Thursday, November 18, 2010

Random Thoughts Volume IX

I am dragging a little this morning. Some of it is because it is Monday. Much of it is because my granddaughter, who is six years old, appeared in my bed at 7:30 AM Saturday morning and she didn't go home until Sunday afternoon. When she comes over it's like a workout at the gym. She loves to play make believe and she never gets tired. She once said to me, "Paw Paw, your house is like magic. That's why I never get sleepy when I am here". Well, she may never get sleepy but Paw Paw does. I don't care because she's my only grandchild and I love her. Being her Paw Paw is my favorite thing to do.

I cannot give you the formula for success but I can give you the formula for failure...try to please everybody.
-Herbert Bayard Swope

This is one of the first things a person learns when he or she moves into a leadership position, whether it's in the family or in the office. Parents learn it with their children and employers learn it with their employees. Some people are happy with anything while others are happy with nothing. Abraham Lincoln learned early in his presidency that "you can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but you cannot please all of the people all of the time". I have a friend at work who began working there the same day as me. One day I encountered him on the street. He had a look of contentment on his face so I said, "You always seem to be happy. What's your secret"? He said, "I have no expectations about anything so I am never disappointed". There's a lot of wisdom in his words. My philosophy is similar. I strive to see everything in life as a gift and this enables me to have a grateful heart. It's been my experience that living with gratitude for everything makes even the little things seem special. When you appreciate the little things it is easy to be pleased.

The finger pointing at the moon is not the moon.
-Zen Saying

I love Zen. What is Zen? Well, it's a way of seeing and experiencing life that has it's roots in Buddhism. A simple explanation of Zen is "being where you are and doing what you are doing". Sounds simple, doesn't it? Have you actually tried it? It's difficult. Even while I am typing these thoughts I am thinking about what I want to do when my workday is over, I am listening to music that takes me back to good memories of my past, and I am wondering what I need to do next after I send out this email. Basically, I am everywhere but where I am. I am not truly present to the moment that exists right now. My mind and my body are in different places. It is a never ending goal of mine to have my mind and my body together in the same place at the same time. Another name for this is "mindfulness". It is the ability to be fully present to the moment. When one is truly present to the moment you often lose track of time and space. Psychologists call this "flow". Children like my granddaughter are masters of mindfulness and flow. They are totally in the moment. Most adults in this world of multitasking and needing to be in multiple places at the same time are terrible at mindfulness. We are almost never where we are. The playful side of Zen has riddles called koans. Today's quote is such a riddle.

Peace requires us to surrender our illusions of control. We can love and care for others but we cannot possess our children, lovers, family, or friends. We can assist them, pray for them, and wish them well, yet in the end their happiness and suffering depend on their thoughts and actions, not on our wishes.
-Ryan Burda

The older I get the more I realize how little I can control. It's been painful at times. I am not a control freak but I like to take care of people and help them avoid bad decisions. Many times this involved my own children. Like many children, it seemed like they never did anything I advised and, like many children, they would never admit that they actually listened to me and that I was a positive influence. Those of you who are parents know what I mean or you will someday. Once children get to a certain age you can only hope you did a good job of raising them. In all of life I have slowly learned that the only thing I can control is myself and my reactions to what happens to me and around me. It really is all about attitude. For example, I could complain about having to work in this department for six months and make myself and others miserable or I could embrace the change and make it a positive experience. I choose to do the latter. It's not what happens to you, it's how you respond. I am generally a positive person and an eternal optimist. I believe things happen for a reason and that good will come out of most situations. Much of our suffering is our own fault because of our own minds, our attitudes, and how we react to things. I admit that I did not learn this in one day.

No comments: