Yesterday was the thirteenth anniversary of the start of my going alcohol free. The echo still remains, but it is a faint one and usually pops up at certain times in the late afternoon. It is indeed manageable. The following link is to a post I wrote on my sixth anniversary, which remains my most visited post. If you have this issue or know someone who does, I mention some teachings therein I gleaned from others. The key one is “I am not going to drink today.”
On NPR, yesterday, the son of Stephen Covey (who has passed away) was being interviewed for Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” This self-help book made it to number 1 on the non-fiction best sellers’ list in 1989 and stayed there for a long while, selling over 25 million copies. It was also the first audio book to hit 1 million in sales.
So, what is all the fuss about? Covey sought to help us find our “true north” principles. He defined “effectiveness as the balance of obtaining desirable results with caring for that which produces those results.”
His seven habits are grouped under three headings – Independence, Interdependence and Continual Improvement.
1. Be proactive – take responsibility for your actions.
2. Begin with the end in mind – envision what you want and plan.
3. First things first – here he uses a two dimension matrix organized in four quadrants along level of urgency and importance (do the urgent/ important, plan the important but less urgent, delegate the urgent/ unimportant and eliminate the non-urgent/ unimportant).
4. Think win/ win – look for mutually beneficial solutions; Nobel Laureate economist John Nash said we make more money if we look to collectively win.
5. Seek to understand/ then to be understood – use empathetic listening; this jives with a favorite saying – you have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion.
6. Synergize with others as a team – there is a great book called “Play to your strengths,” which will help people work with others using their strengths to balance yours for a better outcome.
7. Sharpen the sword – seek to improve and grow.
The attached link will give a nice synopsis of each of the above as well as offer better context.
I was struck by the interview with Covey’s son. He used a couple of examples his father used. When the son did not get into a college class he needed, he told his father. His father asked what do you plan to do about it? When he asked for help, the father said contact the professor. He found out there was a waiting list. His father then suggested to go see the professor. The son did and got into the class. He took responsibility and was proactive.
The second example is his father was very much about owning up to mistakes. The son said the father would apologize often. Think about that. He used an example of a family trip when everyone was late and the father lost his temper. The son remembers the father apologizing for losing his cool, when he had every right to be irritated.
If you have not read the book, it is worth the read. If you want a brief glimpse, click on the link below.
Aristotle said we are creatures of habit. Implicit therein is the habits can be good or bad. Charles Duhigg wrote an excellent book called “The Power of Habit,” where he noted the way to stop a bad habit, is to identify the trigger and replace the bad habit with a better one.
Old habits. The bad ones can be as simple as too many fried foods or sweets to smoking regular or e-cigarettes to drinking more than one should. Or worse. The good ones could be regular meditation, prayer, yoga or exercise, reading or selective and portion controlling eating habits.
Or, the habits could be less concrete. Kindness, civility, and decency are enviable habits, just as rudeness, bullying, lying etc. are habits to avoid emulating.
I have shared before that I am an alcoholic. Yet, to avoid a future train wreck, I stopped drinking more than twelve years ago. The key was a day-by-day mantra I learned from another struggling alcoholic – “I am not going to drink today.” Another key is the substitution of other habits – fruits and fruit juices, selective sweets, hot tea, etc. – instead of a drink.
Another habit I had to lick was to get my weight in order. The stopping drinking helped, but I was carrying too much. Over about a five year period, I have been able to drop 45 pounds. The keys have been fewer white foods – those wonderful carb loaded potatoes, pasta, rice and bread. The other key is portion control whether it is a meal or snack. On snacks, serve a small bowl and leave the bag in the pantry. On meals, serve smaller portions and avoid the temptation to go back.
Plus, I added a daily exercise routine of about fifteen minutes after I shower. This is supplemented with walks and hikes a couple of times a week.
Good habits. Make sure they are sustainable. That had been a dieting and exercise challenge before and my weight yo-yoed. Best wishes on finding better habits should you need to go down that path.
Yesterday, golfer Gary Woodland won the US Open at Pebble Beach. For non-golf fans, I will be brief on the golf part. What was most memorable, Woodland decided on a key moment to not play it safe, but be aggressive and play to win. He hit an absolutely brilliant shot that led to a birdie on a par five and put him two shots ahead of the two-time defending champion.
