Is Technology Really Making Life Go By Faster?

“For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.” Lily Tomlin

Last week I was chatting with my youngest daughter Lia. We were talking about life and how often people and friendships change. I brought up a friend of mine whom I haven’t heard from in a while despite my efforts to stay in touch.

She looked over at me with her young, 15-years of wisdom, “Mom, people sometimes get so caught up in life that they forget what’s really important. They need to slow down and live in the moment. Life goes by too fast.”   I smiled at her both surprised and somewhat saddened.

Things were so different when I was a kid. For one, things were so much slower—at least

liame

Me and my beautiful daughter Lia.

they appeared to be. I don’t think I ever thought about the importance of living in the moment when I was Lia’s age. I mean aren’t kids supposed to do just that . . . enjoy the moment, lay back and be carefree?

 

Part of the reason things are so different today is technology. Of course, the technological advancements have improved our way of life in many ways. Admittedly, I feel lost these days when I’m without my cell phone. But that’s not always a good thing.

Research has shown that technology is distorting our perception of time. While all the technological advancements of recent years have helped our brains process information faster than ever before, they have also deceived us into thinking that time passes much faster than it actually does.

James Cook University professor Aoife McLoughlin studied the effects of technology on our perception of time. “It’s almost as though we’re trying to emulate the technology and be speedier and more efficient, she said in an interview with ScienceAlert. It seems like there’s something about technology itself that primes us to increase that pacemaker inside of us that measures the passing of time.” (https://www.sciencealert.com/research-suggests-that-technology-is-speeding-up-our-perception-of-time)

McLoughlin found that technology is improving the brain’s ability to process information. But while we can process information faster, we also incorrectly perceive time as moving quicker than it actually is. And because we are more connected via social media, there is an added amount of stress.

With this increased sense of time comes a false sense of urgency and with that comes stress and the constant pressure to keep up and do more. Our extreme dependence on technology has literally taken us out of the present moment in many ways because we are constantly thinking of our next move. We are constantly distracted by the latest social media post or the latest text on our mobile device. We are so connected all the time that we have no time to just disconnect.

Dr. Philip Zimbardo, the author of The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life, explains it well, “We’re simply being in that moment to take the next action,” says Zimbardo. “It’s really minimizing the quality of life. It’s minimizing the joy that we ought to be getting from everyday life.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/06/technology-time-perception_n_4378010.html).

One of my pet peeves, for example, is the use of cell phones at the dinner table. If my daughters are not checking their phones in plain view, they are hiding them under the table. This constant need for information and instant gratification has changed everything about life—including family dynamics.

The world is moving at such a swift pace these days that we feel busier than ever before. We speed through dinner so we can get to the next task. In a sense technology is a double-edged sword. In some ways it has improved our quality of life but in other ways it has hindered it.

As a writer, the internet has certainly made my life a lot easier. Gone are the days of going to the library to search for the latest information. Nowadays everything is easily accessible online. Constantly being connected, however, has in many ways blurred the boundaries between work and non-work.

Since we constantly feel the need to stay on top of things we rarely take the time to disconnect. And, yet, this is exactly what we need to do from time to time. We’ve all become so crazed by all the big, amazing technology out there that we’ve forgotten about all those small things that used to amaze us.

Here are some simple tips:

