To count, or not to count. *That* is the question …

Last year about this time, I sat contemplating whether or not I was going to set New Years Resolutions. What I ended up with was my 20-11 List: twenty things I wanted more of, and eleven things I wanted less of. A smart list, if I say it myself, and reviewing it throughout the year, one that helped me keep the important things important. 


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I suppose I’ve always smelled faintly of chlorine. I learned to swim when I was four, and joined the swim team at seven. I swam competitively for 10 years, retiring from racing after high school. And I’ve managed to stay in the pool since. 


The difference between my workouts then and now is counting. When you’re prepping for the next meet, yardage is important. When you’re following the black line on the bottom of the pool to just stay in shape, yardage isn’t as important as whether or not you’re hitting your training heart rate. Some days I count laps, some days I don’t. I find I’m more motivated, and feel better about my workout, on the days I count. There’s a greater sense of accomplishment when I *know* I’ve put in a mile, instead of guesstimating I have done. Apparently, Coach, that training is a hard habit to break!


It dawned on me a couple days before Christmas that my morning workout is a good analogy for the rest of my life. I’m more motivated, and pay better attention when I’m counting. And I definitely don’t pay as much attention to the stuff I don’t count. 
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So here’s my 2012 List: Things to count. And not to count.

 

Count
Expressing gratitude
       Acknowledging,
in the moment, when someone does something I appreciate
       Saying
“please” and “thank you”
Precious face-time with my family and friends
       Family
dinners
       Inside
jokes
       Crazy
capers from which legend is borne
       Puppy
kisses
       See
also “celebrations,” “laughter, “gratitude”
Snail mail
       Sent
… being tangible with family and friends across the miles
       Received
… that isn’t a solicitation or a bill!
Healthy habits
       Calories
burned
       Miles
swum
       Walks
with friends
       Walks
with the 4-leggeds
       See
also “laughter”
       Mental
health breaks: see also “moto,” “face-time”
Accomplishment
       Finished
projects
       Good
books
       Permission
to abandon old stuff
Celebrations
       High
fives
       Happy
dances
       See
also “face-time”
Laughter
       Giggles
       Chortles
       Guffaws
       Snorts!
Moto rides!!!
       Camping
trips
       Wandering
to nowhere particular
       See
also “healthy habits”
Photo ops
       Sunrises,
sunsets
       Ocean,
mountains, rivers, valleys
       Dogs,
cats, kids, cows
       Face-time
with friends
       Celebrations,
accomplishment
       Moments
that memories are made of (and legend, too)

 

Not Count
The number of times it is “my turn” to talk
When a friend has the floor … be still, and listen
between the words (it’s what I hope they’d do for me)
When I don’t get my own way
In 5 years, will it really be important anyway?
Being right
Quarreling takes too much energy, and there never
are any real winners
Minor personal inconvenience
Especially if it’s while being of service to someone
Unanticipated change in plans
Often, the best adventures are unplanned. Definitely
don’t count if it’s family/friends changing it up.
How often I’m sent “up over” or “down under”
Being the young bendy one in the family means I’m
climbing the ladder or crawling under the house to do…something I’d probably
rather not. But, it’s precious time and relationship maintenance with my old
people I wouldn’t trade for anything. Count under “face-time” and “accomplishment.”
Rainy days
It’s Oregon after all. It rains here. But it means
fabulous green stuff and gorgeous blooming things.
* In no particular order
** Subject to change as I think of things to add

Gratitutional

In keeping with the reflection theme, I revisited this list I started 2 years ago. At the time, I found myself struggling to not sprint my marathon … to slow down enough to experience life as it happened instead of just rushing crazy mad from one thing straight to the next. It’s too easy to let important things we know we ought to do fall by the wayside. Like telling someone when they do something we appreciate, for example. Life is too long not to appreciate the appreciable. And life is too short to live without an attitude of gratitude.

Among other things, I am thankful for…

… lazy evenings
with nothing planned but curling up on the couch with a movie or a good book.

… sunrises
no matter the size of the hairy beast you battled the day before, chances are pretty good it won’t look so fierce in the brilliant light of a new day.

… a good book
a thick one with great characters and a believable plot; one you can get lost in on a rainy afternoon.

… rainy afternoons
to curl up with a fuzzy blanket, cup of hot chocolate, and, of course, a good book to get lost in.

… napping
my favorite sport.

