Forgetting Everyday Habits

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Before COVID, I loved working at coffee shops. Because I’m an extreme extrovert, the thought of working from home and not seeing another person was torturous. So nearly every day I would pack up my laptop and head anyplace where I could see, hear and interact with other people.

So, when the coffee shops suddenly shut their doors and became drive-thru only, I was forced to set up my office inside my home having no contact with the outside world. It has been a rough road.

Then, after seven months (and counting) some coffee shops began to open their patios and set up outside tables. I can finally get back to my much missed routine.

It never dawned on me, though, that I may have forgotten some very basic things. You can imagine my complete surprise when I was sitting on the patio of my favorite coffee shop, laptop open and ready to go, and I can’t logon to the internet. I have totally forgotten how!

It took a few minutes for my brain to reboot and it all came back to me. Isn’t it interesting, though, that one of my everyday habits, something I knew like the back of my hand, was suddenly erased from my memory. With all the new habits I have formed over the last few months, I wonder how many old habits I have forgotten. Only time will tell.


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What If You Couldn’t Fail?

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Today we have a guest post from my colleague and friend, Dianne Morr. Dianne is an award-winning speaker and author of Choose Happy, 25 Happiness Habits to Transform Your Life. Today she shares some wisdom she recently learned from an art teacher. Enjoy!

What If You Couldn’t Fail?

In hopes of reaching the end of my journey on this planet without losing all my marbles, I decided to enhance my brain power by learning something new.

Even though I suspected that artistic ability was one of those things you were either born with or not, like red hair, I chose to have a go at acrylic painting.

The first art class I found at a local college lifelong learning center proved to be basically a wine and paint experience without the wine. The teacher walked us step by step through the process of duplicating a painting she had created prior to the class. It was fun but I did not learn enough to do anything on my own. After a little hunting I found an art teacher named Kim who taught technique and coached students through whatever project they chose.

Kim asked me what I hoped to learn. I told her I hoped to develop an artist’s eye so that I could learn to create a work that looked like what I saw. She told me she could help me do that.

We began with a sketch of a still life. As she set me up with a sketchbook and pencils, she also handed me an eraser and explained, “Art is the process of trying and revising.”

Trying and revising. Aha! Editing!

Having spent my entire career in various fields of writing, I knew that a writer does not create a perfect page on her first try. I was stunned to find out that an artist didn’t create perfect work on her first try either. What Kim said sounded like what I told clients I had helped write their books. “Don’t judge your first draft, just get it on paper. You can fix a bad draft, you can’t fix a blank page.”

Now that I know art depends on trying and revising, I saw my first attempt at a pencil sketch as a first draft. Kim gave me tools such as a ruler, a skewer, and that all-important eraser to make my sketch lines as accurate as possible.

Learning new things took on a whole new meaning when I found out that trying and revising can apply to anything. Want to learn to dance? Play a sport? Plant a garden? Give it a try. If your first try doesn’t turn out as you hoped it would, revise your approach, make adjustments, and see if your second try is better. There are no limits on trying and revising. You can keep at it till you are satisfied with your attempt or ready to jump to another activity.

Giving yourself permission to try and revise takes away the fear of failing. When you can’t fail, you can try anything. Enjoy the possibilities. What are you going to try first?


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One Trait to Make Good Communication Possible

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“ I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant” ― Alan Greenspan

Take a minute to read that quote again and let it sink in. It’s so true – good communication can be quite challenging and often elusive. So how can we get our point across? How can we strengthen our relationships and build trust with those we love?

The way I see it, the most important and impactful thing we can do is:

                       Listen without judgement

Easier said than done, huh? Think about it, though. Communication is a two-way street. If one person is talking, someone else has to be listening. Most of the time we may look like we are listening. We lean in and nod our heads, but in reality, we are thinking about what we want to say next. We can’t wait for the other person to shut up so we can make our point.

