Brain Fun Featured Perspective Uncategorized

7 Reasons Your Year Was 10X Better Than You Thought

It’s Confession Time

Let me be up front; I didn’t reach my goals for this year. Yes, I had some big goals. Yes, I had some big setbacks that would make excellent excuses. But, here’s the thing: I don’t need excuses.

I have something better: perspective. And a little bit of science. 

Maybe you are like me and your year doesn’t look so good in retrospect. Maybe you have a friend like mine who, over the past year, started a second business, wrote a book and climbed Mt Everest with Facebook pictures to prove it.

Seriously! Kind of takes the shine off my third place bowling trophy.

I’m kidding. I didn’t even do that. My signal achievement of the year seems to be that I didn’t lose any more hair. Because I didn’t have any. Apparently, my sense of humor didn’t improve either. 

Before this devolves any further, let’s get to this list. Because, I obviously need it.

7 Reasons Your Year Was 10X Better Than You Thought:

1. Your brain is 10X more focused on the negative than the positive

Recent brain science suggests our mind is wired for survival. That means it is far more sensitive to negative things it perceives as dangerous. Ten times more sensitive!

Which is good. Safety first.

But when that negative searchlight gets turned back on ourselves then all perspective is lost. Around this time of year, your brain starts beating you up for things you imagined you might do. The positive wishful thinking you did last year gets converted into a weaponized list of extreme failures!

Not so good!

But, knowing this, you can refocus on the good bits. It might take a minute to adjust because your brain has been set to kill all year long. That means you’ve probably forgotten your good days. And the bad days probably weren’t so bad.

Negative phaser beam power – Off. Now that we can see the good stuff . . .

2. If you can read this, you made it!

Seriously, there were no guarantees. Science also reveals that people who think about the possibility of death are happier with life. Funny, huh?

Historically, most people are dead. You’re not. Congratulations! Which brings us to our next point.

3. It could have been worse

Don’t believe Facebook, even if my friend Mark the Mountain Man actually exists. Somebody had a worse year than you did. Maybe they were on Twitter. 

While you’re at it, don’t compare your life to TV. Or movies. Or video games. Or YouTube. Or pop stars. It’s all made up and the points don’t matter. Plus makeup, lighting, and editing.

They all really look like me. I tell myself.

It’s not about wishing something bad on someone else. You can’t actually do that. It’s about keeping perspective, being grateful for what you have and realizing that perfection isn’t possible. And understanding that . . .

4. Life is in the little things

These giant goals we set for ourselves obscure what life is really about. People won’t remember you for your awards. They will remember the things you said. The things you did. The loads you helped carry.

Life happens in the small moments. That’s the place to make life count. Don’t dismiss them as insignificant.

5. Your big dreams led to progress

Instead of focusing on the superhero goals you missed, think of the things you never would have accomplished without those crazy goals.

Attempting big goals forces you out of your comfort zone into the unknown. You created habits and discipline to deal with your fears. You were an explorer on a great adventure.

Striving for goals is better than reaching them.

6. You learned a lot

Okay, it was mostly from making embarrassing mistakes but still, lessons learned. In the coming year, you won’t make those same mistakes.

You’ll make different mistakes.

Again, with the humor. I’m trying, okay? One of these days I’ll make it to funny. Until then, here’s number . . .

7. There Was A Lot Of Love

Possibly more than your negative brain imagined. Spend some time counting up the people you love. And those who love you.

Whether you deserved it or not.

This is the big one for me. It matters so much more than goals and plans. Efficiency doesn’t come into play here, or talent, or intelligence. The people who love you aren’t keeping score. Love pretty much evens the playing field.

Maybe you helped someone in their moment of need. Maybe someone helped you. That happened a lot to me this year.

If you were loved this year then it was a good year. And you are blessed.

If you don’t feel loved, then take a good, deep breath. Contemplate the process that began 93,000,000 miles away as sunlight and ended in just the right amount of oxygen for you to take that breath.

Someone loved you.

I could preach a sermon here. Christmas songs still ring in our ears. Forgiveness covers resolutions, too. Hope inspires tomorrow.

May your coming year be spent in the peace that comes from God’s love, filled with His Spirit of unending life.

