A collection of distilled sarcastic wisdom, numerous photographs, discussions of books and stuff to learn and more stuff to think about from a retired economics professor turned blogger and photographer.
Moving a change we need to make from the thin air of wishful thinking into the realm of reality and actual accomplishment is a task that often dies and withers by the wayside before we pay enough attention to what we want to do to see some actual progress. We all have thoughts and concerns about things we need and want to do. And yet, over time, the list of actual accomplishments we achieve can be pitifully short. One of the reasons why we fail to accomplish so many things we would like to do is that we don't take the time to develop a plan or a strategy for converting our thoughts into a schedule of action steps that lead us in the direction of our goal. And then we fail to follow any of the steps we have outlined that we thought would help us get where we wanted to be.
How many times do we hear the plaintive cry, "I know I need to lose weight," spoken when we know we are anywhere from 20 pounds to even 100 pounds or more overweight. Still, we always reach for the next treat, take a second or third helping, drink another sugar-laden soda, and order the Super-Duper combo at the fast food drive-up lane. I can speak from years of experience on this topic. I am not just making up words that explain the deficiencies in self control that others may have that have prevented them from ever getting started on a reasonable weight-loss program. Somehow, we always plan to start tomorrow to overcome our addiction to overeating, meanwhile feeling sorry for ourselves that we have never grasped the reality that we actually have to do something, that we must make some sacrifices, and take some positive steps or nothing will ever happen.
Here are some things that I did to finally conquer my decades-long battle with overweight:
Follow the simple motto "Eat Less."
Stop drinking soda and drink mostly water.
Eat fast food items only rarely and then in small quantities.
Congratulate myself for every pound I lost.
Pay attention to whether the next bite of food will help or hurt me.
Spend time each day thinking about what I am doing and what I need to do to continue losing weight.
Study food combinations and components of healthy diets.
Follow my doctor's instructions and keep monitoring basic medical tests.
Realize that the changes I was making got infinitely easier and automatic over time.
Lose interest in all of the things I used to do that kept me over weight.
Be satisfied with slow and steady progress that leads to consistent weight loss.
Even if you are not overweight, most people can still benefit from paying more attention to diet and food choices. Avoiding risks from overindulging in restaurant food, fast food, processed food, wrong kinds of too much fat, and not paying attention to including adequate fruits, vegetables, and fiber in our diets can benefit any one.
We need to follow a similar strategy for any change we may be considering. Converting mournful thoughts about failed efforts into cheerful steps toward specific kinds of progress is the most important thing we can do if we want to make the transition from wishful thinking into positive reality.
Instead of continuing to tell yourself that you need to do something and then doing nothing at all to fulfill your intentions, develop the practice of outlining a series of specific steps that will lead you toward achieving your goal. Include a few simple rules and guidelines such as some of those we have mentioned in these posts: Ask if it hurts or if it helps. Eat less. Consider the consequences. And then add your own directions and admonitions to your written list of steps you will actually take to move off dead center and out of neutral and into the realm of actual accomplishment.
Task Number 241: Develop a plan of specific steps you will actually take to achieve a goal you are seeking to attain. Good luck, keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
Today, August 29 2015, is sort of a benchmark day for the Curmudgeonly Professor's 2015 Do List. Today marks the completion of Task Number 240, leaving a mere 125 more tasks to go to finish out the year. I had serious doubts that I could ever get halfway through the year when I started this project, but the days went by, and then the weeks, and then eight months passed and, somehow, I managed to come up with some new task each and every day for 240 consecutive days.
Although we have two more days in August, the number 240 is the benchmark I am interested in since 125 is the magic number of remaining tasks I need to write to finish out the year. I don't know whether my writing and my task lists have been of value to anyone, since I have received few comments so far on what I have posted. I do know that this writing project has been of great value to me in my efforts to make small changes and then continue following the changes to achieve whatever goal I had in mind when I started.
So now we all need to pause, take a deep breath, and evaluate what we have accomplished during the first eight months of the year 2015 and then see what we still plan to achieve during the remaining four months of the year. Here are a few things I have learned and several ways in which this writing project has been of personal benefit to me:
I have come to appreciate the importance of following through on the commitment I made at the first of the year to write 365 tasks, one for each day of the year.
I have gained many insights into the kinds of changes that are most beneficial.
I have learned the great value of simple rules and guidelines to help us solve long-standing problems.
Whether any one else has benefited from my writing or not, I have felt that this project is the most worthwhile personal project I have undertaken for years.
Writing has become easier as I keep up my daily routine.
