Our Stories

Very early in life we begin learning language and relating to the world in part by making associations; If I cry, mother will come. If I throw a block, everyone will turn toward me. If I take a nap, daddy won’t yell. Etc. These associations, coupled with our observations of the environment are woven into stories we tell ourselves. We come to believe that some of them represent truth.

A mother who goes back to work full time after years in the home may be the foundation for a child’s story that he had been too difficult to care for. An overheard and rather innocuous statement such as “I can’t wait to get back to work!” may be interpreted incorrectly and turned into a tale of unworthiness.

This happens over and over again to individuals and it can be more complicated when we share stories of experiential traumas over time. I was in a conversation not too long ago with three ladies from my family. We had all attended an event more than 20 years ago and yet as we sat there reminiscing, we all had different recollections of how things went down that day. Imagine how that plays out from grandparent to child to grandchild across many generations.

Keep in mind that as stories are told, we tend to color it from our position, our stance; both physically and perceptually. Furthermore, we are apt to wrap it in the emotional envelope of how we experienced it at the time or, how we imagined it to be. I tend to think of the stories that came from Holocaust survivors and their agreed perspective that it was tortuous and horrible yet there were some who found light and others who surrendered to the darkness of it all.

This is one of the intrinsic elements that make us individual human beings.  People raised in the south have heard stories all their lives about their heritage as have people raised in the north, east, and west.  Some of those stories are laden with the hatred their forefathers coveted. Others were woven with hope and perseverance. Some stories fostered helplessness and fractured into positions of surrender. Others defied the cultural climate and pushed boundaries; creating new stories with happier endings.

It’s important to wrap our minds around the fact that we create stories as a way to categorize people, places, and things. These same parameters are applied to conceptual ideas like love, religion, gender, and most anything we think to save for reference. 

If my mom and dad fought all the time, I probably have a story in my head that justifies marital discourse.  If my brother got away with punching me most days, I might tend to think that bullying is normal.  If I am consistently treated unkindly or belittled, the story I weave might leave me feeling unworthy.

All behavior is driven by emotion of some kind.  Emotions are born through our stories. They are neither right or wrong but may definitely be based on a fictional story rather than one of truth. For example – one’s value is never determined by how someone else treats you.

All of this is to help you stop and think about your stories… do they need rewritten? When you see someone behaving poorly, think about what their story might be? What is the underlying motivation for the action or inaction you may be witnessing? What story have they been told or are they telling themselves?

Culture is created and often delineated by these stories. Be curious. Take time to learn. If you are a couple in distress, talk about the stories you grew up with and the ones you tell yourself now.  If you are a family in distress – check the stories and cultural ideology you operate from and talk about the differences. If you are a person in distress, seek these same understandings as they pertain to the space you occupy in the world you live in.

Know your stories and listen for all the rest.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

TTAH

 

You can also listen to me on Try This at Home – a series of conversations about making life better.

Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play, orFeedburner

 

 

#20 Expand on What You Know

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#20

Expand on What You Know

As a therapist, I am frequently talking to people who feel stuck in their lives and relationships. Sometimes, we can trace the ‘stuck’ feelings to the fact that people keep doing the same thing over and over again. It always reminds me of the old quote…

“The true definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over with the expectation of getting different results.”

Of course, much of the time it is a behavior or action we continue because we just don’t know what else to do. We move through the actions almost rotely, unaware that it is because our knowledge is limited and the solution is most often – learn more. I am sensitive to the fact that we only do what we know because we ‘don’t know what we don’t know’. You can only change something or grow when you become aware that you don’t know.

Simple Solution

The solution is pretty simple: expand on what you do know – assuming that there is always something more to learn. It’s my belief that we stagnate when we adopt the belief that we’ve ‘been there, done that’ and stop investigating. Learning isn’t just about the depth of our knowledge… it’s about the breadth as well. Most educators already know this as it applies to children’s education. It’s one of the reasons that the team approach works well – incorporating reading, history, and English together with the arts can help a child maximize their understanding of a topic. When they are composing poems or writing plays about the period of history they are studying and painting backdrops they researched in books… you get the idea. It fosters a much richer educational experience than a single liner assignment.