As a former athlete who was limited in talent to playing on high school teams, the act of “going for it,” is an act of courage. You may fall on your face, but by taking a risk, even if it is a measured one, it may make all the difference. Why does the best basketball player usually take the key final shot when the other team is expecting him to do so? Because if you don’t and fail, you may regret not going with your best.
And, as one star basketball player said, I try to take the last shot because I can handle failure better than others. That last statement is vital. Taking a risk is a lot easier if you know you can handle a negative outcome.
There is a great line from the movie “We bought a zoo,” with Matt Damon. His older brother taught him “all you need is twenty seconds of courage.” I think that is priceless advice. In the movie Damon’s character summoned the courage to speak with an enchanting woman he had never met. And, she eventually became his wife. What if we don’t take that chance?
Again, the risk need not be foolish, but sometimes it is more than OK to go for broke. A measured risk is worth the chance. Yet, we often overstate the risk and perceived embarassment of failure, when the actual risk is more measured. As I told my kids, “What if the person says no? No, is just an answer, but it at least it is one.” Without asking, you will never know if there is interest in your company, your resume, your idea, etc.?
So, find that twenty seconds of courage and go for it. The answer may be no, but at least you gave it a shot.
I am an alcoholic, yet I am approaching the twelfth anniversary of my last drink. I bring this up today as I learned in an interview yesterday that David Feherty, a retired golfer, golf announcer and truly comical person, is also an alcoholic, along with some other demons he has to manage.
Several things about Feherty’s interview with Real Sports host Bryant Gumbel are worth noting. First, he credits his second wife for her tough love – after a final straw, she said you have 30 days to get clean or I am gone.
He also credits Tom Watson, one of golf’s greatest players, whose own career was almost derailed by alcoholism. As Feherty was interviewing Watson, the latter asked Feherty if he was alright. Feherty said he was not, but asked how could he tell? Watson said “I saw it in your eyes.” He then answered Feherty’s question of what did he see? Watson said bluntly, “I saw myself.”
Watson invited Feherty to his home and helped him through managing his demons. Feherty was sober for ten years, but fell off the wagon when his son took his own life after fighting a losing battle with the same demons his father faced. It should be noted Feherty’s alcoholism masked that he was clinically depressed and bipolar. His son inherited the problems. After renewing the fight, Feherty has returned to being sober.
Alcoholism or any addiction are tough enemies. You never fully defeat them. You put a lid on them, but they still simmer on the back of the stove. Over time, the heat is turned down, but it never is fully extinguished. In my case, I still want to have a drink, but it is a fainter flame today.
The key lesson I learned from a colleague, whose husband fought alcoholism, is to say this mantra – I am not going to drink today. This is a key reason recovering alcoholics know how many days they have been sober. The other piece of advice is to find a substitute for the alcohol. It may be green tea, fruit, fruit juice, near-beer, tonic or soda water or a piece of candy. Now, for me, it is hot tea and all kinds of fruit, dried or fresh.
Life is hard. It is not uncommon for some people to use some form of anesthetic to sand the edges off difficulty. If you think you may have a problem, you do. Be honest with yourself, first, but be honest with your spouse or partner and your doctor. Most addicts lie to all of the above.
People ask me what was my trigger to change? Another colleague’s wife, who was as vivacious and funny as David Feherty, died from complications due to alcoholism. She was only 59, one year less than I am today. I was a train wreck waiting to happen. So, I got off the train. It was and still is hard. But, remember the mantra, I am not going to drink today. Then, don’t and say it again tomorrow.
A few days ago I wrote a post noting “We are ALL fixer uppers.” I shared a story with my oldest son yesterday about when life knocks you down. This one now seems small, but when it happened to me as a high school senior, it hurt.
I was a varsity basketball player who started for a very good team. I was a co-Captain, but not our best player. I was the one who focused more on defense, rebounding and passing. About 1/3 of the way into the season, I was moved to the second team as we had several pretty good players.
