Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Worrywartism – An Epidemic of Killjoys

It is a truism that things are almost always never as bad as they first seem. But don’t tell that to a worrywart. You know exactly the kind of person I’m talking about. We call them fuss-budgets, buzz kills, spoilers and party poopers.

Worrywarts are all around us. They’re in our homes, schools, offices, and places of worship. But unlike the zoo where dangerous species are safely housed behind cages, worrywart’s roam freely among us without restraint or master. They can strike without warning or pretense at the dinner table, in line at the grocery store, or during a meeting.

Practically everything that comes out of a worrywart’s mouth either is negative, cynical or pessimistic. The worrywart constantly thinks (and dwells) about nothing less than the very worse thing that could possibly happen. Worrying about something or someone excessively and needlessly to the point of ridiculousness, even paralysis, is the worrywart’s calling card.

Worrywart’s carry and spread a contagious disease called worrywartism. The disease is easily identified by an annoying whine or an oozing negative vibe that signals both early and advanced stages. Other symptoms may include making mountains out of molehills, not seeing the forest through the trees, refusing to make lemonade out of lemons, not believing the grass is greener on the other side, and never viewing the glass of water as being half-full.

The worrywart looks for storm clouds amidst blue skies. The worrywart is consumed with the worst instead of hoping for the best. The worrywart expects loss in all its forms. Loss of a loved one, loss of a job, loss of health, loss of beauty, and loss of happiness. In short, the worrywart is consumed by worry as preoccupied with the wart.

Worrywartism is not exclusive to age, gender or even social class. The school of hard knocks and the rodeo called life often provide fertile territory for the worrywart to grow and adapt to the surrounding environment without border or restriction. Generally speaking the older one gets the more susceptibility there is to catching worrywartism, but the disease can spread to anyone at any time.

Like a mutant germ or dangerous strain of virus, worrywartism attacks and infects its host and then seeks to infect everyone it comes in contact with. If not carefully isolated and quarantined, worrywartism will envelop an otherwise optimistic, fun-loving and faithful person with a wet blanket that absorbs positive energy, destroys creativity, mutes peace of mind, and potentially extinguishes the flame of hope.

Do not attempt to cure, change or reason with the worrywart. Most worrywart’s are beyond your ability to help. Their worrywartism has been nurtured and ingrained only after years of internal conditioning of a weak and willing mind. They are both master and servant of their worry, and will take great pleasure from taking your pleasure away. Their misery is in need of your company, and they need other hosts to perpetuate their condition.

The happy, or even just content, person must prevent and protect against worrywartism by erecting a shield of impenetrable positive energy around their person. If by chance a worrywart is attracted to your life force (and like fleas to a flame they likely will be), let them bask in the glow of your positive aurora, but be careful not to let your guard down. The allure of their negativity, which is a much easier path to follow than positivity, will suck you into a world of despair and discontent faster than you realize.

Here are three things you can do to protect yourself against worrywart attack and the adverse effects of worrywartism:

  1. Develop an early detection warning system. Learn to spot and identify the worrywart at first encounter. Maintain a healthy and safe distance.
  2. Politefully (and as quickly as possible) excuse yourself from the worrywart’s presence, and avoid or limit all future contact or conversation.
  3. Check, and recharge if necessary, your positive attitude battery levels on a daily basis to prevent worrywartism from infecting your optimistic vibe.

If ever you begin to show signs of early worrywartism, or experience occasional symptoms brought on by direct contact with a worrywart, utilize the following antidotes through self-correction immediately:

  • Infuse your mind with happy thoughts and a generous dose of positive affirmation.
  • Seek out and hang out with like-minded optimistic, energetic people.
  • Rely on and exercise faith in a higher power, and engage in daily prayer or meditation for strength and hope.
  • Remember to smile and laugh a lot more than you currently do. They are contagious, too.
  • And just for good measure, why not throw a little caution to wind as a booster shot of energy and adrenaline.
©Greg Allison.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken

And the Oscar goes to...

Every so often you hear someone make a comment that goes something like, "Oh, he doesn’t seem comfortable in his own skin." Have you ever wondered what in heaven’s name this odd phrase means? I mean, who makes up this stuff anyway? Are they talking about an epidermis ailment or merely passing judgment on personal appearance? Or does it go much deeper than just skin deep? Much, much deeper.

