Sticking To Our Guns

The phrase “stick to your guns” originated as a command given to sailors who manned guns on military boats, meaning they were to stay by their posts rather than seek cover, even when the boat was under attack.  Today it means to hold onto your convictions and stand up for your beliefs, even when others disagree or the evidence points to the contrary.  Unfortunately, it seems like too many people are choosing to stick to their guns these days, whether it is over issues of national importance or in their personal lives.

It’s one thing to be stubborn and insist on having things go your way frequently, but it’s another for a person to insist that he or she is right or has all the answers and correct viewpoints all the time too.  Some people just need to be right all the time, which makes them very difficult to work with and be around.

Unfortunately, I have plenty of experience with people like this, and there’s not a whole lot anyone can do to get them to consider that anyone else might know more about something than they do or be better at something than they are.  And forget trying to get them to see a different perspective.  Once they’ve made up their mind about something, it seems they only see and hear things through a filter that supports what they originally decided was the correct viewpoint or interpretation of a situation.  That makes it even more difficult to get them to see things differently, because they have built up a mound of incorrect evidence in their own minds.  Plus, the more anyone tries to convince them that they are wrong or maybe partially wrong, the more they dig in their heels and insist they are right.

Ironically, when it comes to an issue of national importance, gun control is a perfect example of people “sticking to their guns.”  I’ve seen plenty of statistics comparing the fifty states regarding gun violence vs how strict their gun laws are, which show that states with stricter laws have less gun violence.  I’ve also seen similar statistics about other countries such as Japan and Australia where they have much stricter gun laws than the United States and hardly any incidences of gun violence. I’m a numbers person, so that’s what helps form my opinion on various matters.  What I have NOT seen is statistics backing up the notion that more guns = less gun violence or more guns = a safer society.

I am also thinking about how the laws have changed over the years pertaining to what we are allowed to bring on an airplane. Each time there is an incident involving a box cutter, knife, bomb, or anything else, the rules and regulations get stricter and stricter. Even a dog getting put in an overhead bin gets a new law passed within a few days.  No one balks at these laws and we all follow the new procedures, even though it makes packing for and boarding an airplane take longer.  That’s because we know that planes are now extremely safe, and there is no need to fear getting killed or injured on an airplane or having it hijacked.  People are not insisting that we all be allowed to board the plane with a knife, gun, and box cutter, just in case anyone else on the plane pulls one out so that we can defend ourselves.  And no one is insisting that stewardesses be armed with these weapons, just in case, either. Furthermore, no one is thinking that because they are not allowed to bring guns or any of these these items on a plane, that they are not allowed to possess them at all, ever.  Their second amendment rights are not being infringed upon.  But, when it comes to common sense gun laws outside of a plane, somehow the same reasoning goes out the window.  Then it makes much more sense to many people that any limitation on gun sales is somehow infringing on their right to bear arms, and that more people carrying guns, particularly teachers, makes much more sense.  I don’t get it, and the statistics don’t seem to back those ideas up, but the more anyone tries to convince someone who thinks along these lines, the more they “stick to their guns.”

It seems like there are so many issues today where people dig in their heels, regardless of what the numbers indicate or the majority of people agree with.  The need to be right overshadows the need for facts or considering other positions or viewpoints.  This only leads to us being more divided and less united than ever as a country.

I think the same can be said for our personal lives too.  There is too much conflict because there are too many people not willing to listen to others because they are already experts on everything and have a difficult time admitting that maybe they aren’t.  Or maybe it’s just people in my personal life, but I don’t think so.   If you are one who tends to do more talking than listening and who needs to be right or have all the answers, perhaps it would be worth making the effort to be a better listener and consider that other people sometimes have a good idea or a valid perspective too.  Being open-minded is a good quality in my book.

