“In the absence of information, we fill in the blanks with our imagination.” -Dave
Let me tell you the story of my best friend, Dave. I met Dave at a Denny ‘s on Walnut street in Bloomington, Indiana. I was a doe-eyed freshman in college and he was approaching his sophomore year. Winter time had just begun and my gray Crown Victoria was still covered with piles of snow as I drove the large beast into the parking lot. I made my way through the swinging doors of the restaurant and asked for an application. Dave was a server there. It was thanks to Dave that I got that job, secured him as my roommate months later, and made my way towards the cynical adulthood I would come to know in college.
Dave remembered everything by year. He would say, “Back in 1999 when the such and such album came out and the kids were drinking apple pucker and staying out too late.” Dave was in his 30’s but his references solidified the eras. He would reminisce about decades of good tv shows that later generations would never know. At any given time you can find him in a simple white-tee or a thrown-on button up with old jeans; electronic device in one hand, coffee in the other. Dave and I were friends during some of the most influential years of our lives; making the most out of college between small venue concerts and house parties, sliding into classes hung over, and getting food from the dorm cafeterias. We were living a micro-version of what we thought to be an adult life. Dave and I were a staple in what was so cleverly referred to as “The Oregon Trail Generation.” Not only did we grow up playing outside, but we were on the cusp of the end of “the dream.” We remained hopeful through philosophy classes, inspired through businesses classes, and moved by the hustle of the University setting.
Years later, Bachelor Degrees in hand with hopeful smiles and bright-eyed wonder we walked through the doors of corporate America. Corporate America giggled at us as we were escorted to our cubicles under horrible florescent lighting and our dreams of big money and managing were crushed. Welcome to entry-level.
We realized that we’d have student loans we could barely pay in shitty corporate jobs we never really wanted. We’d spend the next three years being cynical and bitter. We would write emails from corporate America and stay friends for what is going on 13 years now. We see the millennials go through the same buzz-kill only they don’t seem to be able to manage not having gotten their way.
To this day we bantered on and he inserts one liners to make sense out of the world. We discussed how graffiti in the bathroom had approached an all time low due to updated Facebook status and Instagram photos.
Dave still discusses life in years and we aren’t as cynical as we once were. We are often searching for meaning in life through banter. Looking back I now understand that the important part was the friendship. The important parts, the really important ones in life are relationships. They always have been and always will be.
The coffee shop rocks some stellar music this morning. 1901 by Phoenix blasts through the speakers as I sit in the back corner watching the locals swing through and converse around the shop. The Sit and Stay Café houses a bookshelf where patrons can exchange reading material. There are piles of old books and ironic literature. “Tears of the Giraffe” stands out as I turn to the lady next to me and she calls out, “Excuse me?” She asks me if I know which coffee is the best? I look up from The Orange County Register and lean slightly forward to suggest the one on the far right. After she fills her mug, she swings back to her seat and we begin to engage in conversation. She is a delightful older woman with a southern accent and bright blue eyes. She tells me that she is from Texas and visiting her daughter and son-in-law here in sunny California. She talks about seeing her grandchildren and how excited she is to spend time with them. I smile back, ask questions, and express admiration for the exchange that took place. I get back to my breakfast sandwich and black coffee as I sift through the newspaper. I watch as two young girls take a photo and discuss uploading it to Instagram. This leads me to immediately think of hashtags, which leads me to think of texting. Then, I am reminded of a time when passing notes was cool. In school when you wanted to elicit the attention of a friend or chat, you had to pass a note. I recall intricate folding and the rush of passing it so the teacher wouldn’t see. A thrill in its own right.
A friend and I reminisced about dial-up the other day. She recalled her parents having to get two phone lines because you could not use the internet and be on the phone at the same time. There was a time when we still had to be patient. The lady in the coffee shop was in her 60s, nearly 30 years older than me and these girls were probably around 15, so about half the age gap. I feel slightly removed from social engagement via app. What happen to conversing in the coffee shop or asking a stranger a question or engaging in a conversation? I will tell you what happen. #facebook #instagram #snapchap #socialmedia. All of this seems to be causing something more than just a lack of communication. It causes a lack of thrill, a lack of adrenaline, and a lack of excitement. We are tagging photos and selfies everywhere we go. We want to project happiness without truly understanding what it takes to grasp it. There is no grace for messes. We are gaining more control and causing more anxiety in a world where letting go and learning how to handle change are very important. We online date as a result of the downfall of present and personal communication. We become neurotic. We become impatient. The lyrics of 1901 still play. “Watch them build up a material tower. Think it’s not going to stay anyway. Think it’s overrated.” The dynamics of human relationships have not changed much in those 45 years from the teens I see to the older woman I speak with, but so much has changed in our means of communication.