I had two paths in front of me. I could sulk and go throw the motions. Or, I could work hard in practice to make our first team better and try to win back my position or playing time. I chose the latter – life knocked me down and I got up and tried harder.
Everyday in practice scrimmages I would set out to keep our best tall player from scoring. Playing good defense requires effort. It should be noted that our best tall player would only wash his practice jersey periodically, so extra effort was required as I had to stick my nose into a sweaty, smelly jersey as I guarded him.
In short, he got a good practice work out and the coach saw my effort rewarding me ample time as the sixth man, the first substitute. Eventually, I would start again.
I shared this with my son to let him know we all fail. I have failed at other things as well. The key is what we do about it. We can mope or we can get back up, dust ourselves off and keep going. If you do otherwise, you let yourself down. And, you might even let your teammates down.
So, my 2019 wish for everyone is if (and when) life knocks you down, ask yourself the question, “what am I going to do about it?” Then, get up, dust yourself off and keep going.
As we stew over those extra holiday pounds and think of possible New Year’s resolutions, let me state the obvious. From one imperfect person to another, we are ALL fixer uppers. So, we could benefit from a few touch ups. All of us.
To remind us of how imperfect we are, here are few truisms to think about.
– Everyone thinks they are better than average, but in actuality that is not possible.
– The customer is not always right, but they are the customer. Yet, being the customer does not give you license to be a jerk.
– It takes at least two people to have a communication problem. It may not be 50/50, but both sides are almost always at fault to some extent.
– Opinions are like rectums. Everyone has one. (I cleaned this one up). It does not make them or you right.
– Saying it is my fault is not a crime. It is actually welcome to fess up. Others, with some degree of fault, might even admit theirs.
– Saying thank you is important, as we need to recognize people do not have to help you.
– One of the greatest gifts is the gift of time. Be generous with yours and try not to waste another person’s time.
– Finally, please remember the most intolerant of people require the most tolerance from others in dealing with them. Sometimes it is better to just reduce or eliminate exposure to such toxic people.
I hope everyone is having an enjoyable holiday season. Let’s set some reasonable and sustainable resolutions for 2019. We could ALL use some fixing up.
I was reading a post by M.L.Davis at the suggestion of our friend Roger of Woebegone regarding good things that happen when you make writing a habit. I have included a link to her blog below. As I mentioned to her, it reminded me of a book my niece suggested for me when I was discussing breaking a bad habit of mine called “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. I wrote a summary about the book in the link below.
Many of my older readers know that I am an alcoholic. But, I have not had a drink in going on twelve years. A blog I wrote on my sixth anniversary remains by far my most frequented blog (link provided below). I think we all suffer from a bad habit or two that we would love to change. I believe that is the reason for the post’s relative popularity. My reasons for change were the wife of a colleague dying from complications from alcoholism and the recognition I was a train wreck waiting to happen.
The best piece of advice I received came from another colleague as we waited in an airport restaurant/ bar for our planes in Cincinnati. When she noticed me not ordering a drink early on in my sobriety, she said her husband went through this. She then said he used the mantra “I am not going to drink today.” There is a reason alcoholics can count the days of sobriety. It is a daily struggle.
Even today, there is a faint whisper of wanting a drink. It usually occurs during certain trigger moments, which Duhigg references in his book. My greater triggers were getting home from work and grilling out on Sunday. Unwinding from a stressful day sent me down an easy path to drinking. And, watching football or golf, while starting the grill became a cue for Happy Hour.
Recognizing these triggers is a way to change the habit. You have to substitute a good habit for the bad one. My good ones were fruit juices, popsicles, and tonic water. The alcoholic brain craves something sweet, so this allowed me to respond to the craving. Non-alcoholic beer helped some, but those added more calories than I wanted.
Regardless of your bad habit, identify its triggers and what happens next. I recall from the book about a worker who snacked too much at work. His cue was going to the restroom that took him past the breakroom. When he realized this, he changed his route and went for a quick walk.
The book is a good read. The attached post does highlight a few examples and teachings, but falls short of what Duhigg’s writings instruct. And, if you are an alcoholic or know someone, please offer the final link below. I have heard good feedback on it as I share what helped me with my problem.
