You Know It’s Been A Good Summer When Your Feet Are Tan

It’s hard to believe that summer is winding down.  Here in Minnesota the Minnesota State Fair starts soon and wraps up on Labor Day.  Nothing in Minnesota signals the end of summer than our State Fair.

Take a look at your feet and notice what shade of color they are.  Do they look like they’ve been exposed to the sun?  Are they a darker shade than normal?

You know it’s been a good summer when your feet are tan because that is a  sign you’ve been outside.  Not only that, you’ve been barefoot and your feet have been connecting with the earth, the sand, and water.

Is that so important?  If you think about our evolutionary history, we have spent more time as a species outside than in.  We have spent more time barefoot, connecting with nature, than we have been with shoes on.  We have been exposed to fresh air, sunshine, and solid earth below us.  We are wired to be outside. But most of the time we are relegated to being inside most, if not all day.

This summer I’ve made every attempt to be outside. That’s easy on weekends and on vacations, but I’ve given my best effort during the work week too. Over lunch, I’ve walked outside in the park behind my office complex and I’ve taken most of my conference calls outside as I walk.

I’ve found that I get more out of my conference calls when I’m walking. When I am at my desk, it’s too easy to check my email, surf the web, or look at updates on LinkedIn. (You know you do this too) But when I’m walking while on the calls, I’m more focused and find it easier to pay attention. I think it’s because I’m outside and I’m moving.

This summer my feet have been exposed to the sun, earth, and water through spending time sailing at the family cabin, walking barefoot at the park, and swimming in both lakes and pools. My feet have a healthy glow (even though my arms still have that farmer’s tan).

As Summer winds down I want to encourage you to get outside every moment you can. Walk in the mornings, at lunch, or after dinner.  As the days get shorter, take a flashlight if you need it. Go to your local park or trail system. Walk, hike, or run.  Regardless of your ability, get outside.

I’m a stickler for being outside because it’s so good for our mental and physical health. My goal is to get outside regardless of the season and temperature.  For those of you that live in cold country like I do, you’ll understand the challenge with that.  But I find even when it’s cold, its great to be outside as I shovel snow, cross country ski, and take winter walks.  It’s all good (but I do prefer warm weather).

My feet will start to lose their tan as the days start to grow colder here in MN. That’s OK and I’ll look  forward to being outside in beautiful  MN fall weather.

 

(What questions or topics would you like me to write about?  Send your ideas to dennis.robert.bird@gmail.com)

Drive by Wisdom: Why Do We Get Stressed?

 

In this short video, I talk about common reasons we get stressed and how we can rethink our situations to gain insight on how to lessen our stress levels.

Drive by Wisdom is a new platform I’m trying to communicate my ideas. Let me know if you have topics you’d like me to speak to or write about.

The Push Toward Courage

 

Last month I went a rock climbing camp with the Boy Scouts in Taylors Falls, MN.  The boys got to learn about rock climbing gear, safety, and climbing techniques.  They also got to climb on real rock vs. the man made climbing walls they tried in rock climbing gyms.

It takes a tremendous amount of courage to climb up the face of a cliff with a rope tied to a harness and one of your peers who has the other end of the rope to keeping you from falling.

The kids managing the safety rope (a technique called belaying) were just as nervous as the climbers because they knew their friends’ safety was in their hands.

Some of the group had climbed before and this was just another challenge in their rock climbing experience. For others this was a new experience and you could see their apprehension and fear.  A few boys made it to the top of the rock face, but most made it  half or maybe two thirds up the face.  Regardless it took some kids as much courage to go up 30 feet as those who made it to the summit.

At the end of the day the kids had the option of rappelling off the summit of the cliff to the ground 50 to 70 feet below.  While climbing up the face of a cliff is daunting, stepping off the top of a cliff while leaning back is frightening.

I watched from below as each boy received guidance from the instructors and then proceed to the edge. Most of the boys took at least 10 minutes of looking over the edge and contemplating that first step.

The challenge of rappelling is that once you’ve stepped over that edge there is only one way off that cliff: down.

They had to push themselves toward courage. I’ve rappelled before and everything in your brain says, “This isn’t normal. You are not supposed to lean back over the edge of a cliff and walk down”. To rappel you have to push through those thoughts and have enough courage to take that first step.

Once they landed on the ground they were filled with relief and excitement as they accomplished something they were afraid to do. Some boys will never try rappelling again, but they pushed themselves toward courage and that will benefit them throughout their lives.

