The winds of change have spoken . . .

change-your-destiny

 

I can’t believe we are heading for the middle of February already. It feels like an eternity since the last time I posted anything here. So much has happened over the last few months that it will be virtually impossible to try to fill you in on the details.

The short version is that in September 2017 I decided to sell my house and move to a smaller living space. Between all the negotiations, the packing and the moving life was one big mixture of feelings and emotions, sometimes tears, sometimes sadness for the loss of the life I was leaving behind but nervousness and excitement for the new chapter in life I was starting.

As much as we are not in charge of our destiny we can change our circumstances to live a life that is more in line with what will bring us joy and happiness. Sometimes this means that we have to leave others (and things) behind in the process.

“When the way you think, speak and behave resonate with your own deepest nature, life feels very good — you feel whole, content, in your power. But when these don’t align with your deepest nature, then things feel… wrong. Life feels uneasy. You feel out of touch, discontented, restless, unhappy.” – Melli O’Brien

In spite of the sadness and tears over the last few months, I do not regret the decisions I have made. I was forced into a position of having to get rid of most of the physical clutter that was actually weighing me down without me realizing it. In the process of physically letting go of all the clutter of the material possessions, I freed my heart (or at least tried to) of holding on to too much emotional clutter that was weighing me down too.

I feel so much better now. I sleep so much better now. I am at peace knowing that the decisions I made were the right ones for me. I can let go and let others take the responsibility now. I am free to live the life I am meant to live purely because I’ve been forced to let go emotionally and physically.

I have learned that we go through bad experiences to teach us wisdom and to give us the strength we need to continue on this journey called life. I have learned that the more you put yourself into a state of gratitude, the more you will attract things to be grateful for.

Be grateful for what you have, and you’ll end up having more.
Focus on what you don’t have, and you’ll never have enough.

I have learned that being happy won’t always make you grateful, but being grateful will always make you happy. It is almost impossible to sincerely appreciate a moment and frown at the same time. To be happy right now, does not mean you don’t desire more, it means you are grateful for what you have and you are patient for what is yet to come.

Gratitude enables true forgiveness, which is when you can sincerely say, “Thank you for that experience.” It makes absolutely no sense to condemn or regret an important life lesson. Gratitude makes sense of yesterday, brings peace to the present, and creates a positive vision for tomorrow.

We never need more than we have at any given moment. It has been said that the highest form of prayer is giving thanks. Instead of praying “for” things, give thanks for what you already have. When life gives you every reason to be negative, think of one good reason to be positive. There is always something to be grateful for. Good days give you happiness and bad days give you wisdom. Both are essential, because all things have contributed to your advancement, you must include all things in your gratitude. This is especially true of your relationships. We meet no ordinary people in our lives; if you give them a chance, everyone has something important to teach you.

 

cant-compare-a-tree-to-a-forest

 

We need to be grateful for the present changes in our lives. We need to be grateful for all we have now, because we honestly never know what will happen next. What we have now will eventually be what we had. Life changes every single day, and our blessings will gradually change along with it.

A grateful mind never takes things for granted. What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude. The circumstance (or person) you take for granted today may turn out to be the only one you need tomorrow. As we express our gratitude, we must not forget that the highest appreciation is not to simply utter words, but to live by them daily. What matters most is not what we say, but how we live. Don’t just say it, show it. Don’t just promise it, prove it.

Gratitude includes giving back. In the hustle of everyday life we hardly realize how much more we receive than give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the aid of others.

The highest tribute to the people and circumstances you’ve lost is not grief but gratitude. Just because something didn’t last forever, doesn’t mean it wasn’t the greatest gift imaginable. Be thankful that your paths crossed and that you got the chance to experience something wonderful.

To be truly grateful, you must be truly present. Count the blessings in your life, and start with the breath you are taking right now. We often forget that the greatest miracle is not to walk on water; the greatest miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment, appreciating it and feeling completely alive.

Letting go of control multiplies the potential for gratitude. Sometimes we put too much weight into trying to control every tiny aspect of our lives that we completely miss the forest for the trees. We need to learn to let go, relax a little and ride the path that life takes us sometimes. We need to try something new, be fearless, but above all else, do our best and be OK with it. Clearing ourselves of needless expectations allows us to truly experience the unexpected and the greatest joys in life are often the unexpected surprises and opportunities we never expected.