Ambition

I am always impressed with people who have dreams or goals and manage to make everything happen the way they envision things, or just have a “to do” list and get things done.  They have ambition, self-initiative, and usually good time management skills.  I can never seem to be as productive as I would like to be, so I guess I’m partly just envious.  I know people who get more done by 9 am than I do all day long sometimes, but then again, I’m not a morning person.  They wake up on full throttle.  I have no clue what that feels like, and sometimes I spend more time thinking about what needs to get done rather than actually doing things.  I get great satisfaction out of checking things of my “to do” list and want to get things done, but I can’t always make things happen in the timeframe I would like to and should be able to, but it’s sometimes due to things out of my control.  Other times it is not. I can be very focused and productive though with the right motivation.

What really impresses me is when other people are willing to tackle projects or do anything that is out of their comfort zone, which seems to be a key factor sometimes.  They’re not afraid to try something they’ve never done before or figure things out as they go.  They just take the bull by the horns, so to speak, and run with it.  Continue reading

Impulse Control

I am astounded sometimes by the lack of impulse control so many people seem to have these days.  I certainly expect children to not be able to refrain from giving in to every impulse they have because they haven’t learned not to yet, but it amazes me how many adults never do.  The number seems to be on the rise.  So of course, I shouldn’t be surprised that teenagers who are learning by example seem to have difficulty with this as well.

Now that I am back in the classroom at the middle school level, it seems to be the biggest challenge.  Many students can’t refrain from sharing every thought that comes to mind at any time.  Or they just get up out of their seats and wander around the classroom if they feel like it.  They don’t understand that sometimes they need to wait to go to the bathroom because they’re going to miss some important instructions or information if they don’t. Any question is fair game at any time, even if they could easily figure out the answer for themselves.  There’s no sense of whether they should or shouldn’t do or say something because it might not be an appropriate time.  They can’t seem to do anything without talking while they are doing it.  And they don’t ask permission either.  They just do it.  It makes me wonder if anyone at home is teaching them to be conscious about this, whether this has just become more acceptable to more people, or whether it’s not really a choice for more people (because I know that is difficult for people with ADHD, for example).  It’s probably a combination of it all.

I wonder what kind of adults they are going to be if they have SO little impulse control as teenagers.  Thank goodness it’s not ALL of the students.  That gives me hope. However, when you combine the lack of impulse control to do the things that they want to do with the lack of motivation to do the things that they need to do, then I worry.  I see that in my own kids too.  I can be impulsive sometimes  and end up doing things that I hadn’t planned on doing (like when I sit down to write these blog posts), which prevents me from doing the things I should have been doing, but I manage to get done the things I really need to do and eventually find the motivation to get the rest done too.  It takes me longer than I would like sometimes, but life can’t be all work and no play.  It’s a balance, and it seems like too many people can’t seem to find that balance because they’re too impulsive.

Unfortunately, I think the vast amount of information at our fingertips and number of ways we can entertain ourselves with some sort of electronics these days plays a role in that too.  It’s too easy to impulsively pick up our phones and start scrolling through whatever social media accounts we have or text someone just to say hi.  How many times a day do we all do that?  Too many.  I’m guilty too.  It’s that instant gratification that’s hard to ignore. Unfortunately, I think that’s part of the problem.  We’re so used to instant gratification that we can’t go without it for very long.  So now those middle schoolers who were already hard enough to manage years ago because they are still children who need instant gratification are even more difficult to manage now.  They can’t wait to share a thought or ask a question because they thrive on instant gratification that they are so used to getting, now that they all have their own phones or other electronic devices.

It’s something we all really need to be conscious about … how impulsive we are, and can we set a better example for our children and help them learn to not be so impulsive themselves.  My job would be a whole lot easier if more people did that.

Timing Is Everything

If only I had a quarter for every time this thought has popped into my head over the years, especially recently. Sometimes it’s because of good timing, and sometimes not.

There are occasionally those days where things start going wrong, and they just keep piling up.  I have a near miss car accident, something around the house stops working right or breaks, my sink backs up, the kids are argumentative or throw at me some last minute plans that I have to accommodate, and so on.  I find myself asking why it all has to happen in one day.  I’m already frustrated from the first couple of events, so I don’t always react too well to the rest.  Each thing on separate days would be a little easier to swallow.  But then I find myself thinking at the end of the day that I’m glad it all happened in one day so that I can put it all behind me and move on, hopefully having a completely different kind of day the next day.  Sometimes I am lucky enough to have that happen.

