The Power of Perception: “I thought I was running late”

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It’s happened to me many times: my mind racing to ensure I meet a deadline, I sloppily read my watch and think I have an hour less than I really have. The stress hits you as quickly as a migraine. My body tightens, mistakes are compounded and I’m focused inward instead of at the task at hand.

Again checking my watch to see if I was on schedule, I realized my mistake. With the “extra” hour, the symptoms melted away. My body worked efficiently while my mind turned to long-term projects and family.

I think you see where I’m going with this: the same facts on the ground but two differing perceptions resulting in quite different results. I once took it for granted that I would get around to learning to juggle 7 balls. I never did and that’s okay.

I left home yesterday morning at 2:30 a.m. LAX, surely the most charmless of all our big city airports, is at that hour and the several that follow it actually a dream. 6 a.m. is the most beautiful time to fly: services have no lines; security goes as quickly as it does in Bismarck, North Dakota. You can literally stroll onto the plane. Even the bathroom floors are clean. It enhances the experience, stuff like that.

After a transfer in Newark I descended into Burlington after dark on a wet New England evening. I picked up my bags, threw them in the rental and drove for an hour-and-a half over hill and dale through the inky blackness that is rural Vermont on November nights. My monkey brain is telling me I’m running late. It’s trying to ratchet up my stress level to get me to respond. My manly brain confirms that I have plenty of time to arrive and set-up and that, worst-case scenario, I can drive directly to the show and check-into the hotel afterwards, which is what I did. No stress, I simply did the math and knew that barring an accident or a flat, if I simply took my time and drove carefully all would be gold.

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If I went onstage looking for sympathy from the audience for my long day of planes, trains and automobiles in order to get there, well, I had come to the wrong place. And why should they care? Unless you’ve got a funny story to tell about it, get on with the show.

This is the sort of thing one learns with experience: when everything is falling into place as it should, sometimes it’s best to keep a light touch. The audience doesn’t care what I went through to get there: they care about what they went through to get there.


Happiness Is Hard

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In my home there lives a baby who loves taking a bath but who often must be dragged kicking and screaming to take one. There’s also a boy who eagerly anticipates his reward for completing his homework yet must be goaded into actually doing it. There’s a woman whose mood is boosted by exercise yet sometimes goes days without it. Finally, there’s a man who finds sharing ideas with others enormously gratifying yet often lacks the wherewithal to do just that.

What’s wrong with us?

Our problem  – most people’s problem – is that we think in terms of ease and comfort rather than happiness. Happiness takes an energized body and an engaged mind. Comfort requires only a decent-size sofa.

I know that preparing a new dish for my family will greatly increase my happiness. I know that shopping for the ingredients and working in the kitchen will increase my happiness. But I also know that there’s a yet another frozen pizza in the freezer which can be rendered delicious in less than 20 minutes. And that I can check out my latest Facebook post while I wait.

The next time you consider engaging in any activity, ask yourself “Will it make me happy or will it make me comfortable?”

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Return to or watch a me attempt to juggle while wearing a volunteer’s glasses.