“Life should be lived with a little more GRATITUDE

and a little less ATTITUDE.”

Let us consider how fortunate we are – let us consider it every day. The more we count our blessings, the more blessings there will be to count.

What are you grateful for today?

How has gratitude affected your life?

 

You may also enjoy the following posts written by me:

Dear Diary: Let mystery have its place in you . . .

Mystery Woman

Let mystery have its place in you;
do not be always turning up your whole soil with the plough share of self-examination,
but leave a little fallow corner in your heart ready for any seed the winds may bring,
and reserve a nook of shadow for the passing bird;
keep a place in your heart for the unexpected guests, an altar for the unknown God.
Then if a bird sings among your branches, do not be too eager to tame it.
If you are conscious of something new—thought or feeling, wakening in the depths of your being—
do not be in a hurry to let in light upon it, to look at it;
let the springing germ have the protection of being forgotten,
hedge it round with quiet, and do not break in upon its darkness.
Henri Frederic Amiel

Dear Diary: It’s been a while . . .

Fish

When I started this blog I made a commitment to post a blog at least once per week, however, since the beginning of 2014, there have been many obstacles in my path which has made it extremely difficult to live up to this commitment.

It’s been a real battle to keep writing down my thoughts when there has been so much going on inside my head. Since taking over the running of the household from my mom to give her time to rest when she needs to, has really thrown me off balance.

From the time I enter our home in the evenings after work, I don’t have much time to think about anything except getting supper going, serving mom and spending some time with her before she goes off to bed. This usually involves us chatting while having supper, chatting while watching some television after our meal while having tea/coffee and biscuits before she decides to retire for the evening. This is usually when I get myself off the couch to clean the kitchen of all the dishes and to get things ready for the next day. My day is filled with planning tomorrow’s meal, shopping for little perishable goods at least twice per week and of course, cleaning the house when I can manage it.

What goes on inside my head, I hear you asking? Well, when not making up grocery lists, planning meals, thinking of ways I can make things easier and more comfortable for mom, I try to work on my assignments (another two due in April of which one is a three-page essay which needs a load of research), there are personal e-mails to read and respond to, social media contacts to keep in touch with (especially the ones who can help with me finding another job or those who can assist with information for my assignments).

To give you some idea of what my life was like in March – our home telephone was out of order for approximately two weeks. This meant constant “fighting” with our national service provider to fix it. While this was happening, mom’s medical aid informed us that they need a new script for her monthly supply which resulted in another “fight” between government healthcare, private healthcare and myself (me being passed around like a tennis ball in a tennis match). At the same time, my other telephone line at home which I use for the internet connection, also died so now I had two telephone lines which needed fixing as soon as possible. Then . . . my car decided he needed a holiday and ended up at the garage for two weeks waiting for the spare part to arrive before it could be fixed.

A week before the end of March I managed to get both telephone lines restored, mom’s medical script sorted and collected my car on the last working day of March repaired and ready to go again.

Oh, also during the month of March, I re-typed mom’s Last Will and Testament and made a Living Will for her together with a document outlining her last wishes (which included her selecting the hymns she wants us to sing at her funeral).

I do apologise for not being able to post blogs as often as I would like, but life is rather hectic on my side at present. I do hope you will understand. I will do my best to stick to my commitment, though!

Dear Diary: Life’s Curve Balls!

Photo by: Tami Magnin @rumtumtiggs

Photo by: Tami Magnin @http://www.rumtumtiggs.wordpress.com

Isn’t it strange how life throws you curve balls when you least expect it?

2014 was the year I would be celebrating my big “50th” birthday. I was so excited about the prospect, not knowing what to expect from my family in terms of celebration i.e. I’m the one always organising surprise parties and I wondered if one was going to be organised for me.

I started hinting about this a few months before Christmas (I like to be pro-active and be prepared in advance) and there was no indication from anyone that there would be a surprise party. I was on my own. If I wanted to have a party, I would have to organise one myself. Sigh!

