Two words I never thought I would say in the same sentence – ‘me’ and ‘gym’

So. I have recently started at the gym. What was I thinking?! 

I have only had two sessions – it’s only been a week, give me a break! – but already I have the sore muscles that generally plague someone who has not seriously exercised since high school. Unless, of course, you count getting out of the car to go to the bakery or bottle shop…No? Oh. Well, then, I haven’t exercised since high school.

Typically, you hear people say things along the lines of muscles they didn’t even know they had being sore. So according to that criteria, I definitely am typical.

I am not only sore in muscles I didn’t know I had, I am also extremely sore in the muscles I did know I had, which, not coincidentally, are the ones I use the most. The others, the ones I didn’t know were there, are sore, mainly because I obviously don’t use them that much. Still with me?

Contemplating my sore muscles on the way home from the gym, whilst also being thankful I drive an automatic which does not require me to put pressure on a clutch pedal, I thought about how much like character traits our muscles are.

Let me explain.

We have lots of character traits that we don’t even know are there. For some of us, it’s kindness, the ability to listen, or consideration of others. For others it might be boldness, risk-taking or decision making. The point is, we all have parts of us that we don’t exercise often. So, when we do, it may hurt at first and feel uncomfortable. But, just like exercising our muscles, it doesn’t mean we should stop using them. It actually means the opposite – we should use them more.

Only by consistently going to the gym and working out, will my muscles grow stronger and become used to the exercise. In the same way, by flexing those under-used character traits, they will become a stronger part of who we are.

And as a bonus, using those little-used character traits often causes us to use our regular ones a bit more too, just like a gym workout.

So, as I embrace the pain of working muscles I didn’t even know I had, I might try to carry that over into the rest of my life and start exerting my character too.

I think I will start with…hmm, let’s see…maybe, not thinking of ways to torture my gym instructor the way he is torturing me each workout?

Oh and if anyone wants to come join me, we can share the torture love around.

Glass half empty or half full? It’s up to you, really.

We were watching a tv show recently and one of the characters, in a counselling session, said that optimists suffer more disappointments than pessimists. I found that such an interesting thing to say and it is an idea that set me thinking.

So, is it true? Does an optimistic outlook almost set you up to be disappointed, because often life is unfair and people don’t behave in ways we expect?

On one hand, optimists, I would think, even in the face of disappointment, would still be optimistic, thereby proving that statement false.

But on the other hand, being an optimist – speaking as one who suffers from the terrible disease that is optimism – does not necessarily make you immune to disappointments in life.

I love hearing pessimists say, when speaking to optimists, “Oh, it’s okay for you, you’re an optimist.” I am simultaneously amused and annoyed by this sort of comment. It indicates the belief that you are born one way or the other, and that is what you are; that there is no chance of change or room for movement.

When I was 14, we moved to Queensland from Tasmania. Somewhere on the journey up, travelling alone with my parents in a car was a bit boring and I guess I had ample thinking time, I made a decision.

For the last 14 years I had been a painfully shy, quiet, reserved girl and I decided I didn’t want to be that person anymore. So I stopped. I decided to just act as though I was outgoing and talkative and before I knew it, I wasn’t acting anymore.

Apart from the obvious differences that the decision made in my life, it also gave me a greater appreciation for and understanding of how much control we actually have over our behaviour and character.

The flip side is, it also made me a little intolerant of people who whine and whinge about their own personalities. Granted, the older we get, possibly the harder it is to change who we are. Also, granted, there are still aspects of our genetic make-up that we may have more trouble changing.

But, generally speaking, we can change personality traits if we have enough determination. Specifically, a pessimist can be more optimistic. I think it’s fair to say then that an optimist can be disappointed and not necessarily see the ‘good’ in a situation immediately.

So, in answer to the original question – do optimists suffer more disappointment? I would say possibly yes by sheer fact that they are more often looking for the good, so on an odds basis, will be disappointed more.

Being an optimist is a choice, even when you have a natural tendency towards it. An optimist still has to choose to look on the bright side and conversely, a pessimist actually chooses to see only the negative in a situation, whether they are aware they are making that choice or not.

How about you? Are you a ‘glass half full’ person or a ‘glass half empty’ sort of person? You are in charge of your personality to a large degree. You can choose to continue to blame genetics/upbringing/life experiences/luck/fate or you can choose to make some changes.

What will you choose today?

Looking everywhere

My daughter came to me recently, as we were getting ready to go out for the day, and asked if I had seen a particular jacket of hers. I answered with all the usual ‘mum’ answers that entailed “Have you checked in your room, under your bed, or, heaven forbid, actually in your cupboard?” The answer was a very firm ‘yes’ to all these questions. Now, I knew that I had seen her with the jacket not that long ago, so it had to be in the house somewhere. So, being a mum, I said what any mother would say “Well, go and check again. It has to be somewhere in there.” She huffed off amidst protestations that she had looked properly, and that she had looked everywhere. (Imagine whingey, whiney 7 year old voice).

She came back a few minutes later, again stating that she had looked everywhere and it was nowhere to be found. This happened a few more times and each time, I calmly (read: starting to get frustrated) repeated that she needed to look harder and I was sure she would find it. The continual popping in and out was also her trying to get me to stop what I was doing and come look for the jacket instead of her.

Guess what? She found it. Where? In her cupboard.

Surprise, surprise.

She looked a little sheepish when she emerged from her bedroom wearing the jacket, with eyes that implored me not to start in on one of my ‘soap-box diatribes’. I refrained (that’s why you are getting it here) and we merrily went on our way into the car and off on a lovely day.

