Balancing Act #197: January 2016



A free monthly newsletter about balancing life, work, and relationships based on the books and popular workshops conducted by Alan Weiss, Ph.D. Past copies are archived on our web site:

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Balancing act is in four sections this month:

1. Techniques for balance

2. Musings

3. The human condition: Optimism



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1. Techniques for balance: New Year's Accountabilities

Forget about "resolutions," which have as much power and authority as a Congressional resolution or UN resolution: zero. Here are some New Year's Accountabilities:

• Take time to exercise and improve/sustain your physical health. Don't get around to it when you can. Schedule the time and the trainer.

• Engage in at least one developmental activity per quarter. Build your assertiveness skills, or learn to paint, or develop coaching approaches, or take up an instrument—or all of the above or whatever suits you.

• Acquire new friends. You don't have to abandon the current ones (although some you probably should) but you do need to find people who can make you "stretch" and from whom you can learn.

• Lower your stress level. Stress is a killer, from masking talent to creating serious illness. Practice more patience and stop taking random events personally.

• Look at the larger picture. No matter who wins the next election the country will endure and prosper. Markets have to go down in order to go up again.

• You can always make another dollar, but you can't make another minute. Use your time wisely. True wealth is discretionary time. Don't let others steal it or take it.

• Start and end each day with a positive. It could be a prayer, a mantra, or a different reflection each day. Focus on what is going well, your strengths, and your best qualities.

• Don't allow yourself to become a victim. Don't listen to conspiracy theories (which usually reflect paranoia, by the way). Find ways to control your own fate and improve your own lot.

• Read widely and frequently. Inform yourself. Rise above the opinion substituting as fact on social media platforms.

• Plan to have a great time and relish in it, don't feel guilty about it. You can help others best when you help yourself prior. Always put your own oxygen mask on first.

2. Musings

A "year" is an arbitrary measure. Pope Gregory XIII introduced our current calendar format in the last part of the 16th Century. (People squawk about "Christmas trees" yet we use what is known as the "Christian Calendar.") It was a reform on the Julian Calendar in order to bring Easter closer to dates desirable by the church.

The year is based on our orbit around the sun. But we have transmogrified that into a unit to measure everything from corporate earnings to box office records, and from tax payments to anniversaries. And, of course, our best intentions for the new orbit period.

I think our focus on quarters and months is often misplaced. We give ourselves too little time (e.g., to make significant changes in business results) and too much time (e.g., to improve our relationships with family members). A book is a long-term project, of course, I've written 60 and should know that. Yet every single one of them I began on a day very soon after I had decided to write it or a publisher had purchased it. Even long-term plans begin in the present.

The people I see improve the most and the fastest are those who don't put time frames on aspects of the improvement, as if we were organizing a football season's schedule. 'They simply begin. No resolution, no time frame, no partial orbit of the son. They begin. Immediately.

The echolalia of resolutions is tendentious. We regard them with all the bemused skepticism applied to a race track tout, or the televised financial expert extolling certain securities, or the shopping network host telling us the outfit would look good on anyone.

That isn't to say we can't improve, nor that we should give up trying. I'm simply suggesting that every day—each day—we can create another step in improvement by changing our habits, language, and/or self-talk. We don't need starting blocks or starting gate. This isn't a race against Secretariat. Nor do we need celestial mileposts, as though Venus has to be on the cusp of Zeus during the Age of Aquarius.

You simply need to stop reading this and say, "I'm going to act differently starting now."

We're still in orbit, and all things are as they should be.

3. The human condition: Optimism

My friends, I have a question: What's the alternative?

We are living on a chunk of space rock traveling at 80,000 miles per hour around an exploding star. We influence and control none of that, and scientific and religious argument notwithstanding, we don't actually understand very much of it.

Hence, it's rewarding to be optimistic each day, canine-like in our eagerness to exploit the new morning, because it's the only sane way to live. If you oppose suicide, than why throw your life away piecemeal by worrying about every conceivable issue and assuming and fearing the worst? Every day those of us who drive engage in a huge display of positive faith by driving on roads at 60 miles per hour or more with those around us—distracted, on phones, angry, having consumed alcohol or drugs, daydreaming, depressed, stressed—doing the same within mere feet of our cars.

Ergo, we all exhibit at least a cautious optimism. We believe we can avoid accidents and are willing to take the small risk of someone acting recklessly around us. Our portmanteau is actually filled with reasonable assumptions and safe predictions. One of my favorite apothegms is: "This, too, shall pass."

I believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt until and unless they prove unworthy of it. I'd like the same favor extended to me. I believe in temporary setbacks and not fatal mistakes. I'm an opportunist by nature, and if something unanticipated is in my path, I don't avoid it, I think about what I can do with it. (A dog will try to eat it and, failing that, play with it and, failing that, urinate on it. My hierarchy is somewhat different.)

Therefore, what choice do you really have? Are you going to face the morning as another long, slow, crawl through enemy territory? Or are you going to sprint into what light we have?

If the latter, that figure out there ahead of you would be me.

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Bentley needed some medicine which the vet calls into our local CVS pharmacy. Later that day I appeared at the drive-through window.

CLERK: Name?

ME: Bentley.

CLERK: Last name or first name?

ME: Ah, Bentley Weiss.

CLERK: Birthdate please?

ME: Ah, 9-27-12.

CLERK: I'll need a co-pay and your driver's license.

ME: I hand them over.

CLERK: This is not Bentley's driver's license.

ME: Do you see the source of the prescription?
CLERK: Big River Veterinary Services.

ME: So?

CLERK: Bentley Weiss does not have a profile here. You'll have to come inside with him.

ME: I can't.

CLERK: Why not?

ME: You only allow helping and service dogs in the store.

CLERK: Sir, do you require assistance?

ME: You might say that….


Are you leaving a legacy or only a trail? -- AW


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