Celebrating Your Wins

We have a MoneyDance2popular tradition in our family called the Money Dance. Whenever we get a  windfall, like a tax refund or a bonus, we deposit the funds in the bank, withdraw a representative amount in small bills, take it home, toss it up in the air of the living room and dance around like idiots as the bills float to the ground around us.

Silly, right? But important. Here’s why:

Too often we get caught up in the drudgery of daily life. It’s hard to feel like we’re making progress in life when there’s an endless amount of mundane tasks just to keep things going. If we don’t keep up, we’re soon overwhelmed by Summary of Benefits statements, broken knobs and switches, and the never-ending list of tasks we must attend to just to keep our households running.

Celebrating the wins, no matter how small, is crucial to our motivation. At every turn, there is a mountain of paperwork and drudgery between us and happiness. Because, as The Eagles say in their song New York Minute, “ the wolf is always at the door.” Continue reading Celebrating Your Wins

Fear & Bravado

Surgery Turban
Yet another hospital selfie

You sign the forms because you have to. If you don’t, the surgery doesn’t happen and your weakness and pain never go away. You gulp and sign your name saying, “sure, I’m aware that the things you plan to do to me are inherently risky and could all go terribly wrong”.

Then they inform you, quite specifically, of all those things that could go wrong- infection, brain damage, death – and that you’re not to sue them if they do. Of course you’d be brain-damaged or dead, so it would be your heirs doing the suing (hey that rhymed, I’m keeping it in!). Nevertheless, it is you that must sign.

So you do what they say and wait. There have been no fluids or solids since before midnight, there is no jewelry on your person, and you’ve shown up on time – 6:30 am on a Tuesday morning. You’ve resigned yourself to the risk and you’re plunging ahead, even though your spouse can’t stand the stress of waiting with you and dropped you off in the parking lot and sped away. You wait alone.

Intellectually you know that this is no big deal, they perform thousands of these procedures and they’re good at it. But you take comfort in your indulgences from the day before, because, hey, who knows, you may not be walking out of here alive. Continue reading Fear & Bravado

Just Say ‘No’

Just Say Nancy
Redskin Superbowl Quarterback Doug Williams with Nancy “Just Say No” Reagan

Nancy Reagan passed away recently after a 94 year run.  An actress in 11 feature films for MGM, Nancy married a fellow actor, then took on her most visible role as First Lady of the United States when that actor became president. All told, a long, successful life, and the 2nd longest lifespan of an American First Lady.

As most First Ladys do during their time in the White House, Nancy chose a cause to promote. While Michelle Obama’s cause was Childhood Obesity and Laura Bush’s was Child Literacy, Nancy chose to address teenage drug abuse with a campaign she called, “Just Say No.”

Nancy Reagan became synonymous with “Just Say No”, and her efforts led to a nationwide campaign of anti-drug use training for school kids. Backed by two billion dollars of government spending (that’s billion) and her husband’s minimum drug sentencing legislation, Just Say No” became one of the largest initiatives of its kind anywhere.

Ever.

But critics argued that it was an overly simplistic, expensive and ineffective approach to a complex problem. Abbie Hoffman, noted 70’s radical activist, declared that it was akin to “telling a manic-depressive to just cheer up” (that’s manic-depressive, BTW not Manic Impressive).

Their concerns were bolstered by two studies in 1988 that showed no lasting positive effect of the effort. Just the opposite, in fact, as rates of marijuana, cocaine, and L.S.D. use among 8th graders actually increased after they had been in decline for many years.

But as I found out for myself the other day, just saying ‘No’ can work for other, simpler things. Continue reading Just Say ‘No’

Trigger(s)

When I was little, TV cowboys were all the rage. There was Gene Autry The Roy Rogers & TriggerSinging Cowboy, The Lone Ranger and his horse Silver, and the most beloved of them all, Roy Rogers. Roy and his partner Dale Evans were huge celebrities, as was Dale’s horse Buttermilk, and Roy’s horse Trigger.

Trigger was so famous that his hoof prints are in Hollywood’s Walk of Fame next to Roy’s (no, not Roy’s hoof prints, his footprints, wiseguy). He even had his own comic book series, and millions of Trigger action figures were packaged and sold to little kids all over the world.

So famous, that when he died in 1965, Roy had him stuffed and mounted. 45 years later Trigger was sold at auction for over a quarter million dollars (or buckaroos for you cowpokes out there).

Now I bring this up, not to reminisce about mangy old horse carcasses, but to talk about the triggers that all of us own. The deep-rooted things in all of us that trigger our behaviors. In the Behavioral Science world we call them Antecedents, the situations and things that come before we act. The Triggers that cause our behavior.

Trigger
Good Trigger

Triggers can lead to good or bad behavior. Triggers like praise, applause or blue ribbons can cause us to practice more, study harder or challenge ourselves to do more. But often our triggers initiate poor performance, like anger, substance abuse, or worse, giving up. 

In the recovery movement triggers are usually the things that set off our mental health issues, and cause people to act out, veg out, or stress eat pints of ice cream or Costco-sized bags of cheesy poofs.  Bad triggers.

Bad Trigger
Bad Trigger

So I ask you, what are your triggers? What situations or actions cause you to lose your composure, break your promises, or devolve into self-harm of some sort? Are there certain people in your life that know where your buttons are and push them to get you out of control, or away from your goals? I know I have them, plenty of them.

But if we’re going to break out of our present circumstances and achieve the things we desire, we need to get real clear on what these triggers are, in order to (again, in cowboy parlance) head them off at the pass before they manifest themselves into negative behaviors.

Sound easy? Hell no, we’ve all been there and know how hard it is. But if we identify our triggers and plan in advance to instead, deploy productive healthy behaviors, we’ll be able to stay on target and make progress when we would otherwise give up, go off our diets or go off on other people.

The key is to look at our behaviors and figure what happens right before we act. When we do well, let’s figure out what triggered the positive behavior that led to the good work, and replicate those conditions. When we fail, we need to find what happened right before we f!#*ed up, and try to prevent those conditions from triggering our epic fail responses.

So when you hit the end of your dusty trail, when you ride off into the sunset, we want them all singing Happy Trails, not Another One Bites the Dust. And maybe, just maybe, someone will want to drop a quarter mill on your taxidermied remains…

 

Self-Doubt

MazeThis is Maze, the devil’s protector, from the new TV show Lucifer. She’s a demon in the form of a very hot, dangerous woman. She’s stuck in Los Angeles watching Lucifer’s back while he’s on vacation from Hell sorting out some personal issues. At one point Maze takes Lucifer’s brother to a coffee shop called Beelzebeans, and explains why she loves it.

“This is my favorite place in the city. Look at them on their laptops, writing the next great screenplay, torturing themselves with the dreams, they know, deep down, they will never achieve. Reminds me of home.”

Home for Maze is Hell, a place souls go to be tortured. At least here on Earth, tortured souls have a chance at redemption and the ability to achieve their dreams. No, it’s not easy, and there is plenty of struggle in store for those of us who listen to the Muse and pursue our dreams of writing, performing, and being more than we are.

But in Hell there is no Muse. Only Maze, the demon who loves to see the suffering that comes from self-doubt. As long as we mortals listen to the Muse and chase our dreams, we are safe. But in the quiet moments when we are not striving, we are vulnerable. That’s when self-doubt can creep in and whittle away at us. Continue reading Self-Doubt