Thoughts and ideas continue to flow at an increasing rate the more I think about specific issues and the many ways in which we can resolve them.
Most of the problems we face daily can be helped by following simple guidelines we have suggested, such as the following:
ask yourself if a specific choice will help or hurt you
remember tasks get easier with practice
use writing food diaries, to do lists, personal journals, and progress reports to reaffirm your commitment to change
get rid of old and worn-out excuses for not doing what you know you should do
discover new areas to learn
help others in any way that you can
eliminate words of doom and despair from your vocabulary
don't focus on more stuff
take steps to avoid emergencies
don't let repetition drag you into bad habits that are hard to break
8. Even a little bit of progress can be an important milestone and help us on our way to achieving important goals.
I wish I could say that I have faithfully followed the advice I have discussed in each of the 240 tasks I have written about. I can say that when I think about the issues and tasks I have discussed and I keep the simple rules rattling around in my brain that I have found it easier to keep on track with weight loss and with a number of other tasks and projects I am working on. When my conscience is yelling at me to think about whether it hurts or helps to make a specific choice, I am more likely to pause a moment or two and maybe say the heck with doing something stupid I might have considered doing.
My wife has faithfully read and commented on each of my 240 tasks. Her usual comment is that I am too long winded and I know that long-windedness and excess verbiage are writing faults I need to work hard to correct. I am grateful for my wife's continual encouragement and support and for her assurance that, yes, I can come up with 125 more written tasks to finish out the year. One of my sisters-in-law and some of my siblings and family have faithfully followed my daily posts and I thank them for doing so.
I hope everyone will take a deep breath, think seriously about what progress you have made during the first eight months of this year, and then I hope that we will all think even more seriously about how we can make the last four months of the year 2015 the most important and productive four months possible as we work harder to make small changes and continue, little by little, inch by inch, to make big accomplishments out of small and seemingly inconsequential beginnings. Comments on my blog writings are always welcome, so feel free to offer your comments.
Task Number 240: See how you have measured up in making important changes in your life during the first eight months of the year 2015. Then decide to make the last four months of the year an important milestone in your life by doing whatever you can to move yourself in the direction you need and want to go. Good luck, keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
For the last two tasks, we have suggested that taking a moment before we actually make a choice to ask two simple questions can help us avoid mistakes and guide us in the right direction. The first question to ask ourselves is "Will it hurt?" In our last post we listed possible questions that might help us avoid mistakes and limit the negative consequences of these mistakes. Here we turn to questions that might help us determine how a given choice can help:
How can making this choice be of help to me?
How can making this choice be of help to my family?
How can others benefit if I make this choice?
Will this choice help me reach a goal I am seeking to attain?
Will this choice open a new and challenging opportunity?
Will making this choice help me overcome a habit I have been trying to break?
What improvements might I achieve if I decide to do this?
Will I feel rewarded after I make this choice?
Will this choice support my core spiritual and personal values?
Have I studied this choice sufficiently so that I am confident that I am not making a mistake?
Am I prepared to pick myself up again if I fail after making this choice?
If I make this choice will I be taking financial risks that I cannot afford?
Will the benefits of making this choice be temporary or longer lasting?
Will this choice enhance my reputation?
What difference will it make if I avoid making this choice all together?
Will I feel that I have taken all of the necessary precautions before making this choice?
Will this choice provide substantive benefits rather than just instant gratification?
Will I feel embarrassed or harbor ill feelings if I go ahead with this choice?
Will this choice provide a positive learning experience?
Is this choice consistent with my short-term and long-term goals?
Am I repeating a choice that has previously led to negative consequences?
How can this choice increase my firm resolve to stay headed in a positive direction?
Will this choice benefit my health?
Will this choice help me lose weight?
Will this choice help me in my job?
Will this choice help me feel better after making amends for an earlier problem?
Will making this choice help me eliminate worries and concerns that have been bothering me?
If I decide to do this, am I prepared to follow through and adapt to new opportunities and experiences?
Can I get out of a tiresome rut and move in a positive direction if I make this choice?
Am I prepared to benefit from what I can learn if I fail after making this choice?
Now you can write your own list of questions about how a particular choice might help or hurt you. Too many choices are made on hunches or are made instantaneously without adequate thought or reliable information. The emphasis here is on asking simple questions and taking time to answer these simple questions with reliable information untainted with false promises and unrealistic expectations. The more mistakes we can avoid, the better off we will be. The "once-in-a-lifetime" golden opportunities we thought we were passing up may turn out to be a once-in-a-lifetime horrendous mistake that may take years to overcome.