Then there are the times where I am thankful for good timing.  Something good happens when I least expect it, and I find myself thinking, “Wow, just what I needed! Perfect timing!”  I might come upon some information at the right time to put it to good use, or I’ll have a conversation with one friend that coincidentally helps me with a particular situation.  Maybe a friend or relative will check in with me to see how I am doing, and it will be on a day when everything is going wrong.  The best example is meeting new people and feeling like they came into my life right at the right time. Sometimes I don’t always realize right away how good the timing is, but I get it eventually. The relationship I am in now is a perfect example of that.

Unfortunately, there were several years where it was pretty doom and gloom for me with more significant things going wrong all at the same time.  My kids were a major challenge, my marriage was falling apart, I was having various health issues, and so on. Those things were more long term and harder to put behind me and hope for a better tomorrow, especially dealing with all them at the same time.  Some of the time I could stay positive, but often it all got to me.  What helped was focusing on the things I could be grateful for, especially those little things that happened every so often that seemed to be good timing, like a friend checking in on me or my mom offering to help with something or just listen without offering any advice.  I think that’s why I tend to check in on my friends and family members pretty regularly because I know what a difference that has made in my life.

Life definitely has its ups and downs, and timing is sometimes not good at all for certain things.  Just when we think things can’t get any worse, it does.  We need those times to appreciate the better times, so it’s often a matter of perspective how we choose to look at situations and react to them.  We can’t always see that though while in the midst of the storm, whether it is a hurricane or passing shower.  But hopefully after it has passed, we can find the rainbow and appreciate the sunshine.  There’s never a bad time for those!

Honesty

Honesty is something some of my family members seem to struggle with, whether it is out and out lying, being deceitful, or purposely withholding information to be manipulative.  I have a child who prides himself on how sneaky he can be getting away with things, and he very much reminds me of his dad who has modeled that behavior for him over the years.  And he learned it from his family growing up, along with how to manipulate people, which he has also tried to pass on to the kids.  I’m sorry, but that isn’t a family trait to be proud of, how good of a liar you are or how good you are at being deceitful.

The thing is, there’s really no need for all of this.  Part of the problem is there is an assumption made that whatever it is that they want, they are going to get told no, so then they start scheming to figure out how to get what they want at all costs.  It’s more important to get what they want regardless of how many lies they have to tell in the process.  I am always more upset at the lies and the scheming than whatever else.  And much of the time, I would be agreeable to what they want in the first place, so it’s really not necessary.  I am a very straight forward person who doesn’t like to play games, so I would rather just have them tell me what’s going on or what they want and talk about options than to deal with all the dishonesty.

Another part of the problem is that they expect to always get what they want, which can’t possibly happen.  But I would be more apt to have it work out that they get what they want if there was more of an effort on their part to be honest, work together, and not react like a spoiled kid when they don’t get their way.  My work has been cut out for me trying to teach the kids that it’s better to be upfront and willing to compromise and earn what you want than find an underhanded way to get it with what their dad and his family has modeled for them.

Unfortunately, this is not just isolated to my family members.  I have experienced this with other people as well, even people who I have hired to do work at my house.  A big part of having integrity is has to do with how honest you are and whether you are willing to admit that you made a mistake, especially when you are providing a service for someone.  Trying to cover up your mistakes or keep from being caught in a lie, especially if it is going to make someone else look bad in the process, is never a good idea.  It’s even worse than just plain lying in my book, but I have been on the receiving end of that too.