October 2013 onward had me planning, adjusting the budget a million times to make the rands and cents work. I eventually settled on a plan. Instead of throwing away a whole lot of money on one big party, I would book mom and myself into a Spa for a day (the day of my actual birthday) for a spa treatment and we would “sleep it off” at the same hotel that night and leave the following day. I would also take the whole week off from work (as opposed to only taking the day of my birthday) and spend the rest of the week doing day trips in and around the city where I live. The Saturday following my birthday, we would have a High Tea for some close friends and family. By Christmas break, my plans were finalised and we were all set, waiting for the big day to arrive. The plans for my birthday were made based on mom having chemo treatment during the week of 27 January 2014.

Here’s where the first curve ball came: mom was scheduled for a CT Scan on 29 January 2014 to see whether her chemo treatment was working and, unbeknown to me, chemo treatment is not administered in the same week as a CT Scan. This meant that mom’s treatment was postponed to the week of 3 February (my birthday was on 4 February). Not a problem, I thought. There is enough time to make adjustments to my plans so instead of applying for one week’s leave, I would only apply for two days (seeing as mom would be sleeping most of the time after treatment, there was no point in being home if she could not join me). We would then still go for our Spa treatment and stay overnight at the hotel as planned.

Another curve ball: I was informed that with chemo treatment, it is not advisable to have a full body massage as the pressure of the massage could cause the cancer to spread. Not a problem I thought: I contacted the Spa and asked if they could change mom’s treatment to a Manicure and Pedicure only and I would still have my full body massage.

Photo by: Tami Magnin @rumtumtiggs

Photo by: Tami Magnin @http://www.rumtumtiggs.wordpress.com

Next curve ball: The 3rd February arrives and I take mom in for her chemo treatment. We see the doctor first (as is usually the case on the first day of chemo) who informs us that mom’s chemo will be stopped immediately because it is not working and that the cancer has now spread to the liver, lungs and on the glands around the kidneys. The cancer is now at stage four (4). The emotional rollercoaster this put us on would not just disappear by tomorrow. This put a real damper on me even wanting to celebrate my birthday, however, plans were in place. There was no way I could cancel everything now. We arrived home at about midday, had lunch and started sending text messages to everyone we knew to let them know the bad news about mom. This, in a way, was therapeutic for both mom and myself as it seemed to have taken the sting out of what the doctor said. I, however, still have not had the time to deal with the emotional and Psychological effects of this blow and am still feeling very emotional about this whole ordeal as I write this blog.

Photo by: Tami Magnin @rumtumtiggs

Photo by: Tami Magnin @http://www.rumtumtiggs.wordpress.com

The day of my birthday finally arrives and mom and I check in at the hotel, have lunch, have our Spa treatment and relax for the rest of the day. We try our best not to talk about the cancer issue – I’m too emotional about the whole thing and did not want to “spoil” my birthday by crying my eyes out the whole day. I also don’t want mom to see me cry because it will upset her because she is always wanting to “fix” things and this is something she is powerless to “fix”. Mom and I then agreed that, for the sake of granting me at least ONE day to enjoy my birthday, we would not talk about the cancer issue.

Back home the next day we went back to reality and everything went back to normal. Responding to friends and family phoning and texting us regarding our news . . .

Photo by: Tami Magnin @rumtumtiggs.wordpress.com

Photo by: Tami Magnin @http://www.rumtumtiggs.wordpress.com

The Saturday following my birthday, we had a High Tea at one of our local hotels (The Cape Grace Hotel at the V & A Waterfront, Cape Town). It was a small group of about 20 made up of friends and family. I was hoping to use the opportunity to thank those present for the role they played in my life but was not able to say as much as I wanted to because of the pent up emotions regarding my mom’s diagnosis, I almost burst into tears a few times. Nevertheless, we managed to have a good time in each others company so everything turned out well in the end.

There is a saying that goes

“when life throws you lemons, make lemonade”.

Did I do this? I think I did!

A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.
David Brinkley

Conversations with Myself: Do I know who I am?

Ice Cream Sundae

We all know the world we live in is made up of all different kinds of people. There are those who are humble and prefer to remain invisible and there are those who walk around filled with their own sense of self importance (the Narcissistic types).

In Psychology there are many assessment tools used to identify personality traits used either to match people to compatibility with a particular job or people in relationship with others or each other.

