Thankful for an Interesting Realization – the Negativity of the Word “Should”

Day 2,030

In a conversation earlier today a teammate reminded me of a story we’d both recently heard from a cohort. The cohort had shared how the use of the word “should” was a personal battle cry for them, hearing it made them immediately stand up AGAINST whatever action the other person said “should” be done. My teammate and I both bristled thinking about both the times when we’ve heard that used on us as well as the times when we’ve used it when talking with others. It felt really uncomfortable, but we both kind of laughed it off and then moved on with our day.

In a different conversation with another person the word came up again. This time the other person immediately shared that “should” is a judgement word and has some very negative connotations. When we dove back into the use of the word my brain really had to pause and digest. What was being said was 100% spot on and truly enlightening on so many levels.

Quite often, when I use the word should it really does the exact opposite of what I’d like while also showing judgement on the person and/or their action. What even got me more was the realization that there are so many better ways to help each other than using “should.” Specifically, starting with the age old “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Rather than immediately passing judgement and sharing my supposed “right” way, what if I paused to ask more questions to understand the “why” of the situation? How much more enlightening would the conversations be to listen, learn, and grow rather than immediately move into “fixing” mode?

As we dug in the person also shared how they have heard of using an actual clicker to track all the times they say judgement words like “should” throughout the day. Without having one in hand my mind was already pretty rocked by catching MANY times those six letters came out of my mouth through the remainder of the day.

Wowza… The gap between who I am and who I’m called to be spread a little wider today, didn’t it? Hmm… that’s not quite right. Maybe a better analogy would be – the fog lifted to help me more clearly see how much of the gap I didn’t know existed? Yup, I’m leaving this whole long thought process in here, this blogging thing really helps me work things out and it feels right to leave it as a clue for my future self to go back to one day.

Sometimes all you can do is smile as you realize just how big the gap is, and realize that it just means there’s more opportunity to grow into who we are called to be. 🙂

If you want more info all you have to do is Google “should judgement word” and your mind will be blown as mine was.

Thanks!!!

Thankful for a Beautiful Winter Run in the Spring and Making Maple Syrup

Day 2,028

This morning Becky and I went for our long training run for the week. When Becky picked our half marathon it was in the hopes of being able to get some nice trail runs in with some nice Spring weather. As we all know now, that hasn’t really been the case. Due to Mother Nature’s insistence on extending Winter we’ve had neither trail runs (too wet & muddy) nor nice weather (unless you really enjoy 20+ mph winds and temperatures below 20).

The run this morning started off ridiculously frigid as we ran directly into the stiff wind as the snow pelted us in the face. I, as the big dumb animal I sometimes am known to be, opted for shorts in this 20 degree weather which felt like 9 including wind chill. Not my brightest move. The first couple of miles were pretty rough.

Becky had the idea to take a gravel side road through the woods to cut down on the wind. We were immediately significantly warmer due to the woods breaking up the gusts of wind. The road we were on went alongside the Jump River intermittently and gave us some spectacular scenery. There were several turkeys, ducks, pheasants, and a pair of turkey vultures joining us occasionally. At one point Becky and I had a couple of horses in a field joining us from their side of the fence. Everything was so peaceful and chill, it was exactly why I enjoy getting into the woods. I was realizing how the “marathon monks” are really onto the right idea with the running meditations. My favorite part of the scenery was a specific bend in the Jump River. The woods opened up and the river was on full display with a high embankment on the other side making it feel a lot like being up in the UP of Michigan (which we’re really not that far from). It was awesome!

Yes, the weather and conditions were less than ideal. That said, as is the case with anything in life, it is up to each of us to choose where we put our focus and the lens through which we view the world around us. I chose to focus on the beauty of the outdoors, the time in the woods, and the appreciation of doing something out in the wild with Becky. Totally one of my favorite activities in the world.

After we got back and showered up I had an opportunity to help my in laws make maple syrup. They were kind enough to save about 50 gallons of sap to boil down specifically with us. The timing hasn’t worked out in the past for us to help and participate in this activity in the past, I was so pumped to help out this time around!

The entire process was incredible to experience. The time and energy it took to boil out all the water out of the sap to go from 50 gallons of sap to just over a gallon of syrup was wild! Throughout we took out samples, tested the sugar content, and kept the sap boiling. In addition to the fun of observing the process I got a ton of bonus time with my father in law, always something I appreciate. Having the opportunity to shoot the bull with him was awesome, he had me smiling and laughing the entire time. I can’t begin to put into words how much I appreciate my father in law, he’s amazing in so many ways!

Being able to say I helped to make syrup still has me smiling. Each time I gobble up some maple syrup I’ll be sure to remember all the work that goes into making it and will be even more grateful for everyone who made it for us.