… old-fashioned letters
LOVE getting mail that isn’t a bill or credit card solicitation. A hand-written note means the author really put some thought behind what they wanted to tell you. There’s just no easy way to edit/copy/paste when composing a letter.

… puppy kisses
dogs don’t care what you’re wearing, if you’re having a bad hair day, or what other people think; they love you simply because you’re you, and you came home to them.

… blustery October “Winnie-the-Pooh” days
when it’s still warm, but the wind is gusting just enough to whip the leaves around.

… heated seats
makes the early morning travel to practice so much more bearable.

… forgiveness
We’re none of us perfect. We make mistakes, fall, pick ourselves up, hopefully learn something, and move on. I’m so thankful that God’s grace flows freely and that He bears our burdens.

… kids
they’re so innocent and full of awed wonder, not restricted by bias or tradition; they giggle at anything that strikes them funny, and they’re generally dispositioned towards fun. They live life with gusto, totally spent at the end of each day. They don’t sweat the small stuff, but find infinite joy in simply being alive.

… gray hair
it’s genetic; a subtle reminder that some things just are outside your control. Ya gotta buckle up and hang on, because life is a wild ride. But instead of obsessing about trivial things, look at the big picture and concentrate on the stuff you CAN influence.

… grandparents
they keep family history, hope, and traditions alive. They tell you about all the crazy things your parents did when they were young. They’re the hub that keeps everyone connected. I miss mine.

… moments
the stuff grand memories are made of.

… 2 am friends
they take your middle-of-the-night crisis calls and have your back, no explanations necessary. They walk beside you on the adventure through life’s trials and triumphs, tolerate your foibles, laugh at your antics, understand the complexities of your character, and protect your vulnerable parts. AND, they claim you in public. :)

What would you add to the list?

Rear view to the future

I participated in a MasterMind group in late 2009; the focus was productivity. At the time, I thought, “Wow. This is good stuff.” Our coach gave us practical strategies, and useful tips. She didn’t try to change our behavior(s), but instead had this way of asking [mostly] gentle questions that challenged our assumptions about why we function the way we do. I learned some things about myself that I already knew, but had forgotten. 

And I learned some things I didn’t know. Now, nearly two years out, I’ve seen my productivity—or more accurately, how I discipline myself—increase. On reflection, I think my biggest take-away was that I gave myself permission to operate in just
one “life” and not try to maintain a work life and a private life. It’s all inter-connected.

One of the activities our awesome and fantastic coach (Tara Rodden Robinson) gave us was the VIA Survey at www.authentichappiness.com. The outcome of the survey is a list of your top 25 Character Strengths. Here’s my top 5:


1. Gratitude
You are aware of the good things that happen to you, and you never take them for granted. Your friends and family members know that you are a grateful person because you always take the time to express your thanks.
2. Spirituality, sense of purpose, and faith
You have strong and coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe. You know where you fit in the larger scheme. Your beliefs shape your actions and are a source of comfort to you.

3. Curiosity and interest in the world
You are curious about everything. You are always asking questions, and you find all subjects and topics fascinating. You like exploration and discovery.

4. Humor and playfulness
You like to laugh and tease. Bringing smiles to other people is important to you. You try to see the light side of all situations.

5. Appreciation of beauty and excellence
You notice and appreciate beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in all domains of life, from nature to art to mathematics to science to everyday experience.

I’ve taken it again—to see if anything has shifted in two years—and find my top 5 are consistent.

Sometimes it’s been in fits and starts, but I’ve found ways to incorporate more of each into every day. I’ve made an effort to tell more people more frequently when I appreciate something they do—and celebrate what they bring to my life (Gators to you, Conroy). I’ve grown in my faith; that affects the lens through which I view and interact with life in a positive way. I said “out loud” that I wanted to see more _____ (art, theatre, sunrises, random trips to nowhere), and my friends have obliged by helping me fill my social calendar. I’ve explored more and taken up new hobbies. I’ve laughed more. A lot more. I’ve stacked my “inner sanctum” with brilliant people who are smarter than me—makes me bring my “A” game.The relevance here is that I’ve been spending some quality time working through the strategic planning process at work. This week has been about updating progress on goals from last year as the foundation for setting next year’s goals. Since it’s all one life … it makes sense that I start doing that in the rest of my life, too. So, here’s part of my rear-view on last year(s) as I look forward to the opportunities of next year.


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VIA Survey of Character Strengths
http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/default.aspx
 

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