Task Number 239: Ask yourself serious questions about whether a particular choice will help or hurt. Be sure that you cover all of the known information before you decide, and be sure you take enough time to make sure you know what you are doing. Avoid all high pressure tactics that require that you sign right now, tonight, or this golden opportunity will no longer be available to you. Say good by, and usher people who dangle these golden apples in front of you out the door.
Good luck, keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
In yesterday's task, we highlighted the potential effectiveness of asking two simple questions before we make a specific choice: Question one: "Will it hurt?" and question two: "Will it help?" We suggested that taking a moment to remind ourselves of both positive and negative potential consequences of a choice can be an effective way to avoid pitfalls and mistakes and to ensure that our choice we are considering will have a strong possibility of helping us.
First we consider a list of possible questions about whether a particular choice will hurt us or others in some way:
Will this choice hurt me personally in some way?
Will this choice potentially hurt family members or others?
Is this choice worth the obvious risks that may result if I decide to do whatever I am considering?
Do I understand the possibility of unintended consequences of making this choice?
Will this choice slow down the achievement of a particular goal or possibly even ruin my chances of getting where I need or want to be?
Is this choice self-defeating?
Can I rely on the information I have been given about this choice?
Have I taken an appropriate amount of time to think through my choice before rushing into something I may regret?
Have I been blinded by bright lights and false promises?
Does this choice run counter to my core beliefs and values?
Am I relying on prejudices or biases that may lead to an erroneous or regrettable choice?
Have I asked people I can rely on an appropriate number of questions about the pros and cons of making this choice?
Have I considered the number of regrets I may face when I wake up and realize I have made an utterly disastrous choice?
Have I considered the benefits of making no choice at all if the doubts and risks of the choice are more than I could bear if I make the wrong choice?
Have I been misled by get-rich-quick schemes, anecdotal testimonials of miracle cures or limitless wealth and golden opportunities, or golden-tongued sales people who are skilled in convincing people to travel whatever road they are seeking to induce you to travel?
Have I checked all possible sources of valid information before paying any sum of money?
Am I ruining the progress I have painfully and slowly made on my weight-loss program?
Do I really need whatever I am considering?
Will I be worse off in any possible way if I make this choice?
If I wait a week or two will I still feel I need to make this choice?
Do I really believe that a golden opportunity must be followed right now, today, with no delays, or I will lose the chance of a life time?
Do I know how to turn off and turn down persuasive sales people who know how to twist customer emotions?
Have I studied the consequences of making a particular choice?
Have I given my emotions and temptations long enough to cool down?
Am I willing to stand on my own two feet and avoid a harmful choice even though others disagree with me?
Does this choice run counter to my core spiritual and personal values?
Now that we have a list of possible questions you can ask yourself before making a choice to clear up the possibility of hurting yourself with any specific choice, you can expand this list on your own to include your own favorite questions. Even if you do not add to this list, you might consider posting this list on your medicine cabinet or somewhere in a prominent location. I could give you case studies and tear-jerking stories of people who have ignored one or more of the questions I have asked in the above list. And the people who have ignored one or more of these questions were often well educated professional people who just let themselves be led by someone who offered a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow only to discover the gold turned to fool's gold.
Tomorrow we will turn to questions about how we can evaluate the positive results and consequences of making particular decisions. The best way to accomplish the goal of seeking positive results, of course, is to avoid a dumb or erroneous choice.
Task number 238: Ask yourself questions about whether a particular choice will hurt you. You may be thankful that you took the time to ponder, reconsider, sleep on your choice, ask experts, or do whatever is necessary to avoid potholes and regrettable choices in your life. Good luck, keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
Today was nearly a disaster for the Curmudgeonly Professor's 2015 Do List. First, I spent an hour and a half writing my usual inspiring prose for today's task when, at the moment I pushed the publish button, the internet died. I had to go downstairs, unplug the modem, wait 30 seconds, and plug it back in. I came back upstairs and turned the internet on but my written blog post had vanished, never to be recovered. I said, alas, or something possibly quite similar. Then, second, to finish off the disasters of the day, the power went off at 7:30 for an hour and a half tonight, leaving us in total darkness. I was reminded of the first seven years of my life when we lived with kerosene lamps to light our home at night. How spoiled we are and how wonderful we feel when the lights come back on again. So I nearly broke my record in posting 237 consecutive tasks in my Do List before the lights came back on again. I have more than a thousand reasons why I do not want to write anything at 9:30 p.m., but I am determined not to break my record.