I am proposing that ten years ago, we knew how to balance lack of control in life and bounce back from change. Are we creating a generation so in control that the slightest change will cause fear? We used to have to wait for a boy or girl to write back or tell the friend if they liked us back; rejection built character. Now we swipe to the left and the fear of rejection is gone. Lack of fear or other human emotions causes us to gain more control. The more control we think we have, the less we actually do. Anxieties and fears have to be dealt with. In order to be dealt with, they have to be created.
We are nearly two weeks into the New Year. We have been faithful to our New Year’s resolutions for less than 4 percent of the whole year. How are you feeling about your resolution? Are you hyped up about the recent change? Or are you bummed out? I watch as dieters mope across the work hallways and hang their heads as they crash from lack of sugar and crave salty chips. We torture ourselves with high end goals but have a low end understanding of what it takes to keep them.
You probably have great intentions when it comes to persevering through this first month. The truth is only 8 percent of us keep our resolutions. What can you do to be a part of the winning few? I am eager to help you understand how to stay on track.
Lose the Victim: If you feel like a victim in the race to your resolution, failing is right around the corner. By victim, I mean the ideas and judgment that you have given your resolution; if the goal is good but your reactions to it are negative, it will be hard to keep. I’ve overheard people dieting this week say that they are upset, hangry, and unhappy. The self-talk, emotional responses, or judgments that we give to our goals can be defeating or encouraging, whatever we allow them to be. If we can interpret and evaluate the situation with positive regard, we make it better. Our mindset about our goal is important. Instead of negative statements and defeated talk, try positive reflection about the goal.
Check in with Yourself: Know what goals you can reach and be honest with yourself. Ask yourself, “What do I need to achieve this goal?” Set realistic goals and challenge yourself to keep those goals by “awarding” yourself something at the end of that goal (such as a massage or an overnight trip you’ve been putting off). An example: You resolve to work out more this New Year. Your goal is 20 workouts a month. Each month you reach that goal you get a massage. We go to work to get money. Money is the “prize”. Work is the “goal”.
Balance: Life is about balance. Too much or too little of anything is bad. Make sure your resolution is a balance of ways you want to better yourself this year.
Temptation: Most New Year’s resolutions include something that is going to link to temptation. So you have a list of foods that you can eat on that diet, but what is your plan for when tempting treats make their way into the office? If you resolve to save money, what is your plan to resist your favorite purchases or to not spend as much time at the restaurant you love? You need to have a plan in place to resist the temptations that are going to come along with that goal.
Remember, an important part of improving any part of our lives is an understanding of ourselves. Don’t be discouraged if your resolution isn’t working the way you planned, just reevaluate it. We get stoked on the social stimulation of the New Year’s resolution, but we can make improvements on ourselves at any time in our lives.
As a relationship blogger I’ve come to realize the masses of material around me. I sit in a coffee shop that I frequent to get a bite to eat before work and most of what I overhear from the wait staff has to do with relationships. One was a blossoming romance that included a child from a previous marriage, and yet another was about who would take the kids for the weekend. I had an unfortunate heavy heart that most of the chatter included breakdowns and break-ups. It included devastation and divorce. I wondered how we could all get back to a place where relationships and partnerships provided us with the sense of support and strength they were meant for. Where we grew together and genuinely appreciated one another, even if we get pissed off from time to time.
Not to offend, but it’s my personal opinion that no one is in the mood to work really hard for anything anymore. When I sit and read about dating and relationships it appears apparent why we have shifted into a culture of divorce rather than long unions. Article after article on what you are doing wrong with your new relationship and tips or “how-tos” on anything from keeping him guessing to 12 ways to have a happy marriage. But is it really that simple? And if it were that simple why are we in an epic fail? We learn Why Men Love Bitches or how to Get Married This Year, 365 Days to I Do or how to Get the Guy, but we forget that this mainstream culture of self-help and fast fixes just sheds light on the problem. These are just outlines to a very long syllabus. Relationships take work, dedication, and lots of commitment through the years.