  1. Take the Time to Detach: Whenever possible, leave your smartphone home. Take a break from Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  2. Focus on the Moment: How do we concentrate on the moment when we are constantly worrying about the next thing on the agenda? Practice mindfulness. Simply put, mindfulness means bringing your awareness to the present moment. That may sound easy but with all the distractions that we have going on today, it has actually become harder and harder. Take a deep breath and truly acknowledge your thoughts and feelings at that moment. It’s a great way to stay grounded and focused on the things that really matter without jumping ahead to all those things that don’t matter. For example, stop constantly checking your Facebook post to see what people are saying. Ethel Barrett, a writer and speaker, once said, “We would worry less about what others think of us if we realized how seldom they do.”
  3. Take Note of Your Priorities: We spend so much time jumping from one thing to the next that we forget, as my daughter Lia pointed out earlier, what’s really important. Stop. Take a moment to think about what you are doing and decide what is truly important to you. Then spend more time thinking about the things that matter and less time fretting over the things that don’t.
  4. Make Time for Friends and Family: As I sit here writing this blog, I can honestly think of several people that I regrettably lost touch with. Yes, as a mother, author and speaker, I am busy. But I don’t care how busy you are, you make time for the people you want to make time for.
  5. Be Spontaneous: Everyone has such jam-packed schedules these days that it has become increasingly difficult to just be spontaneous. Do something unplanned once in a while and just enjoy the moment.
  6. Don’t Lose Sight of YOU! I added this one last because if there is one tip that I would like you to take away from this blog, this would be it. We get so caught up in the everyday grind that we forget about the one person who matters most: YOU! Believe me when I tell you that I’ve been there and done that. I’ve often been so busy worrying about everybody else that I’ve forgotten to take care of me. Sound familiar? Don’t lose sight of you. Allow yourself that much needed time out and do something for YOU!

Actor Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (more commonly known by his stage name Moliere), once said, “The trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.” If you take the time to slow down if only a little, you’ll begin to notice beauty you’ve never seen before. Not that it wasn’t there before, you just never took the time to notice.

To Be, Or Not to Be There

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” Dr. Suess

“To be, or not to be: that is the question,” is undoubtedly one of the most famous lines of all Shakespearean literature.  In Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet questions whether it is better to live or die.  He compares the pain and struggles of life with the uncertainties and fears of death.  Which is better, he ponders?

There are many couples out there staying together for the benefit of the children.  A recent study, however, showed that 82% of young people aged 14 to 22 who have gone through family divorce and breakups prefer their parents’ divorce than stay unhappy.  (https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/nov/22/children-divorce-resolution-survey-rather-parents-separate)

pairMany couples are there but not really there.  For example, they are in the same room together but not paying any attention to each other.  One may be watching television while the other is reading or at the computer.  This is, of course, OK sometimes but it’s not OK when it’s the norm.

As I get older, I am both surprised and not surprised by how often I have heard this.  Just recently I ran into an old friend who told me that though she remains married, she and her husband actually live separate lives.

We had a lengthy chat about it and her feeling was that far too often one partner changes and the other doesn’t.  Eventually one or both partners realizes that they are no longer compatible and one even begins to lose respect for the other.

Why do so many people stay together?  The main reason is fear.  Fear of being alone and not being able to make it on our own.  Or maybe you’re afraid there is nothing better out there.  As my mother always says, “The grass is not always greener on the other side.”  That may be true but it doesn’t mean we have to stay in a muddy relationship in the meantime.  But this is not limited to romantic relationships.  This also includes our relationships with other family members and friends.

We may put up with abuse from a family member because they are family.  Or we may put up with an arrogant friend because we ironically don’t “want to hurt their feelings.”

How many times have you stayed in a friendship because of “the history” you both have together?  Maybe you put up with abuse because you don’t want to lose your mutual circle of friends. Or maybe you are afraid of making the wrong decision.  Some people reason it’s better to stay in a bad relationship than no relationship at all.

I get it.  I’m not going to pretend that I haven’t stayed in a bad relationship or two.  Change is not easy.  Sometimes it’s easier to stay within our comfort zone.

But rather than just maintaining the status quo, here are a few things to consider:

  1. Be honest with yourself.  If you’ve tried everything to improve a relationship and it isn’t working, then you have a decision to make.  Do you love your partner or friend enough to stay in the relationship as is?  Or do you love yourself enough to move on?
  2. Acknowledge your feelings. You can’t be honest with yourself if you don’t first recognize how you feel and why you feel the way that you do.  If your partner is refusing to see a therapist, go yourself.
  3. Welcome change. You can’t improve what you don’t change.  Without change, there are no opportunities and no areas for personal growth. You’ll never know what you are missing.

Far too often, we stay in a relationship hoping to change our partner.  Truthfully, the only person you can change is you.  You have no control over the other person.  But you certainly have control over your thoughts and actions.  You certainly have control over how you respond to any given situation.