When doing a Google search on assessment models, I came across this one which I thought you might find interesting . . .

SCARF model of self assessment
The SCARF model of self assessment gives you insight into the five domains of the SCARF model, and indicates the importance each domain currently has in your life.

Understanding which of these five domains are key drivers for you increases self awareness as to why you (and others) behave the way you do in certain social interactions. Knowing more about your own reactions leads to better self regulation and gives you more options when dealing with other people.

The five domains are:
S = Status (people need to be recognised)
C = Certainty (people need to know how and when you are going to respond)
A = Autonomy (moving away from threats and toward rewards)
R = Relatedness (mutual relatedness and respect)
F = Fairness (to be fairly treated – works both ways)

The five domains of this model will help you to:
• Understand your own reactions and those of others
• Better regulate your emotions
• Better communicate your needs to others
• Make choices more suited to your own preferences

STATUS:
If status is your biggest driver, you are naturally competitive. You love winning but hate coming second. If status rates high in your life, you might need to watch your natural competitive spirit. You might find yourself continuing the argument simply for the sake of winning. Or you might easily be bored if the challenge is missing. You might need to remember to ‘just be.’

You are however motivated by a good contest so look for ways to bring this into your working and personal life. Competition is the norm in sales environments, the legal profession, and sporting clubs. Focus on areas where you have natural ability and can continue to improve.

Certainty:
If certainty is your biggest driver, you like things planned well in advance and you don’t like last minute changes. You have a natural affinity with systems and processes. You are a list person and often find yourself the organizer in social and work situations.

With certainty as your biggest driver, be aware that you may naturally limit yourself from doing new (and therefore uncertain) things, even those that could be good for you, like learning new tasks or travelling. You may also react very strongly when people leave things to the last minute or constantly change their mind. Remember they are not doing this just to annoy you!

To feel more reward and less threat with certainty as your key driver involves asking questions to make sure you are clear on expectations. Don’t wait for others to come to you.

Autonomy:
When autonomy is important, you like being in the driver’s seat. You like calling the shots and don’t like being told what to do or how to do it.

Be aware that you may say no to things simply because they are not your idea. You may also need to remember to give other people the opportunity to choose from time to time!

If autonomy is your biggest driver, find ways to create more choice, even if you have to stick within defined parameters. Ask for where you can have clear autonomy so you can exercise this. And watch out for tasks where you have to follow other people’s orders precisely.

Relatedness:
If relatedness is your biggest driver, you find it easy to remember things about other people. You always make the effort socially and hate it when others don’t. You find it easy to connect with others and love doing things that make others feel important and special.

When relatedness is your biggest driver, be aware that you may expect more from your friends and colleagues that they can give. You may find yourself easily offended when people don’t respond to invitations or get back to you with answers.

To increase reward and reduce threat around relatedness look for opportunities to connect with others who are important to you. This could be joining a sporting team, organizing an interest group, or phoning family at a certain time each week. Watch out for long terms situations that isolate you from others – such as working on your own.

Fairness:
If fairness is your biggest driver, you are happy if beaten by a better player but hate someone who cheats the system. People who jump the queue really get under your skin, but you’ll sign up to a roster that ensures everyone contributes equally.

When fairness is important to you, you might find yourself always speaking up for others when sometimes it’s okay just to let things slide. Fairness tends to dominate all areas of our lives, so in your relationships make room for other feelings such as simply caring for others.

To create more reward and less threat around the domain of fairness, look for ways to get involved. Knowing how decisions are made, or having a say in the process will help. This might be through a career in HR, social justice or policy creation, or getting simply joining in at a community level.

Source: http://www.scarfsolutions.com/SelfAssessment.aspx

Conversations with Myself: Having nun of that!

nun_flying_md_wht

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.
Mother Teresa

Thinking back on my childhood, I remember always having a great fascination and admiration for nuns. The few nuns I came across and the pictures I saw in magazines and newspapers, they always looked so calm and serene. I wondered what it must be like to be a nun and wondered if I would ever be able to live a life under vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to God. Would I ever be able to dedicate my life to serving one Almighty God, leaving mainstream society and live my life in prayer and contemplation in a convent?