The task I wrote about earlier that then vanished was about asking two questions before we make a choice: First question: "Does it hurt?". Second question: "Does it help?" During my writing marathon this year I have become a firm convert to the usefulness of short and simple questions and statements to help us make the changes we need to make in our lives and then continue to make sure we follow up on whatever we need to do to succeed in reaching our goals.
Since the hour is late and my patience has worn thin, I am going to leave these thoughts with you. As you read my post, begin thinking about the importance of asking yourself these two questions before you make a choice. You will need only a few seconds to ask yourself whether your choice helps or hurts. I have found that if I can clearly see that a choice is wrong after I have thought about it for a moment or two, I am much less likely to follow that road and go somewhere more promising. Tomorrow I will see if I can reproduce my lists of questions to ask when looking at choices that may hurt and choices that will likely help. And at least I have not broken my record of posting consecutive tasks. I hope that by so doing I am setting a good example for anyone to follow to never quit or give up doing something you think is worthwhile.
Task Number 237: Ask yourself whether your choice will hurt or help you before you make the choice. Try asking these questions and see how many mistakes you can avoid and how many more beneficial choices will seem possible to you. Good luck, keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
Yesterday we listed excuses for not losing weight. In today's task, we move to the positive side and focus on messages to ourselves that will reinforce our resolve and our ability to lose weight and achieve our weight goal. Some of these positive messages might include the following:
I want to lose weight.
I know I can lose weight.
I know that I can do whatever it takes to lose weight.
I am willing to sacrifice whatever I need to sacrifice to succeed in losing weight.
I feel optimistic and encouraged about losing weight.
I can forget my past failures at losing and regaining weight and then look only to my future success.
I will ignore all of the naysayers and doomsayers who try to defeat my weight-loss efforts.
I will see my doctor to make sure my diet does not conflict with any health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney function, blood chemistry, or any other actual or potential health issues.
I will choose foods that benefit my health and weight loss goals and omit foods that defeat my weight-loss efforts.
I am willing to change my eating and beverage habits to achieve my goal.
I will study the composition of a balanced diet to make sure I get adequate protein, carbohydrates, correct fats, and other nutrients.
I will willingly increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in my diet.
I will decrease portion sizes.
I will avoid second helpings.
I will get out of a state of weight-loss denial and stay out of it the rest of my life.
I will stop making lame brained excuses for not losing weight.
I will ask for help when I need help and reinforcement to overcome any obstacles or doubts as I start and then continue my efforts to lose weight.
I will stop binge eating.
I will give up 95 percent of the fast food I have eaten in the past.
I will limit sugar, salt, saturated fat, and harmful food ingredients that may affect my health and my ability to lose weight.
I will clean out my pantry, my fridge, my cupboards, my office desk of any and all problem snacks and weight-enhancing items that I have depended on for ages to get me through the day and night.
I will drink water instead of soda.
I will not relapse when I have a down day and am tempted to eat or drink my way out of my depression.
I will keep a food journal. Once and for all, I will actually start and keep a food journal since I know that people who keep food journals are more successful in losing weight and keeping weight off than those who just think about what they are doing.
I will not succumb to miracle diets, miracle pills, miracle foods, and any and all artificial and super-whiz celebrity solutions to my weight problem.
I will adopt the slow, steady, and persistent path to successful weight loss.
I will change my eating and drinking habits permanently so that I do not run the risk that so many run of gaining everything back when they quit their artificial diet.
I will not give up all of the foods I like, but I will eat tiny portions of anything harmful, just enough to enjoy a taste and remember what some of my favorite foods were like.
I will reward myself when I succeed in losing weight, but I will never reward myself with food.
I will practice my weight-loss diet changes until they become an established pattern and then become easier and automatic as I continue to follow what I started.
I will eat less.
I will move more.
So, what did I leave out? We all know the routine. We all know the weight-loss rules. We just have not had the gumption or whatever you want to call it to begin and then consistently follow the changes in our eating and drinking habits that we know perfectly well will lead to success in our weight-loss efforts. You can join Weight Watchers, buy a library of weight-loss books, read weight-loss tips on the internet, or try one hundred and one ways to lose weight. You can lose weight following almost any plan. The problem is, some plans are harmful to your health in ways you may not understand. The other problem is, artificial weight-loss efforts are typically self-defeating when we discontinue them and go back to our everyday ordinary eating and drinking habits and then watch the pounds pile back on.