Being in a relationship whether it is platonic or romantic does not make you happy.  You make yourself happy.  No one else has control over your emotional state at the moment.  So don’t give up control.

Think of it this way.  Relationships can be wonderful and they certainly add to our lives but they don’t complete them.  The people in our lives don’t make us whole.  We are the only ones who can make ourselves and our lives complete.

As Hamlet says, “To be, or not to be: that is the question.”  One that only you can answer.

Is There Such Thing as Luck?

When it comes to luck, you make your own.”

Bruce Springsteen
 

When I was little, I remember spending hours combing the grass for a four leaf clover. According to tradition, the four leaf clover is said to bring good luck. And who can’t use a little bit of luck, right?fourleafclover

Luck of the Irish is a phrase which is generally thought to mean “extreme good fortune.” But as noted on mentalfloss.com, the term is not of an Irish origin but American according to Edward T. O’Donnell, an Associate Professor of History at Holy Cross College and author of 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About Irish American History.

“During the gold and silver rush years in the second half of the 19th century, a number of the most famous and successful miners were of Irish and Irish American birth. . . .Over time this association of the Irish with mining fortunes led to the expression ‘luck of the Irish.’ Of course, it carried with it a certain tone of derision, as if to say, only by sheer luck, as opposed to brains, could these fools succeed.”

As St. Patrick’s Day approaches us, many wonder if there is actually such thing as luck. Some say there is no such thing as luck and everything can be chalked up to taking chances in life. Still others say some people are just lucky. Let me give you some examples.

When I was working on my book, Visits from Heaven, I happened to contact ARE Press in Virginia Beach, VA, for reprint permission. When I did, they expressed interest in the book and asked me to submit a book proposal. They liked my book proposal and the rest is history. When some people heard this, they said I got lucky. But did I?

It was my book proposal that sold my book. I spent a long time researching evidential afterlife communication and interviewed some of the top experts in the field. So I don’t think it was luck in this case. I worked hard and it was noticed.

However, what you don’t see are the many rejection letters that I received on the way to final acceptance. One of my favorite quotes by Author Brian Tracy is “I’ve found that luck is quite predictable. If you want more luck, take more chances. Be more active.  Show up more often.”  So I kept pushing and showing up.  I believed in my book and wouldn’t quit.

It had more to do with my determination than luck. That doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in luck.  On the night that I met my husband John, it was freezing and icy outside.  My friend Sara showed up at my apartment wanting me to go out.  I did not want to go out.  I was comfy in my sweatpants and had no interest in braving the icy roads.

She persisted, however, and I ended up relenting. That night, I met my wonderful husband John.  So if you ask me, that night was due to a bit of luck.  But had I not decided to go out, I obviously would not have met John.

The point I’m making here is actions determine outcomes. If you want something, you have to make it happen.

What about the neighbor who won the lottery twice? You might say what a lucky guy he is! I mean who wins twice? The person who keeps taking chances and playing the lottery.  If you play, there’s always a chance you’ll win.  Although the probability of success may be miniscule, it’s still greater than zero.  The odds will always be greater when you at least try.

WHAT GOES AROUND, COMES AROUND

“Loving people live in a loving world. Hostile people live in a hostile world. Same world.”
Wayne Dyer

We’ve all heard the popular wise sayings, you reap what you sow and what goes around, comes around. Growing up my mother was a bit more frank with me. She’d say things like, “You better be careful what you say and do because it might come back to bite you in the ass.” This was just her way of saying you get back whatever you put out thands-1150073__340here in the universe.

But how true is this? Today, I went to my local Shoprite to do my weekly food shopping.  Rain fell in the damp air outside as I shopped.  As many of you know, I had surgery on my right Achilles tendon in April 2016.  I’m still recovering and the pain seems to worsen whenever the weather is rainy.  Today was no different and, honestly, I could not wait to go home, take some Advil, and put my feet up.

As I was in the checkout line, the cashier was chatting with the boy who was bagging my groceries. She explained that after 13 years of marriage she was getting divorced.  I could clearly see how upset she was but didn’t say anything at first.  But then she went on to say that she had been both verbally and physically abused by her husband.  “Everyone told me I deserved better,” she said.  “My friends would tell me that I was a beautiful woman and shouldn’t take that from anyone.”