 

My guess is that if you look back in life you will see times where you had to push yourself toward courage. You’ve done things that your brain has said, “This isn’t normal, you shouldn’t be doing this”, and you went ahead anyway.

You may be at a time now where you know you need to push towards courage. What that is, I don’t know but here are some things I’ve seen other people push themselves to:

  • writing a book
  • running a marathon
  • starting a business
  • starting a new relationship
  • leaving a relationship
  • going back to school
  • getting a new job
  • losing weight

The challenge is that there are times where the direction we want to take in life does not have  a clear path or ending. Just like these young boys didn’t know if they could walk off the face of a cliff many of us don’t know if we can succeed in doing something new.

My encouragement to you is let go of the outcome and focus on each step that will get you closer to your goal.

Push yourself toward courage and become the person you are.

 

Flawed and a Little Crazy. It’s a Good Starting Point.

I have to admit it, but I’m deeply flawed and a little crazy. Aren’t we all?

Much of life is geared about trying to seem normal and healthy to all those around us. In the workplace and around our friends and acquaintances we work hard to show only the positive things in our lives. We are smart, witty, and engaging. Everything is going well and we are all happy.

Sometimes I’ll hear people say, “Wow Bob and Mary seem to have it all together. They have great jobs, a beautiful home, and their kids are amazing”.  While  that looks true I usually think, “That can’t be true. Nothing is ever that perfect”.

What’s with the negativity?  If I’m honest I am flawed and some of my thinking is a little crazy and I’m not the only one. My wife and kids are flawed and their thinking can be a little crazy too.  Flawed and crazy is a human experience.

The sad truth is that we all work too hard holding up a facade we hope people believe because we are afraid of social and psychological rejection.   But trying to be perfect and maintaining that facade takes a tremendous amount of physical and psychic energy. Day after day and year after year of trying to appear perfect only adds stress to an already complicated life. It’s not worth it.

Why is admitting that I’m flawed and a little crazy a good starting point for life? 

First, because it’s true.

Second, because we don’t have to work so hard trying to look and behave like perfect people.

In the On Being podcast, host Krista Tippett interviewed relationship expert and  philosopher Alain de Botton.  In this interview Alain states that healthy relationships are those where individuals understand they are deeply flawed and that their partner is deeply flawed too. In this relationship the couple is not looking for their partner to meet their every need, but see the relationship as a way to help each other become their best selves.

If we start our relationships with the ideal that other people are and should be perfect, then we are headed for disappointment and disillusionment. If our friends or partners expects us to be perfect, they are headed for the same disappointment.

Here’s a link to the blog and podcast: On Being With Krista Tippett

By embracing my flaws I can have compassion on myself  and that compassion can extend to those around me. I believe that we all do the best we can given the context we are in and the knowledge we have. No one is trying to consciously try to screw up their lives. We are all doing our best and if we could give each other a little compassion for being human, we will all grow in the right direction.

Embracing the fact that we are all flawed isn’t a justification for our behavior, but it does explain it. The goal is to continually evolve and grow in life and embracing your flaws is a part of it.

Here’s are handful of my flaws and crazy thoughts that I know my friends and family have to experience:

  • When I feel I’m right, you’ll know about it
  • If I  believe it, I want you to believe it too.
  • I’ll convince you of what is right.
  • If you are not convinced, then it’s your fault.
  • I need to be right to be OK.

As you can see these are not very generous ways of living with others, but these are flaws that I’m working on and my goal is to have awareness of my crazy thinking and behaviors. I don’t have to act out on them and let them interfere with my goals and relationships.

Having awareness of our flaws and crazy thinking is a great starting point for living a intentional and meaningful life . Living without awareness will hamper our ability to authentically connect with others.

Embrace your flaws and crazy thinking as a great starting point for having meaningful and intentional lives.

 

America the Beautiful

There is nothing like a road trip to remind me about how beautiful our country is.

On the way  to our annual ski trip we drove through the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, commonly know as the Bad Lands. We drove through the National Grasslands in ND and then Montana where you drive through the eastern plains, river valleys, and into the Madison and Gallatin mountain ranges.

Although Minneapolis and St. Paul don’t seem big compared to other cities like L.A., Chicago, and New York they seem huge compared to the cities and towns of North Dakota and Montana.  There is so much open land and incredible vistas, canyons, and mountains that I don’t see in MN.  There is an openness you don’t see unless you venture outside of the city.