Try following my list of 32 resolutions about weight loss. I think I have included about 90 percent of what you need to know to succeed to go on a safe and consistent and successful path to weight loss. After trying and failing a dozen or two methods of weight loss, I have succeeded in achieving consistent weight loss by talking to myself, by repeating questions, by pausing to think about what I am doing, by watching slow and steady progress, and then by feeling good about myself and realizing that I have finally conquered my age-old inability to lose my excess weight.
Task number 236: List and follow positive thoughts and methods of losing weight. Don't look back, don't feel sorry for yourself, don't hate yourself. Look forward with cheerfulness and confidence now that you have finally turned the corner and have begun doing what you have always known you should do. Life will never be the same again, because we will bring ourselves out of the doldrums and into the reality of happier days when we see that we have finally conquered our long and iron-clad inhibitions that have kept us so overweight for so long. Good luck, keep going, the Curmudgeonly Professor.
And then an afterthought: As time goes along, the foods that caused our problems before become less tempting. Our old food and beverage habits become less addictive. We discover that we don't like soda as well as we used to think we liked it. So changes that seem so impossible to begin with become automatic and part of our routine as time goes along and we no longer weep tears of remorse for giving up all of the stuff that kept us overweight for so long. There.
It's 9:00 p.m. and I haven't written my Curmudgeonly Professor's task for today. My wife asked me what I was going to write about and I told her I had no idea. Furthermore, I told her I didn't want to write anything and that I wasn't going to write anything. I was trying to scare her but I truly did not feel like writing anything tonight. Today was a busy day. I worked on a photography project for several hours. My wife and I went to the University of Utah clinic in South Jordan to have some blood tests drawn. I took pictures of the flowers at the Jordan River LDS Temple in the South Salt Lake UT Valley, one of the best flower gardens in the city. Now I can't download them because my spiffy new high-speed card reader stopped working. A package of ten new mystery books from Daedalus Books arrived today. The air is clearer after suffering in wildfire haze for days and days but still smells foul. And then there are always the perennial household chores, plants to water, and other things to gripe and grumble about.
Then I thought about the newspaper article I read this morning that reported obesity rates are rising in the U.S. If there is any topic or malady that we know a lot about and which has made chronic failures out of so many of us, it is the topic of obesity. We all know how to lose weight. We must eat less and move more. So we try eating less for awhile. We may buy expensive artificial meals or try magic bullet pills or follow a diet someone at work used to lose 80 pounds. And then as soon as we go back to our normal eating habits, the pounds pile on our frame once more. How many times have we tried and failed to lose weight? Twice? A half dozen times? A dozen times?
On my way from my recliner chair to my computer I thought about the obesity dilemma and then I knew I had a topic for today's task: Count the ways in which we tell ourselves that we will not do something to lose weight. Here is a possible list:
I can't do it.
I won't do it.
I don't want to do it.
I don't want to learn how to do it.
I'm not going to do it.
I don't have time to think about it.
I tried it before and it didn't work so why bother?
I don't have the willpower to do it.
We all have to die some time.
What do the diet experts know anyway? They are always changing their minds.
I can't get along without my three cans of diet cola a day.
I can't bother worrying about special diets and foods.
Some of the people at the doctor's office are overweight so if they can't lose weight when they have immediate access to professional help, why do I think I can lose weight?
I have more important things to worry about.
I don't like most vegetables and diet food anyway.
I'm not going to give up the food that I like when I don't know if I can lose weight anyway.
I can't remember to follow my diet.
I'm tired of people telling me that I should lose some weight. They should mind their own business.
Since there are so many fat people, it's obvious that not many people have any idea how to successfully lose weight and keep it off.
I just can't accept the fact that being overweight is a problem.
And this list is just the beginning. I know how to make excuses since I was overweight for decades. I continue to be embarrassed and disgusted with myself for not getting control of the situation years ago. Now I am making continual progress and the benefits of dropping pounds continue with each new reading on the scales.
Now make up your own list of excuses you have successfully used to keep yourself in your big and tall and queen sized clothing. What are your favorite and most effective excuses that have kept you from doing anything serious about your weight dilemma? What happens to your self resolve when you repeat one or more or a half dozen of these excuses over and over to yourself? You know the answer.
Tomorrow we will work on a second list, one that provides positive support and continued reinforcement to our resolve to lose our weight and regain our health. Obesity has been called an epidemic. Tragically, obesity is a dilemma that is treatable and yet too many of us go on from day to day as if we had all the time in the world to avoid diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, clogged arteries, and a dozen or more other ailments that are directly related to the food we eat.