Sensing how upset she was, I couldn’t resist the urge to talk to her.   “Excuse me, I couldn’t help but overhear what you were just saying,” I said.  “Yes, you are a beautiful woman and, no, you don’t deserve that.  No one deserves to be abused.”

I’m sure the other customers who were waiting in line were not happy with me at this point but I continued. I told this woman about a friend of mine who was in an unhappy marriage for a long time.  I went on to repeat to her what I had also told my friend, “It’s not over until you say it’s over.”

She nodded in agreement as a smile warmed her face. “You will find the happiness you so desperately want but you have to first let go of toxic relationships,” I added.  “When you let go of all the bad, you will make room for all the good.”

I’m proud of you, I told her. She looked at me seemingly stunned by my words and reached forward to take my hand.  “Thank you,” she told me.  “I really needed to hear that.  People don’t usually listen to me like that.  Thank you so much.”

I said goodbye and made my way out of the store. When I reached my car, the rain continued to fall and so did the pain in my leg.  I’m guessing I was limping a little more than usual.  Suddenly, a woman came up behind me.

“Here,” she told me, “let me help you.” I looked at her a bit dazed as she helped me put the rest of my bags in my trunk.  Then she quickly took my cart and walked it over to the holding station for me. “Thank you,” I said.  “That was very nice of you.”

I got in my car thinking of the kindness this woman just showed me. It made my day a little brighter despite the dreary weather and ache in my leg.

The Law of Attraction is one of 12 Universal Laws. The law basically states that like attracts like.  Our thoughts, words and actions give off energy which, in turn, attracts like energy. So, in other words, you will harvest whatever you plant in this world. If you want good, you have to do good.

Today, I witnessed the truth of this law. I helped a stranger and, in turn, a stranger helped me.  I begin and end this blog with one of my favorite quotes by Wayne Dyer, “Loving people live in a loving world.  Hostile people live in a hostile world.  Same world.”

True, same world. One world. The choice is ours.  Why wouldn’t anyone choose love?

BE WHO YOU ARE

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something. Neil Gaiman

The Disney cable network decided to offer a free month of movies. Yesterday, my family and I opted to watch the Disney classic Aladdin.  In the 1992 film, a street urchin named Aladdin happens to meet a beautiful girl (Jasmine) who has run away from home.  The two become fast friends and fall in love.  But when Aladdin realizes that Jasmine is actually a princess in disguise he understands that he is not worthy of her.

3_wishes_by_kevomacWhen Aladdin later comes in contact with a magic lamp, he is told by a Genie that he has three wishes. Thinking it over, Aladdin’s first wish is to be made a prince so he can then marry Princess Jasmine. But in the end, Aladdin’s true identity is exposed.

The Genie then tells Aladdin that he has one final wish left and can be made a prince once again in order to marry the princess. But Aladdin decides to keep his promise and free the Genie with his third wish instead feeling that he cannot continue to pretend to be someone he’s not, not even for the love of his life.

This movie may be a Disney animated classic. But it’s not only legendary for the story.  More importantly, it’s legendary for its simple, yet timeless message.  Always be who you are. In the end, as in the movie, true love will prevail.

But if the message is simple why is it so hard for us to be true to ourselves? There are several reasons.  For starters, maybe you are in denial and really don’t know who you are and what you want. Maybe you are still trying to find yourself.

As in the case of Aladdin, most times we deny who we are in favor of acceptance. Think about it. How many times have you denied who you are, how many times have you buried your true feelings deep within in order to satisfy or please someone else?  How many times have you kept quiet for fear of being ridiculed?

Don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements, said it perfectly when he noted, “Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive—the risk to be alive and express what we really are.”

We all crave acceptance. We all want to fit in.  But we shouldn’t have to lose ourselves in order to get there.  In a society that is constantly trying to make us something we’re not, it has become increasingly difficult to be true to ourselves.  For many, it’s a constant struggle.

Being who we are means having the courage to turn a deaf ear to what others expect of us and tuning into what we expect of ourselves. It means reaching within and being totally honest with ourselves.  It means not only being aware of but also listening to our deepest desires and being true to our own personal values.

