Friday, February 26, 2010

Goals and Achievement

Ours is an achievement oriented society.  We're expected to have goals and to work hard and persevere to achieve them.  We are always looking ahead to what we hope to accomplish.  Granted, having goals is very motivating.  When a person is working towards something it helps to keep him focused and gives him reason to push harder.  When things get tough the desired goal shines before us like a beacon, beckoning us forward; this keeps us going. 

But what if you don't really have a goal?  After I graduated from high school I had a lot of goals.  I wanted to earn my Master's degree in five years, I wanted to work for two years and get licensed in my field, I wanted to find a satisfying and well paying career, and I wanted to buy a home.  I was very motivated and I worked hard.  At 23, 5 years after I started, I earned my Master's degree.  At 25 I bought a home.  At 26, maybe 6 months later than I'd planned, I got licensed in my field.  Six months after that I found a satisfying and well paying job. 

So now what?

For the past two years that's the question that's been haunting me.  I've looked for new goals -- maybe I could go back to school!  I even applied and was accepted to a doctorate program.  Then I realized I'd have to move away from the people I love and give up the home I'd recently bought in order to do it.  And I decided it wasn't worth it. 

So now I'm wondering - Why do I need a goal?  I worked hard to achieve what I've achieved; can't I just sit back and enjoy it?  Can't I just say, "I'm where I want to be" and be done with it? 

Personally I'm okay with that, but I feel like I'm expected to want more or to do more.  Maybe that's just a projection; maybe I really expect myself to want more or to do more. 

These are just some thoughts I have.  I don't have the answers to my questions but I wonder what others think.  Is it enough to just be where you are?  Or should one aspire to be and do more?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Snow and Global Warming

This post's topic is a bit different from what I normally write about but I didn't see that as a good enough reason not to write about it...

As most of us are aware, the eastern part of the country has gotten an unusual and exceptional amount of snowfall over the past month or so.  On several occasions I've heard people comment on this with snide remarks such as, "Where's your global warming now?"  or "So much for global warming!"  Now I'm no expert on climate change but these comments and this logic (i.e., If it's snowing a lot in some places then global warming must not be happening) seem very simplistic.  Are there really that many people out there who are ready to accept that the fact that it's snowing heavily in some places proves without a doubt that our planet is not getting warmer?  This logic also typically only goes one way.  You rarely if ever hear the same individuals commenting during a summer heat wave that, "This really proves that global warming theory." 

I decided to look into it.  It took all of five minutes for me to find a reasonable explanation for how an overall increase in planetary temperature could lead to higher levels of snowfall in some places.  The idea is this: warm air collects moisture much more easily than cold air does.  Increased global temperatures = increased warm air = increased moisture in the air.  When air with a lot of moisture hits a patch of cold (below freezing) air the moisture is released in the form of snow.  The more moisture in this air the more snow you get.

I'm not trying to prove or disprove global warming.  My issue is with the simplistic and uninformed comments that are made about global warming.  When a person has a belief it is natural for him or her to look for information that is consistent with that belief.  However, it is frustrating when people attend only to information that is consistent with their beliefs (no matter how inaccurate or circumstantial it is) and completely ignore evidence that is not consistent with their beliefs.  I just wish people would be a little more open minded.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Have you ever had a day off and struggled to find things to fill it?  I recently read the results of a study that suggested that boredom could be a risk factor for premature death. 

Personally, I tend to become extremely interested in an activity for a while and to really immerse myself in it.  Then, my interest wanes and I go back to complaining that I have nothing to do.  That's not really living, is it?

I'm off of work for the President's Day holiday today.  I worked out this morning and spent a couple of hours this afternoon shopping with my sisters for a surprise birthday party we're planning for my mother.  I returned home around 2:30 pm and stared at my computer screen blankly for some time, wondering what I should do with the rest of my afternoon.  I thought about taking a nap -- oh, how I love naps -- but thought that would be a dreadful waste of time, especially since I wasn't tired.  I realized I hadn't practiced drawing in a while, something I've never been good at but one of the things I was briefly passionate about before my interest waned.  So I found my art pencils, pulled out an art book that has been used only to decorate my coffee table for the past year, and drew for a while. 