I believe what is meant by being comfortable in one's own skin is the same thing the famous 19th century poet Oscar Wilde said long ago: "Be yourself, everyone else is already taken."

Yet how many of you walk around pretending to be somebody you're not? In essence, wearing somebody else’s skin. You behave as others expect you to. You say things other people want to hear. You know what I’m talking about. You do it all the time.

William Shakespeare wrote:

"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts.”

Shakespeare was speaking figuratively, not literally, but if ever there were Academy Awards given to the average Joe or Jane, homes and offices around the world would be filled with golden statues called Oscar.

"Are you talking to me!" Yes, I'm talking directly to each of you De Niro types out there who go through life delivering daily command performances, fake as they may be, in your personal, social, and business life.

However, acting in real life is far different than on stage or screen. The professional actor can immerse himself in a role and then step back into his own skin...usually. But for the rest of you, a life of pretend and make-believe should have been over when you were about 7 years old. Isn’t it time for the “real” you to take center stage and deliver an honest performance for a change?

So you say, "But everything I've ever learned from parents, associates, teachers, leaders, politicians and the media has been about conformity and comportment, and behaving in a politically correct manner.” Blah. Blah. Blah. If who you are was good enough for God when you were born, what has changed! Your divine imprint is your stamp of authenticity and originality to the world. Never shy away from being the real you.

Kobi Yamada perhaps said it best, "Embrace your uniqueness. Time is much too short to be living someone else's life.”

If there truly is only one "you" in the universe - and thank goodness for that - then why not make the most of what you've got rather than trying to be somebody you’re not. Here are three simple things to remember (and try) when you're ready to start acting like yourself.

1. Show personal integrity.
If you can't be honest with the one person who deserves it the most, yourself, how can you expect other people to ever trust what you say and do? Sure, you can fool some people some of the time but not everybody all of the time; especially not the one person you can never fool no matter how hard you try — yourself. Shakespeare also said, "To thine own self be true." Being honest, brutally honest, is looking at yourself in the mirror and saying, "I'm okay with me." And if you’re not okay with who you are, make the necessary changes to become that person, but stop pretending! You must be or become, not fake it. The truth doesn't have to always hurt; it can actually be a saving grace just as it can be a damning one. Try being the real you for just a day and see how alive and intoxicatingly refreshing it makes you feel.

2. Grow a pair.
(This is a euphemism for something called "cajones" that may not be suitable for all you politically correct actors out there). This is not something I would normally say or write in mixed company, but I must practice what I preach and write as I think. Being "you" takes mental courage and bold initiative. For sure, it may even cause your skin to crawl with fear and anxiety. Challenge yourself every day to say what you think and feel, and act as you believe. If that's not good enough for some or appreciated by others, well then too bad. Are these really the kind of people you want or need in your life anyway? Find the courage to think, speak and act in a manner true to yourself and not what others demand or expect. However, there is one important exception to this rule: don’t be a jerk, even if that is who you really are. Being “you” is not a license to disregard etiquette, common sense, mutual respect and human decency.

3. Be the real deal.
The world looks at you through a camera lens, and the camera never lies. It sees your flaws, hears your gaffes, and notices every stumble. No mask, costume or amount of makeup can keep the real you hidden forever. Most people know the difference between fake and genuine when they see it. People possess a natural affection and attraction for authenticity, warts and all. Never be afraid to live as you believe, make a fool of yourself once in a while, expose your weaknesses, share your true feelings, and stand up for what you know is right. People love, appreciate or respect the person that delivers a true and honest performance more than one from some character actor that’s wearing your skin.

So let the cameras role and don't worry about the credits or the critics. Being and becoming you can be the hardest and most rewarding job of your life, but as with all truly great actors, you can make it look easy because it shouldn’t really be acting at all.

And the Oscar goes to... well, that's entirely up to you. Break a leg!

©Greg Allison. 

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

“Liv” Simply, Happier

(By Janice Allison)

“Life is really simple. We insist on making it complicated.” — Confucius (551-479 B.C.)