There you have it! 7 reasons your year was 10X better than it appears in the rearview mirror. But the first reason added 10X to the other 6, so we can’t stop there . . .

# 8 – A Bonus! This means the year ahead will be 10X better than you imagine it can be.

So, stop beating yourself up about what you didn’t do and what you have to do. Celebrate a year of life! Dedicate yourself to making the most of the coming one. Then you have a shot at actually having a . . . 

Happy New Year!

P.S. – Feel free to share your major accomplishments, goals, lessons or year-end reflections below. If we have done anything helpful in your life this year, we would cherish the encouragement if you’d like to share. Blessings!

Brain Fun Featured Humor Perspective Uncategorized

Planning My Week: Why Are You Laughing?

Making Plans

Man plans and God laughs. ~ Yiddish proverb.

Whenever people find out you’re planning something this proverb comes out. The joke implies that planning isn’t worth the time it takes, that you will fail, that you can’t be serious. But this is not the last word on planning. How about:

“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

I can’t plan what happens to me but I can remind myself of my goals. And I can plan how I will respond. I can also practice my values. I can stretch to be my highest and best self. And I can adjust my plans – in case of dragons.

Resilient Planning

In fact, given the nature of life, resilient, gritty, hard-headed, determined plans are the only ones that stick. Because I’m not going to get it all right the first time. Or the second. Or . . . .

How about this from the guy who planned D-Day:

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Big Plans

Also, if I’m going to take the time and effort to resiliently plan, they may as well be plans worth having, right? That means big, aspiring, even poetic plans should be the rule. They need to get you going.

Unless you are silly enough to post your plans on the internet, no one is going to know. So, go big!

“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”
Warren Buffett

With this in mind, here goes my plan for this week. (Stop snickering)

The Plan

Today I will concentrate on what I can do, instead of what others did. I will focus on the world I can touch rather than things beyond my reach about which I can only complain.

I will speak truth rather than criticize liars. I will love rather than accuse others of hate. I will lift rather than opine. I will lead rather than point. I will not stand by.

I will take courage by placing my fears in God’s hands. I will fear not living more than dying. I will not carry the fears of others but will make the courageous my companions.

I will ignore the counsel of my own doubts which have not prevented failure but have stopped all attempts at success. Fear of failure is my enemy. Failure is my friend for it teaches the lessons that I need to better try again.

I will not read the news; I will be my own news and live my own life. No one can do it for me.

I will vigorously implement the plan I have rather than chase (a) perfect plan tomorrow. (<<See) No man’s plan survives the day intact. We learn as we go or we don’t learn at all.

The little I can do is not enough, but it is not nothing. I will give all today and hope for tomorrow.



“If you don’t know where you are going,
you’ll end up someplace else.”
Yogi Berra

Adventure Blog Brain Fun Change Courage Featured Recovery Success

The Mysterious Case Of The Thanksgiving Brain

Thanksgiving always raises the hair on the back of my neck.

Not because I will have to deal with family or a belt that’s too tight or the horrors of Black Friday – a man’s worst nightmare – but because Thanksgiving opened the darkest, most terrifying chapter of my life.

Now, it invariably takes me back to the last few moments of calm that I would feel for years. There was only a hint of what was to come, the briefest icy prick walking down my spine. I was clueless of impending doom, safe in the certainty that I was appropriately grateful for my life.

Hmm . . . uh, Thanksgiving?

So, what does my family’s harrowing trip through multiple cancers have to do with Thanksgiving? It has to do with how our brains work. It has to do with the reason for the original Thanksgiving.

My wife’s brain tumor, her loss of the ability to communicate beyond monosyllables and her recovery initiated my unwanted education into how brains work. Slowly this turned to a lifelong fascination.

I learned that our brain is always overloaded with too much input: the feel of our toes in our shoes, the hum of the air conditioner, the terrain beneath our feet. Our brains are constantly looking to sort out essential information from a constant stream of irrelevant data.

Floor, floor, floor . . .

If something doesn’t move or change or threaten our lives, if a thing stays put and leaves us alone, then the brain makes a note and moves on to more important things.

This saves us from constantly having to waste brainpower to recall things like the floor. It’s just there. Floor, floor, floor. We don’t have to constantly remember it. Floor, floor floor. That would be a waste of time. Floor, floor, floor.