Your Life

We can do this in our day to day life as well. If you like plants, build a garden with landscaping and make it bird friendly. If you like organic food – grow your own. If you are creative, make things and sell them online; build a website and expand your technical skills. If you enjoy cooking, experiment with recipes and ingredients to reshape the original into something unique then start a blog. If you like to build things, find ways to repurpose things you have or pick up cheaply and donate them to organizations where you spend time volunteering. If you like to write, build a story and write a book… use resources from the internet to research and add character to the plot.

It Only Takes Time

Growing your body of knowledge doesn’t have to cost a dime or require much physical effort. It’s as easy as visiting the library or hopping online. Most university libraries will also offer the public free or very inexpensive access to their facilities – opening the door to more learning than can be obtained in a single lifetime. If you know how to read – you can learn. It may not be easy if you’re a more ‘hands on’ kind of learner but it’s possible with dedication. Time and desire are the only mandates as proven by Maria Beltran proved when she taught herself English and went on to become a lawyer while raising six children as a single mother. If she can do it, most of us will never have a valid excuse.

There’s no reason for your life to be stagnant… you already have a bank of knowledge. All you have to do is…

Expand on what you know.

TTAH

Listen to me on Try This at Home – a series of conversations about making life better.

You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play, or Feedburner

 

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#22 Interview a Person You Admire

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#22

Interview a Person You Admire

The point of this suggestion is to take some time to ask questions of a person whom you deeply admire. It may be a high profile person, a town celebrity, an old teacher, an executive of your company, the pastor of your church, or it could be an elderly Aunt that you’ve never ‘really’ gotten to know.

Life Lessons

The goal is to garner information that you may not yet know about living a good life. How did they become someone worthy of admiration? What are their takeaways from their own experiences? What perspectives helped them through tough times?

When we take the time to listen – we learn. Sitting with someone with whom you’d like to emulate offers a tremendous opportunity to get into the life lesson fast lane. While their experiences are undoubtedly different than yours, the perspective and skills may be generally applicable.

Tips for Success

I’ll make the assumption that most of us will be interviewing someone who has had some success either in their professions, in their spiritual journey, or in their relationships. How did they do it? What goals did they set? What steps did they actively take to reach those goals? How did they handle the challenges? What attributes allowed them to persevere? Did they fail? What did they learn from failure?

In this era of instant gratification, I know many of us don’t want to work through all the kinks that learning presents. We want to be successful now. Knowing how others accomplished the pinnacle of the mountain you’re climbing may offer a more clear path to the top. Take the time to learn the tips and tricks they used to get there.

Lifelong Student

I don’t see this as a ‘one and done’ kind of activity. Because our lives are always changing, there will most certainly be people in our lives frequently with whom we can have these conversations. It may be a great tradition to practice annually. Choose someone in your life with potential to ‘teach’ you and invite them to lunch or dinner. Pick their brain and then record the essence of that conversation for inclusion in your own life plan. No matter where you are currently in your own journey, there is someone there you may learn from. Take the time to look around and…

Interview a person you admire.

TTAH

Listen to me on Try This at Home – a series of conversations about making life better.

You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play, or Feedburner

 

 

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#24 Learn Martial Arts

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#24

Learn Martial Arts

While this is an activity that is often introduced at an early age, it’s an activity that we are never too old to learn. As long as you are willing to move your body, practice patience, and you won’t throw up each time a ten year old advances past you… you are able to learn a martial art.

Defense

One of the primary benefits of knowing a martial art is the ability to practice self defense. A solid karate chop will set back almost any average offender. We’re never too old to defend ourselves. Self defense is an essential life skill. When we are able to think quickly and react as such, it is a skill that transfers to many other aspects of our life.

Overall Health

Your martial arts activity will be good for your overall health. Just the fact that you’re getting regular exercise has all the traditional benefits. Martial arts training is specifically good for your heart and bones. Some people believe that engaging in martial arts can actually reverse the aging process!

Personal Challenge

Learning a martial art can be as good for the soul as it is for the body. Challenging oneself to push physical boundaries increases esteem, confidence, and trust. The increase in physicality will encourage you across all areas of your life.

There’s a lot to gain from taking the time to…

Learn martial arts.

TTAH

Listen to me on Try This at Home – a series of conversations about making life better.

