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.
Every day we are deluged with information. When someone tells us they have some good news and some bad news, we're never quite sure whether we want the good news first or the bad news first. The way we focus on and react to good news and bad news can affect our disposition and our ability to concentrate on what we need to be doing
Newspapers are supposed to be full of news, but I wonder some times how true that expectation remains. As the digital age continues to eclipse the print age, newspapers have economized by cutting out special features that we used to like such as cooking and food pages which rarely appear any more. We scan the papers, if we still subscribe to them, looking for items of interest. First, the bad news. Auto accidents, homicides, bomb blasts, deaths, tragedies, weather disasters, stock market drops, disappointing economic data, disease epidemics, cost of living increases, cuts in government programs and services that affect us personally, and so the list of disasters and tragedies continues. Then we have the bizarre, the curiously weird, the "reality show" type of unusual information that attracts our attention and wastes our time. Now for the ads. I throw away a ton of ads every Sunday, saving only the comics and the actual newspaper.
Television news is similarly focused on the same kinds of negative and attention-getting information. News reporters are placed in often-precarious situations day and night to give "live" reports of crashes, shootings, and any and all other calamities.
Our ability to cope with bad news can have a significant effect on our lives. Here are some possible sources of bad news that can send us into tears and a sense of defeat and hopelessness:
Results of a medical test.
A failing grade on an an important exam.
Bankruptcy and foreclosure.
Layoff from a job.
Our landlord tells us we have to move.
An accident and an injury.
A family or marital dispute.
A weather calamity such as flooding.
A failed investment or business venture.
A new physical handicap.
On the other hand, our lives are also punctuated with good news, which may include some of the following examples:
We got a raise and a commendation on our job.
We passed our exam.
We survived a medical crisis.
We solved a financial problem.
We received unexpected good news from family or friends.
Our business venture succeeded.
We had a bumper crop on the farm.
Our weight dropped 10 pounds.
We actually had a good day.
We achieved one or more goals we had set for ourselves.
Now make two lists of your own in your "Book of Lists." In the first list, name several examples of bad news that has affected your life and left you feeling sad or hopeless. In the second list, think of instances in which good news has brightened your life and given you the courage and determination to forge onward and keep going.
Good news and bad news. We all hope for good news but we don't always get the news we expected or wanted. The media flood us with bad news, and my solution is to limit the amount of time I read or listen to such news. We have a difficult time going on with our lives and making the changes we need to make if we are always drowning in a sea of negative information and news. And the real test of our courage and determination comes when we are faced with the necessity of coping with bad news and still going on with our lives with a cheerful determination. We all know how much more we can accomplish and how much happier we are with life if we can close out the bad news, focus on the good news, and get on with what we need and want to do.
Task Number 229: Don't let bad news drag you down. Good luck, focus on sunshine and good news, and keep going through both dark and sunny days. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
Repetition can be either a friend or a foe, depending on how we apply repetitive actions. Habits are formed by repetition. The important outcome of repetition is either a good habit or a harmful habit. The lure of temptation to try something new, something exciting, can lead to disastrous repetition and addiction. Repeating a positive change can lead to a beneficial habit that can be life changing.
Repetition of harmful actions may require little willpower. Breaking the ultimate habit that can so often be the negative result of repeating harmful actions can be a difficult task and may even require professional intervention. The obvious solution is to avoid even a single instance of a potential harmful habit and to focus on changes which, once begun, can lead to positive repetitive actions that lead to better health and a happier life.
For today's task, first compile a list of harmful choices that can begin with just a single action and which then can lead to chronic problems. Drugs, alcohol, and smoking are three of the most destructive addictions, all of which begin at one time or another with a single action. Aside from these three calamity-inducing habits, here are some examples of possible beginnings of repetitive actions that can lead to various problems:
Overeating, including binge eating.
Drinking sugar and caffeine laden beverages.
Becoming a couch potato with sprouts.
Sitting for hours at your desk or in your home.