Our brain looks for dangerous things that threaten to end us – tiger, lion, mother-in-law – or annoying things to avoid – traffic, taxes, Lady Gaga – or essential things we need to survive – food, shelter, the NFL.

The Efficient, Ungrateful Brain

This means a normal, healthy brain ignores the good things we have. The things we possess are cataloged and tucked away, our freed-up brain now ready for further action.

That’s why when you finally get that precious thing you always wanted, suddenly it doesn’t seem so shiny and bright anymore.

Our brains don’t mean to be ungrateful. They’re just trying to keep us alive and moving forward. Which is good, right?

Enter The Thanksgiving Brain

But there are times when we are suddenly, powerfully aware of the blessings we have, like when someone gets cancer, or a near-hit accident, or a child is born.

Or say when you’ve just crossed a vast ocean in a leaky wooden boat only to nearly starve while losing many of your best friends like the Pilgrims did.

Don’t Know What You’ve Got ‘Til . . .

This is why we don’t miss some things until we don’t have them. We recently moved and had to, like the Pilgrims, survive some harrowing times – without a washer and dryer and breakfast without the toaster, which remained stubbornly hidden in a mountain of boxes.

I knew I would miss the mountains, the river, the deep-cut, boulder strewn canyons when we moved. But I had no idea that we would miss our veterinarian so much. It seems that Riverview Animal Hospital in Chattanooga is very nearly the perfect vet and all others we’ve found are sadly lacking by comparison.

(No advertising dollars involved)

We’re Alive!

That’s why the Pilgrims had their epiphany. They understood how close they had come to not surviving. They saw clearly how much of life they had taken for granted.

They had all taken daring risks for their beliefs. They had all been courageous. Some had not made it.

It just seemed downright hard-hearted to enjoy a beautiful life without remembering those that helped them get there, without remembering that they were living the answer to their prayers.

They needed some time to give respectful acknowledgement of their blessings and publicly remember those that had not been as fortunate.

We’ve GOT To Remember This!

They thought of Thanksgiving. And it was a great idea! It spread throughout the colonies to become embedded as a national holiday.

They didn’t think of college bowl games but I’m sure they would have approved.

As we all participate in this celebration of the blessings we have,
as we rest our restless, efficient brains and consider what we’ve accomplished,
as we eat too much and watch parades,
as we bow our heads and thank God for the very air we breathe,
may we also thank the Pilgrims,
promise we will stretch this moment,
and keep our Thanksgiving Brains for the entire year.

Photo Credit: kristin_a (Meringue Bake Shop) via Compfight cc

Blog Brain Fun Featured Science Spiritual Stories

How I Know God Exists – Blue Tennis Shoe

Shot To The Heart

Four days before Christmas, on December 21, 1944, in an Army hospital unit at Camp Barkeley outside of Abilene Texas, a ridiculous scene played out. A ward boy, a lowly private, suggested the nutty idea that his superior officer, a medical doctor, should inject a dose of adrenaline directly into the heart of a dead man.

Private George G. Ritchie had died from double lobar pneumonia, drowned by his own bodily fluids in an era before antibiotics. He had been discovered without a pulse more than ten minutes before. There was no known medical value in giving a man who couldn’t breathe a few more heartbeats, but for some reason, possibly just to shut up his passionate ward boy, the doctor wasted the unprecedented shot to the heart.

A Wild Tale

Private Ritchie, no relation, became one of the first documented cases of resuscitation from clinical death. Slowly his heart restarted and began to find a rhythm. Then respiration returned. Consciousness took three days. It was two weeks before he could get out of bed and walk.

He awoke with a crazy story to tell, a disjointed tale of traveling across the country and meeting Jesus. While they were pleased and shocked at his recovery, his story was universally dismissed. The ward boy and M.D. that had given him the adrenaline shot were transferred elsewhere by the time he could walk. There was a war on and more important things to do than listen to a private’s wild tales.

It was discouraging. Besides sharing it with a few family members, Ritchie kept the story to himself.

Red-roofed Diner

Ten months later, on a cross-country car trip from Virginia back to Camp Barkeley with some other soldiers, George was surprised again. As they were about to cross the mile-wide Mississippi River at Vicksburg, Mississippi, he saw a familiar street in a place he’d never been before in his life.

