It’s How You Play the Game

Couple after an argument look in different directions

It’s not whether you win or lose,” the saying goes, “but how you play the game.

This comment is usually offered to the side that didn’t win.

I avoid writing about politics because, given the state of the union, I could easily offend half of you. Please know that is not my intention.

My intention is to write my way out of the aftermath of a game played with so much  disrespect and lack of decency that I feel gutted, traumatized, and heartbroken. Not just because of who won or lost but because of how we played the game.

Families, cities, states were divided in what felt like a civil war, except that there was nothing civil about it. Things were said, threats were made, and stunts were pulled that may work for reality TV, but as the foundation of our reality is truly terrifying.

I want to believe nobody voted for discrimination, exclusion, or hatred. I have to believe we all voted for what we believe in and who we thought could best bring about the change we seek.

But voting is not something we do with our heads.  It’s a primal thing we do with our hearts. Sadly, we can’t fact check the unspoken fears that live in our hearts because in order to control them, we kept them hidden.

Consequently, no one can predict their power at the polls until they surface and surprise us from ballots cast across the country in the privacy and anonymity of a voting booth or safety of our homes.

Clearly, we are unhappy. We are stressed. We are tired of government meddling in our affairs. We’re as mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.

But we also have so much to be grateful for. We have come so far on so many fronts. We seem to have lost sight of that in our rage against the machine and each other.

It’s easy to blame others for our discontent. But when we point a finger at someone else,  four are pointing back at us. We can project the blatant bad behavior on to others, but if we recognize it in others and are willing to be brutally honest with ourselves, eventually we recognize it in ourselves as well.

Because happiness is an inside job, we have to start with the man or woman in the mirror. When we abdicate our own power, we open the door to bullies who are more than willing to use it against us.

While we cannot control what bullies do or say, we can control how we respond.  And that response determines how we move forward.

You can add fuel to the fire of fear, anger, and hatred or you can practice peace, compassion, and decency.

As Stephen Colbert suggested, you can “get back to your life.” And in doing so, recommit to living consciously, intentionally, and with as much love and integrity as you can possibly muster.

It won’t be easy. Especially if you are discouraged, afraid, or otherwise disenfranchised. But I promise you, the world needs your light. When one of us shines brightly, we all do.

I wish our country didn’t need to go to the extremes it did for the past year to collectively learn the lessons this election offered up.

Mistakes were made. Assumptions were interpreted as facts. Unprecedented incivility was unleashed. A lot was at stake and lines were crossed that, as a country, we’ll have a hard time recovering from.

Playing the game this way has left us all bruised and battered.

As we move forward, I hope we will be kind to one another. I hope we can realize we are all fighting the good fight and, despite our differences, we have more that unites us than divides us.

In the days to come I wish you the kind of courage that allows you to speak up, act on your beliefs, cope with challenges, and carry on with conviction. Doing so sets us all free.

I’d love to hear how you will share your light in the comments below.

 

Small change

US Coins

It’s Day 13 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge and today we’re going to keep it short, sweet, and relatively simple. Today’s challenge is all about small change.

With a name like Penny, you might think I’m an expert on small change. Regardless of how hard times get, I’ll always have a “penny” to my name. As I assured my fireman, as long as you keep me around, you’ll never be penny-less. Lucky me. 🙂

But as you might suspect, I’m not talking about literal small change. I’m talking about the kind of small change you can make in 5-15 minutes that can make the most difference in the next hour, the next day, the next week, or the next year.

In our quest to accomplish the big stuff, we often overlook the small stuff that makes the big stuff possible.  I love this image and question by Hugh MacLeod of gapingvoid.com.

 “Where can the smallest change make the biggest difference?”

I subscribe to his free daily downloads of comically wise drawings. (You can, too, by clicking here.) I often print them out and put them in a place where I will see them throughout the day.

When I asked myself the small change question at the start of this challenge, the reply was surprisingly simple. “Change your screensaver.”  I kid you not.

I like to think of myself as open to change, but I can count the number of times I’ve changed my screensaver on one hand. Since I spend a considerable amount of time at or near my computer, this would make a noticeable difference.

Now every time I see a picture of the winding paths and roads I chose as my new screensaver, I am delighted because it reminds me of the journey I am on. These images spark my imagination and take me to places the familiar photos did not.

In anticipation of donating clothes along with several plastic hangers to Dress for Success, I bought some slim velvet hangers as replacements. Had I known these hangers would  free up valuable real estate in my closet, I would have purchased them years ago.

I have a history with finding the right hanger for the job that dates back to my days of managing a Pro Shop in Texas. So I’m not sure why it took me so long to discover these luxurious slim velvet ones. There is nothing inherently risky or even costly about switching hangers. Yet it’s totally transformed how I feel about organizing my clothes.

These are the kinds of small changes I’m talking about.  I’m all for discipline and delayed gratification. But sometimes instant gratification works wonders.