Texting while driving.
Taking short cuts.
Any of a variety of dishonest acts that, tried once, may lead to repetitive actions.
Not telling the truth.
Not paying attention.
Try it, you'll like it is the often repeated mantra. Just try it this one time. Social acceptance requires certain actions and behaviors. We have heard them all. And many have been burned by following one or more roads in the wrong direction.
Here are a few examples of positive actions which, repeated, become life-affirming and life-improving habits:
Control of food intake.
Putting all electronic devices and attention diverting things away while driving.
Get up and move every 20 minutes or so.
Tell the absolute truth, except when your wife asks how you like her new outfit.
Do not take short cuts.
Be reliable and do what you say you are going to do.
Pick up your stuff and stop being a slob.
Listen to others instead of interrupting them all the time.
Look for opportunities to help others instead of thinking about yourself so much,.
Learn something new each day.
Now you can make your own set of lists and add them to your notebook which you titled "My Book of Lists." Tone down and stop the repetitive actions in your "bad" list, and focus on paying attention to all of the repetitive actions on your "good" list. Even if you knock one bad habit to the side and start one good habit, that may be more progress than you have made for awhile.
Good luck, repeat life-affirming and life-enhancing actions, and keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
The idea for today's task comes from Lloyd Newell who gives a three-minute inspirational message on the weekly broadcast of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Newell's message was based on an answer to the request to "name the most important thing that you learned in school." Borrowing that theme, we are expanding our task to list five important things that you learned in school. For this task, we are limiting school to pre-college.
Here are some possible contributions to your list of important things you learned in school:
A particular class may have stimulated your interest and influenced your choice of studies in college and even your future career.
A teacher may have left you with an indelible lesson that has been a guidepost in your life.
You may have learned a special skill that led to a vocational interest or life time hobby.
School activities such as sports, music, leadership activities, journalism, membership in various clubs and groups, school sponsored travel, and many other possible activities may have been special sources of important lessons that have stayed with you throughout your life.
You may have learned a lesson from an unfortunate mistake.
You may have learned how to study, which means you learned how to learn.
You may have seen your interests and career objectives change over your school years as you took additional classes and gained additional experience and, in fact, grew up a little more.
You may have made friends who will become a lifetime support group.
You may have learned how to write and how to express yourself.
You may have gained a love of literature, music, and art which can become lifetime sources of enrichment and growth.
You may have learned how to get along with others.
You may have learned how to help others.
You may have wished that you had applied yourself more, that you had taken more advantage of the learning and growth opportunities that were right before you.
You may have gained some appreciation for the differences in learning ability, aptitude, and interests among your classmates.
You may have found some constructive role models who have influenced your behavior and your life in positive directions.
My list demonstrates some of the more likely lessons that you may have learned in school, but you may think through the experiences of your own life and come up with some new and creative ideas about what school meant to you, how it has influenced your life, and what you owe to your school years and your teachers as you go throughout your life.
Just to illustrate, here are several of the important things I learned in school:
I had a teacher in vocational agriculture who thought I would be a good public speaker. For two years, he coached me, took me to every service club and organization in the valley to speak, and then I won first place in the Wyoming state FFA public speaking contest and third place in the eleven-state Pacific regional FFA public speaking contest. The coaching and experiences I had under this caring teacher's tutelage stood me in good stead when I embarked on a 45 year career in teaching. I was nervous, yes, when I started to teach but I never lacked the self confidence to teach classes from 10 or 15 students to large classes of 400 students or more.
Typing. Typing might sound like a mundane ho-hum skill, but here I am still typing 70 or more years later. Typing is a skill that has made so many writing tasks possible for me. I learned to type in about a month by placing an imaginary keyboard above my head when I went to bed and moving my fingers over the make-believe keys until I was typing 60 words a minute in just a few weeks.
I developed a love for journalism when I spent my junior year as the editor of the school paper and my senior year as editor of the school annual.