During the time he was clinically dead, Ritchie had desperately tried to get to medical school in Virginia and found himself flying over the countryside at a fantastic speed. Along the way he realized he had no idea how to get there and stopped, after midnight, at an all-night café by an extremely broad river to ask directions.

The man he asked, entering a white diner with a red roof and a Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer sign propped in the right hand window, didn’t hear him. When George tried to tap the man on the shoulder his hand went right through him. Trying to figure this out, George stood out in front for a long time by a telephone pole with a guy wire. At one point he leaned back and passed right through the wire.

It Gets Real

Now, ten months later, in a place he’d never been, George was staring at the same red-roofed diner with a neon sign, now off, the same Pabst sign in the window, the same telephone pole and guy wire next to the same massive river. The soldiers with him asked what was wrong. Overwhelmed, he had no words to explain it.

He just brushed off their concerns and kept it all to himself until years later, after he became a medical doctor and later a board certified psychiatrist. After decades of reflection to try and make sense of the experience, author Elizabeth Sherrill finally George G. Ritchie, M.D. to write the book Return From Tomorrow, published in 1978. It has never been out of print since. Here’s the Kindle version.

It remains one of the earliest credible accounts of life beyond death by a medical professional. It is unique in that Dr. Ritchie later visited sites that he travelled to while medically dead. He also claims to have visited the future and seen things that didn’t happen until years later in real life.

Enter The CCU

As fascinating as the story is, however, none of the details were verifiable by outside witnesses. But that would soon change.

On May 20, 1962, Dr. Hugh Day opened the first coronary care unit was at Bethany Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas. Dr. Day combined two new developments, closed chest cardiac compression and the external monitor/defibrillator into a treatment plan for cardiac arrest and invented the Crash Cart. He also invented the term Code Blue and Coronary Care Unit or CCU.

Soon it was a common occurrence for people to be resuscitated from clinical death. It was not long after that that the stories began to circulate of long tunnels ending in brilliant lights. They were, as a rule, ignored. They were considered hallucinations of a toxic brain in the process of dying. People were simply out of their heads.

The Blue Tennis Shoe

In Harborview Hospital in Seattle, Washington, critical care social worker Kimberly Clark was making her rounds when a migrant worker named Maria begged her for a favor. Maria had suffered a severe heart attack while visiting friends. While the doctors were working on her, Maria claimed to have floated to the ceiling and watched the procedure. Then she found herself floating outside the hospital when she noticed something unusual.

On a third story ledge outside a window, Maria had seen a single tennis shoe which she described in great detail, how the laces were tucked under the heel, how the toe was worn and the color – blue. Maria begged Clark to go and search for it to see if her experience had been real. Clark followed her directions and found a single blue tennis shoe in the exact place and condition described. The details could not be seen from inside the window and would have required a perspective of someone three stories up directly outside the building.

 Externally Verifiable Evidence

While this story is one of the more famous accounts, it is far from the only account. Over time such stories began to provoke more questions and a lot more research.

The implications seem to challenge the very basis of science and a few brave scientists took up the challenge.

To be continued . . .


Photo Credit: The World According To Marty via Compfight cc

Adventure Blog Brain Fun Change Creativity Featured

Dream Week!

 Everything worthwhile is done against the odds.

There are few things as powerful as a dream. The idea of what can be is so magnetic, so intriguing, so motivating that it acts like an inner compass guiding you to unknown lands.

Ephemeral as a sail, when it’s hoisted in your imagination it creates a more solid, viewable, virtual world that you can explore. It’s a place you can taste and smell. You can feel the power of the wind in the taut ropes transferring power to the mast and pulling the hull through the breaking waves.

It’s a way to visit the future before you get there, a sort of time machine, a way to get the lay of this future land that you have set sail towards.

It allows you to toy with ideas. You can experiment and turn the future over in your mind, to look at it from all angles. You can try to find the downsides and problems you will face. You can stop on a dime, change things, discard ideas, add ideas and experiment some more. You can do all of this without cost or momentum. There are no constrictions or limitations but time and imagination.

You can put a dream down and do something else without fear that it will dissolve or be forgotten. It’s too powerful to leave for long. It will call to you. It will insist on some attention.