It made me think though. How often do we look and look for an answer to a problem, stating that ‘it’s just not here’ when in fact, all we need to do is look a little harder. The truth of the matter with the jacket was that it was there all along, regardless of the fact that she couldn’t see it.

Sometimes we can search for the right answer to a situation, hunting high and low, seemingly to no avail. But if we keep looking long enough and hard enough, we find it. For most of life’s issues, there is a solution. And very often, it’s right there in front of us, whether we choose to see it or not. Sometimes, too, we get cross at others when the answer isn’t apparent and either take our anger out on them or expect them to come and find it for us, just like my daughter.

Not being able to see something eg an answer to a problem, does not automatically mean that there isn’t an answer. It just means that we need to keep looking.

Are you about to give up on something? Or do you simply need to keep on looking for a solution?

PS. Of course, there are also those situations in which you just need to find a different jacket and get on with the day 🙂

 

Stylish Award: Seven Things About Me….and other stuff

Anthony F Rando gave me this award – thank you Anthony!

The rules:

  • Thank and link back to the person giving the award.
  • Share seven things about yourself.
  • Award 10 to 15 blogs who you think deserve this award and contact them about the award.
Seven things about me (in no particular order):
  • I have a lazy side that would dearly love to spend a large part of every day in my pyjamas playing computer games.
  • In another life, I would be a professional dancer.
  • I love cheezels and twisties when they are slightly stale and a bit chewy – weird but true!
  • I secretly love the show “7th Heaven” (how embarrassing)
  • I was born in Tasmania as the youngest of five children.
  • I used to be painfully shy and now I’m not.
  • I hope one day to be walking past a bookshop (that’s on the proviso that they still exist in the future :P) and see books with my name on them on the shelves.

 

Now, blogs that are worth checking out (I have broken the rules and only listed seven here…keeping in line with only having to provide seven extraordinary facts about myself):

4amwriter.com
(fantastic short story on this site, well worth a read and a browse around)

Karen Tyrrell
(wonderful writer and support to newbies like me – thank you, Karen)

Writing in the Water
(love what this girl says and the honesty with which she says it)

Penny Jar
(lovely memoir on growing up the youngest child of nine)

Veronica’s Nap
(great on-line story and blog)

The Path to Protect
(this amazing young woman is active in the protection of marine life and raising awareness of their plight)

Awkward Family Photos
(this site is strangely addictive in a voyeuristic kinda way and always gives me a chuckle)

Enjoy people!

What will you choose today?

Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way ~ Victor Frankl, holocaust survivor.

I listened to a South African woman talk on the radio yesterday. This woman, referred to only as ‘Alison’, had survived an horrific attack in 1994. Raped, beaten, stabbed 35 times, Alison was left for dead (you can access the podcast here.)

One of the things that pulled Alison through the sea of depression that she found herself in following the attack, was the recognition that she had a choice. She could ultimately choose whether that event would change her negatively or positively.

It amazes me that people in the most dire of circumstances, people who have gone through far more than most of us ever will, can make a decision to not let that event/trauma rule the rest of their lives.

As Victor Frankl is renowned for saying, nobody can take away your power to choose your attitude. That is something that is entirely within your control. Obviously, there are circumstances in which it is harder to do this but I just have to think about Victor Frankl or ‘Alison’ to know that it can be done regardless of the severity of the event.

If people like Victor Frankl and ‘Alison’ can make a positive choice even in their circumstances, surely I can, too, in my little day to day troubles. For me, the effect of reflecting on their lives, has two outcomes. One: it makes me realise that we all have that ability, just like they did; and two: my ‘problems’ on the grand scale of things, aren’t actually that big.

So, changing my perspective, can also help me make the choice to change my attitude.

The older I get, the more people I know who have gone through significant, life changing events. And for the most part, I am inspired and challenged by the way they have handled their circumstances. Does simply choosing to have a healthy attitude make the problems go away or make them any easier to deal with? No, it doesn’t. What it does do is lay the foundations for a better future beyond that current circumstance.

Today, my first choice is to keep in mind Victor, Alison and all my friends who have overcome seemingly insurmountable odds and situations, and to choose my own way, instead of being at the mercy of my circumstances.

What will you choose to do today? Will you choose your own way?

 

Mirror, mirror in my brain

Did you know that you have lots of little tiny mirrors in your brain? In 1992, scientists discovered the mirror neuron. Basically, it is thought that these neurons are activated both when we act and when we observe an action hence the mirror reference. What it means is that we experience the same emotion when we see something happen, as we do when we experience the same event for ourselves. For example, we recoil when we see someone fall over; or if we see someone eating a meal, we start to feel hungry and want that meal too (thanks to all the cooking shows on TV, that is now a daily recurrence!)

Whilst evidence in not conclusive, some neuroscientists believe there is a link between our mirror neurons and empathy. That seems logical to me. If seeing a friend in pain due to the breakdown of a relationship brings to mind the feelings when the same thing has happened to me, I am, of course, going to feel empathy because the feelings all come rushing back and I can relate. Make sense?

So, maybe, we are all actually wired to be empathetic. The question begs to be asked, then….if we all have a neurological tendency towards empathy, why aren’t we? Some of us are, of course, but there are a lot who aren’t!

Possibly some people’s mirror neurons need a bit of a clean. Left up in the attic for too long, they are covered in dust and completely unable to reflect anything at all. Time to get out the windex and paper towel and give them a good ole going over!

Identifying with another’s experience is beneficial, not only to the other person, but to us, too. When we are empathetic, various things happen: the person we are talking to feels heard and really understood; we start thinking of practical ways we could help; and we gain a greater appreciation for our life and circumstances.

Let’s dust off our mirror neurons and tap into the emotions and feelings of those around us – Lord knows, the world could do with more empathetic people!