It may surprise people that a 59 year old man took a Yoga class with his wife for thirteen sessions. It may also surprise you that I do a short daily routine of exercises after my shower that includes some Yoga stretches and breathing techniques. I mention this next fact as it is germane – I grew up a Southern Baptist and remain a Christian to this day, but must confess I am not a regular church goer.
I have tried on several occasions to encourage my sister to exercise more. On at least three occasions, I have suggested some relative easy Yoga poses and noted the breathing techniques will be of benefit. She noted her breathing has gotten heavier with some unwanted weight gain. But, when I use the phrase Yoga, she shuts me down. Why?
Unlike me, my sister became even more evangelical in her worship as a Southern Baptist. For those not in tune, the Southern Baptists believe strongly that their manner of worship is the only way to find heaven. I know some other religions feel the same, but this is my perspective having grown up with it. People may disagree and that is fine.
She has been taught that Yoga is more about being a mystical religion than it is about improving your body and mind. She has been taught that it is at odds with Christianity. I shared that many Christians do Yoga and if you check out TV commercials about almost any product, you will witness people doing Yoga in the background or forefront. I can count at least 30 commercials that fit this bill.
Yoga is more about being at peace with your breathing, meditation and stretching. Becoming and remaining flexible will serve us all well as we age. But, the breathing is essential as well. It helps oxygenate the muscles as they are used and helps the lung power. People who sing can breathe better because they have to control their breathing between notes. Measured and deep breathing is helpful.
As for the meditation, not everyone does this part. But, it is your brain. You can meditate over any thoughts you want. My wife shared with me a post that spoke of woman starting and building a women’s exercise group at her church. The minister was supportive and appreciated the growing church attendance until he walked in on a class meditating. It was irrelevant that they were meditating over an offered bible verse. The next sermon was on the evils of Yoga and church service declined as a result of his shortsightedness. A link to this post is below.
In my latest suggestion to my sister, that fell on deaf ears, I said let’s don’t call it Yoga, let’s call it George. She laughed but left the Yoga with me. The next time, I will just show her a few different stretches without naming them. My thrust is I want to be able to self-ambulate (walk on my own) until I die. The inability to walk without help is one of the milestones where a person’s demise hastens. Her added weight is causing her concern on this matter, hence her brother’s interest.
I am a Christian. I believe in the overarching theme that we should treat others like we wanted to be treated. Yoga was not mentioned in the bible. So, in my way of thinking, if I am making a suggestion to do Yoga as it helps me, I am following the Golden Rule. I am treating another the way I want to be treated. Yoga is not anti-Christian and don’t let anyone tell it is not.
Note: Here is a link to the post:
There are two expressions that either precede or follow a phrase where someone’s imperfections are mentioned. A Southern minister once told a group that “Bless his heart” is used to sand over a more offensive indictment. In other parts of the country, “God love him” would fill that role.
“She does not have the sense to get out of her own way, bless her heart,” someone might say. “He is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, God love him,” another might add. Invariably, the author of the quote would have their own imperfections.
We are an imperfect lot, all of us. Mark Twain famously said, “Common sense is not all that common.” Having been a manager of people and a HR consultant, one of the observations a colleague made sticks with me. “Every employee thinks they are above average, but that cannot be true.” If you contrast the self-grading performance to that of managers or peers, the self-grading would tend to be higher.
So, maybe we should use “Bless my heart,” when we self-reflect. “I need to do better at giving people the benefit of the doubt, bless my heart.” Or, “I need to not be critical of something I know little about or without knowing the context it was offered, God love me.”
Let me close with a great lesson from Dr. Wayne Dyer, the late, renowned self-improvement speaker. He used a term to “defend the absent.” So, if he was in a conversation which went in a direction of running someone down, he would defend the person’s actions since they were not here to defend themselves. “You know that does not sound like something (that person) might say,” he would interject.
We are all imperfect, bless our hearts. Let’s do better to listen to each other and understand points of view and the context in which they are offered. I am reminded of a Black man who convinced KKK members to turn in their robes – he did so by asking questions and listening to the answers. What a novel idea!