The point to this little story?  Well, I wonder if anyone else has ever had time on their hands and found that they were completely bored and unable to find a way to entertain themselves.  The thing is, it doesn't matter what you do to entertain yourself.  It just matters that you DO SOMETHING!  If you do nothing or if you sit around waiting for something to happen you must ask yourself -- am I really living life?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Radical Acceptance

Today I found an article I'd printed out quite some time ago from  This is a great website, by the way, for anyone having trouble coping with and/or regulating their emotions.  The article talked about how people deal with painful problems in life and proposed that there are four possible responses.  The four responses to painful problems include:

1. Solve the problem -- if it is something over which you have control
2. Stay miserable -- by refusing to accept the situation for what it is and internally willing it to be different
3. Accept it -- accept reality for what it is and accept that life can be worth living even with painful events in it
4. Change how you feel about it -- I think this goes along with #3.  First you accept a situation and then you work on changing how you feel about it.

The article points out that accepting a situation does not mean that you agree with it or that you like it.  Accepting it also does not mean that you don't work to change it.  Rather, a person must accept reality for what it is before he or she can change it.  After all, if you deny something exists how can you change it?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Happiness and The Good Life

I recently read an article by Anne Birgitta Pessi entitled, "What Constitutes Experiences of Happiness and the Good Life? - Building a Novel Model on the Everyday Experiences."  From her perspective, happiness and "the good life" are two different things.  She equates the good life with well being and indicates that well being = a person's situation + a person's state of mind.  In other words, well being includes what is going on in a person's life, relationships, and environment as well as what is going on with a person internally (mentally, spiritually, and emotionally).  I found this to be an interesting distinction.

The article detailed a study done in Finland that asked people to identify what constitutes "the good life."  The conclusions of the study were interesting but I was struck most by a passing statement the author made when considering the validity of the measurement instrument.  She said,

"Most of us say one thing makes us happy (family;love) but act differently." 

I was jotting down notes as I read the article and I put big stars by this statement.  Then I wrote, "What do we need to change so that what we say and what we do match up?" 

I think most of us could benefit from asking ourselves this question.  What do we need to change in our lives so that what we say is important to us matches up with what our behaviors indicate are our priorities?  Does that mean we should spend more time relaxing and less time working?  Should we be setting aside more time for our families?  Should we take that trip we've always wanted to take but always made excuses for why we couldn't do it?  When you are at the end of your life looking back what will you regret?  What can you do now to avoid that regret?  Are you willing to do it?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


I recently took a two and half day trip with my family to New York.  It was just the original clan -- no boyfriends, husbands, or kids.  I had a great time, as I always do when I'm with my family.  It was a rare opportunity to get to spend more than just a couple of hours at a time with the people I love most in the world.


The risk of being around family for an extended period of time is that these are the people around which you're the most comfortable -- the most able to be yourself, warts and all; therefore, they're the people around which you're the least "conscious."  It is so easy to revert back to old (bad) habits and familiar (albeit dysfunctional) patterns of interaction.  If you're not careful you'll find yourself feeling jealous of the older or younger sister who was always a little prettier or smarter.  You'll catch yourself competing with beloved siblings for your parents' attention or snidely dismissing something a sibling or parent says as stupid or closed-minded (when really it's you being stupid and closed-minded).

You'll catch yourself becoming inexplicably annoyed by a parent or sibling's harmless habit or asserted point of view, one which he or she has always held and that you'd previously come to accept a long time ago, although you don't agree with it. 

Hopefully, you're conscious enough to realize you're doing these things.  You could ask yourself why but the answer is probably rooted in complex family dynamics that would take a professional to unravel and interpret. 

The thing to keep in mind is that these are the people you love the most in the world -- the people you would do anything for -- and the people who love and accept you no matter what you do.  They love you even when they find themselves annoyed by your obnoxious tendency to criticize their opinions or your petty sibling rivalry.  They love you and they accept you.  There's no need to beat yourself up for slipping into old patterns of behavior when you're around your family. 

The hope is that you'll become more aware of it and make attempts to alter your behavior, little by little.  This enables you to establish relationships with your family as people -- as you move beyond entrenched patterns of interaction you get to know your family members as unique individuals as opposed to viewing them only in relationship to yourself.  It's this kind of growth that nourishes and strengthens families.

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