When you come back to it things are still as solid and vivid as if it were a real place, because in your mind it is real.

The power of a dream is that you don’t have to know how to get there before you start the journey. Man dreamed of flight long before the Wright brothers made it possible. But the destination is so intriguing that you have to find a way or make a way.

It’s like a travel brochure to an exotic island. You’ve never been there but you can see it in your mind’s eye. You can imagine swinging in a hammock with warm tropical breezes and a cold glass in your hand. You can smell the coconut oil and hear steel drums playing in the distance.

That’s what makes dreams important. They are the future in the present. They are time machines. They are the virtual laboratories of your real life.

Welcome to Dream Week! This should be fun.



Photo Credit: paul bica via Compfight cc

Blog Brain Fun Encouragement Exercise Featured Nature Never Give Up Pets Prayer Service

Re-minding Myself – The Case of the Brain Zombies

On rainy days when I wake up tired, lacking sleep that teased me all night but flew away like small birds at the slightest noise, on such days when I’m achy and sand-eyed and need more than an alarm for motivation, on mornings when responsibilities awake before I do and wait, looming impatiently by my bedside ready to climb on my back as soon as I’m upright, on such days my mind works in reverse.

Backing Up

Rather than tempt me with pleasant carrot-like visions of the pleasant day to come or prod me with the stick of responsibility to those I love, instead my mind collects reasons to burrow back under the covers and builds a case for postponing what will no doubt be a terrible day full of awful things. Using the fresh-picked worries of my restless night and exhuming the worst moments of my worst days and exploring my body for every minor ache and un-stretched muscle, my creative mind builds a convincing argument for the sleep it denied me all the long night.

It’s Fiction.

No such day is coming. Thankfully, actual doom and gloom is far more rare than visions and predictions of doom and gloom.

What will happen is that my puppy will shuffle restlessly, waiting to be taken out for her morning walk. I will stretch the kinks out and find the rain cold but tolerable, possibly even invigorating. A friendly neighbor will wave a greeting.

Coffee will be made and a cinnamon-dusted bagel toasted. There will be delicious smells. Caffeine will seep into cells one by one. Eyes will focus. Pains will slink away. My wife will love me in spite of myself. My dog will curl up at our feet. In fact, that’s exactly what happened.

What’s the deal, brain?

So, my brain was lying to me, or at least painting a gloomy picture, or at the very least being creatively lazy. Why?

It could be any number of smaller things: late night nachos, afternoon nap, looming deadlines, not enough exercise due to the rain, the book I read before bed. Things happen beyond our control. The important thing is to not beat myself up and take back control.

The File of Forgetfulness

The brain never forgets. Everything of any significance that I experience is stored there. At night my brain takes all of the things that happened to me that day and tries to sort them out, to file them away in the subconscious so I can get on with a new brain full of thoughts tomorrow. It’s a real neat-nik.

Things that interrupt my sleep, disturbing thoughts, stress and too many nachos all cause trouble in my head. Brain files don’t get put away because I’m not done with them. Thoughts pile up on my mental desk like they do on my real one and I have one cranky, frustrated, neat-nik brain.

Reign of the Un-done!

This collection of unfinished thoughts turn into Brain Zombies, wandering through my head, clogging the works and eating brain resources. Since a brain can only consciously think of one thing at a time, I get stuck in Zombie mode. The night of the living dead thoughts!

Thank goodness there’s a solution.

Re-Minding Myself

I have one secret superpower over brain zombies. I get to choose my thoughts. It takes a little effort but when I change my thoughts, brain zombies die.

All I have to do is focus my one-track mind on good things of my choosing. Then keep my focus. This is, by the way, much easier during the day.

Counting Blessings?

This is more than counting your blessings. For me, counting blessings brings out a mental spreadsheet with positive and negative columns. If I have more blessings than problems then I’m okay. If not, too few blessings or no new blessings can get depressing.

This is not a math equation or account to balance. I can actually eliminate the brain zombies and wipe them from my mind while I get some good things done.

How’s it work?

I remind myself who I am and why I’m here. I remind myself God created me and loves me. I ask for forgiveness and install some new and trustworthy thoughts to replace the old ones, usually by reading my Bible.