Task Number 235: Identify, count, and write a list of the excuses you have successfully used to keep you from following sensible weight-loss guidelines and achieve your goal of a healthier weight. Good luck, keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
Oz isn't quite as fierce as he looks. He'll come by and rub along my pant legs two or three times and some times sit on the porch like he would like to come in. Oz is the neighborhood hero for getting rid of various critters.
Often times we may be reluctant to tackle something new because we are not sure how it will turn out. We may be skeptical of our own ability to succeed if we move into unfamiliar territory with all of the pitfalls, uncertainties, and doubts that are blocking our way to beginning something new. We may hear excuses like, "I just don't think I can do that," or "I tried that once and it didn't work", or other similar expressions of disillusionment.
Certainly risks attend any new venture, task, idea, or direction that we may decide to try. Some of the risks are small and harmless. Other risks may be greater and we may feel such larger risks are not worth taking. Going through life, however, requires that we continually try new things and that we do our best to make these new ideas and tasks succeed.
One of the most reassuring and encouraging thoughts accompanying our efforts to do something new is that the task gets easier with repetition and as we learn how to do something that seemed impossible to begin with. We cannot expect to be a 30 second expert and master a new procedure or task just by blinking our eyes. Instead, we stumble a bit, and we pick ourselves up and try again and keep going. We see that we have made a mistake in the way we have been trying to do something and then we say, "Aha", and we go on with a smile on our face.
We thought we could skip reading the directions until we make a few successive blunders and then we think, "Maybe I should have read the instructions to begin with." Then, when we actually bury our pride in quicksand and admit that we didn't know everything or that we weren't quite smart enough to figure out everything with our brilliant intuition, we see how to do what we were struggling with and we laugh at how easy it is now that we know how to do it. I have quoted my young daughter Carolyn before who famously pronounced when we were about to play a board game with the family, "I can't read the unstructions but I know how to play the game."
Many of our problems stem from the fact that we think something is not important enough to learn or that we do not want to put forth the effort required to learn something new. My 45 years of teaching college taught me many things about the different attributes of students and the differences among them in their desire and commitment to learn. Starting a new class of 400 or more students in introductory economics can be intimidating to a new freshman student just released from home for the first time in their lives. Here is a 15 page syllabus with long lists of chapters and assignments and exams. Why did I ever sign up for this class? And so different students take different approaches to how they are going to learn, or how much they are willing to learn, or to recite a list of excuses about why their inability to learn economics was my fault.
The actual task of learning economics is not nearly as difficult as getting rid of mental inhibitions that have already biased students from what they have heard from other students who have painted a dark and foreboding picture of the perils and pitfalls of beginning econ. The students who begin by reading the first paragraph in the text and then the first chapter and then making sure they understood what they had read and learned means that chapter 2 will be easier. And then, what do you know, by following this simple and straightforward procedure, by the time we get to chapter 40, we have built a twenty story building based on learning the principles of economics one by one, page by page.
Similarly, every new task we try gets easier as we learn, bit by bit, how to do it, how to avoid mistakes and simple oversights, and how to gain the necessary skills to succeed in our task. Learning to type gets easier as we practice the keyboard. Learning how to use a computer gets easier as we patiently learn each new step and then build on what we already know. Learning any new subject gets easier if we will pay attention to the foundation principles of the subject before we try to get to fancy and think that we know all we need to know. I am discovering that learning how to cook and how to bake is getting a tad easier as I make beginners mistakes and commit oversights and then profit from what I have learned. Learning how to be a better photographer has become easier after I have taken tens of thousands of photos over the past several years and then studied the photos I took to see what worked and what didn't and then delete the worst ones by the hundreds. When I spent four years janitoring my way through the University of Wyoming, I learned task by task how to be a better janitor, how to do a better job and do it more efficiently. And when I began my 45 year career in teaching college, I progressed from day one in my early 20's to the day when I reached 70 and reluctantly gave up my office and moved my economics library home and said good by to the thousands of students who had passed through my classrooms.
Think about some of the tasks you have undertaken in your lives. Make a short list of the steps you took to master your skills in improving your performance over time. Now write a second list of steps you would use to advise your son or daughter or a new employee in your work about how to tackle tough jobs, learn from their efforts, and then achieve success.
Task Number 234: Remember that difficult tasks become easier the more practice we get in doing them, so don't be reluctant to try something new and worthwhile. Practice may not make "perfect", but practice will ultimately get you to where you are good enough, and then better, and, who knows, you might even become perfect in what you are doing. Good luck, keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
My sister Liz called me the other day and asked me, "How are you?". I answered, "Do you mean spiritually, metaphorically, actually, or physically, and then gave her a long list of other possible descriptors that might give her some clue as to how I think I am. By then, she was undoubtedly sorry that she had called me, except for the fact that I have treated her in this way since she was about 4 years old.
