We’ve all heard it: “If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always gotten.” Deciding to change your habits in favor of something that is beneficial-or at least less damaging-is about as easy as it gets. It’s actually changing that is tough.
You can read all the self-help books and magazines you want, but if you don’t act then all that reading didn’t matter.
You can make all the New Year’s resolutions and other self-promises you want, but if you don’t act then they were in vain.
You can set as many goals and targets as you can imagine, but if you don’t act then the thought was wasted.
The only way to change is to actually get out there, wherever your “there” is, and do it. Nike’s well known ad campaign from years ago was simple but on point: “Just Do It.” That’s a bit blunt. I prefer what Yoda told Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back: Do or do not. There is no try.” And if you need help to “do”, by all means ask for it. We are all in this together.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:25-27
I had a conversation a couple days ago with a good friend. The topic was worry. My friend was anxious about all the bad things happening in the world, all the way down to the neighborhood level. My response was to ask “What can you, personally, do about these things which worry you?” For the vast majority of them, the answer was “nothing”.
Based upon that, my advice was-and is-act upon those things for which you are able. Be concerned and act upon your concerns. Give where and what you are able, be it money, time, or a sympathetic ear. Let your elected officials know about issues which you feel need to be addressed. Take good care of yourself so that you can take care of the people you love if needed. Find a quite place and pray or meditate as you are inclined. And so forth. But whatever you do, don’t worry. Rather, channel that energy in a positive direction because worry will not add a single day to your life!
Something happened at my church this week that got me thinking about complexity and simplicity. We have a 14 year old audio-visual system, from back in the days when the church was big enough to have a praise band. These days, like many churches, not so much.
So, the sound mixing board is about 3 feet by 5 feet and has more buttons and knobs than I know what to do with. Seriously, there was no user manual when I took over a few years ago. The mixer connects to a cabinet full of rack mounted devices, most of which are terra incognita to me. Anyway, this past week the audio amplifiers croaked. A technician came in and replaced a few items and bypassed a couple others, and we should be able to get by for a while.
Here’s the thing: this church building was built in the 1800s and it was designed for the human voice. There were no amplifiers, no wireless microphones, and certainly no electronic speakers. In its simplicity, the sanctuary was designed to reflect and amplify the human voice without any assistance.
There is a lesson here about not being dependent upon complicated systems, which can apply to more than just a church A/V system that went on the fritz. So let me ask you: how can you apply this concept to your life?
I like listening to classical music when I’m driving or very early in the morning after my first workout. I find the lack of lyrics to process, or just useless chatter on talk radio, soothes my mind. So it was very discouraging to me when southern Maine’s only over-the-air, publicly held classical station with decent range abruptly ceased broadcasting earlier this week.
At home I can stream Maine Public Classical easily enough. But MPC’s nearest broadcasting location to me, both at work and at home, is just barely within broadcast range. I can’t get them in my office, and while I can get them in my truck the reception is poor and variable. I’m confident that sooner or later, another station will step up or MPC will increase their coverage. In the meantime, there isn’t much I can do about this change.
And there’s the rub. I’ve been impacted by a change over which I have no control. I frankly don’t like that. I like to be in control of as much of my life as possible. Some would say that such control is an illusion, and I can’t entirely disagree. Even so, I will continue to exercise control over my life to the greatest extent possible. Sometimes, it’s something innocuous like choosing to get up an hour earlier and exercising or choosing to read instead of watch TV. You know what? I’ll take those little victories and if necessary the illusion of control.
I advocate a simplified lifestyle. I try to declutter my environment at home and at work. I avoid complicating my life unnecessarily. I do my best to streamline as much of my daily life as possible. So it is with some amusement that I read in blogs and magazines about all the newest gadgets and gizmos.
I think automobiles may be the worst offenders in the “anti-simplification” arena. Let’s use my 2009 Ford Ranger as a basis of comparison. I had to search high and low to find such a simple truck. She has but two options: heavy duty suspension and a receiver hitch. With manual windows, manual seats, manual transmission, no cruise control, an AM/FM radio, no A/C, and rubber floor mats, she’s about as simple a vehicle as you can find today.
Conversely, most new vehicles have dashboards that would be at home on the Starship Enterprise (choose your favorite version). The complexity of these vehicles has led to inclusion of video display terminals to supplement a plethora of switches and buttons. In my view, that’s too tempting and distracting and way too complicated.
If I could figure out how to retrofit airbags to a pre-1973 VW Bug, like the ’67 I used to own, I’d give it serious consideration. It doesn’t get much simpler than those cars!