Thanks!!!

Thankful for Remembering Lightbulb Moments Aren’t Created In an Instant or Alone

Day 2,025

Been an excellent day for a wide variety of reasons stretching from getting to know teammates better, learning new tricks, seeing the boys excel in school, having unexpected downtime, making progress in the areas that matter most, seeing incredible potential, and a profound sense of calm. As per the norm, throw in a handful of moments which remind me of the value of purpose. Wild. Even as I type all this my brain can’t quite realize this was all in only one day. Wowza!

Earlier in the day we had our monthly Think Day in Winona – that time when we pause reality for four hours to focus on working “on” the business rather than merely “in” it. Many insights, new ideas, and potential solutions throughout that thinking time together.

At one point I had one of those “Eureka” moments and had an excellent idea. For the briefest of seconds there was a tremendous sense of pride as my ego gave itself a quick pat on the back for the genius is so obviously thought it was in that moment… and then reality kicked in. This wasn’t a struck by insight moments in which I caught lightning in a bottle, nothing could be further from the truth.

This stroke of insight and genius was the result of MANY hours of life lessons, training, learning, thinking, and the like. When I really dissect the genesis of the idea I could see the different influences of books and articles I’ve read as recently as earlier in the day and as far back as a couple of decades. Conversations with clients, teammates, mentors, friends, family, and strangers all planted the seeds of the idea. Stories shared by others each left their own individual impacts. The focus on our values, the intensity of my preoccupation with purpose, and even some huge takeaways from a training in London, Ontario about 20 years ago all played into this idea. This wasn’t a spur of the moment, flip the switch, A-Ha moment… it was the culmination of a tremendously large number of hours spent honing a craft and knowledge.

As I was then complimenting my work ethic, drive, and wisdom, I realized something. This wasn’t even my idea! Honestly, it was an idea from a teammate which was generated by another teammate which was the result of a different idea from a conversation about an entirely different topic. This wasn’t “Mike’s Incredible Genius,” rather, this was the work of so many teammates, mentors, coaches, associates, clients, and the like. This was their idea, their genius all put together and on display.

By the time I’d realized this I was chuckling to myself, I swear I could even hear Dad loving call me one of my favorite nicknames in moments like this… “dumbass,” a la Red Foreman from That 70’s Show. 100% in a loving way, and 100% well deserved.

A stroke of genius which seems so obvious the moment it is uttered that we kind of stop and wonder how we all missed it. Not a lightning strike of insight – rather, the result of many, many, many hours of hard work, learning, and sharing of ideas between an incredibly large network of wonderful people, without any single one of which the idea may have never came to fruition. I just happened to have the opportunity to help connect the dots, I was the one who found the last puzzle piece laying on the floor after all but that piece was put together.

Those magical “Lightbulb Moments” are usually the result of so many hours of learning by so many people. I am thankful for that reminder today.

Not gonna lie, it felt good to put the last piece of the puzzle in place, but it feels even better to stand back and look at what we all created together. That’s success.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,992 – Thankful for Swapping Two Words to Swap My Attitude and Opportunities to Practice Stillness

Yesterday morning I was on an enlightening webinar featuring Dr. Cindra Kamphoff. While there were many notes taken there was one line which stuck in my brain. “Things don’t happen TO you, they happen FOR you.” Let that one sink in for a moment… “Things don’t happen TO you, they happen FOR you.”

With one little phrase the key to reframing our mindset can be changed. The key is to consider how whatever is happening can be used as an opportunity to learn. In many ways it’s a twist on one of my favorite questions, “What can I learn from this?”

Today I had more than a couple of opportunities to practice this. They presented themselves as mild annoyances. Someone driving 20 mph below the speed limit on the interstate a couple of miles from my exit with a line of over a dozen cars behind it. Someone parking in the second to last spot in the lot and parking about six inches over the line and into the last remaining spot. As I type this I know how lame both of those sound and it’s pretty disappointing to admit I was frustrated by both of those moments. I was stuck in the mindset of thinking about how each of those things had happened TO me.

As I was slowly calming my brain down and working back into a good headspace in yoga I could feel the stress fade away. I focused on my breathing and the stretching and all was good in the world. At the end of our practice we moved into final rest, a few moments of complete quiet and stillness, one of my favorite parts of the practice. Complete stillness…

…until someone coughed. Then a sneeze. Then some heavy breathing. The sound of a water bottle being moved. Someone nearby moving a little to adjust themselves. Distracting sound followed by distracting sound, one after another, after another.

As I lay on my back with my eyes closed and a towel over them I almost started to laugh. I could hear Dad’s voice in my head, “how’s the stillness now Mikey?” as he laughed along with me. Each time there was another noise I could feel my body starting to convulse as I fought back deep belly laughter.

