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The Power of Book Notes

August 22, 2021 by  
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When I read books, I almost always write notes on the blank pages. I jot down a quote that strikes me or I write my own thoughts that were stimulated by what the author wrote. This week, I’d like to share some of my notes from a couple of great books. I hope they strike and motivate you the way they did me.

In Patrice Jenkins PhD’s great little book What Will I Do ALL DAY?, I wrote down a number of thoughts. Here are a few:

1. Structure can be and should be a very important part of our lives and now that I’m retired, I must push myself for more structure.

2. Set more deadlines and make more commitments and goals and always write them down with a time deadline.

3. Set my alarm and schedule time for working out and stretching.

4. Make a big deal out of small things in my life.

5. Remind myself often that, now that I am retired, I have time to turn molehills into mountains.

6. Remember that it’s very important when retired to find work for yourself.

7. Make a list of new places, cities and countries to visit — at least 6 more countries to add to my 94 already visited.

8. Write down my intentions for each and every day.

9. Take time to make a list of those things I love to do and push myself to concentrate on those items.

And here are a few gems I scribbled down when reading the book Write it Down and Make It Happen by Henriette Anne Klauser.

1. Don’t forget that writing down my intentions works better than just speaking them.

2. Remind myself that I can’t have what I want most until I know what it is.

3. Writing is a good way to force my negative emotional reactions into words and not stomach churning.

4. I need to write down my intentions, my passions, my talents, then write down what actions I should, and can, take.

5. I need to take time to write down things that are not working for me in my life and let them go. Klauser ‘s suggested that you make that list then ceremoniously dispose of that paper, as in burn it or bury it.

Do these notes inspire you to make a few of your own now? Taking down notes as you read a book makes it a much more active and, ultimately, more productive read!

Before We Lose It

August 15, 2021 by  
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A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I had no idea how important the social aspect of my life was until the pandemic hit. That made me realize just how much I valued my face-to-face conversations and hanging out with my friends. It also hurt that our annual trip to Europe and other counties was gone. We’ve met so many wonderful people and made so many new friends on those trips as well.

Most of us take way too much for granted and don’t take the time to be as grateful as we should be for what we have. But when one of those great things in our lives is suddenly taken away… wow, we certainly notice how much we appreciate those things when they are gone. 

Something that I took for granted for far too long was my daily long walk and comparing my daily steps total to my previous daily steps. As I’ve written before, I have given myself a minimum goal of 20,000 steps a day, although I usually go well over that. I use a super great gift my wife gave me years ago, a Fitbit, that counts each step I take and gives me weekly totals. That little device enhanced and lifted my life. It’s helped me stay fit, even now as the ripe age of 80 approaches, less than 3 years away.

Well, that little device that pushed me to regularly walk my 20,000 plus steps a day was a big deal and I totally took for granted what it was pushing me to do until recently. I got hit in the head several months back, which laid me up for a while. 

Then, just this last week, I had a big trip and fall at 2:30 in the morning. I hit my right knee so hard that I could hardly walk the next day and for many days to follow. The few steps I did try to take were too painful, so I would find myself in bed or sitting in a chair all day long. Ugh. Even taking a pain pill didn’t help much. Double ugh! 

That is when it hit me like a brick that I’ve taken the ability to walk without pain totally for granted. I know this happens to many of us when we get injured, but shouldn’t we start to appreciate what we have before we lose it?

I think all of us should take time to consider all the great things in our lives that we are just taking for granted. I talked about that here on my blog before. Back then, I made a list of the many things that I was taking for granted, but perhaps it’s time for an update.

I suggest now, as I did then, that all of us consider making or updating a list of that kind so we have time to enjoy and appreciate what we have while we have it. Doing so has the potential to make us more content as we begin to truly recognize all the great things we have in our lives. 

You can look at my prior list to help you start building your own. It’s in my post from 4/16/2020. You might also want to read or re-read what I posted on 11/29/2020 for an additional reminder. 