I got to thinking about my sister's question and I realized that my sarcastic answer actually penetrated a deep vein of different dimensions that describe each of us. The correct answer to the question about how we are is, typically, "I'm just fine," no matter whether we are in the depths of despair, mired in the clutches of unrelenting pain, disgusted with the world, or whether we just plain don't care to answer any one's question at the moment about how we are.
The different dimensions to our complex personal characteristics that actually describe who we are might include some of the following:
We might be rich or poor or somewhere in between.
We might be highly educated, poorly educated, or somewhere in the middle.
We might be politically indifferent or we might be passionately partisan.
We might be analytical and able to take problems apart and put solutions back together or we may be mediocre problem solvers.
We might be kind and considerate or we may be indifferent to our interactions with other people.
We may be anywhere on the spectrum of physical and mental well being.
We might have deep spiritual roots or we may exist on sparse concern for spiritual matters.
We might class ourselves as a housewife, an accountant, a plumber, a jack-of-all trades, an economist, an historian, a writer, a poet, an engineer, a teacher, a banker, a stock trader, a rodeo cowboy, a farmer, a rancher, a sailor, a soldier, a hairdresser, or any one of a thousand other occupational and vocational categories.
We might be retired.
We can be either humble or arrogant or display some mixture of personal characteristics.
We can be optimistic, pessimistic, doubtful, positive, obnoxious, pleasant, sarcastic, humorous, sad, happy, or forgetful.
We might have insomnia and spend our wakeful hours worrying, writing, reading, crying, or walking the floor.
Maybe we are ambitious, or perhaps we are semi-ambitious and partly lazy.
We hope we can be described as honest, trustworthy, helpful, creative, and kind.
So now take out your Do List Notebook which you have procrastinated ever starting to write in and write down a list of characteristics that describe how you are and who you are. Separate your list into positive attributes that describe strengths and abilities to accomplish positive goals and negative attributes that may be holding you back from getting where you want to go. Now consider which negative characteristics you want to eliminate and which positive characteristics you want to strengthen even more.
Now that you have tackled this project in all seriousness, you have written your guidelines for making positive changes in your life and for eliminating or reducing negative and harmful attributes that may be holding you back and impeding your forward progress.
Task Number 233: Consider the many attributes that describe who you are. Think about how you view yourself and also consider how you think others evaluate you. We all like others to think well of us and we are all concerned if we sense that we are not measuring up to our own expectations and to the expectations that others have for us. Spend a few minutes on a self examination that could open your eyes and strengthen your resolve to make positive changes. Good luck, keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
We live in two separate worlds. The first world is the actual world that we live in. The second world is the world that we would rather live in. The gap between our actual world and the world we would rather live in presents some of the most important challenges of our lives. When we get bogged down in our actual world, overburdened with chores, routines, paying bills, aches and pains, and all of the responsibilities of daily life, we tend to put better possibilities out of our minds as being just too far beyond our reach to even consider.
Take a few minutes and consider the kinds of restrictions that you face as you go about daily life from brushing your teeth in the morning to turning out the lights when you go to sleep at night. Such restrictions might include some of the following:
Limited job opportunities.
Naysayers and controllers who tell you that you can't do something.
Lack of information.
Lack of willpower.
Fear of failure.
Old and deeply-ingrained habits and ideas.
Lack of self confidence.
If one or more of the items on this list or other items on your own list of restrictions are keeping you locked into a world with little hope of finding brighter days, then it is time to rethink the roadblocks in your life and do something about as many of them as possible.
The more heavily our list of personal restrictions weighs on us, the less likely we are to be optimistic enough to try new things and to make a serious effort to overcome some of the difficulties we face in our daily lives. The main purpose of life for all of us is to live a good life, to make continual improvements in our circumstances, and to overcome the negative barriers and influences that keep us from moving onward and upward. One of the key thoughts here is the importance of gaining freedom and self confidence enough to make the changes that will get us where we want to go. In order to gain this freedom, we must throw out the garbage, clean the cobwebs off our brains, and gain the self confidence that enables us, once and for all, to get rid of as many restrictions to making improvements as we can eliminate.
Now imagine some of the following characteristics of the world we would rather live in:
We see the rosy light of morning rather than the dark clouds of defeat and despair.
We have an agenda for making improvements.
We begin making progress in achieving our goals.
We are willing to try something new as long as the something new is something positive, something that is life-affirming.