I learned about other states and other areas from numerous school trips for FFA conventions, livestock judging trips, public speaking contests, and band trips. Since we lived in an isolated corner of northwest Wyoming twelve miles from town, these trips and experiences opened my eyes and broadened my horizons in a way that no classroom experience could ever have done.
I developed a lifelong interest in music and bands after spending five years playing the tuba in the Powell High School band and marching in numerous parades behind numerous horses and including being in the National FFA Band in Kansas City MO during the American Royal livestock show.
Well this is not an academic lesson, but I was just 16 when I graduated from high school. I learned quickly that the love of my high school life, who was two years older, was not especially attracted to a 16 year old. Sad lesson to learn, but I made up for it when I went to college and found a 16 year old girl who is still with me.
Please actually make an effort to compile and write these lists in your notebook of lists. Just thinking about what to put in these lists won't get you very far. Write the lists and save the lists. Your collection of lists will provide important guideposts for future thoughts and actions and for other writing such as writing your life story and your journal.
Task Number 227: List five important things you learned in school. Perhaps some of these lessons were hard lessons and lessons based on recovering from mistakes. Still, recovering from mistakes can provide some of the most important and long-lasting memories of our lives. Good luck, do your lists, and keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
Many of us tend to be creatures of habit. We would rather go some place we have already been, do something we have already done before, listen to the same television program, eat the same food, express the same opinions we have always been certain were 100 percent correct, read the same kind of book, follow the same routine in our jobs and, in general, rust away in the same old tired and boring ruts. Why is it so difficult to make small changes, to try new things, to wear a new style of dress or a different kind of shirt, make changes in our diet, try a new vacation destination, or make any other change out of our ordinary, boring, time-worn existence?
So our task today is to widen our horizons, broaden our thoughts, admit new ideas and possibilities, and actually schedule some changes that will expand our world and our minds beyond the cement they have been set in for who knows how long a period of time. Once we get locked into a job and a rigid routine, we have countless reasons why we don't want to try or think about anything different in our lives. We may feel fortunate that we are able to do the things that need to be done on a regular basis without considering any surprises in our lives. If this situation describes you and your current life, then consider this possibility: Maybe it is time that you allowed a few interesting and challenging surprises into your life and existence.
The idea of a bucket list has become popular in recent years. A bucket list was originally a list of adventures that two old geezers wanted to experience before they passed from this life. More recently, a bucket list has broadened its appeal to include activities and adventures that anyone might want to experience at any time in their lives. So now it is time to do a bit of day dreaming. Pull the fuzz from your eyes and the cobwebs from your brain and give some serious thought to listing five new things you want to do and actually will commit yourself to doing by the end of the year.
Life is full of so many infinitely interesting things to do and see and experience that we are only shortchanging ourselves if we think we are going to postpone everything until some golden sunny day when we will do all of the things we always dreamed of doing. All too often, we get disappointed when changes in health, finances, family situations, job security, and other unexpected events keep us from ever doing even one thing on our "bucket list." And then we have only sad regrets that we really never took advantage of so many foregone opportunities. I can list many people who worked so hard all of their lives, always seeking to gain an extra nickel or dime, and then, sadly, when their moment of possible adventure arrived, they were too sick, too tired, or for countless other reasons were never able to fulfill any of their dreams.
Even if you have reached a point in your lives, as my wife and I have reached, where your mobility is limited and you have fewer actual possibilities of things you can do and places you can go, you can still enrich your lives and make it more interesting by introducing some novelty, some change, something new and challenging, in your lives.
I can't make your own list of possible new and fun and exciting and different things you want to do by the end of this year. You may want to think about a different vacation spot, changing the kinds of books you read, taking a course in something you want to learn, starting a hobby you have always wanted to try, buying something you have been too frugal to buy but which may open up new horizons of interest and enthusiasm for you. Just think of a two year old with a new pair of shoes and try to get them off when it's bed time. You get the picture. You are entitled to your own new pair of shoes.
