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Friday
Feb092007

Chosen or imposed risks?

Risks certainly come in different forms based on our own perception.  Do you consider the risks you take to be somehow foisted on you like you don't have a choice? Or do you seek them out because you feel you can gain something from taking risks?

The Dalai Lama chose to secretly flee Tibet because the Chinese violently took over in an effort to suppress an ancient, religious culture.  Like the Dalai Lama, many Tibetan citizens, including brave children, have chosen to risk their lives to journey through harsh natural, conditions in order to have a chance at freedom.  They choose to expose themselves to hazards, possible gunfire and death in order to take charge of their fate. They would be taking a risk to stay in Tibet and be constantly threatened, and they would be taking risks if they choose to leave all they had ever known. When faced with life and death situations, one typically chooses life.

In 1943, when the Soviet Union took over Estonia, my maternal grandparents took their children and risked their lives to escape amidst bombings.  In their minds, choosing between prospective oppression and freedom wasn't really a choice.  To lose national independence and stay there would've meant losing the freedom to use their native language, being unable to nurture their culture, to exercise their will.  There was even the likelihood of ongoing surveillance and a threat of death. They preferred to take their own risks to travel to Germany and work there, then onto Italy and Australia where they lived brief periods before moving onto Canada.  They chose to move places that offered them civil liberties, freedom of speech and opportunities rather than increasing restrictions. They also had the luxury of their health, resourcefulness and determination to overcome incredible odds during wars that are difficult for me to imagine.  So, choosing life over possible death can be linked to our values and principles as much as to instinct.

When you think of the risks you take everyday, you may note bigger ones and smaller ones.  You may be fortunate to live in a country where you don't take your life into your own hands each time you venture to a local market or choose to practice your belief system.  You may not think that more people die in car accidents each minute than people statistically die in airplanes.

Even basic, everyday activities involve risks for some people. You can quantify and compare the hazards, but can you minimize or eliminate them? News headlines regularly announce harmful chemicals we should avoid avoid, or foods and behaviors which represent threats. You may dream of a simpler world where you perceive fewer risks. But does such a world really exist? If we reflect back, a century ago, life expectancy was 50 years, now it is over 70. Do you think this means the sum of all risks must be less than it was? Or, do you feel each time a health risk is eliminated, we simply discover new ones to replace them? 

Thursday
Feb082007

Back to your roots

I spoke to an older, Polish woman on a rural, public train.  She told me her goal was to eventually visit her home country.  As it happens, she grew up "Down Under" and has only ever seen photos of most of her relatives.  She belongs to a nearby Polish cultural association where she interacts with Australian people who speak her native tongue, cook ethnic Polish foods such as perogies, engage in folk dancing and singing, among other events that remind her of her distant homeland. I began to wonder what identifies a place if it isn't the people, history and things the lady said.

In speaking with me, she explained her motivation is a sense of connection to a place she's never seen.  She says she thinks about where she is now and why. She recognizes she has independent will and freedom to choose how she spends her money.  Yet, she remains reluctant to achieve her goal.  As we chatted, I noted she didn't use definite, proactive language, such as "I will go."   Instead, she used reactive language, such as "I can't" (because). 

When her stop came, I suggested she might get to see her homeland someday, and she replied tentatively with a smile, "I might."  Whether she truly sets her mind to achieving this goal remains to be seen.  Literally traveling back to her family's geographic roots may be more of an inconsequential dream than a real-life priority. What have you done in your life to investigate your family history? How do you foresee your interest evolving and why?

Thursday
Feb082007

How times have changed or not?

As I recently walked through a university district of central Melbourne, I was amazed at the student culture that surrounded me.  Students were mixtures of youths, middle-aged people in business suits, and much older, retired people who decided to return to school.  Some of them pursue dreams.  Other students may take courses during life transitions, or be passing the time or even soul-searching. Clues to their reasons for being there can be seen via a glance at their facial expressions and whether they play Nintendo or carry any books. 

I ponder how times have changed for students, not only in terms of age, but also in terms of motivation.  Education wasn't always accessible or chosen by people from different walks of life, let-a-lone in different life phases. I met a grandmother in her 70s who decided to finally earn a degree after she never had the time, money or freedom to pursue it in her youth. And why not?  

One friend of mine, who is a nurse, went back to get a psychology degree in her mid-forties while she was also working and her boys were teenagers.  Earning the degree was a challenge she set for herself. Looking back, she considers taking the time that she put in was itself a luxury.

Other young people have told me they study because they think it will help them land a better job, even if they don't yet know what their goals or passions really are.  I also know people who return to school after becoming unemployed. They sometimes assume more school is the best solution to unforseen financial problems.  School is an arena to re-evaluate habits and progress.

So, university is now a setting for people of all ages, skin and hair colors to explore identities.   If you're drawn to different countries, you become an international student to "find yourself."   In the big libraries, you join students wearing beach flip flops in rain, cut off beach pants in winter and sweaters in summer. Almost anything goes. People try things out to see how they feel.  Their logic will not always be your logic. Some people wear pajamas, others walk off in formal clothes toward class. Each person has a personality that is taking shape. This arena fosters inner change. 