In my early teens, I started giving this some serious thought seeing as I had grown up in church. My maternal grandmother was a devout Baptist so I spent my time with her going from one church prayer meeting, mother’s meetings, choir practice, home Bible study/prayer group etc, sleeping on the church pews or with my head on her lap, while waiting for her to finish with her duties.

When I questioned my mother about the life of a nun, she said that besides a nun having to be completely dedicated to God, she must be a virgin and must be committed to continuing to live a life of chastity for the rest of her life. According to my mom, you would not be accepted into a convent if you have had sex already (even if it was only once) and definitely not if you have already had a child or children. You would also not be accepted if you have been married before. Would I be prepared to do this? Never get married to a man and have children of my own? Mmm . . . some serious thought needed here!

One day I had an opportunity to find out what it was like in a convent and grabbed the opportunity with both hands. An aunt of mine (also a devout Baptist at the time) needed to visit someone at a convent regarding reading classes they offered to the community. Before my aunt could say another word, I firmly planted myself in her car and off we went.

Entering the convent was eerie to say the least. The silence hit you like a ton of bricks. We had to walk as quietly as we could, speaking only in whispers – we happened to arrive at the convent when the nuns were all in their rooms busy with their “quiet time” (praying, reading the Bible and meditating). Initially I thought: “ok, maybe it’s not so bad. I can do this” but by the end of our visit, I seriously had second thoughts about this. I did not doubt my faith, but I started doubting my ability to live in silence for a large part of the day and night. I would have no problem with leaving mainstream society to live my life in prayer, meditation and Bible study but the silence would kill me. I am generally a very quiet person , not loud and outspoken, but I do like a certain amount of “noise” around me and the silence I found in that convent that night, scared me.

Leaving the convent that night, I thought about my experience often. I tried to picture myself living in the convent at different times of the day. I would thrive in the way life is structured there – time to eat, time to sleep, time to work in the community and be of service to others, time for prayer and meditation and reading the Bible – yet it was the time of total silence that scared me. Why? Why is total silence to earie for me?

I’ve never thought of myself as being scared to be alone, on the contrary, I quite like my own company and being alone. I think what scares me is being in such a large building with so many people, and yet having total silence. That does not seem natural to me. Then there is the whole process of becoming a nun. Have you ever thought about the process one needs to follow to become a nun?

Candidacy:
On the day you enter the convent, there is usually a welcome celebration with family, friends and the community to begin this phase of your life. This phase can last from six months to two years. It’s a time to discover living the life of a nun is really for you.

You will bring the rich experiences of your life and live with a community of Sisters, in a neighbourhood setting near one of the ministries. You will share prayer, household responsibilities, enjoy meals together and participate in leisure activities, including community celebrations and events. You will begin working in a ministry after having a discussion with the Vocation Director about your unique gifts and talents and the opportunities available such as Health Care, Outreach to the Poor, Human or Social Service, Education, etc. You will also have time for spiritual development, retreats, workshops and travel for community events.

During this time, you will receive guidance in methods of prayer and will learn more about the spirit of Bon Secours and the meaning of religious life to broaden and deepen the understanding of your relationship with God, with your ministry, with others and the world.

When you are ready to move on to the next phase of formation, the novitiate, you will have a discussion/meeting with the Candidate Director and make a request to the leadership team.

Novitiate:
In this two-year Novitiate phase, you will begin a privileged time when the community offers you the opportunity to study, ponder and assimilate the spirit of the Gospel, especially the vows, and the spirit (charism) and mission of Bon Secours. It’s a time of deepening your relationship with Christ, during which you, the novice, and reflect on the grace and responsibility of your personal consecration to Him. You will spend your Novitiate with other novices. One year will be spent in intense study and spiritual preparation. The second year allows you to integrate into your life what you have learned about Bon Secours, the vows, community, ministry, etc. The Novitiate programme will include classes and instruction that will give you a deeper knowledge and understanding of your life as a Sister of bon Secours. You will also be able to study sacred scripture prayerfully so that the Word of God may become a motivating force in your daily life and work. You’ll study the mysteries of Christ in the Church, the principles of religious life, the vows as well as the history and spirit of Bon Secours.

The Novitiate phase ends with you formally requesting to make the temporary profession as a Sister of Bon Secours. Your vows are made during a Liturgy celebrated with the sisters, your family and friends. At this time, you receive the Bon Secours sign of commitment that all professed Sisters wear.