By the end of the movie, Aladdin’s three wishes are granted by the Genie. They are:

  1. Make me a prince.
  2. Save my life and
  3. I wish for your freedom.

Likewise, I wish for your freedom. The freedom to just be you.

The Good, The Bad, and The Compassionate

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – Dalai Lama

It’s a pretty scary world we live in these days.  This month alone we’ve seen attacks on police officers in the United States.  We’ve seen unspeakable acts of terror in Germany, France and Turkey.  This week a priest had his throat slit by terrorists at a church in France.  And the other day in Japan a man wielding a knife killed and injured several disabled individuals because he felt they were not fit to serve in society.

We live in a world with both bad and good.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Every sweet has its sour; every evil its good.”  But when we are overwhelmed with all the bad, it’s hard to see the good.  It’s hard but more necessary than ever before for all of us to remember that despite all the terror in this world, there will always be more good than evil.  Evil will never prevail because good will always be stronger.

I once read an interesting post which said evil and suffering is actually a necessary part of God’s design.  The writer’s point was if everything was perfect in this world, we would not learn the true meaning of such virtues as forgiveness, courage, kindness, justice, mercy, remorse, generosity and self-sacrifice.

True.  But I would add one other thing to the list and that is compassion.  I’ve read many differing definitions for compassion.  Some state that it literally means “to suffer together” while others claim it means the ability to understand the emotional state of another person and having sympathy for the misfortunes of others.  All are correct.  However, the most important part of compassion in my opinion is that it involves the willingness or desire to help others and alleviate their suffering in any way possible.

I was born with a disability known as cerebral palsy.  On April 12 of this year, I underwent surgery to my right foot and Achilles tendon area.  For several months, my leg had become increasingly spastic and painful.  I was told that my Achilles tendon had begun to fray pretty much like an old rope and I was also shown that I had a huge bone growth.

Removing the bone growth would require extensive surgery and a serious recovery so instead I found a doctor who is known for a procedure he pioneered known as SPML (Selective Percutaneous Myofascial Lengthening).  In addition to lengthening my tendon, several holes were drilled into my bone growth in order to increase blood flow to the area.

procarephotoTruthfully, I was not prepared for the extent of my recovery.  I am now suffering from nerve damage and cannot feel part of my foot and leg.  Hopefully, the feeling will come back sooner than later. I am currently going for physical therapy and have pretty much had to learn how to walk again.  According to my physical therapist, a wonderful-caring man named Dean, my muscles are not working properly so I have to pay attention to every step I take so that my brain makes the connection.  I can hear his voice now, “Heel, step, back…heel, step, back.”  Has it been tough?  Yes, absolutely.  But one of the things that has truly helped me through this ordeal is the compassion I’ve been shown not only by my family and friends but also by complete strangers.

Complete strangers have let me lean on them as I walked through parking lots to my car or have offered to put my bags in the car for me at the supermarket.  Friends have left food and goodies at my door anonymously and have sent flowers and cards to brighten my day.

There was one older woman that I remember most of all.  For some reason, walking on the hard floors at my local Shoprite would cause me a lot of pain and with that pain came more limping than usual.  On this particular day, I could barely make it out of the store.  I only had a handful of items to buy so I didn’t bother getting a shopping cart.  This was a mistake as I didn’t have anything to lean on.

As I made my way slowly out of the store, a woman came up to me and asked if I was OK.  “You look like you’re in pain,” she told me.  To this, I replied that I had recently had surgery on my leg and would be fine.

“Oh,” she replied, I can see the pain on your face.”  Then she reached forward and took the two bags from arms.  At first I tried to refuse her help but she was insistent.  So finally, I smiled gratefully and led this beautiful soul to my truck.

When we reached my vehicle, she put my two bags in the back and reached forward to give me a much-needed hug.  I was all teary-eyed as I thanked her for her kindness.  “God bless you,” she told me.  “We all have crosses to bear but everything will be alright.”

I stood there as she walked away shocked by her words and her compassion. As I got in the truck, the tears flowed.  Unbeknownst to her, I had been feeling so sorry for myself and her words and encouragement gave me a much-needed boost.