So, the next time you truly want to have an effective conversation, LISTEN. Once you can do that, it actually becomes a conversation. One where each person shares their views and opinions without apprehension. A conversation where you can state your message clearly without fear of being judged. It is soooo hard. One trick I use is to lightly bite my tongue to stop myself from interrupting. Notice that I said “lightly.” You don’t want to draw blood! But this little tactic helps me focus on the listening.

Honestly, listening without judgement will truly make a difference in your relationships both at home and at work. And who knows, you may even learn something in the process.


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Celebrate Your Victories

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Normal looks a lot different these days, thanks to 2020. Spending time at my favorite coffee shop, hugging my friends or going to a concert are put on hold for right now. But because this pandemic has been going on for over six months now, I’m actually getting used to a few of my new routines

Did you know that it takes an average of 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. I’m not making this stuff up. This is a real study that was published in the European Journal of Social Psychology. So, I ask you, what new routines have you developed over the last several months. What new habits have worked their way into your life that you would like to celebrate. It doesn’t matter how small they are or that they may seem a bit strange. Hell, this whole year has been strange. It’s time now to celebrate your wins

What’s yours? Maybe you’re getting used to your pet sitting on your lap during one of your MANY Zoom calls, or it could be that you’ve become a better cook. Personally, I’ve tried some amazing dessert recipes that have been in my “recipe pile” for years.

This is a time to recognize your new habits and celebrate them. Please tell us: I’d love to hear at least one small win that you are proud of.


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Find the Familiar

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I miss my mundane routines, even the ones I used to do every day and sometimes dreaded. Like running errands whenever I felt like it, buying toilet paper whether I needed it or not, talking to the cashier without a plastic shield between us.

This social distancing, time of quarantine and feeling of isolation is taking its toll on me. I grieve, yes grieve, for all we have lost. Things like touch, travel, hugging, meeting friends, and some sort of normalcy. Ah yes, remember that? Normalcy!

Think about it. Right now, we are dealing with the loss of the world we knew. So, how do we cope? How do we deal with our grief when there is so much uncertainty in our future.

Well, recently I discovered something that has helped me, even if it’s only for a little while. I find that surrounding myself with something familiar really helps. Right now, I am wearing an old sweatshirt that my father gave me and it brings back such wonderful memories of the times we spent together. Another thing that helps is looking through old photographs of times I spent with friends and family. Having physical photographs I can hold rather than looking at them on a computer bring me more of a sense of calmness. Also, watching old movies or listening to music can stir sweet emotions.

You get the idea. Find something that is familiar to you; something that brings back lovely memories, and spend some time wearing it, looking at it, sitting in it – whatever it takes. See if those past, pleasant memories can help you through this time of uncertainty. All we’re looking for right now is getting through this one day at a time. Because with each day, we get closer to a cure, to some sort of normalcy, and to a time when we can look back at all this and tell our story of a lifetime.


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The Upside of Aging

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Now there’s a twist. Most people don’t think of putting the words aging and upside in the same sentence. Looking at the news and advertisements, you’d think that getting older is all doom and gloom and it’s all over by the time you hit 40. But I’m living proof to tell you otherwise. Here are some of the benefits I have experienced as I age:

First, I have better skin. As I get older, my skin produces less oil – and that leads to less blemishes. No more unwanted or unexpected pimples that come out of nowhere. What a relief!

Second, my headaches have nearly disappeared. When I was in my 20s, I suffered from migraines and I felt like my head was going to explode. Well, with age, those intense headaches have disappeared completely, and on the occasion when I do get some pain, it is minor.

Third, and most importantly, is my mindset. Yes, I have a much better outlook on all the crap that life sometimes throws my way. And you know why? Because I have been through it before and know that I have survived. Over all those years, I have gained the knowledge and the skills to cope with anything. Does that make my challenges any less scary and painful? NO! But what it does do is give me the confidence to know that I will survive and this too shall pass. And that is the greatest gift of all.

So, you see, like everything else, aging comes with its pros and cons. You can’t control getting older, but you can control how you embrace it.

