Meet my new friends Alexis and TJ. I have been fortunate to stay with Alexis and her husband, Phil (the president of Northampton's Rotary club), during my stay in MA for the week. TJ is Alexis' mom who lives with them because she's 93 and has Alzheimers. I overheard TJ talking to her younger daughter on the phone last night and she said something really wonderful. "You know, I thought when I would be old, I'd just be really bored. But God has been good to me. He's given me a mind where I spend most of my days thinking about when you and your siblings were kids and when my parents and grandparents were still alive, so I spend a lot of time thinking back on fond memories." What a beautiful way to view her Alzheimers.
I have been at Smith College's Alumnae conference, "Redefining Success" and TJ's comment resonated with something that successful people do. According to Susan Ford Collins who has been studying Highly Successful People for at least twenty years, all of the people she has observed take time to acknowledge themselves. At the end of the day, they either take quiet time or time to write (or even speak aloud as TJ did) to recount what they have done that day. I think that this isn't only about what each of us has produced or completed, but also just what we feel grateful for and what we feel we've done well.
I taught a workshop during the conference called "End on a High Note." It's a lesson I learned from my mother that I write about in my book. My mom has been teaching dance for thirty years and at the end of her dance class, you'd think she's be counting down the minutes until she could dismiss her students. But instead, she sometimes goes overtime! When I asked her about it, she said, "I don't want to end just because the time is out, we end when the energy of the class is at its highest point. People remember the energy they left with and when we end with everyone excited, then they want to come back." This theory is working pretty well because she hasn't advertised her class for at least twenty years now.
Where does this come into play for the rest of us? When I'm finishing up my day, sometimes I find myself reflecting on what I didn't get done or what I regret having said. But if instead I think back on the things that I did well or things I felt good about, it's much easier for me to start tomorrow where I left off today and be excited about it. It's all about perspective. The regrets and self-berating attitude of "not good enough" are a half-empty kind of world outlook, where as a shift to the positives in life is a half-full kind of outlook. TJ could very easily complain about her Alzheimers, but instead she's found a silver-lining that I had never heard from someone in her position before. I watched her conclude her call with her daughter and smiled, hoping that I can be so positive in my old age.