Friday, December 31, 2010

Focus Forward

One of the first things I teach my agility dogs is to focus forward when I leave them at the start line. That way, I can lead out - ahead and laterally - and they will look ahead at the line of obstacles in front of them.

Schema, Focusing Forward
Image by GreatDanePhotos Copyright 2010 ( used with permission
As I sit here tonight with the new year just hours away, I feel like I'm sitting at the start line with my life out ahead of me. I'm focused forward, looking out ahead at all the possibilities the future beholds. It's always fun to feel like starting over with a clean slate. A brand new "run" is starting and expectations are high. I can feel the excitement of what the new year will bring and I know that there will be potential "off courses" as I navigate my way through my 2011 course. These off courses provide me with extra incentive to put my attention back on the things that are wanted in my life.When I cross that finish line at the end of 2011, will it be a perfect run with no refusals, wrong courses, or failures? I doubt it. But, just like my dogs, I plan on still finding joy in my performance rather than dwelling on any of the imperfections of my 2011 "run".

My goals for 2011 are simple. Feel good.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Nothing Better Than Nothing on Birthdays

Day after Christmas - as most people know it, it is craziness at the stories as after Christmas sales start and the masses go out to get a good deal or to return or gifts. This day for me is so much different as it's a day of peace and tranquility. I was born the day after Christmas and I really disliked having a birthday that day when I was growing up. Now, I can't imagine having a better one as an adult. I was no different than most kids in that the things that were the most important to me at that time were the presents and the attention I got from everyone. Because most of my presents from my friends were combined (Happy Birthday/Merry Christmas) and I saw no one but my family on my birthday, I felt that I had "less" of a birthday than most others.

Looking back, now, those were only the years from when I was in elementary school and high school. When I was in college, I started to feel differently about my birthday as I started to appreciate different things in my life - my family, my dogs (yes, I had dogs and horses throughout  my life).

What I love about my birthday now is that nothing is expected (Tom and I don't exchange gifts for Christmas or birthdays anymore) and the day is open to do anything on the spur of the moment. I woke up this morning after spending Christmas Day with my parents and my sister and youngest brother's families.  Such wonderful kids - all so different, and so talented in different ways. They all play competitive sports and all excel in school and I just love them all and enjoy seeing them maturing in their own way. What a great day we had eating good food (love my Mom's spaghetti - NO ONE makes it like she does) as well as many other side dishes made by everyone.

Going from a day of so much busyness into a day like today with so much peace and quiet is the ultimate of balancing for me. I love my time alone with my dogs and Tom and not having to be anywhere. I woke up today to a day with sunny skies and warm temps (relative to December in Minnesota - maybe not to other parts of the country) and the smell of coffee brewing in the kitchen. Then after feeding the dogs breakfast, and checking in on Facebook, I see so many people taking the time to post to my wall, wishing me a Happy Birthday. Facebook is such a great community with support, well wishes, and those birthday wishes are really special to everyone that has experienced them.

Now, what to do for the day? I love not having a plan. Some of my fondest childhood memories are spent with my family and making decisions on the fly. As a family, we enjoyed doing things on the spur of the moment - like the time our family was driving back from Colorado visiting my grandparents and we came to a split in the road - home or Yellowstone? We all decided Yellowstone and my Dad just immediately veered off to the west. Other memories are when our family would take drives out into the country after Mass on Sundays.  Dad would go driving further out in the country with the intent of getting completely lost on the back roads and then trying to find our way home (no GPS devices at that time). We always enjoyed the beautiful countrysides and as time went along, it was harder and harder to get ourselves lost.

So, a day of nothing-ness or a day filled with just doing whatever I want to on the spur of the moment. That is just the ultimate for me. I won't know what this day brings until it's over. Just the way I like it.

I hope you enjoy your day after Christmas as much as I plan on enjoying it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Change The Channel

Have you ever seen someone alone in front of the television set intently watching something that they were not enjoying at all? Usually what happens is if the person isn't enjoying what is currently being broadcast on that channel, they are quick to change the channel in the hopes of finding another program that is more interesting. In fact, many times there can be lots of channel changing in the hopes of finding something more entertaining.

It's interesting to me that most people will not "change the channel" when they going about their daily lives and notice something that bothers them. Instead of just thinking about something else or trying to see it differently or even just settling on allowing a difference of opinion, the subject is pointed out, dissected, obsessed over, talked about in multiple conversations, and further dramatized. This actually does nothing, except make everyone that is involved feel badly.

I used to do the same thing and what I found was that talking about it and obsessing about all the wrongs and horrific actions only made me feel worse. I only felt better when I eventually forgot about the subject and nothing that I ever did while focusing on it, solved the perceived "problem". What I challenge myself to do now, is to not look at the things I know are going to bother me. Some people are going to think I'm just putting my head into the sand and I'm okay with that because I actually feel much better doing things this way. If there is a "horrific" video posted on Facebook, I won't watch it. If there are articles posted about animal abuse or child abuse or any other emotional triggers, I won't read them. If someone is in trouble or needs support, I will focus on the positives in order to be there for them. I know that there is far more good and positive things out there in the real world, than negative and I try to remain focused on that. And when something negative comes into my life, it will eventually lead to something positive always does.

I stopped watching television many years ago because most of what is broadcast is primarily with the intent of  creating drama. Drama tends to draw the "nosy" side of people with emotions about that story. That causes more talk, more finger pointing, more videos, more blogs, and more follow-up stories and discussions, rarely making anyone feel better.

Oh, I still find myself occasionally falling into my own trap of obsessing on something negative, but I am getting better at quickly figuring out a way to "change the channel". Dogs are very good at changing channels as they will focus on something good (good sniffs, running away/doing zoomies, etc) when they find that something is stressing them or bothering them. They are masters at finding positives or reinforcers.

To take this a step further, sometimes drama is personally created by trying to blame or point the finger at someone else for something that has happened that bothers or irritates us. "S/he made me so mad" is a very common statement that precedes a story that has seemingly put us at a disadvantage or in a position of having someone else causing us some kind of negative situation. If you are very honest about it, when you are mad at someone else it is never caused by that person. It's something that you have allowed to bother you and it's just more convenient to put the blame on someone else for that wrong. "He cut me off in traffic, that made me so mad", well why are you mad? He's now in front of you instead of tailgating behind you....or maybe there was an emergency...or even being more honest, have you ever unintentionally done that to someone else when you were in a hurry and then regretted it? Or are you just upset that someone else is just going faster than you are able to go? These are the incidents that can really test your commitment to be empowered to control the way you look at things. People simply can not make you upset, if you just don't allow them to - that is totally under your own control and when you realize that, it is very enlightening.

No one is perfect and we all make mistakes, learn from those mistakes, and apply what we've learned to improve our lives. That's what it's all about - it's not our jobs to try and change other people - that is useless wasted negative energy and an impossible task.

What are my goals for 2011? My goals are to continue to allow people the right to have a difference of opinion, continue to find opportunities to "change the channel" when drama appears to be present, and just continue to try and find ways to feel gratitude and enjoyment in 2011. These are goals I know I can achieve and they will bring about endless good things in the year to come.