Temporary Profession of Vows:
This is an exciting time when you live your life and mission as a Sister of Bon Secours, participating fully in vowed membership, ministry and/or academic preparation. You will be learning how to balance the challenges of living in community and more fully integrating your deeper spiritual awareness and understanding God’s calling into your daily life and ministry.

You will live as the Sisters live. You will make time for prayer and reflection. You will share household duties with the other Sisters you live with including cleaning, shopping and cooking. You will work daily in your ministry. Evenings and weekends may find you relaxing at home, attending an event that relates to your ministry or participating in a community celebration or gathering that may mean travelling to another community for a “Come and See” Vocation or other event.

You will attend the General Assembly when all of the Sisters come together annually to discuss where they are as a community and where they are going. You will have time for retreats and will be encouraged to attend workshops and take classes in theological and scriptural studies, spirituality and human development, or advanced curriculum to augment your chosen profession.

Temporary profession by vows are always made or renewed for a clearly determined period of time, usually until final vow. The total period of temporary profession is not less than three years, nor longer than six. It is a balanced period of living community life, ministry, prayer, and study as needed; a time for you to penetrate more deeply the demands of the Gospel and your vocation in order to integrate them into your life in a concrete and responsible manner.

At the end of this phase of formation you will spend two to three months in intensive spiritual preparation to prayerfully prepare for making your final vows. You will formally request permission to become a nun.

Perpetual Profession of Vows:
This last phase of formation begins and ends with a joyous celebration as you freely give yourself to God. As a vowed member, you will continue your growth and development of the ministerial, personal and communal life of a Sister. You will be encouraged to pursue theological and spiritual studies and you will continue to discern how God is calling you to use your professional gifts and talents in ministry.
Source: http://bonsecoursvocations.org/vocation-information/becoming-a-sister/

Wow, I had no idea that it took this much work to become a nun. You really must be pretty sure of your decision before you embark on this kind of journey.

After reading about the process to become a nun, I’m more convinced than ever that I do not have what it takes to become a nun and am now, more than happy with my decision not to become one.

Conversations with Myself: Life is like a Chessboard

Chessboard Metaphor (Accept_Change)

Chessboard Metaphor: http://youtu.be/rf6oVsVnfVE

You can never make the same mistake twice,
because the second time you make it, it’s not a mistake, it’s a choice
– Anonymous

Do you sometimes have trouble accepting yourself for who you are? Is there something we can do about this? Let us see . . .

Maybe you could think of your thoughts and feelings like chess pieces on a chessboard. The white pieces could represent the thoughts and feelings you want (e.g. confidence, happiness, self-esteem) and the black pieces could be the thoughts and feelings you don’t want (e.g. anxiety, fear, self-doubt, hopelessness).

Just like in the game of chess, the white pieces will try to defeat the black pieces. We want to rid ourselves of our negative thoughts and feelings. When going through difficult times in our lives, it seems like we’re losing – the black pieces knock most of the white pieces off the board. At other times, it may look like we are winning – we knock most of the black pieces off the board.

Looking closely at your life experience, what happens when you knock those black pieces off the board? Do they stay off forever, or do they come back sooner or later? You could find that new black pieces take the place of some of the old ones? It’s a continuous fight, with no end in sight. When we battle the black pieces, we battle a part of our experience, a part of ourselves. We could literally set up a situation where, in order to get on with life, large parts of our actual experience must disappear forever. We can become absorbed with our internal struggles, and disconnect from the outside world and the things in life that matter most to us. We can become so absorbed with our internal struggles that we don’t “see” the outside world.

Is it possible to let go of the fight? When playing the game of chess, is the chessboard affected or damaged in any way, or is the chessboard simply an arena where match after match can play itself out – and the board remains solid and intact, ready for whatever comes next? What if you could focus your energy on doing what you want, and carrying the positive and negative thoughts with you?

