Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Gone Fishin'

Greetings friends! Here we are a month and a half into 2017 and I'm writing my first blog of the year. Truth be told, I've started a number of blog posts over the past few weeks and ended up tossing each and every one of them aside. They all felt forced - like I was trying to write something merely for the sake of writing. 

The sad part is that with only a handful of sentences written so far, I am already thinking about other things I could be doing at this very moment. It's not all bad though. This has actually worked out to be a pretty good thing for me so far. 

Don't worry. I haven't...

...fallen off the face of the planet. Although this would have been understandable considering my work with Deep Space Exploration over at Life Explained. 

...died of old age. Contrary to the fact that I have been tired and achy for the last week like I'm an old man or something. Hopefully it's just the flu.

...been hit by a bus...or car. This would be funnier if you had been here last week when a car crashed into the tree in our front yard at 4:45am. Since I'm an old man and all, I was sound asleep in bed. 

On the bright side, I have...

...enjoyed more quality time with my wife. We are now attacking our well planned goals like a perfectly syncronized dance couple. 

...enjoyed more quality time with my daughters. This is in spite of the fact that my 8 year old now beats me in half the Chess games we play. Why did I ever teach her to play Chess??

...actually "been here" for my friends and family. I haven't been viewing everything that happens in my daily life as the next blog post. 

...kept my head in the clouds. Although this has been more dreaming about current plans to reach future goals rather than dreaming up content to put on the blog. 

As of now - I'm gone fishin'
I intend to extend my blogging hiatus for an undetermined amount of time. I imagine I will dive back in with full vigor at some point, but right now I am enjoying my little break. Until that happens, I will continue to read what my fellow bloggers put out there and enjoy the efforts you all continue to put into your writing. 

Take care my friends and I'll see you on the flip side! Until next time....

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Passions, Priorities and Popcorn

Focus on the good. This is a phrase I have repeated time and time again. It's also the mental outlook I try to maintain throughout my daily life. I have spent the last month or so (Thanksgiving to Christmas) getting myself back on track with this concept....and it's been amazing. I was not intending to do a year-end wrap-up blog post, but I feel this idea ties my last year (and more) together pretty nicely.

The impending shipwreck image above jumped out at me as a great example for this concept of focusing on the good that I treasure so much. In general, shipwrecks are a bad thing. At the high end of the spectrum, people can lose their lives in a shipwreck. On the lesser, but still important side, personal property is lost or damaged. But there is still good that can come out of a shipwreck. This shipwreck analogy fits well with my passions, priorities and popcorn mindset I have these days.

We are all passionate about a variety of things. These are the things that make us feel like we're sailing our ship out in the open waters enjoying the wind in our hair, the freedom to go wherever we steer and the feeling of great accomplishment.

For years I have said I was passionate about a variety of things. Family and friends are always a passion. Blogging has been a passion for personal development and a chance to escape from the real world for moments at a time. Employee development and personal development in my career field has also been a passion of mine. I recently started wondering if passions change or do we just lose sight of why we were passionate about them in the first place.

You don't have to be a captain crashing your ship against the rocks to have your eyes opened to your true passion, but sometimes that's what it takes. As that captain with a passion for sailing, you might find your priorities changing after the shipwreck. You just lost your ship and might even be stranded on an island...alone. Sailing doesn't seem all that important anymore. You start thinking about survival. Staying alive is a top priority, but being alive in itself isn't the whole picture. Why do you want to stay alive? Is it merely to avoid death or is it something more?

Let's assume you stay alive on that island, but you're alone now. You quickly realize all the other things that are important to you in life. You miss your family and friends, electricity, running water, easily obtained and prepared food, your favorite tv shows, books to read, the internet...the list can go on and on and it's a little different for everyone. The point is that your passion for sailing probably isn't real high on your list following a shipwreck.

Most priorities are fairly easy to identify initially, but many have to be re-visited to remind you why they are a priority. While you're re-visiting your priorities, it is important to evaluate if your passions align with your priorities. This may or may not align with your concept of passion vs. priority, so I will explain my personal thoughts on this.

To me, a priority is just that...a priority. It should come first. Yes, you can be passionate about something that isn't a priority, but does it work against your priority? Setting your priorities should give you a number of activities that you can be passionate about to achieve those priorities. If your passions can't support your priorities, it may be time for a change.

I have gone through this process in the last month or so and made some amazing discoveries. I won't bore you with my list of changes in priorities and passions - because I don't want this to look like a New Year's resolution...because it's not. I have made a shift in how I live my life. For the purpose of this post, I will focus on just one change I have made - blogging.

I always felt I was passionate about blogging or writing, but as it turns out...I just enjoy it. It's an activity that lets me clear my brain at the end of the day and I do have fun with it. Yes, to some extent it helps me grow as a person, but not as much as it distracted me from my other priorities. My month hiatus from blogging showed me that it really didn't bother me all that much to not blog. My brain actually cleared out because I wasn't constantly "obsessed" with turning everything into a blog post. Blogging had almost turned into an addiction rather than a release.

The more important thing I found is that I was ignoring other priorities because of my blogging routine. Once I shifted my evening hours away from blogging and towards goal setting, priority shifting and planning, my life changed. My relationship with my wife and girls has improved. (It was always good, but there's also always room for improvement to get to great.) My personal development and health has improved by devoting time to myself for more than just "clear my head" blogging. My career is on track for advancement by developing my personal business skills needed for transitions at work.