Quality Living is in the Moment

July 18, 2021 by  
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With age, and the experience of achieving great success, it has become glaringly clear that wealth, power, status, fame, possessions, etc. do not, by themselves, add anything significant to the actual quality of our lives. Yes, I find having wealth is nice and allows me to do many wonderful things like travel a great deal. I do thoroughly enjoy many of my physical possessions, like my house and all the bits and pieces my wife has brought in to make it a home. These things, however, are not how I measure how well I live.

Most of what makes a life worth living cannot be bought or collected. They can only be found in the experiences you have, what you give to others, what you accept, and how you choose to look at the world. It’s those many small steps that make up the journey that determine the true importance of the destination, not the destination itself.

If your ‘destination’ is great wealth, gaining that wealth will only be important if you’ve lived well, struggled often, and celebrated your small successes along the way. This is why lottery winners almost always end up unhappy. There is no journey, no sense of success, and no memories that make up the path to their wealth. The money just becomes a condition of their life, not something that engages their sense of personal achievement.

This idea brings together much of what I’ve been talking about these past few weeks — that your quality of life is made up of what you experience in the great right now. You want to live in the moment and choose to be happy or your life will be made of many disappointing moments, making the whole of your life disappointing as well.

Also, don’t forget to look for joy in the wonderful act of giving to others. Generous, kind acts will infuse your life with the kind of treasures that you could never buy or fabricate — they can only be given. When you give, you’ll often find that even more is given back to you.

Go ahead. Go for the wealth and the status and whatever else you dream of. Just remember to live a quality life along the way, and keep up your passion for living, not just for the future life you’re after.

Gratitude Pays Off

April 11, 2021 by  
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I’ve written several posts on the powerful benefits of gratitude and what good things it can do for your life. In these days of the pandemic, I would guess most of us look back and see all the things we took for granted that we have not had or been able to do this past year. I sure have!

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I didn’t realize how very, very important being social is to us humans until it was almost totally taken away from us all. But now, as we slowly pull out of this COVID thing with so many people getting vaccines (and yes, I got mine), we can really appreciate and be more grateful for all we have.

Recently, I read about scientific studies that found that we gain dozens of significant benefits from having gratitude in our lives. For instance, having gratitude…

  • Fosters very positive feelings.
  • Gives you a sense of wellbeing.
  • Eases our anxiety and depression.
  • Promotes physical health.
  • Improves our relationships.
  • Helps us sleep better.
  • Improves our psychological health and gives us more mental strength.
  • Helps us relax.
  • Makes you friendlier.
  • Helps your marriage.
  • Deepens friendships.
  • Increases your productivity.
  • Helps you make friends.
  • Can benefit your career.

There are many more benefits to having a high degree of gratitude in your life, but for me, this list is a darn good start and a great reminder for me to be more and more grateful.

We should be really super grateful for living in this great country of America. Most of us have a fairly high standard of living. Having traveled and visited 94 countries and having seen the poverty and poor people of China, South Africa, and many other places, I am very grateful for what I have and where I live.

Also, I think of all of my good friends and family, how grateful they are for us. They are close most of the time and are there for us when we need them. I think, of all my great friends and kids and grandkids and am so grateful for all of them, especially my great wife Kimberly. She is the best and I am so lucky and grateful to have her. Even my ex-wife Lois seems to be grateful for me and I certainly am grateful to her for being so accepting of me and my new family.

I encourage you all to take time to make a list of those things, people, and situations that you are grateful for. Taking even just 5 minutes to start your own “Gratitude Journal” could have some fantastic benefits. I’ve done that, and it quite surprised me to see how long the list became. Yes, go do it. You’ll be glad you did.

And yes, I’m also very grateful to you, my readers. Thank you so much for reading and for your support.

The Greatest High

February 28, 2021 by  
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When I was very young, I never got high. But now, at almost 77, I must admit I get high quite often. In fact, right now is one of those times. I’m high, real high – the captain just announced that we are about 33,000 feet high.