Don’t forget: there is a distinction between your thoughts and your observer self. Think of the observer as being the chessboard – as being you. Think of your thoughts and feelings as being the chess pieces. The chessboard carries the pieces, but it is not equal to the pieces. In the same way, you carry your difficult thoughts, you observe those thoughts, but you are not equivalent to those thoughts.
Adapted from: http://acceptandchange.com/ACTOZ/qu4_pg2.html

Living Strategically: 50 Lessons Chess Teaches You about Life

1. Purpose: In chess, every move has a purpose. Obviously we cannot live life with so much unceasing calculation, nor should we want to, but there are times when we need to align our actions with a predetermined strategy instead of just fumbling our way through it.
2. Play for the advantage: If you already have it, maintain it. If you don’t have it, grab it with both hands.
3. Everyone’s playing: Sometimes it’s a friendly game, often it is more serious. The problem is that not everyone knows they’re playing – even after they have made a move.
4. Seize the initiative: If you wait around for someone else to make a decision for you, they will . . . and you probably won’t like the outcome.
5. Learn to spot patterns: There are often clearly defined lines of success that work well. Learn to see these when they repeat, and take advantage of them.
6. Don’t get stuck on the formula: A little bit of creativity and lateral thinking can often take you to new heights.
7. Ignore what your opponent is trying to do at your own risk: We often get so absorbed in our own games and scheming that we ignore what is going on around us. Be aware of threats and alert to opportunities.
8. Simplify.
9. Take on challenges: If you only play beginners games, you never really improve – take on a few tough challenges, and even if you lose, try to learn something new.
10. Cut your losses: Sometimes you are going to lose material. Try to minimise your losses and move on.
11. Play the board, not the player: Don’t target your responses at people, target what they say and do. There is a difference.
12. When every move is a bad one: Sometimes you get stuck in a position known in chess as zugzwang: where no matter what move you make, it’s a bad one. This is just the way it goes sometimes, in chess and in life.
13. A discovered attack: There is nothing more satisfying than a discovered attack: pretending to do one thing, while attacking somewhere else. Learn to play and live less obviously and on more levels. This makes you less predictable and more interesting.
14. Sacrifice material for position: Be prepared to sacrifice material for position. Sometimes even the greatest material sacrifice can result in a winning position later on.
15. Care less about small victories: If you spend all of your time chasing lowly pawns, you may be on the receiving end of an opponent who cares less about small victories and more about winning the war.
16. Moves that improve your own position: A threat is best met with a move that improves your own position. Don’t get trapped into mindlessly trading moves and material in anger. Sometimes the solution is more gentle and rational.
17. Be better: You don’t have to be a devious cheat to win . . . you just have to be better.
18. Bad mistakes: We all mess up from time to time. This does not mean we should give up and run away. Often when you’re sure there is no way out after a bad mistake, you will be given a lifeline.
19. Making silly moves: When someone makes a move that you cannot understand, don’t read more into it than you need to. Sometimes people just make silly moves – that’s all there is to it.
20. Have a Plan B: Have a plan B, and a Plan C. If none of these work, you’re probably doomed.
21. Your opportunity will come: Play for the middle. Don’t hold back too much, and don’t push through too soon. Your opportunity will come.
22. Play wisely: How you start a game determines how you will finish it. Play wisely.
23. Seize the opportunity: If an opening appears, seize it immediately.
24. Don’t get pinned down: Where something more cherished cannot be included because it is stuck behind something trivial, make every effort to get it into the game – as soon as possible.
25. Anticipate what could go wrong and plan accordingly: In the end game, attack the King by focussing your attention on his escape squares: When you are in the final stretch, and about to win, anticipate what could go wrong and plan accordingly.
26. Be flexible: It seldom goes the way you planned – adjust and continue.
27. Boxed-in: If you are feeling boxed-in, free things up.
28. Trade inferior material and positions: Where possible, trade inferior material and positions for better ones.
29. Take care of the little guys: The little guys on your side matter. Look after them.
30. Small advantages: Accumulate small advantages.
31. Foregone conclusions: There are no foregone conclusions in life or in chess.
32. Ignore meaningless threats: Anticipate and deal with dangerous ones quickly.
33. Keep looking for new opportunities: Never rest on your laurels. Keep thinking, looking for new opportunities and trying to generate new ideas.
34. Rank and Titles: Don’t be overly impressed with grand words or titles. The only thing worse than being overly insecure towards those who outrank you, is being dismissive of those inferior to you.
35. Keep calm and move slowly.
36. Take action: Replace wishful thinking with action.
37. Learn one important lesson: If you lose, do so graciously and try to learn at least one important lesson.