I may not have experienced a shipwreck in my life, but it really feels like I saw the rocks ahead and made the appropriate course correction to avoid impact. It is very important to point out that sailing the "ship of life" isn't done by the captain alone. There is an entire crew on board that are equally affected when the ship crashes. More importantly, the crew is also there to help you stay on course and avoid the rocks.

I know you've been waiting to hear what in the world popcorn had to do with all this, so here it is. Priorities involve a bunch of simple little items as popcorn. In my case, having a family popcorn and movie night with my girls is a priority. My number one priority is my wife and girls. All my other priorities, goals and plans point to that number one priority. Popcorn and a movie with my girls isn't specifically on my list as a priority to check off, but rather one little piece of the main priority to be more involved with them and spend more quality time with them. On a side note, I'm running through the Weight Watchers program as part of a health goal for myself and (certain) popcorn is amazingly low on points as a snack - so it's a double win.

I am passionate about my family. I still have a lot of things I really enjoy doing like blogging, but I don't set them as priorities anymore. I will do them as often or as little as I choose, but I will not allow them to get in the way of my real priorities.

So if you notice that I seem to drop off the internet with rare posts here and there, don't be alarmed. I'm still here. I still love my blogging friends. I still get online and read what everyone's up to. I just won't be spending as much time generating blog content. Hopefully that means the posts I do write will be of only the best quality too. :)

My Saturday morning "personal time" on my schedule has now come to an end (Yes, it's actually on my daily/weekly agenda.), so I must be on my way to enjoy life. I encourage you to think about your own priorities and passions as I know many of you are setting New Year's resolutions today. Think of them as taking control of your life rather than wishful thinking as a resolution. I know you'll be happier and more likely to succeed if you set the right priorities and become passionate about succeeding. Until next time....

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Less is more

Life is crazy, hectic, complicated and running at 100 miles per hour. While that might make life exciting, it also risks you burning out. For those of you who read my last couple of posts, you know that I am going through a little restructuring of my life. Since I'm one of those people who really hate New Year's resolutions so I try to get all my life-changing plans put into affect well before the new year comes knocking.

This year in particular, I am structuring a lot of my goals around what I am thankful for and ways to improve upon my current blessings. Because of that, Thanksgiving seemed like a great time to kick things into gear. I don't want to get into a long, drawn out post on maximizing the probability of goal attainment so I'll just say motivation is key. You need to actually want your goals if you plan to actually hit them. 

I have found the best motivation (for me anyway) is my family. It doesn't matter if it's a career goal, personal goal or health goal. They all affect my family. That's what seals the deal for me. Even though I have known this for quite a while. I realized this year that I hadn't actually structured my goals based on this thinking. Well, I did this year. 

Long story short....I scheduled almost every hour of my week and plotted it on my personal calendar. I covered my working hours, personal/family hours and even my sleeping hours. Of course I left some open times, primarily on the weekends, because life can't be planned 100 percent. 

You may remember a few posts back that I said I would be withdrawing from my online presence a little bit. I figured I would start with Thanksgiving to Christmas and see how it goes. Since I am obviously writing a blog post right now, I haven't completely dropped off the internet. What I did instead was schedule a limited amount of time that I would devote to my online "persona." 

I now only look at my blogging and social media accounts for a few minutes over the lunch hour and between 8-9pm in the evenings. I haven't been perfect about it, but I have been very good about it. The biggest sign of success I've seen with this goal so far is that I haven't had either of my daughters complain about me having my nose buried in my phone or computer in the past couple of weeks. That's the family side of the motivation. More quality time with my girls is a huge motivator. 

One of my health goals is to lose some of my extra weight. Yeah, I's an old story. I've talked about losing weight before, but I never really cared either way before. I really think the thing that pushed me over the edge (ie. to get serious about it) this time was this crazy hour-by-hour scheduling I set up. There's something about having a schedule that let's you get in the mindset of "it's right there on the schedule so I have to do it." This helped out in two ways.

First, the scheduling of my "rack time" is actually helping ensure I am ready and willing to wake up in the morning to get a work-out in. It probably doesn't hurt that I am starting with only three days per week for working out and the rest for "personal development" time. You know what though... personal development time (educational reading, etc) is often boring so the exercise choice is more appealing. Basically, I tell myself I have to wake up at a certain time - what I do with that time is up to me. I've hit my 3 days a week so far, but have to admit that I slept in a few of the other days rather than using the time for personal development. 

The second way this technological scheduling helped out was with the use of an app I never thought I'd use - Weight Watchers. Yep, I signed up for Weight Watchers. I may not be fond of exercise, but my biggest problem with weight gain over the years is my horrible sense of food portions. OK, that's not totally true. I have always known I eat too much - I just didn't care. Well, having an app tell me how many "points" of food I have to eat on a given day has helped me limit my portions. The fact that I have to enter the food into the app slows down my eating and makes me actually feel full before I hit the second or third helping. (FYI - I've lost 10 pounds so far and that makes it even more fun.) 

No matter how I look at it, this whole "less is more" thing is working out well for me. Better scheduling of my time at home and work has made me more productive in the same amount of time. The really obvious one is that eating less food is making me more healthy. (I should emphasize this is because I had horrible portion control. Starving yourself is just as bad - or worse.) We'll see how it goes, but I have to say I'm pretty excited about the progress thus far. Until next time....