Ho ho… you might have thought I was talking about drugs, drugs that stimulate the brain. Nope. I’ve never done drugs. I really do love being at 30,000 feet or more, as long as I’m on an airplane. Oh yes, I love to travel, and flying not only gets me 30,000 plus feet high, it also lifts my brain as I see and experience new things.

The brain responds tremendously to novelty such as new sights and sounds. It certainly gives me a high. Yes, I know that many people are afraid to fly, especially when they see things like a jet losing an engine over Denver. But wow… look at the odds of dying on a commercial flight. Research shows there is a 1 in 29 million chance that you will die that way.

I love to visit foreign countries, not just because of the flight there, which I love, but because of the uniqueness, the novelty of new countries and new people, and the amazing variety of cultures. Sadly, those great things like foreign travel and being very social were suddenly taken away from us, but it isn’t permanent. Fortunately, it seems like we might be pulling ourselves out of this COVID mess. (And, yes, I did get my COVID vaccine!)

As I write this, we are thousands of feet above the Pacific Ocean, flying from Kauai to Seattle then on to Salt Lake City. And, yes, our months in Hawaii were warm and wonderful although it did rain a ton! But we still got in some tennis time and beach time.

I am a huge believer in staying active. There is so much evidence showing that if you keep moving you will, on average, have better health and a longer life. Pair activity with novel things to do and novel places to visit and you can lead a longer and healthier life while having tons of fun!

We are now making lots of plans for future trips and are very carefully increasing our social life. I hope the best for you as well as we get our lives back to normal. How novel everything will seem then!

Something New, Near or Far

December 27, 2020 by  
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The human mind is an incredible machine. Our brain can remember tons of facts, experiences, feelings, and more. I find it so very interesting and exciting that, after struggling to remember some situation, name, or fact and giving up, later that day or even the next day, like magic, while I’m not even trying, the answer will suddenly pop into my head. I’m pretty sure you’ve experienced the same phenomena.

Yes, our brains are amazing but they do need to be fed. There is this super great thing we can do for our brains when we are feeling down in the dumps. It’s a simple little thing called “novelty”. Our brains crave novelty! Being exposed to something new and totally different than we’ve ever seen or experienced before does amazing things for our brains.

Today I was very bored and a bit down (Thanks COVID for picking on me and, well, pretty much everybody!) That bad ole virus has kicked our social life in the face and it wiped out the wife’s and my travel plans this year. Nearly every year we fly to Paris and from there go on to visit new countries, seeing so many new sights and faces. We are missing the novelty that we get when we travel to new places and meet new and different people.

With my brain being a bit down, I have certainly had the urge to see something novel lately and a few days ago, I knew that I was going to need that very, very soon. So, I did a very simple thing that didn’t take an airplane or a lot of time. We just jumped in my car and started driving.

I drove to places, neighborhoods, and business districts that I had never seen and it worked! Yes, we found novelty in places nearby. Seeing pretty much anything that is new to your eyes and brain can lift your feelings and attitude. It was only a one-hour drive but, wow, it was a great lift for my brain and mood and it was such a simple thing to do.

In today’s COVID world, and especially around Christmas and New Year times, we need to push ourselves to seek out and find those new sights, sounds, people, and experiences that stimulate our brains. Yes, it may take some thinking and planning but that’s not hard to do.

So, I am going to challenge myself, my family, friends, and, yes, you the reader to look for and find things to see, do, and experience, especially now as we start a new year. Let’s all go do it and make 2021 and great new and exciting year!

Never Stop Moving!

November 8, 2020 by  
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It’s quite a strange thing that when you start preaching to another person, whether it’s “Hey, you need to read more,” or “Workout more, eat less and lose weight,” it tends to push us to do whatever it is we are trying to get the other person to do.  Maybe that’s why I like writing a weekly blog. I find myself doing more of the things I am preaching to others about.