While I was not in a deep state of calm and there was noise all around me I chose the right mindset. This was all happening FOR me. What an opportunity to remember how important it is to choose the right mindset, to choose growth over frustration.

One of my favorite quotes from Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations was going through my head as I started to laugh quietly during yoga.

“Choose not to be harmed – and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed – and you haven’t been.”

Today I am grateful for the opportunity to practice swapping two words to swap an attitude and opportunities to choose stillness.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,989 – Thankful for Sharing Many Moments of Joy, Love, and Beauty

What a fulfilling day on so many levels. Seemingly around each corner was an opportunity to grow, to love, to support, to help, or to feel incredible sense of purpose. Not everything went as planned, but even the things that didn’t happen as expected presented opportunities for beauty, love, and joy.

When I stopped at Caribou Coffee to pick up some drinks for my team I was presented a new opportunity. The cashier was hearing impaired and smiled and pointed to the whiteboard. This was a first for me and it was an experience I’ll never forget.

Without spoken language we communicated the order for six drinks with various intricacies. We laughed together at various times, helped each other through hand motions, and shared so many smiles together as we proceeded through the transaction. At one point when she was trying to help me answer a question she resorted to wrapping her arms around herself and acting like she was shivering. “Iced!” I proclaimed with glee and a giggle. It was amongst the most pleasant and joyful customer experiences I’ve ever had.

As a writer and speaker I’m a huge fan of words to communicate. In many ways they are the tool of my trade, my most trusted implement. With the inability to use them it was interesting to see how quickly we were able to adapt and still make a connection. At a deep and primal level it helped me see that we are all truly wired for love.

There were so many other moments which touched my soul. Receiving coaching from teammates, listening to friends, seeing how past mistakes were translated into learning which was passed on as wisdom. Seeing how different we all are as people and yet how perfectly similar we all are. Recognizing our shared anxieties and helping each other through them. Realizing a profound sense of purpose in both helping others and in receiving help. Sharing in our humanity, sharing love and joy even in, and especially in, moments of pain and frustration.

If today were my last day upon the earth I would go into the next completely peaceful and knowing I’d spent much of my last day of this life witnessing the beauty, joy, and love we are all capable of.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,988 – Thankful for Another Gift Within a Gift at Yoga

Another Monday night yoga practice, another moment of profound insight nestled in the deeply calm state of presence.

The two biggest reasons I love hitting yoga are the physical workout as well as the focused presence. Put those two components together and I’m always grateful for taking the time to get all namaste.

While those two are the headliners there’s an awesome added bonus which sometimes appears when my mind is deep in that state of serenity. Occasionally an idea will hatch during the practice. A little nugget of wisdom worth more than one hundred times it’s weight in gold. A magical moment of clarity and understanding which help me understand some better than before.

Tonight that gem was the realization that when learning and attempting something I’ve never done there is no stress about anything else in life. The act of focused and intentional learning create a state in which there is no concern or anxiety about anything outside the task. If I’ve truly set my soul properly there is also no anxiety in what I am learning, there is only the bliss of play. How wild is that? When I find myself stressing or anxious I need only play a little game with myself – what can I learn from this – to transition from anxiety into calm.

That bonus lesson buried within a yoga practice was yet another example of how much can be gained by pausing the busyness of life and intentionally choosing stillness and presence. As Becky pointed out on Friday, the world would be a much better place if everyone paused for a moment to practice yoga. The entire world would quickly become all namaste.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,988 – Thankful for Another Gift Within a Gift at Yoga

Another Monday night yoga practice, another moment of profound insight nestled in the deeply calm state of presence.

The two biggest reasons I love hitting yoga are the physical workout as well as the focused presence. Put those two components together and I’m always grateful for taking the time to get all namaste.

While those two are the headliners there’s an awesome added bonus which sometimes appears when my mind is deep in that state of serenity. Occasionally an idea will hatch during the practice. A little nugget of wisdom worth more than one hundred times it’s weight in gold. A magical moment of clarity and understanding which help me understand some better than before.

Tonight that gem was the realization that when learning and attempting something I’ve never done there is no stress about anything else in life. The act of focused and intentional learning create a state in which there is no concern or anxiety about anything outside the task. If I’ve truly set my soul properly there is also no anxiety in what I am learning, there is only the bliss of play. How wild is that? When I find myself stressing or anxious I need only play a little game with myself – what can I learn from this – to transition from anxiety into calm.

