May 19, 2013

My Reason, My Singapore

May 15, 2013

Living Like a Turtle

A high-powered corporate executive came into a doctor's office for a checkup. He showed signs of overwork and stress. The doc warned him to slow down, to take up a hobby – perhaps painting – to relax. He agreed and started right away.

The next day the high-achieving businessman phoned and announced enthusiastically, "Doc, this painting is wonderful. I've already done ten!"

We don't need to be CEO's or high achievers to suffer from too much negative stress. It's easy to feel overwhelmed. In fact, you may be wondering this very minute whether you have time to read this page.

When I feel all-too-busy, I sometimes envy the turtle. The turtle lives as if time is no obstacle; a turtle seems to have all the time in the world and then some. 

I think we have something to learn from turtles. Point in fact: turtles live an exceptionally long life. Humorist E. B. White tells us that scientists are searching their blood for some clues to their longevity. He speculates that perhaps the turtles' blood vessels stay in such nice shape because of the way they conduct their lives. They rarely miss an opportunity to swim and relax in the sun. No two turtles ever lunched together with the idea of promoting something.

I think he is right about this. Turtles do not attend meetings and conferences. No turtle ever texted while driving, tweeted while eating or complained about too much email. They never use words and phrases like "implementation," "multi-tasking," or "thinking out of the box."

Some days the life of a turtle sounds just about right. Non-anxious and calm.

But in truth I suspect that merely slowing down is not a very satisfying answer. What I need has less to do with my pace of life than my peace of life. At any speed, I crave a deep and lasting inner peace. And if it's solace I'm after, I don't need to pace myself like a turtle, change jobs or set up house on a quiet island. It is usually frenetic living, not high energy, that robs my peace of mind. 

I actually feel my best when I am energized and enthusiastic about the next thing ahead. I feel fully alive when I am busy, sometimes even too busy, doing what I love the most. It's not about slowing down or living like a turtle – it's about enjoying my life and finding meaning in it.

I believe we can stay active and engaged and still come from a deep and peaceful place within. We can live in the excitement of the moment without undue stress about the future. And at any pace of life, we can come from the calmness of love rather than anxiety and fear. 

Even a turtle can go for that.

-- Steve Goodier

May 1, 2013

The Finer Points of Positive Motivation

One wife waited patiently, then impatiently, for her husband to repair the lawn mower as he had promised. One day, not wanting to confront him in anger, she tried another tack. That was the day he came home and found her seated on the ground snipping grass with sewing scissors, one blade at a time. He watched in absolute amazement. Then he went into the house and returned with a toothbrush. "Honey," he said, "when you finish cutting the grass would you mind sweeping the sidewalks?"

They both laughed. And, more importantly, he turned his attention to the mower.

We've all been there. We want to encourage a child to do her homework, or a spouse to complete a project, or a colleague to follow through. How can we encourage without criticizing, nagging, berating or pushing? 

Maybe because I'm the one that occasionally has to be nudged, I've learned a few important things about the finer points of positive motivation. 

First, whenever possible, try to keep it light-hearted. The careful use of humor can work in any relationship to make the point in a way it will be heard. Sometimes we are so frustrated we know that however we say it, it will be bound to come out wrong. These are especially the times when humor may be needed.

Second, without exception, be polite and respectful. Sometimes it's more about how we say it than what we say. Too much of the world is run on the theory that you don't need road manners if you drive a five-ton truck. No one wants to be forced, pushed, run over, cajoled or manipulated. They want to be respected.

Finally, as often as you can, show appreciation. Novelist Arnold Bennett had a publisher who boasted about the consistently exceptional work of his assistant. One day while visiting the publisher's office, Bennett struck up a conversation with the valued employee. He told her what her boss said about her work. "What's your secret?" he asked.

"It's not my secret," said the assistant, "it's his." She went on to tell him that her boss always acknowledges and appreciates everything she does, regardless how insignificant. That is why she finds it so easy to take pride in her work. The appreciation of her employer nudges her toward constant improvement.

These are a few of the finer points of positive motivation. And even if motivating is not your purpose, respect and appreciation, topped off with a little humor is bound to improve any relationship.

-- Steve Goodier