If you read my blog you know that I’m always writing about how important it is to keep moving especially as you get older. I play a lot of tennis and I’ll never forget how surprised I was when one of the guys I played with told me his age. He was a darn good player, moved well, and hit the snot out of the ball. Well, he told me he was over 80 years old! And I thought he was younger than me at 76.

As I said in last week’s blog, I’m re-reading the book entitled I’ve Decided to Live 120 Years. In that book, I read about the French guy who set a new world record in 1917 by cycling 22 kilometers in one hour … at age 105! Wow!

“His VO2 max (maximum volume of oxygen consumed), heart rate, and heart and lung health were measured over two years and it was discovered that his aerobic capacity was that of a 50 year old, some 55 years younger than his actual age,” the book’s author, Chili Lee, added. “Even more amazing was the fact that his VO2 max increased 13 percent.”

Of course, that doesn’t happen without a lot of effort over the years. The key is a very important thing that will allow you to live a long and healthy life: you need to keep moving!

I’ll never forget when my good friend and gold medalist Stein Eriksen (with me in the photo here) cycled with my wife and I over 30 miles every day for almost a week. It was in Europe (Gstaad, Switzerland) many years ago and he was keeping up with me and even passing me from time to time and he was 80 years old then! He won a gold medal in 1952 Olympics, in addition to a silver and bronze medal in other years. We were with him when, sadly, he passed away at age 88.

To sum it all up, I’ll quote from NASA’s former director of Life Sciences Division and author of the book Sitting Kills, Moving Heals, Dr. Joan Vernikos: “The key to good health is being as active as possible all day. This doesn’t mean that you have to exercise for several hours, like an athlete. It means you should move your body whenever you get the chance. The more often you move, the better.”

Okay, readers go to it and keep moving!

 

Retirement – The Best or the Worst

October 11, 2020 by  
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I’m sure you, like most people would agree that the majority of us humans look forward to the day we get to retire. You know … no alarm clock to wake us up, no worrying about pleasing our boss, and so many other things we won’t have to do. You imagine life will be so great, that you will be able to relax, do anything you want to do, have tons of fun, and be able to travel anywhere in the world (that you can afford) on a whim.

Well, you know what? Some of that may be true. But when you find yourself without a schedule or purpose, that can get very depressing. You might even go a little crazy. And nowadays we have COVID-19 on top of that so it can be even worse. In fact, most of us are getting a preview of retirement now that our routines have been so dramatically changed.

You might find yourself asking, “Just what am I going to do today?”

The smart one’s among us begin to make lots of plans long before they hit that retirement wall. When I was preparing to retire, I made a few plans, but I didn’t create enough to-do lists or new routines.

So, what did I do when I was feeling down because of my lack of a schedule? I turned to books written about retirement. In Ernie J. Zelinski’s great book The Joy of Not Working, he makes lots of great suggestions such as, “One of the chief sources of happiness is having a special purpose or a personal mission in life … Finding and pursuing your true calling can make life a totally new experience.”

He then gives some examples of personal missions:

1. Make the world a better place to live by reducing pollution.

2. Raise money to help care for others in need.

3. Help children develop a special talent or skill, such as playing piano.

4. Write entertaining children’s book that help young boys and girls discover the wonders of the world.

5. Give foreign travelers the best possible tour of the Rocky Mountains.

6. Create a committed relationship and keep it exciting and energizing.

The author goes on to say, “Although a true calling should be closely tied to your values and interests, it can also be determined by your strengths and weaknesses. Your personal mission will intimately connect you to who you are and to the world around you. Taking the time to answer the following questions may help reveal a personal mission that you would like to pursue.”

I must say that his questions really helped me:

1. What are all your passions?

2. What are your strengths?

3. Who are your heroes?

4. What do you want to discover or learn?

Answering those great questions can put you on the right track. It has for me. So, if you are not retired yet, start making specific plans. And if you are retired and struggling, answer those questions above to help you discover your great purpose and direction for this new chapter in your life.