Looking back, I don’t know why I didn’t even ask for her name.  But what I do know is that her compassion will forever stay with me.  Her kindheartedness will forever remind me that despite the immoral things that may be happening in this world, the good will always outnumber the bad.  It is this good that we all need to focus on.  As the Bible states, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21 ESV)

Rediscover Your Self-Confidence

“Confidence doesn’t come out of nowhere. It’s a result of something… hours and days and weeks and years of constant work and dedication.”

Roger Staubach

Emily

Guest blogger, Emily Sorrentino

There is a bold and noticeable difference between the way someone with self-confidence strides into a room and the way someone with little confidence wanders into the same room. There is a difference in the way these two people talk and sit and smile. It’s apparent in the subtle way someone with confidence holds their head and chest. Their movements are sure and purposeful. They exude a physical sense of conviction. But this doesn’t mean that they are better than everyone else, and the physical aspect of their confidence does not imply that the trait is genetic or hereditary.

Throughout the years of my own struggle to find self-confidence, I’ve realized that confidence is a quality that can only develop if we personally will it to. In my previous blog post, I mentioned that there are many aspects of my life and personality that I love and that make me who I am. I can safely say that my confidence is at the top of that list. My confidence in both myself and my abilities makes everything else I do easier because I am not afraid to make mistakes or try new things. Does this mean I always succeed? Not by a long shot. But I also know that if I don’t succeed, that’s just fine.

So, if confidence isn’t hereditary and it isn’t something that we are born with, why does it seem to come naturally to some people and evade others? Truthfully, it doesn’t come naturally at all. Living a fearless, confident life only comes from attitude adjustment and personal esteem boosts.

People who suffer from low self-confidence don’t necessarily lack praise from others. They lack praise from themselves. The days I started to feel more confident were the days I started telling myself that what I do is great and what I’ve achieved is outstanding. Even when I didn’t believe it, I was assuring myself that I’d done a good job at something. Eventually, that self-assurance motivated me to work harder and improve. Over time, I found that I was actually doing something well because others would praise me, too. Though I didn’t need approval from others to feel good, it reinforced my sense of pride.

I can remember one specific instance where this was applicable in my life. I’ve been a black belt for over three years now. Since my promotion, I’ve grown as a student and a teacher of martial arts. However, I was not always so sure of my abilities. The day I was to be promoted to black belt, I was told that the entire dojo (school for training in martial arts or self-defense) would be participating at the tournament. We all had to perform a kata (an individual training routine for martial artists similar to a dance routine for dancers) and we would be judged and ranked within our group of ten. I was nervous, to say the least. I used to be simply terrified of doing anything in front of people. Just before my turn, I was shaking and I felt sick to my stomach. Everything felt blurry. Even as I performed for the judges, I felt empty and mindless. When I finished and received my scores, I could feel the heat rise in my cheeks. I numbly returned to my seat and finally breathed. However, as ranking was called out, it so happens that I was surprised to learn that I came in first place. I didn’t know how but I ran and received my medal.

When the day was over, I wondered how I could possibly be good at something when I was so scared to do it. I realized that our fear holds us back from discovering our true strengths. All that time, I could have held my head high and looked poised instead of mortified. In the competitions since then, I have taken first place not just because of my talent, but also because of my visible fearlessness and confidence.

This idea of fear holding us back is universal and so obvious in everyday life. We are shown, through social media and everyday interactions that people who put themselves “out there” too much are showy attention hogs. A girl who wears so much makeup and posts a selfie online is “asking for attention.” But what if she just likes the way she looks? What if she’s just a confident woman and wants to share it with her friends? We are taught to shame people who love themselves. This leads to less and less people showing off their confidence. If we stop worrying about and fearing what others may think of us, we can fully, and without hesitation, plunge into life with no apprehension. Don’t be afraid of yourself and what you can do.

As I said earlier, those who lack self-confidence and self-esteem don’t necessarily lack praise from others. They do, however, lack praise from themselves. Truthfully, self-confidence must always begin and end with you.   Because you are the only person who can ever really stand in the way of your success.