I remind myself that I have a purpose, a reason for being here and work to do.

I remind myself that I am loved by my family and friends. I recall that I’ve always, always been loved and that many others don’t have that support. I recall that I can help love some of these people.

I get myself out of bed and into nature. I exercise and lay off the late-night nachos. I remind myself that this physical action rewires my brain and changes my brain chemistry, lowering stress hormones and creating more peace.

I take my dog on walks, hug her and play with her. I call a friend to hear about someone else’s life for a change. Getting myself out of my own brain and focusing on others is a great brain zombie killer.

I actively think the one thought that my brain can think at a time. I work hard to change the channel on circular doom-and-gloom thinking that freezes me in place.  I read thoughts of encouraging, positive people and make them my own.

Do it again!

I make a habit out of doing this because late nights and nachos will happen again. Bad news and bad habits will show back up. Rather than beat myself up and feed the zombies, I repeat the process of climbing back to higher ground.

Winston Churchill famously said,”If you’re going through hell, keep going.” There’s no point in picking out a camping site.

With God, with family, with friends, with discipline, I am stronger than the thoughts that want to imprison me where I don’t want to be.

Keep going. Never give up. Re-mind your mind.

Die brain zombies, die!


Photo Credit: Mr. Kevin Thai via Compfight cc

Adventure Blog Brain Fun Change Featured Recovery

Choosing You

This morning I had music in my head. It happens a lot but this morning it was insistent. I had to choose what to write and music won.

Sometimes you have to choose the less travelled path. It’s good for you. It restores your soul.

It reminds you that you have a choice.

We are creatures of habit. Recent studies estimate as much as forty percent of our day is decided unconsciously by our habits.

That’s not really bad. It saves brainpower and time. We don’t have to rethink the world every day.

As long as we understand this and choose our habits carefully then it’s like having part of your life automated.

But every so often we have to break our habits and take the wheel just to remind ourselves that we have control.

To make sure habits are not addictions.

To feel the tiller in our hand and choose a course against the wind. To point the bow to sea, leave land behind and hold our heading against a tossing wave.

To feel free.

We serve so many people and causes in a hectic day that we must remember that we are a cause too. We have a unique point of view. We are individuals unlike any other.

As much as we lose ourselves in others, we have a responsibility to be us because no one else can do it, or should try.

So, today I wrote some music.

What will you uniquely do?


Photo: Sailing by Jklinger via Flickr
Blog Brain Fun Dogs Featured Health Mental Nature Pets Physical Play Recovery Stress Video

Rewire Your Brain With Your Feet

Here’s a list of things you can do to improve your mood and rewire your brain:

Look at nature

Studies show having a view of even one tree improves your health. Imagine the benefits of getting out in the middle of a beautiful place.


The benefits are well-known and documented. Celebrated psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen recommends walking like you’re in a hurry and running four times for one minute each time.

Spend time with your pet

Again, the studies are countless that show spending time with your pet has many health and mental benefits. The explosive expansion of service and companion dogs in hospitals is quick evidence. It must work or hospitals would never allow it.

Combine Them

So today I went for a walk/run with Nessie in Renaissance Park, a dog friendly park on the North shore of the Tennessee River at Chattanooga.

Rather than take medicine or go to therapy, I used my feet to force my brain to change. Rather than my brain running my body, I moved my body in such a way that my brain had to get healthier and happier. It had no choice.

And it was fun!

Here’s a short video:

Here’s a random list of  benefits:

  • Strengthen your immune system
  • Relieve stress and burn off excess adrenaline
  • Increase blood flow to your brain
  • Increase the size of your brain
  • Improve the blood chemistry of your brain
  • Lose weight
  • Increase strength
  • Look better
  • Feel better
  • Improve your sex life
  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Lower your glucose levels and fight diabetes
  • Fight Alzheimer’s disease
  • Make more money
  • Lessen your chance of a heart attack
  • Improve your outlook on life
  • Improve your spiritual life
  • Grow the self-discipline part of your brain

Need more? Nessie was a much better behaved puppy . . . Stay Nessie, Stay!!!

Blog Brain Fun Change Featured Mental

Charles Dugigg on The Power of Habit


Photo by Яick Harris via Flickr