As I passed by, daredevils chatted on mobile phones as they rushed through intersections.  Some of them ignored the circulation lights and dodged oncoming cars and trams.  It appeared to me that making one's way to university required unexpected survival skills. Learning in a classroom, I recall being taught what famous people had historically done and why. Yet, I wasn't usually taught how to do things.  This part of learning is what I call the "university of life." My own sources of motivation are things I constantly discover on my own, wherever I am in the world.

Wednesday
Feb072007

Bring it to you

Has anyone ever taught you that you attract into your life opportunities, people, events and circumsatnces based on your plans and thoughts? If not, you're in luck! Your view can change.

If you don't understand this concept, you may think like David Shirmer used to think.  He used to get piles of bills in the mail every day.  He asked himself how he could change this into more appealing conditions.  Since he realized the law of attraction influences how he thinks and what he experiences, he decided to concentrate his thoughts on what he felt he could receive instead.  He decided to begin visualizing that he was receiving cheques via the post.  He kept doing this.  Now within one month of similar, consistent thoughts, his life began to change for the better.  He is still astonished that even today, he still gets more cheques in the mail than bills.  Have you tried it yet? If you haven't, isn't it time you did?

Actor-comedian Jim Carey struggled for years as an aspiring actor. He became very discouraged.  Then, it all changed when he decided to write himself a cheque for 10 million dollars. He made it out to himself and signed it.  Then, he put that into his wallet and carried it everywhere.  After that, whenever he began to feel down, he disciplined himself to take out the cheque and remind himself what he really thought he was worth.  This repeated exercise boosted his confidence and enabled him to attract opportunities and other wealth into his life. Of course, the success he has come to know also relates to attitude. He learned confidence is an asset we can develop in ourselves and being other positive experiences into our lives. 

Tuesday
Feb062007

Where to begin?

Someone asked me today, how should he approach goal-setting? Where should he start? He's not the first person to ask such a question and he likely won't be the last. What about your views?

1) Orient yourself: before anything else, it's vital to consider a destination. Brainstorm where you would like to go or what you would like to do. You'll likely be more motivated if you choose things you like or better still, you're driven by an inner passion. Think about a trip you will take and what you'll need. Before Tony and Maureen Wheeler founded the now famous Lonely Planet travel book publishers in Melbourne, Australia, they traveled through unusual places from England into Asian-Pacific. During their monumental journey, they found they needed maps. When they didn't find what they needed, they were unafraid to develop and draw their own.

2) Categorize ideas: I would break your ideas of destinations down further into areas of your life such as your personal, professional, financial, emotional, spiritual and pursuits in order to focus your energy later. Part of effective goal-setting requires you develop a sense of balance and priorities among your chosen categories. As you learn what is important to you, you'll develop the abilities to discern and intuit in order to multiply opportunities. Consider Jack Canfield, the co-author of the best-selling Chicken Soup for the Soul series. He admits having established goals at different phases of his life which covered different categories, including family and work, health and education, spirituality and other areas. He learned to focus on one thing at a time. It was determination that led him to realize significant milestones. He now shares lessons he learned.

3) Admit the truth: zero in on dimensions of who you really are and what you wish to become. Analyze your previous efforts, where you sense your strengths and weaknesses are. Admitting where you could improve and which benefits you foresee is a valuable way to generate success. It's believed that poet and playwright William Shakespeare wrote far more than he published. He wasn't always satisfied with his efforts. He didn't start out as a writer since he didn't believe in himself and writing didn't initially pay his bills. Yet, his diligence and commitment to what he really wished to do led him to be true to his soul and evolve into a popular writer during his life. His works are translated into key languages, and his plays are still performed worldwide.

4) Review your attitude: how you perceive yourself and what is possible will influence how far you are willing to go to achieve what you set out for yourself. This will reveal courage, judgment, and how you react to opinions of your goals. Louis Pasteur was a French microbiologist who made valuable discoveries in part because he wasn't easily discouraged by what people around him were saying or doing. His research and experiments confirmed how germs cause disease. He also discovered the rabies vaccine. Pasteur is also known to the West for a process he created called pasteurization. This prevents milk and wine from going sour. He thought he could and he did. How often do you encounter opposition? Be bold and nourish your self-esteem.

5) Write and attract positive energy : do all you can to visualize what you wish to feel, who you wish to meet, which mountains you wish to climb. You are preparing yourself for something. You're moving toward places you've never been. Writing and taking other steps to reinforce the power you hold to make them happen. New Zealand aviator Jean Batten flew solo from England to New Zealand in 1934 and became known for other record-breaking flights that followed. Similarly, Anne Morrow Lindbergh was also a pioneering aviator in her era. Both women became known for the books they wrote to give life to their adventures, thoughts and feelings in ways which engaged the public in surprising ways. They teach show goals can be emotionally-charged.