That bonus lesson buried within a yoga practice was yet another example of how much can be gained by pausing the busyness of life and intentionally choosing stillness and presence. As Becky pointed out on Friday, the world would be a much better place if everyone paused for a moment to practice yoga. The entire world would quickly become all namaste.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,985 – Thankful for a Workweek Bookended by Yoga

After getting home from being out of town for work for a handful of days I took Monday off. After our morning run early Monday morning (Becky was working so we stayed with our normal time) I took a little nap and then hit yoga at Root Down for the 8:30am yoga class. After getting home tonight Becky and I loaded up and headed out to Root Down for another awesome yoga session.

Yoga, work, yoga, weekend. Kind of has a nice ring to it! I might have to do this again sometime 🙂

Yoga as a tool to center myself before getting back into the swing of things was exactly what my brain needed. My mind was racing with ideas from the days of training as well as with everything I needed to do in order to catch up. By bending, twisting, sweating, and breathing I was able to calm my neurons down and re-focus on the present moment. A profound state fo chill to create space for me to get to work.

Throughout the week I flew at a crazy pace. The days blew past me quickly as they were each filled with very necessary activity from start to stop. Even with Monday off I cruised well beyond 40 hours worked. My mind was still racing as I questioned whether or not I could wrap up in time for yoga. I knew my brain needed it so I wrapped up with creating my task list which will be waiting for me on Monday early morning when I get back to the office.

Yoga as a path to chilling my crazy busy thought processes was the perfect switch to flip to move me from work mode to weekend mode. It pushed me to wrap up and find the end of the page, put the bookmark in, and then move on to some lighter reading. By bending, twisting, sweating, and breathing I was able to relax, reduce the stress, and focus on moving forward on what I want to accomplish at home. It was exactly what I needed.

Ahh… I’m now showered up, full from an awesome dinner, and wrapping up my day with my blog.

Yoga, work, yoga, weekend. Namaste.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,975 – Thankful for Driving On Snowy Roads

This may sound crazy, but I’m thankful for snowy roads today. My commute to Eau Claire was a bit longer than usual due to the road conditions. Between snow, ice, & wind the speeds in all directions were significantly slower than usual. This led to a couple of unexpected benefits.

Thanks to the slickness of the roads I knew I’d be in for a long ride. With that mindset I calmed way down, accepted whatever was thrown my way, and I could feel my blood pressure drop. It was so much more relaxing when I knew I was in no hurry. Instead I leaned into the slower pace and totally chilled while driving.

The extra time in the car also helped me make some serious progress on the next book I’ve been reading. With the added calmness I felt as if I were able to retain significantly more than usual which was great! There was also time to pause, reflect, plan, and then get back to the book itself. Bonus reading time!

Sure, it’s not ideal, but if I choose the right mindset there’s even something to be thankful for on snowy roads.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,970 – Thankful for the Serenity of Sorting the Gratitudes of the Day

LOL – so I started on my title and ended up writing and re-writing it several times. None of the revisions had quite the right vibe so I’m blowing them all up, deleting the title, and starting with the body. Yes, this is the exact opposite of how writer Carmine Gallo teaches us to start writing a TED talk… thank goodness this is a blog and Carmine won’t be reading this 😉 Forget starting with the point, I’m letting my brain run wild and will come back to the point at the end. {fingers crossed}

Funny, I think I just landed on the topic, it wasn’t at all what I was expecting, but it is spot on. I’m grateful for creating the habit of writing about my gratitude each day. In the past I’ve written similar posts, but it just feels right to focus on it again this evening. As someone once wisely said, “we never step in the same river twice.” Though the topic may have similarities to what I’ve written in the past I am seeing it through a slightly different lens, changed by the perspective of time and experience.

In the past I’ve written about the beauty of having a journal of sorts to go back and rekindle old memories. I’ve also blogged about the peace of having time alone to wrap up the day. This is slightly different, tonight I’m thankful for the ability of writing a daily blog to allow me to sort out my thoughts, emotions, and experiences from throughout the day.

By pausing and reflecting on the day I create an opportunity to let the solids slowly precipitate out of suspension. This is my time to allow my brain to put together the 5,000 piece puzzle of experiences from the day. By writing I’m forced to process the day, think on it, and then translate it into written word. Writing in of itself is difficult, putting words to so many thoughts and ideas can be exhausting. Similar to distance running or weight lifting the exercise strengthens me though it may be uncomfortable at times.

This evening my brain was going to go down so many different paths, but after taking time to pause and reflect there are really only a couple of themes… rekindling and strengthening relationships, creating, moving in the direction of dreams, and pausing to appreciate all the gifts surrounding me – especially life itself. In taking time to process it all today I will be going to bed with a smile and a full heart. My gratitude becomes the lullaby which carries me off to peaceful rest. I sleep with the joy which can only come from thankfulness and stillness.

Thanks!!!