Task Number 226: List five things that you want to do and actually will do by the end of the year 2015. May your life be more interesting, may your horizons widen, and may you find greater joy in new experiences than following the same old routines. Good luck, enjoy your new surprises. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
Today's task may require a little more effort than some of the recent tasks we have discussed. The task today is to change our thinking habits so that we eliminate words that typically reinforce the cloudy sides of our lives. Here are some examples of words and phrases that we need to eliminate from our daily thoughts and conversations:
I am so discouraged.
I am so worried.
I am so angry.
I give up.
I can't do this.
It's useless to try.
Nothing good ever happens to me.
I am so jealous.
I am so disappointed.
I hurt so much.
Trying to hold our chins up and keep going with a semblance of a cheerful disposition when we are going through difficult times is one of the major challenges of life. And yet the time we spend worrying and fostering feelings of gloom and despair never get us anywhere except more gloom and despair. As your first task for today, list five negative thoughts or words that make life difficult for you.
As the second task for the day, we need a list of antidotes to counter the kinds of feelings that make our lives miserable. Such antidotes that can provide relief from our doldrums might include some of the following suggestions:
Instead of dwelling on discouragement, concentrate on the blessings you have received and think about how these blessings can lift you out of discouragement.
I have been a lifetime worrier. Worrying can be like a disease. And yet, worrying never accomplishes anything, never does anybody any good. Instead of worrying, and I need this advice myself as much as anyone, we can think positive thoughts. We can realize that things could be much worse than they are. We can concentrate on steps we can take to counter the worries that we have. And we can often just do something else and wait awhile since many worries just vanish into thin air.
Replace anger with forgiveness. Take positive steps to correct circumstances that lead to anger.
The advice to number 4 is simple: Never, never give up.
If you don't think you can do something, try again. And if that doesn't work, try one more time. And if that still doesn't work, laugh it off and go do something else.
Trying is always important. Just try something and see if you can do it or make it work. Few results of importance are ever achieved without trying, without giving it all we've got, and overcoming all of the barriers along the way.
Many good things have happened to us. Too bad that we just get ourselves into such a state of misery that we dwell mainly on the discouraging things that happen and not on the bright side of our existence. Again, count our blessings.
Jealousy never got anyone anywhere. We don't need more stuff. We don't need a bigger house. We don't need to be more beautiful. We don't need to be like anyone else. We just need to accept what we have, make the best of it, and ignore the fact that so many of the people we may envy have more problems than we have and end up in worse situations than we find ourselves in.
Well, yes, life is indeed full of disappointments. We get a lower grade on an exam or in a class than we thought we were going to get. We may be disappointed in love affairs and personal relationships. We may be disappointed in our medical tests. We may not like a movie or a book or a song or a concert that we thought we were going to like. But we can replace disappointments by focusing on what really matters and on the fact that most disappointments are not as significant as we originally thought they were.
And pain. I've saved pain for the last since pain hurts so much. People in chronic pain live with a constant challenge to endure, to battle the pain, to try and keep up their confidence and self control. And yet, our challenge, if we are in a situation of chronic pain is to make the best of our situation and to go ahead and do the best we can for ourselves and for others around us. Being bigger than our pain and still moving ahead in our lives can be one of our greatest challenges. Life is still important, and we can still use our hearts and minds to do so many things even though in our darkest and most painful moments we may have doubts that we can accomplish anything worthwhile.
Today's tasks: Task 1: List five words or phrases of doom and discouragement that you will work hard to eliminate from your vocabulary. Task 2: Name one or more antidotes to each of the items in your first list.
Some days and years, life is easy and we go along on a calm and steady sea. Some days and years, life is hard, filled with disappointments and pain. Some how we must persevere and even out the good days and years with the bad days and years so that we can survive our darker days. Perhaps the best we can do some days is just count our blessings and be thankful for everything that we have. Keep going, good luck. The Curmudgeonly Professor.