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My friend was kind enough to email me this story and since it so perfectly illustrates my one general piece of advice, I just had to share it. 🙂

Mayonnaise Jar & Two Beers

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.

When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full.
They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full.
They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

He asked once more if the jar was full.
The students responded with a unanimous “yes.”

The professor then produced two beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand.

The students laughed.

”Now,” said the professor as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.

The golf balls are the important things – your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favourite passions – and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.

The sand is everything else – the small stuff.”

”If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.

The same goes for life.

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.

Spend time with your children.
Spend time with your parents.
Visit with grandparents.
Take time to get medical checkups.
Take your spouse out to dinner.
Play another 18.

There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal.

Take care of the golf balls first – the things that really matter.

Set your priorities.

The rest is just sand.

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented.

The professor smiled and said, “I’m glad you asked. The beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of beers with a friend.”

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ~ Leo Buscaglia

When performing small acts of kindness I often wonder if it’s worth it. Is my time and effort (and money) being spent wisely? Am I actually improving someone’s day or is my thoughtfulness being strewn aside?  Am I even making a difference? 

There are days when I feel incredibly inspired and can easily find the motivation to perform kind acts but on those other days, the days where it all seems meaningless and I feel discouraged, I think of this story. I can’t remember where I first heard this but it has stuck with me ever since. 

A couple was walking along the shoreline at low tide. The beach was littered with tens of thousands of starfish that had been left behind on the sand when the tide went out and lay dying in the hot sun. The man picked up a starfish and hurled it into the sea, then another, then another.

His companion laughed at his efforts saying that he could hardly make a difference given that there were so many stranded starfish scattered along the shoreline.

Undaunted, the man picked up another starfish and as he hurled it into the surf he said “made a difference to that one.” 

If you’re like me and you find yourself questioning the influence of your actions, remember this story and remember that you only need to transform the life of one person to be successful. That smile you shared or that positive note you left behind may be the very thing that changed someone’s life.

I’ve been paying close attention to my emotions lately as I seem to go from happy to miserable in a moments notice and I didn’t know why. 

It turns out that I get very offended, hurt and even angry when an expectation of mine is not fulfilled. I take things quite personally and will often ruminate for days or weeks after the incident. 

Please don’t take me for a drama queen that freaks out if I don’t get what I want. I’m quite the opposite actually. I’m usually rather easy going and don’t expect much from people. I try my best to accept things as they are and look for the positives in each situation. However, I find that there are still times when I increase my expectations just a little bit and then I find myself incredibly disappointed when they aren’t met. 

The last few times I’ve felt myself getting angry, I’ve looked at the situations surrounding me. Each and every time I’ve had a certain expectation that wasn’t fulfilled to my satisfaction. Here are some examples. 

A friend of mine is doing a charity walk to raise money for cancer. Of course I donated money to help her meet her goal but I made the mistake of expecting a thank you. I must state that I did not donate for an ego boost. I just wanted to do what I thought was the right thing (support a good cause while also helping out a friend) but I really did expect some sort of acknowledgement of what I did. When I didn’t hear anything back from this friend, I got pretty mad. 

Another example is when my husband says he’ll be home at a certain time and isn’t. Now, I’m pretty accustomed to this by now, I generally always assume that he’ll be later than he says but on some occasions I will expect him home at that specific time. When he doesn’t show up, I’m hurt. 

The biggest example of this is my birthday. Every single year on my birthday I feel depressed and disappointed (and not because I’m getting older). I’m disappointed because I expect my friends to call or send me cards (and most don’t), I expect my Facebook to be filled with birthday wishes (but it’s not) and a little part of me always hopes for a grand gesture from my husband (I usually get pajamas and a card). Now there absolutely nothing wrong with pajamas and I am very grateful for the few cards I do get or the number of birthday wishes that are sent my way but it’s never enough. My birthday is the one time I really allow my expectations to get the better of me. 

If we go through life with all of these unachievable expectations, we are bound to be disappointed time and again. But if we lower those expectations, or better yet, drop the expectations completely than we will be filled with unfailing gratitude. 

From now on, I’m going to try my best to drop the expectations. I’m not suggesting that I become a doormat or allow others to treat me poorly, I’m simply stating that I won’t expect others to make me happy. If I don’t expect anyone to remember my birthday, I’ll be appreciative of the few people who do instead of angry at those who didn’t. 

Do you fall into the trap of high expectations (of others or even yourself)? If so, give this a try. The next time you find yourself expecting a certain outcome, stop, drop and let it go. 🙂 Your life will be a lot more enjoyable when it’s filled with boundless positive surprises instead of never-ending disappointment.

Kindness to Others

It’s that time again…time for another round of Kindness Ideas (one of my favourite things!). Here are some pretty simple things you can do today to brighten someone’s day. What are you waiting for? 😀 

  • Write a thank you note to someone.
  • Put together a writing kit with stationery, envelopes, stamps and a pen and give to a hospital or nursing home.
  • Put something you no longer need on Craig’s list free spot for your area.
  • Leave something for someone at an area where it might be used, (lighter near smoking area, book in reading area, umbrella near door on rainy day).
  • Leave a book you have already finished somewhere for someone else to read.
  • At the post office leave some extra stamps at the stamp machine.
  • Send a picture you have taken which includes a friend and send it to them with a note remembering when it was taken.
  • Buy a phone card and give it to a homeless shelter for them to give to someone.
  • Open the phone book, pick a name, and send them something (movie tickets, thank you card, you are appreciated card, book, etc.) anonymously.
  • Take flowers to a hospital ward and give them to someone who hasn’t had any visitors.
  • Take some cake, chocolates, flowers etc. to the neighbours, or a senior citizen nearby.
  • Make a cd of your favorite songs and give it to a friend (or leave it in public for a stranger to find).
  • Invite someone who is alone over for dinner.
  • Share a comic strip or something funny with someone else.
  • Write a note or send an e-greeting “just to say hello” to someone who might need a pick me up.

