Monday, June 30, 2014

Expectations from others..

Michael Vilien Reynold
June 1st 2014.

“When one’s expectations are reduced to zero, one really appreciates everything one does have.” – Stephen Hawking
I used to live in a world crowded with expectation.
I had expectations of others, expectations of society, and expectations of myself. Then there were also the expectations others had of me.
Gone are those days! Well almost… let’s just say things have changed drastically.

I describe myself as an optimistic person. I like to be happy, I like to see others happy and I always strive to focus on the brighter side of life. Some might describe that as being a bit of an idealist, but personally I don’t see the point of going through life focusing on the doom and gloom.
So when people share good news with me, I am always happy for them and I always visually or verbally express that happiness for them.
If someone is having a rough time, I’ll always do my best to be empathetic. I’ll look for some practical solutions to help them with their challenges and do my best to cheer them up.
This is my default way of operating in life and so for years I expected other people to be the same. If I achieved something, I expected friends and family to congratulate me. When I was excited about a new opportunity, I expected those closest to me to be excited for me. If I was feeling low, I would expect people in my life to offer me support and empathy. However, as I have grown older, I’ve realised that life doesn’t work that way and that not everyone acts the same way I do.
For years I would feel let down, disappointed and sometimes hurt when someone close to me did not share the joy of my achievements. People I thought would be happy for me expressed little or no reaction to accomplishments that I was proud of. I just didn’t get it. I would think, if the shoe was on the other foot, I would be ecstatic for you, so why do you not feel the same for me?
One day it dawned on me, people have the right to feel and react anyway they choose. If I don’t like it or it upsets me, I too have a choice. I can choose who I share my achievements with. I can choose who I spend my time with and I can choose how I react to their response. In fact, their response is probably not even personal to me.
I have learned that people don’t disappoint you, your expectations of people do.
When you expect something and you don’t get it, of course you are going to feel let down. Expectations set you up for disappointment; however it is human nature to have them. The trick is to avoid becoming attached to your desired outcome.
I now accept that not everyone reacts or behaves in the same way as I do. Instead of investing my energy into working out why they do not appear happy for me, I focus on maintaining my own positive and optimistic outlook on life. Don’t get me wrong, it would still be great if all the people in my life are happy for me when I achieve a meaningful goal, however I no longer expect it of them.
I also recognise how important it is to surround yourself with positive, supportive people. I used to believe those people would be my family and friends, by default, but I now know that is not necessarily the case. Don’t get me wrong, I do have some supportive and encouraging people in my life; however I also had some that were not.
I realise that it is best not to expect a reaction from a person, which is different to their default. Instead, I find that it is better for me to spend more time with people who instinctively express joy for others.
Changing my expectations of others means I can truly enjoy my achievements as I no longer fear a negative response from others.
What expectations do you have that are having a negative effect on your life?

The devastating news..

On a Saturday night, my father called and left a message for me.  It was late, so I decided to call him the next day.  I listened to the message and he sounded better than he had in months, having battling radiation and chemo for such a long time. 

Fast forward to Sunday morning.  I was asleep when I heard the phone ring.  It was my mother and she was frantic.  “Your father is dying. I’m on my way to the hospital.” My father had been taken by ambulance to the hospital.  It was Memorial Day weekend and I was two and a half hours away in another city.  My brain shut down for a few seconds, unable to truly comprehend what was going on.  I repeated my mother’s words to my friends and went into a panic.  “Just go,” he said.  “I’ll be right behind you in ten minutes.”  I threw on some clothes, grabbed my car keys and sped down the highway. About twenty minutes later, my mom called again.  “Daddy died.  They tried working on him for an hour but they couldn’t save him.”

When your father passes away, there is a tremendous amount of sadness that is associated with his death.  It is indescribable.  As a little boy, I always imagined my father playing soccer with me,  the idea that my father would not be to play with me was overwhelming. It was a thought that I had never before contemplated.

Death is a part of life but nothing prepares you for the death of a parent.  You are suddenly planning a funeral, writing an obituary, and existing in a space between living and remembering that seems so foreign.  It took me a month before I truly grieved for my father and to grasp the fact that he was no longer here.  It was sparked by me trying to call him.  I scrolled through my cell phone for his number.  I had forgotten that he was gone.

My grandma was amazing during the entire grieving process.  Funerals are so similar to weddings because everyone comes out to celebrate a new life…without their loved one.  My grandma was there for me, and my entire family.  On Memorial Day, after spending two full days around my family, my aunt whispered in my ear, “He’s watching you" 

How your significant other supports you through a tragedy is extremely telling.  It is something that you cannot test out before it happens.  But my grandma made sure that she supported me in the way that I needed and my family was there to support me as well.  She acted without being asked. "the loss of my father was terrible, but my aunt was right, he is watching and I will never never forget how much I miss him."

Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Life Story (With a Moral) June 20, 2014 | Michael V. Reynold

A Life Story (With a Moral)
June 20, 2014 | Michael V. Reynold

It’s funny how people sitting next to you on airplanes sometimes open up and like to talk. This happened to me last week with a gentleman who looked at me and decided I was a good person to talk to, or maybe I’m just a good listener.

He told me his whole financial life history. Don’t ask me why. I didn’t know him, and he didn’t know me, but I listened.

Identity stolen twice, divorced twice, both times expensive, and just remarried at age 66 to a somewhat younger woman who has significant debt.

Life’s twists and turns sometimes takes us in directions we would rather not go in, but still have to deal with.

His career has been varied. Fireman, CPA, boat captain, electrical engineer and now talking about retirement. He will be going from a high-income earner to a low-income retiree.

During our one sided conversation, one thing became very clear. He had been dealt some financial hurdles and had worked very hard to correct these issues, but these experiences had left him financially apprehensive.

Here are his concerns. Can he afford to retire? Can he manage on a substantially reduced income? Should he continue to work? Will his employer allow him to work, and if so, for how long? Should he become a consultant to permit supplementing his income? Will he need to sell his house? Will he need to sell his boat, which, next to his wife, he loves dearly?

Many questions with perhaps not the answers he wants to hear. Life’s twists and turns sometimes takes us in directions we would rather not go in, but still have to deal with.

The moral of the story is to plan for the future, protect your assets and work with skilled financial advisors. Life happens, so be prepared.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” ~Winston Churchill

I am constantly striving to see the positive in every aspect of my life. But it’s not always easy.

My grandma is currently suffering from a disease from which she will may never recover. My mind is still trying to adjust to my relatively new schedule of running Positively Present full time. My wallet is thinning out as I march forward on my eventful ventures. And, as I get older, I find myself moving in different directions from some of the people I’ve spent a great deal of time with.

My life—and all of our lives—is filled with challenges that make it very difficult to be positive sometimes.

However, I know that choosing to be positive has helped me the most in terms of becoming the person I want to be. Even when things are difficult, I know that being positive—and striving to make the best of whatever situation I’m in—really does make even the most challenging situations easier to bear.

More often than not, I find myself  falling apart seeing friends I care for and love doubting themselves so deeply. Veering toward a positive attitude, (It’s something I never would have done years ago!) I firmly believe that this is because I’ve trained myself to be positive.

It doesn’t always come naturally for me—sometimes it’s a lot of work—but I’ve taken five steps that make it so much easier for me to see the good in life.

Step One: Believe a Positive Attitude is a Choice

This step was hard to take at first. I thought that people were either positive or negative (and I was in the latter category). I used to blame my negativity on all kinds of outside forces—fate, experiences, parents, -friends-but never really stopped to think that I could choose to be positive.

Teaching myself that positivity is a choice has been one of the greatest things I’ve ever done for myself.

Now when I find myself in a bad situation, I know that it’s up to me to find the good, to be positive regardless of what’s happening around me. I no longer point fingers and place blame. I realize that everything happens how it happens, and it’s up to me to choose how I want to feel about it. I am in control of my attitude, and no one can take that away from me.

Step Two: Rid Your Life of Negativity

If you want to live a positive, joyful life, you cannot be surrounded by negative people who don’t encourage your happiness.

As a negative person, I attracted negative people. When I decided to make the change to live a more positive life, I had to rid my life of the most negative influences in it. No one is perfect—and perfection isn’t the goal when it comes to positivity—but there were people in my life who were consistently negative, who constantly brought me down, and I had to stop spending so much time with them.

This, as you can imagine, wasn’t easy. It can hurt to distance yourself from people—even when you know they aren’t good for you or your current lifestyle.

In addition to removing negative influences from me, I also had to get rid of some of my own negative behaviors. I had to take a step back and examine which behaviors were good for me and which were not.

I learned to focus on the positive things I was doing—such as working on my blog and cultivating new, positive relationships—and let go of the negative ones. This process was not easy and, to be honest, is still ongoing, but I know this: It’s hard to live a positive life when negative people and behaviors continually pull you down.

Step Three: Look For the Positive in Life

In every person, in every situation, there is something good. Most of the time it’s not obvious. We have to look. And sometimes we have to look hard.

The old me was content to sit back and just glance around. If I saw negative, I went with that feeling. I didn’t want to look harder or think too much about the good. I found it much, much easier to sit back and just accept what I saw (which was usually the bad).

Now, when I’m faced with a difficult or challenging situation, I think to myself, “What is good about this?” No matter how terrible the situation might seem, I always can find something good if I take the time to think about it.

Everything—good and bad—is a learning experience so, at the very least, you can learn from bad experiences. However, there’s usually even more to it than that. If you really take the time to look, you will usually find something good, something genuinely positive, about every person or situation.