You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play, or Feedburner

 

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#31 Learn to Juggle

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#31

Learn to Juggle

For those of you who’ve been reading these last eleven months, this suggestion may seem like a stretch in the pursuit of a happier, easier, and more productive life but there are a number of reasons to include it here.

Fun

In order to feel ‘happy’, we must include moments of downright belly laughing opportunities. If you’ve ever watched someone attempt juggling or tried it yourself, you know the potential for fun is prominent. It’s fun to watch someone try and juggle and also fun to watch when they’ve mastered the skill. Juggling is the kind of ‘sport’ that works your body, mind, and soul.

Physical Benefits

Juggling is a great exercise for hand to eye coordination. This kind of activity builds neural pathways in the brain which, is super important for people of all ages. In addition, it promotes better dexterity.

It forces your attention and physicality into the present moment which, we know is a treatment for people with anxiety. If you’re not paying extremely close attention, you won’t be able to manage the coordination and so it is necessary to pull all of your mental and physical resources into the present in order to juggle.

Lastly, you can’t juggle without good posture. Practicing juggling on a regular basis will help you keep a straight stance – adding to the health benefits overall.

Mental Benefits

As was mentioned above, you must have great focus in order to juggle successfully. There are some reports that suggest kids who began juggling experienced less expression of their diagnosed attention deficit disorder. The same is said to be true of adults with in the same position.

Some people posit that juggling qualifies as an ‘active meditation’ since you are present, focused, aware of your surroundings, and aware of your body all at the same time.

Learning

If you feel inclined to learn how to juggle, I am going to suggest starting with YouTube where there are a number of videos explaining how to start. The most important part of this process of course is practice… as with any other thing that utilizes dexterity, coordination, and mental concentration – practice makes perfect.

If you’ve hit a wall… a plateau… or just have some spare time on your hands, it may be helpful for you to completely switch it up and get into something new by…

Learning how to juggle.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#58 Build a Sandcastle

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#58

Build a Sandcastle

Hopefully, it’s not 30 degrees where you are currently… making this suggestion sound utterly ridiculous and unattainable for several months. If it’s a bit warmer, it may actually be the perfect time to try this happiness tip because the beaches are probably mostly deserted and/or there’s bound to be a sandbox that could use a little TLC this time of year.

Why?

Building a sandcastle may be an activity that epitomizes childhood. We don’t seem to care how many crooks and crevices get filled with sand when we are children and believe it or not – it works our brain.

Cooperation

Most of us don’t build sandcastles alone. When we enlist the help of others, we are automatically thrown into the task of cooperation. It’s a great way for children to learn how to cooperate and for others to delegate. It’s a useful opportunity for a group of people to see how individual efforts contribute to a bigger project and outcome.

Creativity

It may be obvious that building a sandcastle employs a certain level of creativity. Most of us have not studied castle structure or architecture and so we are building based on memory of books and television; maybe even solely from our imagination. We have the opportunity to design anything that we fancy and so it’s a great outlet for creativity.

Spatial Skill

It’s a time when dimension, volume, and depth become important to the overall task. It forces us incorporate vision and make adjustments for scale – at least a little. Our brains will naturally attempt to make modifications when an element is too distorted and so it is good practice for spatial awareness.

Sensory and Motor Skill

Working in the sand engages your brain in a couple of other interesting ways. Our senses are often intrigued with the juxtaposition of water and sand and even more so when they are combined to create an entirely different texture. It’s a great time to be intentional and savor the experience. Additionally, there’s a certain level of motor skill involved; both gross and fine. Shoveling sand to build a mound and then carving the sand for detail uses different muscles as well as different areas of your brain.

Family Time

I’ve outlined why building sandcastles is good for your brain and dexterity. It’s also a fantastic family experience and it doesn’t have to be a summer beach day in order to enjoy it. A sandbox in the backyard or in the park can be accessed at any time and if you can get past the idea of sand covered clothing (it is easier to wash off with a dip in the ocean) ~ it’s a wonderful treat for the entire family.

Treat yourself to a free play day by getting outside in the fresh air and …

Build a sandcastle.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#68 Take a Cooking Class

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#68

Take a Cooking Class

Are you looking for a last minute gift for that family gathering or birthday? Are you wondering how to change up your date nights? This suggestion may be just the thing that sparks a new passion or a shared interest.