The beauty of our country is astounding and I’m  grateful for the former Presidents  who set aside land for national parks and monuments.  If they had not been forward thinkers we would have had many of these pristine lands developed and ruined for experiencing its beauty.

Having access to open spaces and to nature is a gift that I don’t take for granted.  It gives us all the opportunity to connect with nature and ultimately connect with the fact that we are part of this incredible world.

Although there are many beautiful places within cities, there is nothing like being in land that is minimally developed and open for visitors.  We have some of the most beautiful land on this planet that people will travel from across the world to see and experience.

I’ve blogged about this before, but there is compelling research that shows how spending time in nature is good for our mental and physical health. I know that when I spend time in beautiful places like the mountains I feel more at peace and less stressed.

Being in nature helps me realize that if we don’t take care of our world, it will be our loss and the loss for future generations.

My concern is that not all people share this same ideal of preserving our current state and national parks from development or exploitation of natural resources like oil and gas reserves. There are those that would like to pull back on commitments of recently set aside lands from our previous administration. That would be a huge mistake.

One thing I realize as I drive across our country is that there is so much land that is already developed and we need to protect as much as we can. The reality is that you can not pull back once land is developed so it’s imperative to protect it for us and future generations.

Work with me to encourage our leaders to protect our country’s most beautiful lands from exploitation, pollution, and development.

 

Working With The Gravitational Pull Of Life

Not Me

Downhill skiing reveals the pull of  gravity that many other activities don’t.  When you are at the top of the mountain and point your skis downhill, gravity takes over.

It’s an exhilarating experience and sometimes frightening, but I’m learning that if I work with gravity by adjusting my weight and skis I can make my way down the slope mostly in one piece.

What’s exciting (and sometimes frightening) about going down a more challenging run for the first time is that you don’t altogether know what the run will be like. A trail map can give you some information, but it can’t replace experience.

This week I stood at the top of the tallest mountain peak I have ever been on. As I rode up the gondola I got more and more anxious as we approached the 11,166ft summit.  For a few minutes we walked around the summit and took in a view that stretched from Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. That alone was the worth the trip to the peak.

This was the most daunting run that I and my wife have attempted and for a few minutes we both thought about turning back. Had it not been for the encouragement of our 13 year old son, we might have.

I entered the course and worked hard to maintain my speed and not get out of control. After a couple of falls and a few swear words I got past the most difficult part of the hill and made my way to the bottom with more confidence. It was awesome and I will most likely never do it again.

It takes courage to try something new and to venture into an experience where you feel drawn but where the outcome is unknown.  This the gravitational pull of life.

Sometimes we feel pulled in certain directions or to certain peopleWe feel drawn to move into a new venture or feel called to pursue an option we haven’t tried before. These experiences can be fun, exhilarating, and frightening.

If we fight this pull we often miss out on opportunities for growth. We miss on meeting  people who will expand our understanding of ourselves or our world.  We miss the opportunities to move our careers in a direction that’s in better alignment with our values, skills, and strengths.  We may also miss an opportunity to expand our sense of what we are capable of.

Sometimes we feel pulled to move in a new direction but are unsure of if we can be successful or who we will become in the process.  Here some gravitational pulls I’ve had and seen other people go through:

  • to start a relationship
  • to end a relationship
  • to go back to school
  • to start a business
  • to travel
  • to engage a social cause
  • to transform their health
  • to transform their minds
  • to rework their beliefs
  • to shift in their career

What I’ve learned as a I’ve evolved as person is that if we are doing our best to live a life of awareness we will understand more about what is pulling us. I’ve learned  if I trust my internal sense that a new direction is the right path to take, then I can also trust that I will figure out how to work with that pull.

When you are wresting with a pull in your life and are unsure about it, it’s time to call on the people you trust. Enlist the wisdom of people around you and be open to their feedback and advice. Take advice but  you get to decide what is right for you because you are the author of your life.

I’ve had times in my life where I knew I was being pulled in a certain direction and I ignored it.  Like trying to fight the gravitation pull of the earth I  wasted a huge amount of time and energy resisting the call to live life differently.

I’ve learned that if I work with what is pulling me life is more rewarding. I’ve also learned is that if you work with the gravitational pull of life, you may not always know how it will turn out. That is what makes life both daunting and exciting. Let go of the outcome and engage in the process.

What gravitational pull of life is pulling you?  Are you working with it or trying to fight it?