Step Four: Reinforce Positivity in Yourself

Once I started thinking more positively, I realized I had to reinforce these thoughts and behaviors in myself so they would stick. As with any sort of training, the more you practice, the better you get—and, yes, you can practice being positive.

The best and easiest way to do this is to be positive when it comes to who you are. Tell yourself you’re awesome. Tell yourself you look good. Tell yourself you did a great job at work or raising your kids or whatever it is you do.

Be honest with yourself, but do your best to look for the good. And, whatever you do, don’t focus on the negative. It’s okay to not like everything about yourself, but don’t focus on what you don’t like. We all have positive attributes, and it’s up to you to remind yourself of them every day.

Step Five: Share Positivity with Others

Not only do you need to be positive with yourself for this training to really take effect, but you need to be positive with others. You have to share your wealth of positivity with the world.

The best way I’ve found to do this is quite simple and basic: Be nice to other people, no matter what. Tell someone s/he looks nice today. Tell someone s/he did a great job on that presentation. Tell someone s/he was a good example on the mission team. 

Tell your parents or friends (or both!) how much you love them and how great they are. When someone is feeling down, do what you can to cheer him or her up. Send an encouragement text. Don’t gossip. Be kind to all living things.

All of these things sound basic enough, but for someone like me, they didn’t come easily.

I never wanted to see the good in myself and, therefore, didn’t want to see it in others either. I used to be critical and condescending. Now I strive to be encouraging and supportive.

I try not only to treat others as I would like to be treated, but I also try to consider how they would like to be treated. People appreciate positivity, and the more you share it with others, the more you are practicing it your own life.

When you start feeling like the idea of being a positive person is daunting, remind yourself that all it takes is one small step in the right direction to move yourself toward a more positive attitude.

Believe in yourself and remember the most important lesson of all: A positive outlook is a choice that you can always make.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

What I am is good enough if I would only be it openly.”

I used to spend an awful lot of time worrying about people liking me. Or what people thought of me. Or what they thought of the clothes I was wearing. Or whatever.

It’s taken me a long time to realize two things:

1. Most people really aren’t even taking notice of us. (They’re too worried about what other people think of them.)

2. Of the few who are noticing us, the people who are judging us harshly are not the people we want around us anyway.

Makes sense, right?

It’s actually something I’d heard a hundred times before, but it never really sunk in.

So why had it not sunk in? What made it so hard to believe this is actually the case, and that I should give up caring what people think once and for all?

I think, in simple terms, it’s built into our human nature. We’re social creatures, therefore we want to be sociable; and we think that in order to be sociable, everyone has to like us.

Otherwise we would become (gasp) social outcasts.

I recently moved from my small town to Ann Arbor.  The big smoke (for the  Michiganders ). Scary.

I decided, in my quest to try new things and get healthier, to join the gym at the end of my road.

Unfortunately, I’ve never felt quite at home in a gym. For me, it’s almost like that scene in Pretty Woman when she walks in to the designer store for the first time, and all the shop assistants look down their noses at her.

I have to admit, that doesn’t actually happen—at all. But it’s happening in my head, because in my head I also hear “You’re not as good as them,” “They’ll think you’re stupid,” and “You don’t fit in here.”

You may have had an experience like this at some point in your life. Maybe you were just starting a new job, or meeting your partner’s parents for the first time, or walking into your first day of school.

The problem is, it’s not other people with the problem. It’s us.

When I think about everything I assume everyone else is thinking, I see side glances and sniggers where none really exist. The gym, for me, becomes hard work, not because of the people who go to my gym, but because of how I perceive them to be.

I am currently working on developing a positive attitude. It underlies my whole philosophy on life:

Your thoughts create your reality.

My natural disposition was always a bit negative. I suspect I developed that attitude partially because I was raised and taught that it was important to consider all the options and “be realistic.”

That, in itself, is not a bad thing, but I ended up focusing on the negative side of things instead of realizing I had a choice to perceive things differently.

After my experience with the gym, I decided to turn my negative thoughts about other people into positive ones. Instead of dwelling on all the bad things I thought people were thinking, I told myself, “I belong here,” “I’m happy here,” and “Everyone here likes me.”

Everything started to change.

I suddenly realized that no one was looking at me strangely. No one cared what I was doing or take words to literally. (There are super attractive people at my gym!) They were quite happy minding their own business, doing their own thing, and working on themselves—and suddenly I was able to do the same.

We are sociable animals and want that approval from other people, which for generations has meant conforming to the social norms of our society. But we live in a time when people are far more tolerant of individual differences than ever before.

If we can start to accept and be who we are, we just may realize not only that it’s okay, but that most other people think it’s okay, too.

We really can be ourselves if we can remember that it’s our perception that matters—and it’s a waste of energy to try to see ourselves through other people’s eyes. Odds are, they’re paying far less attention than we think.