None of us are perfect and never tell a lie, and sometimes there is a good reason to keep a secret or withhold some information to avoid hurting someone’s feelings or to protect someone somehow, but just to be manipulative and get what you want is not a good reason.  Every time we as parents tell a lie in front of our kids, no matter how small it is, is setting the example for them that’s it’s OK to do that.  So we need to be very conscious of how often and in what circumstances we are doing that and then explain that to them as well.  If we are always trying to get away with things and not follow the rules or are trying to cheat the system, then we can’t be surprised when are kids end up doing the same thing.

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That Little Extra

little-extra

You never know when that little extra effort could really pay off, whether it’s because it will positively impact you or someone else.  Success often comes to those who are willing to put in a little bit more time and energy towards their goals.  It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut, but sometimes a little conscious effort to think positively can get you over the hump.  Perhaps a few extra minutes spent doing something like exercising would be good for you, or taking the time to call or message a friend might put you in a better mood.

There are numerous situations that come to mind where it would be so helpful or just plain nice if someone made a little extra effort rather than just doing the bare minimum.  For example, it doesn’t take THAT much effort to push a shopping cart all the way in the cart return and put it in the correct row along with the other ones of the same size and push them together.  It would keep the cart return from filling up so quickly and cut down on shopping cart dings and unavailable parking spaces. Speaking of parking spaces, I wish everyone took a little extra time to make sure they were parking in only one spot and straight. A little bit more order goes a long way.

My kids do a reasonable job clearing their empty bowls and cups off the table and even rinse them out, but then they leave them on the counter.  Apparently, it’s very scary for my teenagers to open the dishwasher, but if they did take that extra step of putting the item in there, that would be much appreciated. I can think of countless other examples like this where a little bit more effort on a few people’s parts would make a lot less work for someone else.

Then there are things like making a little more effort to be pleasant towards anyone you encounter throughout the day.  Just making a conscious effort to smile would be an improvement for some people.  Recently, I had a store clerk ask how my day was going so far, as if she was very interested.  It was a nice change of pace from the often meaningless, “How are you?” It was a very small thing that significantly improved my mood for the afternoon, so I really appreciated her asking.  If everyone made more of an effort to be kind to others, even in the smallest way, I think that would make a big difference.  Giving someone you know a random hug, asking if there is anything you can do to help them, or telling someone you have been thinking about them or appreciate them are all small things that can have a big impact on someone else.

What little extra thing are you going to try to do more often?

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The Reason For Tragedy And Heartbreak

No one likes to experience either one of these or watch our friends and loves ones have to experience them either.  Whether it’s a tragic accident, an unforeseen break-up, a suicide attempt, some form of hardship, the death of loved one or favorite celebrity, or any number of other situations, these experiences can be painful, devastating, and gut-wrenching.  We sometimes ask ourselves all kinds of questions including why it had to happen or what we (or whoever else) did to deserve whatever happened.  Some people really struggle with the answers to these and other questions.

To me, these things are there as reminders for us of so many things…

  • that life is precious and fragile and can be taken away at an instant
  • that nothing and no one should be taken for granted
  • that we are stronger and more resilient than we think we are
  • that we can face our fears and overcome them
  • that change is sometimes a good thing
  • that the people and relationships in our lives are more important than things
  • that we need to continually remind our loved ones how much they are loved
  • that others may seem fine on the outside but are struggling on the inside
  • that we need to be kind and understanding to one another and really listen
  • that we shouldn’t sweat the little things
  • that sometimes our words and actions are more hurtful than we realize
  • that we should accept and celebrate our differences
  • that together we are stronger, and so on.

Most of all, I think they are reminders that we need to continually take a step back and be grateful for what we have, even if it’s not much.  There is always something positive we can find to be thankful for, and there are always so many people going through situations that are far worse than our own. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Of course, this is all easier to think about when we are not the person going through the particular tragedy or heartbreak or while we are not in the midst of it ourselves. We may never get over the pain or disappointment of the given circumstances, but hopefully at some point we can at least get to a place where we have a more positive perspective of why these things happen and what they were trying to teach or remind us.  I don’t think enough people stop and consciously think about and appreciate all the positives in their life. Maybe if we did, we wouldn’t need so many reminders.

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