Quote of the Week

“To help yourself make a decision, flip a coin. It’s not where it lands that matters – it’s how you feel about it. Now you know what you really want!” ~ Chef Cheryl

I generally only like to share my plans and personal life with close friends and family on my Facebook page so I try to maintain a smaller, more “close knit” group of people on my friends list instead of adding every single person I’ve ever met. I used to have more Facebook friends but I found that I would make a number of “groups” so only some people could see my pictures or my status or my info. It became very complicated and tedious so I decided instead to delete anyone that couldn’t have full access to everything I post. 

The “unfriending” process became very difficult to do though as this whole social networking business (and the inclusion/exclusion it brings) can be very sticky territory to maneuver through. I really wish it didn’t have to be this way, but in our ego-dominated world, it is. The more “friends” a person has, the “cooler” they are. To get a new friend request means you are sought after but to be “unfriended” means you are a pathetic loser (not my opinion, btw, just what I perceive the general attitude to be). I, of course, do not want to make anyone feel like a pathetic, unworthy friend nor do I want to have the awkward encounter where I may bump into someone I have deleted (and you know they know that you deleted them) but I don’t want to continue pretending that we are friends if we aren’t. 

I felt pretty safe deleting approximately 80 people off my friends list (people I really had no desire to talk to) but then I was left with all these “I’d like to delete you but…” You know those people, the ones you really don’t talk to but feel you just have to keep because it would be frowned upon or awkward if you didn’t. Those friends of the family, or friends-of-friends you may run into at a mutual friend’s party. Those extended family members that you don’t ever see or those co-workers that requested your friendship and you didn’t want to be rude by saying no. And of course, how can we forget those old friends from school that you really do like but just don’t talk to anymore. 

I took a good hard look at my remaining friends and these are the discouraging statistics. 

Out of the 71 friends that remained, I would only consider 11 of them to be close friends or family that I actually do talk to on a regular basis and enjoy sharing pictures, status updates and info with. 

There are 11 other people I would consider close acquaintances. The type of the people you keep in touch with occasionally and you’d like to maintain a friendship with but at this moment, you just aren’t that close.

The remaining 49 people fall into that “I’d like to delete you but…” category. Those people I really have no desire to keep on my friends list but I feel I can’t delete them because it will look bad. What if I run into them? What if they talk to our mutual friend about being unfriended? What will the rest of the family think if I deleted my second cousin? What if my co-worker confronts me? (And more selfishly) what if I need to get in touch with them for something in the future?

After writing the above questions I now realize that my main aversion to deleting these individuals is not the fact that I may hurt their feelings (although I do care about that) but it’s more about my own fear of confrontation. About having someone think badly of me. More or less, me not wanting to feel like a dirtbag.

How the heck do I get over that? Just delete them anyways and feel like a jerk? Or keep them on my list knowing in my heart that I’m not being authentic? Which is worse? Maybe I should just delete my whole account, that way no one is personally targeted…but then I lose my connection to those 22 close friends and acquaintances. Should I put the blame on others, after all, if they were more mature they’d understand why I deleted them…right? Or do I reach out and try to connect with these people in hopes of one day becoming good friends with them? But what if I don’t want to be friends? 

Do I just shut the hell up about it all because really, who cares? 

Oh the drama of it all… (Yes, I realize I am probably making a mountain out of a molehill here but to me, this does matter) 

After much thought, I’ve decided to take a two-pronged approach. 

First, I’m going be true to myself, “man-up” and delete those people who I really have no desire to be friends with. I may hurt some feelings and I may end up getting confronted but I need to stay authentic and do what I believe is right for me. 

Secondly, those “friends” that aren’t quite friends yet, I’m going to reach out to. Maybe that second-cousin of mine is a really interesting person, or maybe that old school friend of mine wants to get better acquainted but is too shy or afraid to initiate conversation. And if that fails, and I get no positive feedback from these individuals, that delete button is only one click away.

Thankful Thursdays

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” ~ G.K. Chesterton

This week I am grateful for…

  • this awesome sight! I was coming home from work Tuesday afternoon, after a crappy day, feeling miserable, when I saw this. It totally made my day!

After seeing that, I decided to take my camera with me on my walk with the dogs and see what else I could find that made me smile. Here is what I’m grateful for…

  • delightful Sesame Street characters in my neighbours garden. Cookie Monster is my absolute favourite and can always put a big smile on my face.

  • this big cluster of gorgeous Black-Eyed Susan’s amongst the prickly thistles.

  • this silly little dinosaur in the neighbourhood park. Yes, I did ride him and it was awesome.

  • the gorgeous trails I get to walk down, only minutes from my front door.

  • my favourite tree. This tree just rocks. Lightning (or something) tried to knock it down but it just kept on growing, even while laying flat on the ground.

It’s quite amazing how much you can find to be thankful for when you take the time to look for it. I was having the worst day but by shifting my perspective, I was able to find all of those wonderful sights (plus a bunch more) in a 30 minute walk around my neighbourhood. 

What are you thankful for?