I am not suggesting that every divorce should be stopped. There are several reasons divorce takes place and the hurt and pain can not be overcome. Sadness or unhappiness can sometimes be a reason to split. However, all I am suggesting is that when you take the vow to commit to someone for the rest of your life, that you remember just how much work, patience, perseverance, work, humor, work, respect, and did I mention- work, that it is going to take. Get angry with me, get really angry with me and explain yourself to death about why your divorce was reasonable. Many times over I am going to disagree with you. You get to choose who you marry. That’s right, it’s a choice. You get to choose who you will be able to run the business of marriage with for the rest of your life.
The percentage of divorce gets higher with the number of divorces you have. So you have a 40-50 percent chance of getting divorced the first time and a 70 percent chance of divorcing again. The common denominator of that statistic is you.
I first heard of conscious uncoupling when Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow announced their split, as I am sure, most of us did. Thank goodness the Wall Street Journal took the time to write an article on what was meant by conscious uncoupling. According to the article the term could, “be new language that could frame the end of a marriage or relationship in my positive light.” I was happy to hear that definition because basically what we are saying is that we are going to put a pretty frame on a shitty picture. Break-ups and divorces suck. Make no mistake about it that they leave people jaded and discouraged. Society has become a mecca of pretty frames on all sorts of false pictures (Facebook facades). Now we sit in a society that is ready to approach the hurtful parts of life by being consciously fanciful and politically incorrect. Distorting the truth doesn’t make it any easier. Conscious uncoupling is a sham.
Isn’t dating suppose to be a way for us to test the efficacy of marriage? But if we are a break-up culture, is the desired effect to separate or to sustain the marriage? And we are a break up culture. A culture that wants more, faster and easier. What it took for our grandparents and parents to sustain a marriage, we are just not interested in putting in that kind of effort. A recent article in Shape magazine discussed that treating your relationship like your job could have positive effects on the happiness and teamwork in your relationship. The article simply suggests that if we put in as much effort for our relationships as we do in our jobs, we would be in a better position with a better attitude. I mean when was the last time you neglected your job or just walked in late? You make an attentive effort to be on time, to dress accordingly, to follow the employee handbook. Maybe you can establish a relationship handbook and overcome the complacency and inflexibility you seem to have in regards to your relationship. Sorry Gwen, but remarking on your divorce as conscious uncoupling is bullshit. Talk is cheap. Cheesy wording is even cheaper.
One day at the gym I overheard a man and woman chatting with one another. The woman was talking about her upcoming celebration for 23 years of marriage and he was discussing that his 40 year marriage anniversary had just passed. I remain in awe about how these couples manage to give support and love throughout the years. I also can’t help but wonder how couples today will connect and survive in today’s technology driven society.
The digital age brought around a huge evolution for business and educational styles. Our daily lives have changed significantly due to search engines and social sites. But have our dating lives and our self-development increased at the same pace? Smart phones have become a great technological advance to cellphones. Have humans evolved in their dating styles or are we still T9 dating?
The release of smart phones and social dating sites has left us no more savvy consumers in the dating world than we are in the public arena. If you are hoping to get out of bad dating patterns, hiding online won’t help. Give a girl who dates jerks 5 guys and she is likely to pick the 1 jerk out of the bunch. Give her 100 guys and she is still likely to pick the jerk. The real question is if your mental aptitude for dating has enough ram to keep up with the current technology. Maybe it is time to upgrade ourselves before we go fishing, get on ok cupid, download the tinder app or pay for sites like match and e-harmony.
The first smart phone came out in 1993. In the last ten years smart phones are the new norm. But what has happen to our dating lives? What are the advances to our human development that are making dating better today then it was ten years ago? In a world where you have 1,009 Facebook friends and 876 Instagram followers, the only human evolution has happened to our egos. That doesn’t equate with making us more responsible dating partners. Bigger egos may make approaching another person easier as we become more aggressive, but it isn’t helping us develop compassion for being thoughtful in romantic relationships.
Society might be on the cusp of social explosion. I can not tell you how many photos I have seen where guys have their pants unbuttoned and I can almost see their junk. This isn’t what I signed on for. This type of dating has allowed the douches to get even douchier (as if it was possible). I find myself erasing more messages than actually connecting on a real human level. What is socially appropriate publically weeds out that kind of behavior and nonsense. But online, anything goes.
You are what you are online and offline. Whatever attitude, defenses, lifestyles, or energy that you have as a person, you will have on a computer. It is important to develop yourself with other people in mind. Sorry, Selfies, it’s not all about you.
