“When some wild-eyed, eight-foot-tall maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your favorite head up against the barroom wall, and he looks you in the eye and he asks you if you’ve paid your dues, you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye, and you remember what ol’ Jack Burton always says at a time like that:
‘Have you paid your dues, Jack?’
‘Yes sir, the check is in the mail.’” – Big Trouble in Little China
The Boy, testing the Manned Maneuvering Unit simulator at NASA. He did not get hired, but that’s okay, NASA doesn’t have rockets anymore.
It’s the end of 2017, so here are some ideas to get you out of a rut in the health and well-being portion of the open-book test we call life. Remember, it’s okay to cheat off of your neighbor to get the right answer but you don’t want to hurry . . . the test is life . . . so, calculators and pencils ready!
- Play Your Game
One thing that we often forget is . . . it’s your game. Your rules.
What do I mean by that?
Define it your game by having cooler stuff than your friends? Sure. And take the consequences – consequences that can include lots of debt, long hours, a spouse that has to work so you can have an awesome pickup and boat rather than be home when the kids come home from work. And, if you’re unlucky, all that work to pay all that debt will allow you to see your kids every other weekend while a new guy lives in your old house.
Or live in New York. That’s a cool place, right? I see this in stories all the time – how it’s too expensive to live in New York, or San Francisco . . . but . . . why do you have to live there? There are dozens of places across the world where you can live like a king (or queen!) for the rent on a one bedroom apartment in San Francisco.
So, having stuff cooler than the stuff your friends have might not be the best solution.
What are the alternatives? Well, you could live to have money (which is not at all the same as having stuff) but it can have the same sort of consequences.
My choice? A balance: meaningful work, finding ways to help other people grow, and having sufficient financial reserves that I’m not at risk for most life events.
Choosing your own balance is key to removing stress.
- Remember, Life Isn’t A Race To Get To The End First
I had a great boss one time who, facing a 45 day period of intense work said, “I hate to wish my life away, but I’m looking forward to finishing this.”
Wow. Such wise words. Even a bad day is one that is your day. And, most times (not always) I’ve found that there are good parts of even the worst day. Don’t wish your life away, no matter how easy that might seem. Savor the bad days for the good things that happened during them, and for the good things that will eventually come from those bad days (LINK).
- Get Some Sleep
I made a pretty intense effort to increase the amount of sleep I was getting this summer (LINK). And the effort paid off – I ended up increasing my sleep by over an hour a day, which was very significant. My mood improved, my energy improved, and life was better. It seems that sufficient sleep plays a huge part in my overall health.
If you’re not getting six or seven hours of sleep a night AND you’re tired and feeling low on energy, I’d suggest tracking your sleep at night. Most people can go one night with lesser amounts of sleep, but by the third day where you only get four hours of sleep a night? I start to drag. After a week? It starts to impact even more – mood, outlook, everything. Crazy thing? I can cure it all by going to sleep.
- Make Something/Fix Something Frequently
This is a health post, not a home improvement show! What gives?
There is a feeling of competence, of satisfaction that comes from making something with your hands, of extending the life of an object through working it. The sheer time and thought processes involved pull you away from your day to day concerns, and give you multiple opportunities to solve problem after problem.
The problems are important in that you solve them. The completed object is less important than the process of completing it. When I was a kid I used to make models – and there was no feeling better than having built a model that looked great.
Oddly, some people get scared even to try to fix something that’s broken – what’s the worst that can happen? It’s broken. One time I tried to fix a car stereo. It started received television audio from the local television. I was listening to Gilligan’s Island® on my stereo.
Until it broke the next day. But it was cool for the day it worked like that . . . .
- Write Something
This blog serves several purposes. One is for you. One is for my kids. The biggest beneficiary of the blog? Me.
When I work to write and construct something that I like, well, I get a similar (but different) satisfaction to fixing the light in the hall, or building an elevated bed for Pugsley (his desk fits underneath). It’s mental. So do I blog for you? Sure. But mainly for me.
- Understand What You’re Playing For
To play the game, there has to be a reason. Why do you keep getting up in the morning? Would you do your job if you weren’t paid to do it? My post on this is here (LINK), and remains one of my most popular.
- Keep Moving
I’ve watched folks as they get older. I once saw a 90 year old man run (and skip as he ran) to his garden. He lived another five years. His life was full as long as he kept moving. Other observations were that once older folks became bedridden, it generally wasn’t long. I’m not sure if it’s motivation or if it’s cardiovascular. Keep moving if you want to live. Say that in a Schwarzenegger voice for extra motivation . . . “Keep moving if you want to live! We’ve got to get to the choppa!”
Studies show that people are happier (and healthier) if they engage in prayer each day. Similar effects are shown with those expressing gratitude and those meditating. Keep in mind meditation may have side effects . . . (LINK)
I think these might work through different methods, with gratitude especially focusing thoughts on how fortunate a person is, rather than on how rough life is.
Something tells me prayer works on an entirely different basis . . .
- Have a Routine, Not A Rut
This ties back to wishing your life away. How often do we see that a week has turned into a month or longer without any change to our lives, to ourselves?
This is a routine taking charge of our lives. Up at 6am. Off to work. Work until 5. Home at 6pm. Bed by 11pm. Up at 6am. Repeat. Recharge on Saturday and Sunday. When you’re feeling better on Sunday night? Prepare to start again.
Without a routine, I don’t exercise. I don’t go to bed before 3am. I end up pushing back writing this blog until it’s way late while watching Russian documentaries dubbed by the British about the Soviets fighting the Germans during WWII. (Spoiler: The Soviets win.)
So I need a routine. But I also have to keep that routine from turning into an excuse to have lived twenty meaningless weeks of life. I don’t have enough weeks of life to live twenty of them without meaning, without positive change (LINK).
And neither do you.
- Experiment To Find Out What Works
Find Things That Make You Excited . . . Do Them
A life without excitement sucks. A life without fun sucks. Find the things that give you energy, and do them – just enough to keep you energized. A pleasure repeated too often becomes a punishment . . . .
We will all eventually finish the test, but the good news is you get to grade your own performance. How did you do? Did you help other people on the way? Did you make a difference? Have you paid your dues?
Yes sir, the check is in the mail . . .