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An Unexpected Friendship

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It never should have happened. I was taking my morning walk – she was getting her mail. A simple smile was exchanged, then “hello,” followed by idle chit-chat. But somehow, someway, we connected that day. On any other day, when I usually walk with my husband, this never would have happened. But on that day, a new friendship was born.

Now we are sharing laughter and building memories.

It makes me think about all the opportunities was face every single day. About all the times we can help someone or learn something new, but somehow let it slip away. I truly believe that there are always opportunities in front of us. Sometimes we just don’t see them.  We’re not ready to venture down that path.

Think about the different connections you have made. I bet that there’s a story behind each one of them – a story of chance and where you could have kept on walking, never stopping to give it a second thought.

My hope for you is that during this time of isolation and confusion and loneliness, that a light shines down on your path and you find the courage to follow it; to try something new and form a new relationship, even if it’s with yourself.

Anais Nin said it best: “Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”

Thank you for your friendship, Cindy.


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What Do You Mean You Don’t Agree With Me?

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These days I find myself a little more testy, more direct and voicing my opinion more emphatically. I wonder what’s causing this? Maybe it’s the continued self-solation – or maybe it’s just old age.

Either way, I don’t want to become that little old lady who screams at the top of my lungs: GET OFF MY LAWN. So now I’m trying to dial down my directness so I can stay open minded. Easier said than done!

One thing that has helped me is to fine tune my listening skills. Recently, a dear friend told me about the debate team he was involved with in high school. He said that after his team given a question, researched the facts and prepared for the event, they were then asked to argue the opposing side. What a great idea! I’ve always believed that there are two sides to every story; that there is always good with the bad. I thought this was a great way to embrace the different points of view and sometimes even see colors other than black and white.

So, now when I hear someone’s opinion that does not align with mine, I bite my tongue and ask them to tell me more. In the end, I still may dismiss it. But there are those times when I learn something new; there are times when my world is enhanced.


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Is It OK to Laugh?

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That’s a good question. With people losing their jobs, trying to figure out how to home-school their kids and dealing with uncertainty every single day, is it really OK to laugh?

My answer couldn’t come fast enough – YES. Yes, we all need to laugh and as often as we possibly can. You’ve heard the old saying: “Laughter is the best medicine.” Well, with no vaccine in sight, laughter may be our ONLY medicine.

This pandemic has hit everyone. It doesn’t matter where you live or what language you speak, this virus is global and it does not discriminate. It has taken a lot from us. In my friend’s case, it has taken away her sense of smell. Please don’t let it take away your sense of humor. Find some way to laugh every single day. If that’s not possible, settle for a chuckle – or even a smile.

Here’s some ideas to bring laughter to your day:

I promise it will relieve your stress, even if just for a little while. So no matter what challenges you are facing, it is OK to laugh.


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What Boat Are You In?

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Recently I had coffee with a friend. During our conversation, she suddenly said: “We may all be in the same storm but we’re not in the same boat.”

Wow – that really struck a chord with me. Think about it. We are all definitely in the same storm named COVID. How we navigate our own boat or the actual experiences we are having are all different.

Personally, I don’t have children so I don’t have to navigate school and lessons and how to become a teacher overnight. Also, I’m not in the same boat as those trying to learn the ins and outs of working from home. Although it may sound sooooo inviting, you soon begin to understand that you need to set boundaries so you can stay motivated.

For me, my greatest challenge has been the isolation. You will find me in the boat with all the other extraverts, trying to figure out how to survive without other people. I even love interacting with strangers. I’ve been told that I can make friends while standing in line at the grocery store. Well, I don’t have that option anymore. Now things have changed so much that people are hesitant to speak to each other. For an extrovert who get their energy from other people, that is torturous.

So, you see, there are all different kinds of boats. The trick to survival is knowing what boat you are in, taking the good with the bad, reaching out a helping hand to those who are going a little more crazy than you are, and remembering that we are all in this together. It sounds trite but it is so true, so I’ll say it again:

We are all in this together.


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