When I travel, I usually have my head down working on something. Whether I am reading a book or working on a new paper, I consistently miss what is going on around me at airports, on trains or buses. It is assumed that I and most of you also miss a lot going on in other venues too. Don’t get me wrong, I love people watching, but over the course of the last several years I see the same thing, other people with their heads down too. We have all become so exceptionally busy with our phones and tablets. As I sit and write on my iPad, I’m a catalyst of the social ineptitude.
I look around the environment while waiting to board my plane. People, human beings, engaging in real conversations as strangers. Directly in front of me a young woman spoke to another woman about college. Behind them sat a gentleman with headphones draped around his informal dress of an old school MTV shirt, jeans and a dodgers hat; conversing with an older gentleman for some minutes. After the conversation ended I saw the younger man reach for something. Next to him sat his cell phone on a ledge. The ledge clung to furniture that looked like it came directly out of a Jetsons cartoon. I glanced up at the futuristic looking table, at the top a huge sign read: Charging Station. Then I began to think about all the possibilities for a sign like that. All the possibilities for human charging and not just electronic device charging. We have to be willing to give into the idea that ourselves, not just our devices need charging. We have to be conscious of the types of charging our bodies, souls and minds need.
The sign could hang above our beds, we recharge with rest there. It could be above the dinner table or in the kitchen; when we share in cooking and eating together we are recharging our souls. It could hang at the gym where we prepare our bodies for their full recharge and potential. However, we have to be visionaries like the phone charging station.
In order to prepare ourselves for “charging” we need to be conscious of noise. There is noise that goes on all around us. In communication noise is understood as anything that interferes with the communication between the speaker and the audience. Noise can be physical or psychological. In today’s American society phones have become not just physical noise but psychological noise. We have an unconscious instinction to have our devices on us, which leads to anxiety and all sorts of cognitive, emotional and intellectual noise. During the times of charging, the noise needs to stop. Electronics don’t have the kinds of needs that we do as humans, but it is important that we stop the noise around us when charging.
There is a lot of talk about mindfulness in psychology currently. This is a fancy way of saying “awareness in the moment.” However, can we actually achieve this state unless we gain some sort of social reboot? We are so untuned to our environments and connected to devises. We need to reboot. We need to engage socially so we slowly learn how to become independent from our devices.
But with all the physical noise going on around us and all the psychological noise in our head, how can we obtain such a state?
Then it happened. As I was writing this very article a woman around sixty years old knelt down near me. I was waiting for her to ask about my article so I could tell her about the fascinating ideas floating in my head. She knelt down to ask me how to post a photo from her phone onto Facebook. Strike 1.
Then a man in his late forties shot in between me and the woman as he anxiously and diligently spoke to the wire of his headphones to another human being on the other end. Strike 2.
I watched near me as two teenagers spoke to one another with no eye contact but instead utilized their phones while deciding what to snap chat. Strike 3.
This wasn’t just a generational reboot. It was a mass social reboot. If we don’t take care of our own human charging, we are going to crash. Mindfulness won’t be possible and social interaction will no longer be needed. We are creating noise because our minds lack real social connection. We have come to prefer fake over real, text over talk, internet connection over human closeness. It would be a challenge to actively participate in human charging. Its time for the social reboot.
“Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.”
Mohandas K. Gandhi
Gandhi was a wise man. This article will focus on the words portion of that quote. Using more hopeful language can help you become positive in many aspects of your life. The power of language and the thoughts behind them influence our feelings and actions. They are influenced through subconscious and conscious means. Understanding why is much less important to me than showing you how new words can change those feelings and actions.
What if I told you that eliminating negative feelings you have about yourself is as easy as changing the way you talk? Reorienting your language can help change your life. Think about the different Facebook status that you come across. Some of the negative status that you read over and over again are by the same people. Their cynical and negative nature comes across in most aspects of their lives. As you read this, you may even decide you are that person. There is no judgement here, but just take note that the people who try to be positive (not overly) and tempered have an overall better outlook on life, that stems from their words, into their thoughts, out in their actions, and across in their Facebook status. They might not be skinnier, smarter, or better. It may just be that the language they use creates groundwork for a more positive outcome; you have to be willing to change your words.
Enlist this new set of standards in your language:
1. Say Goodbye to Can’t, Don’t, and Never
2. Be cautious with Always and All (extreme words make us feel worse and defeated)
3. Use Self-Affirmations (I am good the way I am, I am happy to be me, I can be successful)
4. Eliminate self-judgement (don’t analyze yourself in the mirror)
5. Take non-judgmental stances (the more we critics others, the harder it is to have positive words)