To simplify my life I will trade in the corporate ladder and carpools for a life of leisure on a Caribbean island. A gentle breeze will dew my face with sea mist as I lay with my sweetheart in a hammock tied between two palm trees on a white sand beach. My finger will trace a line in the sand as we sway back and forth, watching our children play in the ocean waves under the setting sun.

Now this is the simple life! Unfortunately, this type of lifestyle is mostly reserved for the rich, retired or island natives. For you and I this would be a dream vacation, but wouldn’t do much to help us put food on the table or rear the next generation. And somehow I doubt this is what Confucius had in mind when he said life is really simple.

Wherever you live and whatever you do, life can be made simpler by the choices you make, the seemingly simple things that you do everyday, and the simple gifts you give to others. There are three simple gifts that will help you live simply, happier. I call them gifts because of the joy they bring to the giver and the receiver. These gifts are of little or no cost. Try them out sometime.

1. Simply Serve. “Remember to be gentle with yourself and others…none can say why some fields will blossom while others lay brown beneath the August sun. Care for those around you. Look past your differences. Their dreams are no less than yours, their choices no more easily made. And give, give in any way you can, of whatever you possess. To give is to love. To withhold is to wither. Care less for your harvest than for how it is shared and your life will have meaning and your heart will have peace.” — Kent Nerburn

How often do you see a man or woman standing on the side of the road holding a “Will Work for Food” or “Hungry and Homeless” sign, and you turn your head and drive by? Can you afford a simple gift to help someone who’s downtrodden? What does it hurt to rid yourself of some loose change or hand out an extra granola bar? Better yet, why not take a couple of minutes and go to the nearest fast food place, purchase a meal, and then return to give it to the person? It may be their first full meal in days and who knows, the food you give may be for children hiding under a nearby bridge.

Sometimes simple service can benefit your own life more than those you serve. One day Susan’s dog died of old age. She was so forlorn at her loss. She knew service would help her feel better so she baked some bread and took it to a friend. When her friend answered the door Susan handed her the loaf of bread with tears streaming down her face. Her friend was perplexed but took the loaf of bread and hugged Susan. They cried and laughed as Susan explained the reason for the bread. Susan forgot about her sadness while serving and in the process strengthened a friendship with her simple gift of service.

2. Simply Smile. “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” — Mother Teresa

As a girl, my wise father counseled me to celebrate “crow’s feet” as I grew older. To most women this sounds absurd, especially coming from a man, as any woman dreads facial creases that become more defined after thirty-five years of age. He said that those wrinkles around the eyes are a sign of a happy life filled with laughter and smiles. I am now a woman over thirty-five and have the smiling wrinkles around my eyes in spite of my weekly facials and anti-aging cream applications. But thanks to my dad, the crow’s feet have not bothered me as much as they might other women. Mark Twain once said, “Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.”

My teenage daughter was talking to a classmate one day and was surprised to hear her friend say that she refuses to smile because she doesn’t want crow’s feet around her eyes when she gets older. What a shame! I can just imagine her social life being as grim as her facial expression.

If you refuse to enjoy life and smile because you don’t want to celebrate crow’s feet like my dad and I do, smile anyway and remember there is always Botox!

3. Simply Appreciate. “The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated." — William James

Why is it that when people are healthy they take their health for granted? I was in a car accident recently and I am still recovering. I’m grateful the accident wasn’t any worse than it was. These last two months have been filled with far less activity than I had planned for summer break with my family. This experience has helped me realize how much I REALLY appreciate the freedom and comfort of good health. As my family cares for me and assumes many of my responsibilities that I simply cannot do, my appreciation for them has grown so much deeper.

What if you lived each day appreciating your family more? How would your thoughts, words and actions change if you genuinely appreciated others for who they are and what they contribute to your life? Even the smallest of things such as emptying a dishwasher should be recognized with a simple expression of appreciation. As Alfred Painter said: "Saying thank you is more than good manners. It is good spirituality."

Whether you live on a Caribbean island, a big city or small town, your life can be made a little simpler and a little happier as you share the simple gifts of service, smiles and appreciation. The complexities of life may not vanish entirely but giving simple gifts such as these will make the quality of life’s journey all the better.

©Janice Allison.
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