationship? Is there something good about this co-worker that you can draw upon, so that you can get yourself to  say something nice to him/her at your next encounter?

Will Rogers, a political satirist, entertainer, and beloved figure in the first half of the twentieth century allegedly said, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” Many people have interpreted Will Rogers to have meant that he could find something admirable in everyone he met. So, too, can we all.

Is there a neighbor with whom you have had a continuing squabble? What would it do to your relationship if you sent your neighbor a card or a brief note that said something along the lines of, “I noticed how lovely your garden was the other day, and wanted to let you know that I appreciate the work you’ve done in maintaining it.”? Too syrupy, or, pardon the expression, too flowery? Guess again.

List five people at work or elsewhere in your life with whom you may not have a good relationship, but whom you can acknowledge. Next to each person’s name, write a dash and then what is good about them.

You’re going to be on Earth for a finite amount of time. Do you want to go through your life trading hostilities with people, never having the where-with-all to restore some semblance of civility to the relationship?

Listen More Closely

Human beings have a profound need to be heard. When you give others your full and complete attention, in essence, you’re telling them that you value them as a people. All activity and concerns in your life stop as the words and emotions of another person take on paramount importance.

Listening is one of people’s most underrated skills. Your ability to listen to another person, giving him or her your full and undivided attention, can be an act of spirituality, particularly if the other person needs someone to listen to him/her. In this rush-rush world, too often we want people to summarize everything they say.

Consider the people in your life who have mattered the most to you and, chances are, they were the people that listened to you best. Whether it was your parents, a brother or sister, a good friend, a relative, a teacher, a coach, a coworker, a mentor, or just somebody down the street, you tend to value those who value you by listening.

In Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse, the young Siddhartha speaks about his most well-developed skills. He can listen, he can fast, and he can wait.

These talents don’t seem like much to the Western mind, but they’re handy if you want to increase the spirituality of your life. As a goal, why not to listen in earnest to one person per week in the workplace whom you would not have otherwise given such time and attention?

At home, give your significant other one good listening to per day, and I promise things will go better. Do the same with each child.

Judge Deeds, Not People

Judgment is a necessary and practical skill. It’s likely that you judge things, including others, all day long. After all, if you want to choose the colleges appropriate for you, friends that share similar values, and the professional, social, and civic groups that you will enjoy being a part of, you need to make some judgments.

We all judge one another, however, sometimes harshly. Everyone can learn from each other. It is so easy to fall into that game, as psychologist Carl Rogers articulated, of “mine is better than yours.” It is too convenient to conclude that people who walk, talk, or look differently than we do, must be vastly different, and by extension, inferior.

As you might have already concluded, it doesn’t take considerable effort to be spiritual and to engage in spiritual-type behavior that will benefit yourself, and benefit others. The opportunities are all around each of us, every day. All we have to do is be aware.

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Life

Life is Not Perpetually a Piece of Cake For Anyone

Everybody, nearly all the time, is facing an array of problems

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Everybody, everywhere, nearly all the time has a handful of significant problems. They could be related to relationships, health, career, finances, or unresolved traumas and dramas. Undoubtedly, millions of people are encountering some of the same problems that you are currently facing. Yet, it’s likely that everyone’s problems represent a distinct package – probably no one else, problem-for-problem, confront exactly what you face at any give moment.

Human Encounters

Often we are so steeped in our own problems that we fail to recognize that no one gets to skip along day-after-day without issues and challenges of vital personal concern. Everyone you meet is grappling with something.

The most successful, confident, and healthiest among us might be adept at conveying the image of a relatively problem-free life. Meanwhile, they are concerned about their issues as you are with yours.

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The ancient Greek philosopher Plato once said, “Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Sometimes the battles of others are apparent to us; more often, such battles are not. Still they do exist.

Awareness and Balance

If you’ve ever attended a group therapy session, or a gathering where people focus on spirituality or self growth topics, then you know first-hand that others you meet have issues much like yours.

With the above in mind, we can choose to be a bit kinder in our encounters. The driver who cut you off in traffic, or the store clerk who is short with you, are exhibiting manifestations of their problems. Everyone is fighting a battle and some are fighting very hard battles. Our awareness of such allows us to stay better balanced, more empathetic, and ultimately more effective in the world.

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