We actually feel lighter when we have removed the 150 pound backpack loaded with worries, fears, and doubts about whether our lives are ever going to get any better.
As our outlook on life improves, our relationships with other people improve.
We find comfort and support in a variety of places that we need to boost us along our way.
We gain the freedom to proceed when we get rid of the shackles of our past.
We discover how we can actually get by on what we have, if necessary, or find creative ways to get what we need.
We smile, we laugh, and we regain our sense of humor and our feeling that life is genuinely worthwhile.
We can buy a library of self-help books. We can listen to gurus who have a magic path to where we want to go. We can search high and low for clues and answers to our dilemmas. Typically, however, as we discussed yesterday, we can make things easier to begin with if we follow a few simple "do" and "don't" rules before we get too excited about overburdening ourselves with long lists and complicated procedures.
Task Number 232: Choose between the world you actually live in and the world you would rather live in. Then take steps for moving, little by little, inch by inch, from your actual world to your dream world. You'll forever be glad that you made the effort. Good luck, keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
Countdown: 133 days remaining in the year 2015. 133 more tasks to finish the Curmudgeonly Professor's Do List. Can I do it? Stay tuned and see. Contributions welcome from my readers.
While looking for photos to delete to shrink my hard drive storage, I came across a couple of dozen photos I took in 2013 and downloaded on my computer and then never edited or looked at them again. So see here what I missed.
August 20, 2015. Two thirds of the month of August is gone, poof. Eleven days and we will be in September. And where did all of the time go? And what did we accomplish? Now we must get serious and face up to the fact that the year is waning. September means the beginning of autumn and, in some places, as where we lived in Laramie, Wyoming for several years, September brings the end of summer and the beginning of colder weather. No matter what we have done or have not done, the calendar marches relentlessly on, day by day, month by month. Whether we feel remorse for what we have not accomplished or feel happy for what we have been able to do during the first two-thirds of the year 2015, tomorrow is always another day. And as long as we have another day, we have another opportunity, another chance to dust off our to do lists, and time to see if we can make the best of the remainder of the year.
One thing I have learned in pursuing my own goals and making my share of mistakes is that we usually tend to have a difficult time following complex rules and procedures. In fact, I will offer the Curmudgeonly Professor's Law of Complex Procedures: The more complex any procedure, the less likely we are to succeed in following it.
Throughout my earlier years, I had the idea that if I accumulated a library of how-to-do it books, I could cure all of my deficiencies, become rich, solve my weight problem, be forever happy, and accomplish an endless list of noble deeds. So I bought books on how to avoid procrastination. Books on how to lose weight. Books on positive thinking. Books on how to fix stuff. And, for the most part, I rarely got past the first few paragraphs or maybe the first chapter. If I had to read 300 pages and follow 25 chapters of rules on how to lose weight, I thought, forget it.
Eventually, after decades of hit-and-miss accomplishments, I caught on: Find simple rules. Follow simple rules. Once I started following the maxim "Eat Less" I started losing weight and I continued losing weight. That doesn't mean that I didn't learn more about what food to eat or how to eat less, but the main rule imprinted in my brain was "Eat Less." And I have succeeded in continually losing weight, slowly at times, but consistently over some months, by continually reminding myself of my simple rule.
I was reading a recipe for banana bread to get rid of a batch of ripe bananas when out of the end of the recipe, I read this admonition: Read this recipe twice before you start. We could expand this rule to about anything we begin. Read the instructions. Read the instructions twice. Make sure you know what you are doing and that you have the tools and ingredients you need for your project before you begin. To this admonition, I add the following: Double check everything that you do. Don't leave out the baking soda or the salt or the vanilla. Double check your arithmetic. Double check your work procedures. Double check your medications.
For today's task, we suggest making to do lists of simple rules. The first list is titled "Do This." The second list is titled "Don't do this." On your "do this" list, you might include two or three things that you are currently doing, that you want to start doing, or a change you want to make. On your "don't do this" list, you might include some things you know you should stop doing, a habit you want to break, or anything else you want to exclude from your daily activities.
Consider the fact that the personal admonition to "do this" is a powerful incentive to go ahead and do it. At the same time, telling yourself "don't do this" is a lot less painful than knocking yourself in the head with a 2 x 4 to quit doing something that you know is counter productive or damaging.
Task number 231: Follow simple rules and watch big results follow. Once you succeed at the outset in following simple rules, you can easily add more information and a better understanding of what you are doing and of other things that you need to do. But you will be amazed, as I have been, at the benefits of following a few simple rules to get you off dead center and on your way. Good luck and keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.