Top five habits: Attitude

Today is the first in a five part series addressing the top habits that will nudge you toward living at a human scale and pace.  A positive and hopeful attitude drives positive gain in our lives. This has been a hot topic in the social sciences lately because of depression and other disorders that are on the rise. We need tools, especially today, to help fight the negativity bias and whatever else may contribute to negativity and despair. In an earlier post, I talked about living deliberately, and that certainly helps. It is difficult or impossible to change if you’re on auto-pilot.

The virtue of self discipline, otherwise known as self mastery, realizes that we don’t operate on instinct by itself, but have the power to use reason and reflection to guide ourselves into the future. If you want it, will it. That will greatly increase your chances of success, but I can guarantee that if you don’t will it, it won’t happen.

The quality of your view depends on where you are standing. It is the same way with perception and our outlook on the world and the circumstances in our life. It isn’t always possible to change our circumstances, but we can always change our behavior – how we react or if we react at all. Making the leap to positivity from negativity or apathy is the most necessary component in any attempt to change for the better.

What are two things you can do to attain a consistent positive attitude? Write it down. This is a popular habit in many circles because it works. At the end of the day, look back and find three things you’re grateful for and why. Then, for the times when you’ll start to get negative again, write them down in a notebook. It helps to have those consistent positive messages to turn to. Second, Mr. Miyagi was right: breathe. Take a minute to put yourself back into your body and in the moment. Nothing works better to get you there than taking deep, calm breaths and focusing on the process. Eyes closed, breathe in through the nose, out through the mouth. Repeat. Have a positive day.





img_0848We are rarely thrown one of these sixty degree February days, so when I got up this morning and put the coffee and oatmeal on and let the dogs out, I kept the back door open to enjoy the warm air while I drank my cuppa. The window was down as I drove to work, too. And I stopped at Bryant Creek Lake for a few minutes to do nothing else but stand there on the retaining wall while the sun began to warm the eastern horizon. The low gray clouds held a hint of rain with that delicious spring scent subtly building… I could have stood (or sat) there to watch the sun rise. I should have stayed and watched the sun rise. But training meeting demanded my presence. I am grateful for this unexpectedly warm morning. What did you do with this unexpected morning?

Songs and trees and mud

meltzerwoods-centralinlandtrustOver a year ago, I answered an invitation from a parishioner at my church to join a fledgling choir that would focus on Latin and classic hymns. How could I say no? Our group evolved into a Wednesday evening sung Vespers, which is taking off nicely, but we also now have a slot in the regular music ministry rotation. We had several new members join us in the past couple of weeks, and this morning we sang at the 10:30 Mass. I was chosen to be the cantor, which is the person who does the “solo” parts where the congregation responds, and I was a bit nervous, even though we sing from the choir loft. After Mass, one of the parishioners walked all the way up to the choir loft and told me that my voice was so soothing, and we all did a great job. The thought that my voice has the capacity to make people happy, or to soothe them? Unspeakably awesome. I am grateful that God has blessed me with a voice that can soothe others.

After Mass I loaded the dogs up in the van and took them out to Meltzer Woods, the old-growth nature preserve in northern Shelby County. There are a couple of hiking loops that total over a mile, and the dogs were sniffing and snuffling and having a great time with their muddy paws and engaged senses. Once we got on the trail I looked down and noticed I was still wearing my good Cole Hahn black dress shoes, which now looked like Grizzly Adams’ boots. I’ve been out hiking and walking so much, just about all of my footwear are muddy, but it’s okay. They’ll clean up. Not by themselves, but I’ll get around to it. But today, I’m grateful for muddy shoes and happy dogs.

Grape ? Fruit


There is something celebratory about breaking the skin of a citrus fruit. That bright, tart feeling of awakening as your taste buds begin to make a fuss and your mouth begins to water, in anticipation of that first bite. Oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, lemons and limes, it doesn’t matter. The secondary benefit is that that smell sticks to your hands. Aromatherapy at its finest. But does anyone know who named the grapefruit? SMH

Pitching in

gratitude-kaleidoscopeMy work over the past three days consisted of attending a conference on event and sports management. Thursday was an all day exercise in which we participants had to staff a position in either the policy group, emergency operations center, or the incident command post. I was working in the logistics section as a unit leader. My whole military career I was always a plans and operations guy, never a “loggie” as we call them. So it was a different experience for me. During the conference, I was talking with one of the instructors, Joe, who frequently hikes in Grand Canyon National Park. Believe me, it is on my bucket list. Joe said he’d hike with me and show me the best routes if I ever get there. I left the conference grateful for the instructors, who were experienced and knowledgeable. They cared about the students, who came to IU from all over the country for this training, and the learning outcomes.

When I got home from Bloomington last night, I was spent. The kids had already eaten, so I warmed up some leftover mushrooms and peppers over rice and steamed some vegetables to go with it, then headed down the street for a meeting with Shellie Ellison and Wheels on the Ground, a group that advocates for people with disabilities. She had brought some strawberries that were just as sweet as cotton candy. I did not feel like going out last night, but ended up having a nice walk to get myself there, and I’m glad I went. I’m grateful for Shellie. When I first got into bicycle and pedestrian advocacy in Shelbyville, she always had my back and came to almost every single meeting. Her vision for leveling the playing field for other-abled people is inspiring and her vision of erasing functional barriers in the city (and eventually the world!) inspires me. When her vision comes to fruition, they’re going to rename the city Shellieville.

Everyone was so busy yesterday evening, the kitchen showed it. Oh, it was bursting with signs of the lives that play out in the house day after day. Someone said that it isn’t important how much house you can afford in your life, rather how much life goes on in your house. The original person probably said it better, but you get the gist. So, I was grateful for the dishes in the kitchen sink. In the not too distant future, that kitchen is going to be too damn clean and quiet. Believe it or not, putting your hands in warm water and smelling the soapy, humid steam coming off the clean plates can be calming. If you let it.