Archive for the ‘Change’ Category

Periodically I ponder the inevitable point at which some things will end.  What will it be like to retire some number of years down the road?  What will go through my mind and heart when relationships change because of geography, work changes, illness, unforeseen events, and even death?  What organizations and affiliations will cease to be a part of my life as I choose to leave some behind and connect with others instead?

Change itself isn’t something that necessarily scares me.  I have enough of a rebel spirit within me to take out on new adventures and to take risks.  As a lifelong learner, I’m not content to stay where I am in life’s circumstances, knowledge, capabilities or service.  To live is to grow and learn.

Moving forward in a solid, focused direction means that you can’t spend too much time looking in the rear view mirror.  You need to be aware of the past and learn from it, but you can’t let it keep you from going where you need to go in the future.

We reach crossroads along the way that force us to make a decision regarding which path is next.  Do we keep going in the same direction?  Do we veer off in some new direction?  Do we return to where we have been?

As you might suspect, I’m pondering change.  I’ve made no decisions.  I may not change anything yet.  There is no need to rush a decision.

If I decide for change, I’ll remember the wisdom of Dr. Seuss – today’s leap year lesson #285: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened!”

Later this morning a man will come to our house and do some minor touch-up work on the recently renovated master bath.  There are a few places where the caulking has cracked around some edges of the shower, so the company that did the work this summer is sending him to fix it.  It isn’t anything major – just a little annoyance that shouldn’t happen this soon after the work was done, so it needs repair.

A few months ago, there was nothing but open space in the gutted upstairs as everything that was there previously for our two boys’ bedrooms and attic space was removed to make room for a new master suite to be constructed from the ground up.  The work ahead of the renovation company at that point was quite a bit different than the little touch-up that awaits them today.

When I consider the changes that have taken place in the past or need to happen in the future for me personally, they can also be grouped into the larger categories of major renovations that take a lot of time to overhaul versus those that are little touch-up jobs along the way.  Deciding to lose 20 pounds this year took several months of more activity and a change of eating habits that has to continue if I want to keep those pounds off (so far, so good).  Getting a better handle on my retirement financial preparation has taken a lot of study and changes in investments over the past 13 months as I put things in place for retiring in another 10-12 years.  Both of the above changes are significant.  They take more time and effort.  Other minor ones along the way have happened with less planning, less time and minimal effort.

Do you have anything that needs a major overhaul in your life – internal or external?  Have you been dissatisfied with some minor things that could use a touch-up job here and there?  If so, make the decision and do something today to move in the right direction.  The major overhauls aren’t easy, but you sure do enjoy them once they’re complete.

Leap year lesson #264 is Tackle that next major renovation or minor touch-up.

I’ve been thinking lately about the unexpected path that has led to my current work role.  As I’ve shared before, I love what I do and am very fortunate to get to work with the great people on my team.

If I step back, though, and look at a big timeline of what has transpired over the years to get me to this place, it wasn’t always positive, happy occurrences that led to the next turning point.  Sometimes I had to go down a path originally unplanned and unwanted in order for it all to turn out as it has.

For example, I would not have sought out another department to transfer to in 2011 if the department I was in at that time had given me the ability to concentrate on that major part of my role which needed all – not just some – of my attention.  Likewise, I would not have joined that previous department in 2009 if I had been completely happy with the management of the department I had served from 2003-2009.  Going further back, I would not have come to my current company in 2003 or the previous company I worked for briefly in 2003 if the market for contract trainers in my area of specialty hadn’t dried up between 2001 and 2003.  And the market for people with my certifications would not have dried up if Microsoft had not changed the rules allowing unqualified trainers not certified in the subjects to teach them anyway.

So, in hindsight, there has been a somewhat consistent pattern of events that at the time were very unpleasant and that forced me to look for and walk through other doors.  Yet, without any one of those negative circumstances happening right when it did, there is no way I would be in the fortunate place I am today, doing what I love with wonderful people.

That gives me hope for the next time I seem boxed in by unpleasant circumstances.  Chances are good that – even though I might not recognize it in the present – I will eventually see a bigger picture of how it all worked out for good.

Leap year lesson #229 is Enough left turns may still get you to the right place.

People cite different figures when discussing how many days it takes to develop a new habit.  Some claim 21 days while other research shows the figure to be more like 66 days.  Your mileage may vary.

Regardless of how many days it takes, the purpose of this post is to reassure you that developing new habits can be done with diligent effort over time.  It isn’t easy, especially when the habit we are trying to form competes with the little red guy holding a pitchfork on one shoulder who constantly tells us to do what is easier, feels better, brings more pleasure, etc.

On June 4, my company began a 100 Day Dash campaign to get employees to increase the number of steps we take daily.  We’ve already taken over 2 billion steps on our cumulative goal to at least 5 billion by the end of the 100 days.

In a June 26 post I shared my goal to go from my then-current weight of 159 pounds down to 150.  I’ve had to change a few habits since then in order to move in the right direction.  For example,

  • the peanut butter ice cream in the freezer continues to sit there;
  • I’ve eaten no fast food since then;
  • my portion sizes have shrunk considerably;
  • my choice of foods is healthier;
  • I continue to get in at least 15,000 steps per day (about 7.5 miles).

It was not easy going to one of my favorite burger joints with my work team yesterday and ordering a salad to go so that my meal could be half a salad, saving the other half for later.  It is not easy walking past a great fish restaurant a block from my house whenever I walk my dog, smelling the great aromas, without returning after the walk.  But with only 1-2 pounds left to reach my goal, it is the reward of reaching the goal (and staying there once achieved) that overrides previously strong impulses.

The Dash has only been going on for five weeks and my goal was only set two weeks ago, but I already sense the growth of new habits with better rewards.  I promise to succeed.

Leap year lesson #194 is You can develop new habits if you try.

For some strange reason, the song All My Exes Live in Texas has been stuck in my head for days.  Some people refer to that as an earworm.  I’d wake up in the morning humming it and find myself doing so throughout the day.  Maybe it’s because one TV commercial running now plays that song.  It’s a good thing that a friend posted Ray Charles singing America the Beautiful today on Facebook, because I’ve been humming that far better and more appropriate tune since then.

It wasn’t enough to want to get rid of the first song.  It took replacing it with something else to get it out of my head.

As I ponder this simple experience, I am reminded of the similar truth when it comes to changing behavior or breaking bad habits.  It is not enough to want to change something about yourself.  It is not enough to tell yourself for the millionth time that you are going to stop doing something you don’t think you should do.  You must replace it with something else.  Otherwise, the old is still hovering around and all too ready and able to take root again.

I’ve heard several pastors make this point in reference to a gospel story from Matthew 12 where unclean spirits are cast out but find the original home empty and return with more unclean spirits to make the condition worse than it was originally.

Whether it be the simple matter of what song you are humming, or a weightier matter of breaking a bad habit, changing some business process, or even a very heavy spiritual issue, be mindful of leap year lesson #183 – Replace – don’t just stop – what needs to change.