Cooking classes are for cooks of any ability. They are not to be confused with culinary schools as they are typically range from just a couple of hours, a full day, or at most – a week. They are generally designed to introduce you to a new skill, new ingredients, and new methods.

Hometown

It’s likely that there’s a local opportunity for you to take a cooking class if you live in or near a major metropolitan area. A quick google search for a location in Baltimore returned several options. The Schola Cooking school offers technique classes ranging from butter making to bread baking and from sushi to fresh pasta. You can take classes that focus on Cuban cuisine or treats from the sea.

Destinations

If you don’t live near a major city and/or you want the options of a specific location, consider a destination getaway with the intent specifically to take a cooking class. What a great thing to do for a girls weekend, a bachelorette celebration, or a mother/daughter day out. It could be an anniversary event that you do together and carry the skills home as a shared interest.

International

Do you love Italian or French food and want to learn local favorites or from an infamous internationally acclaimed chef? A trip abroad for the purpose of learning cuisine from that region is a great reason to plan a trip. Like schools in the states, international classes are designed for all levels of knowledge and can accommodate the most uneducated beginners.

Even if all you really want to do is eat well, consider grabbing a friend and …

Take a cooking class.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#93 Change Your Routine

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#93

Change Your Routine

Many of us work diligently to settle into a routine that offers comfort, stability, and predictability. Routines offer a sense of safety that is critical to the well-being of some people yet it can also be the crux of a rut. Especially when this is the case – it is necessary to change things up a bit and shift or redesign  your routine.

Break a Rut

After a while of doing the same thing day after day, life can feel monotonous. We begin to engage in daily tasks without much thought – allowing us to step out of the present moment and stop living in awareness. Changing our routine can break up that rut.

Memory

Changing your routine is a great way to exercise memory, an important activity as we age. When we challenge our mind to think – to be in the present and aware of what is happening – we are firing neurons that are necessary for memory function. It’s like greasing the gears.

Learning

Changing routines – discovering new ways to do things – helps us learn. It may be that there’s an easier and more efficient way to do something since that last time that we set the ball in motion. Learning new things – staying current and relevant – helps us remain connected to modern day to day activity; it can help us feel younger.

Details

Changing your routine doesn’t mean getting up at a different hour or taking a different train to work necessarily. It can mean eating with your left hand instead of your right. It can mean eating at a different hour. It can mean working out after work instead of before. Change doesn’t have to be a big inconvenience, it can be simple and subtle yet still make a difference.

If you’re in a rut, want to work your memory, or concerned that you’re getting left behind, an easy way to address any of those issues is to …

Change your routine.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#115 Make Wine

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#115

Make Wine

Are you a wine drinker? A chemist? An inquisitive adventurer? Have you tried making wine?

Since the beginning of the current millennium, the number of American wineries has more than quadrupled and wine of some variety is now grown in all 50 states. With this type of availability, one might ask why bother to make your own and yet there are a number of us with devout curiosity about our ability to make a great glass of vino.

Process

Making your own wine doesn’t actually require a massive amount of grapes. It can be made from grape concentrate and it’s completely possible to purchase concentrate from almost any grape producing part of the world. Certainly, you can do the research, buy the grapes or concentrate, add the proper ingredients and chemicals, ferment the juice, and then bottle the result.

Options

You could take on the entire process yourself or… you could find something like The Wine Room in Cherry Hill, New Jersey where wine experts – having all of the ingredients and equipment available – are able to help you make a wine consistent with your tastes; you do the composing – they activate the process.

Shared Interest

This is one of those things that offers the opportunity for people to come together in their shared interests. It’s like a book club but wine making instead. It is the kind of thing that can motivate conversation, peak curiosity, and encourage cooperation all at once. It is a great activity for couples who share a liking for wine. It’s a great family project or special occasion effort (The Wine Room).

Grand adventure

There is a lot to learn and an entire industry to explore if you become curious about wine making. There are annual amateur competitions to be entered, tastings to win, and money to be granted. It could become a passion you never knew you wanted to pursue and overall, a grand adventure! If you have an interest in wine, you may consider spending some effort to …

Make wine.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.