So, what will it be for you today? Discovering a new app to organize your lists? Getting shoe strings that don’t come untied when you’re walking the dog? Filling up a thermos with filtered water from home so you don’t need to buy bottled water?

Think about your most insistent issue.  What small change can you make to alter your interaction with it for the better? If you are stumped, ask a child. They often see the obvious and will give you an honest appraisal of the situation.

I’d love to hear what you come up with and decide to do today.  Share your solutions in the comments below.

 

 

 

Six Secrets to The Art of the Start

I was talking with a friend who was describing his life as being on hold for the past three or four years. Anyone who has been on hold for three or four minutes can imagine how excruciating three or four years might feel. Everything he tried from seeking new employment to moving to a new city to looking for love seemed to get a resounding “no” or “not yet” from the universe even though his biological clock was ticking at an alarming rate.

I could relate, having spent more than a few years wandering around the desert in what seemed like a perpetual pause. It wasn’t that I didn’t have dreams. It wasn’t even that I didn’t have the time because by all accounts, especially my bank account, that’s all I had.

What I didn’t have was structure, a strategy, or accountability. I had a grand vision for my future but I had no plan for how each day could lead me anywhere but into temptation. Like a tumbleweed, my daily course was determined by whichever way the prevailing winds blew. I was definitely in what Gretchen Rubin calls drift or “the decision you make by not deciding, or by making a decision that unleashes consequences for which you don’t take responsibility.

The good news is most detours eventually lead us back to the beaten path, often with insights we’d never have gleaned if not for the detour. Now that I have a lot of structure and accountability, I often lament my lack of free time for creative pursuits. I remembered the long days of limbo and wondered why in the world I didn’t write more, do more, or accomplish more.

But those days by their very nature evoked a kind of analysis paralysis. I couldn’t see the gift of “the pause” then because I was so desperately confused about my overwhelming underachievement, my lack of monetary resources, and the enormous burden of potential.   I was so focused on what wasn’t working that I couldn’t see what was and take full advantage of it.

Listening to my friend, I started thinking about what I know now that might help someone in a similar situation take the kind of action that would pull him or her forward with purpose and passion.

Here is what I came up with.

1 – When in doubt, begin. You don’t know what you don’t know. So start immediately and find out. You do not need a lot of money to begin. In fact, at this stage of the game, if you have too many resources, you’ll probably squander them. Because you don’t know what you don’t know, you won’t yet know what or how to properly invest those resources.

What you need is an idea, the courage to act on it, and someone to hold you accountable for doing what you say you’re going to do.  You must connect with other people. If you are too timid to get out and meet people, start with a virtual community.   Don’t simply stalk. Talk. Connect. Contribute. No one knows you are there until you give yourself away.

2. Begin again. Every day you will need to recommit to yourself, your project, the changes you want to make, the action you need to take. This may be easy when the project is new and fun and you are getting some positive feedback. Regretfully, this will not last. One day you will wake up and convince yourself none of it matters. It does. Begin again.

It may feel like you are taking baby steps or managing micro movements that are getting you nowhere.  It may even feel like you are losing ground. Backing up is sometimes necessary to gain the speed you need for takeoff. You simply must begin again.  And then again and again. Each time you begin, you start from a different vantage point. You gain more experience and perspective.

3. Start where you are. Do what you can with what you’ve got. You will always have a reason to postpone the start if you wait for everything to align before you dare to act.  Don’t miss the gift of today by waiting for the perfect someday. Lean times are the best learning times.  They teach you about what’s essential. Then creativity kicks in and help you figure out how to get it.

4. Get fit. The same factors that contribute to an effective fitness program contribute to the success of any program. Strength, flexibility, and endurance are essential to taking an idea from inception to execution. You have to summon your strength for the many times things don’t go as you would like, which will be daily, possibly hourly, at the start. You also have to stay as flexible as possible since your idea will and should undergo many incarnations as it evolves and adapts. And you’ll need to pace yourself and build your endurance so you can manage your time and energy over the long haul.

5.  Manage your expectations. Beginning is hard. Beginning again is harder. Starting where you are and getting fit take a real commitment. Once you’ve worked through these steps you may be more than a little anxious to see some results or at least see the light at the end of the tunnel. Do not set yourself up for disappointment by assuming you know what success should look like and when it should arrive. That blinding light could be an oncoming train. Don’t get derailed by thinking it should have been your ticket out of oblivion. Resilience is a key quality to have in your toolkit. We are a society obsessed with overnight success and Cinderella stories. Yours is not a fairy tale but a love story, an adventure story, a comedy and drama where all parts of you embark on a hero’s journey. Expect the unexpected.

6. Get ready. Gather your wits about you. While it may look as if nothing is happening, you’re simply experiencing that grace period when you can fly under the radar and make mistakes without anyone really noticing. Use this grace period to figure out who you are, what you want, why you want it and what you are willing to do, sacrifice, contribute, give up, allow, and accept so when the world comes knocking at your door, you are ready to let them in.

If you have some secrets that you’d like to share about the art of the start, please add them below!