Month: September 2014

Proactive Thinking is Proactive Living

The Thinking Man sculpture at Musée Rodin in Paris

I always knew I wanted to ‘do my own thing’, and I’ve never been afraid to let people know it. Unfortunately for me, whenever I told something that I wanted to ‘do my own thing’, they’d usually ask me ‘oh yeah? What thing is that?’ I’d have to look them in the eye tell them I didn’t know.

This bugged me. Not only could I not give a straight answer to a direct question that I had inspired, but I didn’t even know the answer myself! How could I not know what it was I wanted to do? I began to dwell on it. Over and over I would think to myself that I would never get anything done if I didn’t even know what it was that I wanted to get done. It became a vicious cycle. I don’t know what I want to do, I would think; therefore, I will never do anything. It felt awful.

I realized that my train of thought was a trap. It was true that if I didn’t know what I wanted to do then I would never do anything. So I decided that I needed to change my way of thinking. I replaced every “I don’t know” in my life with “I’ll figure it out”, and the traps that I had set for myself became less and less effective. “I’ll figure it out” quickly evolved into “let’s make a plan”, which quickly evolved into “let’s get started!” Before I even realized it, “I don’t know” had turned into “I’m doing it.” Now this felt great!

choiceWhen I was living in the shadow of “I don’t know”, I had a negative outlook on life. I expected inspiration to appear before me like manna, but I forgot that manna is a gift granted to those who have already expended an enormous amount of effort. Only after I began acting proactively and chose to figure out exactly what I wanted to do, planned out a method for achieving that goal, and started following that plan did I start to see regular inspiration.

Proactive living is actively and regularly making decisions about how your life will proceed. Rather than waiting for inspiration to strike or opportunities to arrive, living a proactive life requires you to make your own opportunities or find your own inspiration. If you ever find yourself stuck in a rut of “I don’t know”s, take the proactive step towards “I’ll figure it out” and you’ll find yourself feeling more confident and able. If you feel better, you’ll be able to think better, too, and sooner than you know it, you’ll be on your way to doing what it is you want to do!

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Being Nice Is Pretty Nice — And Healthy!

We all know the word “nice”. It’s a pretty “nice” word. It’s good, generally speaking; there’s nothing wrong with it, and it’s relatively pleasant. But what does it really mean to be nice?

For some, the phrase “nice guys finish last” might immediately come to mind. Nothing about that phrase is actually all that nice – the guys who finish last are usually downers, upset about the lot that they got handed in life, and they drag their feet to the finish line just so they can sneer at whoever is in first place. Or maybe these nice guys in last place served as the footstools for everyone who finished before them. These are the pushovers, the doormats, the wet noodles who flopped around on the ground while others pushed ahead.

Maybe when you hear the term “nice”, you wince a bit as you think of that too-nice ex-coworker who always smiled a bit too wide but always showed up a few minutes too late in the morning. This is the nice guy who might not be so nice after all, but who believes that pretending to be so might help boost his social standing. Unfortunately for this type of nice guy, being fake-nice isn’t the same as actually being nice.

So, what does it actually mean to be nice? Well, being nice starts with engaging with others in your daily life. Be courteous and polite to those you regularly interact with, and doubly so to those you don’t regularly interact with. Next time you see someone running to catch the train when it’s about to leave the platform, hold the door open – some people might grumble, but you might have changed the entire course of someone’s day for the better.  If a stranger drops something on the sidewalk, take the extra thirty seconds to help them pick it up. And if your friend is having a bad day, take the time to listen to her story over a warm cup of coffee so she can get her thoughts together and maybe smile a bit.

That instant of positive human interaction, of helping someone else, not only makes the stranger’s life easier but also improves your mental and physical health.  Many recent studies, including one in which MRI scans monitored subjects while they made decisions about donating money to charities, suggest that helping others and feeling more connected to others on a personal level helps to reduce stress, decrease depression and anxiety symptoms, help with the development of healthy sleep patterns, and lead to general feelings of happiness. Being nice seems to have pretty nice results. From making others feel respected and appreciated to decreasing stress and anxiety levels, being a nice person has way more positive effects than negative.

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