 

Our Unfulfilled Ambitions

September 27, 2020 by  
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Do you have, like most of us, unfulfilled passions? If so, what are those passions? Do you love music, art, ballet, sports, outdoor adventures, traveling to new places, writing, social interactions, running a small business, or any other great possibility?

Take some time to contemplate and think about that. Once you have the answers, be sure to write down what your unfulfilled passions are. Then ask yourself this:

“Am I doing that special something that I love to do, and am I doing it for my own reasons?”

And… what are those reasons?

Then ponder this:

What kind of a breakthrough would you be ecstatic to have in your life in terms of your health, wealth, personal expression, spiritual development, etc.

Additionally, ask yourself:

In what would you like to excel?

What follows are just a few general categories I would like you to run through the gray matter of your brain before we really get focused.

Look at this list to see what overall categories might jump out at you or might be in the unfulfilled category so far in your life. Which of these categories are calling out to you and why?

  1. Artistic
  2. Sports
  3. Career
  4. Education
  5. Financial
  6. Physical
  7. Health
  8. Family
  9. Social
  10. Public Service

Of course, feel free to add more categories to this list.

It’s not at all unusual for most people to struggle with identifying their inner ambitions, especially in midlife and as they get older. It can become less clear as to what we really want out of life as we become bombarded by responsibilities, daily cares, and concerns.

And, yes, many young people have these struggles, too!

However, as kids, most of us knew what we wanted or at least thought we knew what we wanted. But the older we get, the less sure of ourselves we often become.

It is a rare individual who knows exactly what he or she wanted as a young person and follows that all through life, never faltering, never getting sidetracked, and never getting discouraged.

Most of us, as we hit midlife, start questioning what we really, really want out of life. It can be such a mystery. So, in next week’s blog post, I want to talk about the possible ways to solve your own mystery!

Creating Your Own Novelty

September 6, 2020 by  
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I’ve written before on this great thing called “novelty” and how it can excite our brains big time. In today’s COVID world we may feel like we are totally locked down, but I’d say it’s time to use our brains and think our way out of and beyond the lock down. Now, how do we do that?

Well, there is one thing that could help you now while giving you a great experience later. How about taking lots of time to research and plan a big novel trip or vacation, so when the pandemic is over, you are ready to take that great trip! I mean, if we are smart and use our brains, we could plan lots of novel things and maybe even carry some of them out right now. Like, hey, how about writing a book? And while you’re at it, draft a plan for selling that book online or to bookstores. In other words, create your own novelty.

Have you ever noticed how children and young people are always trying something new, pushing themselves, eager for adventure while older people seem to be content to do the same things they always have done and in the same old way? That’s really just a generalization as I know many older people, myself included, that still continuously seek out new and challenging experiences. However, there is a sense of complacency that is easy to fall into as we get older or as the obligations of our life wear us down.

As physical energy wanes so does our ambition and, next thing we know, our brains turn off and we are just living on autopilot. It’s at that point that making any change in our lives gets very, very difficult. The thinking is our brains don’t wear out the same way as the rest of our body. Normally, the brain is still willing and able to do its job – learning, solving problems, and amassing knowledge even when we physically feel worn out. But when faced with a lot of stress or just dull repetitious experience the brain deteriorates.

To keep your brain in top shape, give it the novelty it craves. Educating yourself through books, television shows such as those found on PBS and the History channel, and quality information on the internet will certainly help, but remember, your brain is a multi-sensory organ. Keep that great word and concept of novelty in your mind and pursue it always. Feed it. Don’t let COVID trap you.

We all can still get out of the house and experience new sights, smells, sounds, flavors, and textures. New experiences will boost both your physical and mental energies and motivate you to do even more. In fact, if you have lots of time on your hands, go and create a bucket list of that stuff you always wanted to do before you kick the bucket. Yes, just like Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson did in that movie The Bucket List. I sure know that having my own bucket list motivates me especially in these COVID times.

Ok, you and I know what to do. Now so let’s go and do it!

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