I’ve learned so much from my mistakes . . .
I’m thinking of making a few more.
– Anonymous

38. Draw is better than a loss: Sometimes a draw is as good as a win, but a draw is always better than a loss.
39. Always have an escape route: Keep your options open and always have an escape route.
40. Creativity always has a purpose: Surprise and impress people with unconventional moves, but not with dumb ones. Creativity always has a purpose – doing something wild and crazy just for the sake of it may be fun at the time, but ultimately has no value. Break the rules – but only if it serves a good purpose.
41. Assess/Evaluate your position honestly: If it is bad, do something about it. If it is good, make it even better.
42. Don’t get swept away by distractions.
43. Narrow down your choices: and then decide. Take your time, but settle on one plan of action . . . and then DO IT!
44. Sacrifice: Sometimes you have to sacrifice in order to achieve a break-through.
45. Look at the bigger picture: Always consider the whole board when deciding on a move: decisions made with too narrow a focus are often bad.

What you see, depends on what you are looking for.
– Anonymous

46. Collaboration and co-operation: Connect your pieces cleverly. Collaboration and co-operation are the keys to success.
47. Look beyond the obvious.
48. Enjoy yourself
49. Deep and meaningful is always better than superficially pretty.

Success is not always what you see.
– Anonymous

50. Fake it till you make it: If all else fails . . . fake it!

Source: http://seanhamptoncole.wordpress.com/2013/03/26/living-strategically-50-lessons-chess-teaches-you-about-life/

Conversations with Myself: Pockets of Excellence

Mickey Mouse hot dog cart

What are pockets of excellence and how do we create them?

Individual pockets of excellence are visible through people who have personally excelled, but what makes them tick and what makes them stand out from the crowd?

Corporate pockets of excellence are visible through companies that have excelled, but what makes them work and stand out from the crowd?

Pockets of excellence usually happen when:
• One or more groups are managing their processes brilliantly
• Documentation for everything they do exists
• Roles and expectations are communicated clearly and concisely
• Measures are in place to monitor and evaluate what works and what does not work
• Accountability is enforced – from the ground all the way to the top
Adapted from: http://www.processexcellencenetwork.com

Pockets of excellence is about replicating the good that already exists rather than investing in yet another model to confuse everyone even more (http://www.mindofafox.com).

People and teams become excellent because they behave in a certain way i.e. they meet and/or exceed targets, they meet deadlines and they adopt an innovative and disciplined approach to everything they do. So how can we achieve pockets of excellence?

1) We need to be clear on our priorities and focus on them and nothing else. We should even become obsessive if necessary. Proof of this will be found in our habits and disciplines. What do we measure, how often do we measure and how do we act on what we have measured? How often do we meet with our team/partner and what do we talk about? What are the non-negotiable actions and behaviours that prevail?
2) Quality of communication in the team/partnership: How do we speak to or with each other? How do we handle e-mail communication? What do we do to ensure communication is open, clear, trustworthy and clearly understood in all directions? What happens when things are not clear?
3) Work processes and methods: How do we work that is different from others? How do we carry out our tasks? Do we have a particular methodology that sets us apart?
4) High level of engagement: are we as leaders behaving in a manner that makes the team excited about and committed to our objectives? What sense of progress does each team member have and how do they get information on the progress they are making against those objectives? How supported do team members feel? What does it “feel” like to be in the team? Is it a pleasant place to be? Are the interactions mostly pleasant and positive?
5) Customer relationships (internal or external): Is there something special about these relationships? What are we doing to create something special?

How do we create these pockets of excellence?
1) Identify what is good, seek to understand it and formulate a “theory of success” and find ways to copy it.
2) In copying these pockets of excellence, we are gathering evidence that tests the accuracy of the theory, we amend the theory as required, and we test the new theory, so we actively experiment in order to create more pockets of excellence.

Pockets of excellence takes discipline, critical observation and analysis skills and a certain amount of paranoia – a fear that there will always be a competitor who is bigger and better (always is!).
Adapted from: http://www.leadershipsolutions.co.za/general/strategic-thinking-replicating-pockets-of-excellence