Thursday, November 20, 2014

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Challenge, Work, Reward III

The second part of the concept is work.

Work is in theory the easy part - after all, I should have already defined what the challenges are.  It is just a matter of doing, right?

Well sort of.  It is not just a matter of doing - it is a matter of doing the right things that lead to actual progress.

This is often a challenge for me.  I can spend a great deal of time doing - in fact, my days are almost completely filled with doing, yet most of this doing leads to nowhere.  Yes, part of it is due to the fact that it is not based on challenges and goals but rather on tasks which are never ending and not completed, but some of it is also based on the fact that the work is not directed towards the achievement of the challenge.

Once the challenge has been defined - let us say, for example, cheese-making as part of my concept of Ichiryo Gusoku - what is the work required for making cheese?  Pretty easy actually - make cheese.  But there are at least some steps involved there:  What kind of cheese?  Do I have what I need - not just the milk but any other supplies.  And how much time will the cheese take (cheese is not time consuming but it is time intensive in that certain things must be done at certain times) and have I the time to do this?  Once that is defined and agreed to then the work because directed and purposeful.

Directed work will always be productive.  Undirected work will ultimately never produce what is desired.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Challenge, Work, Reward II

Challenge (noun):  A difficult task or problem; something that is difficult to do.

So this, as I was discussing yesterday, is the element that seems to missing from so much of my life at this moment.  In reviewing the definition, a couple of things immediately leap out at me:

1)  A difficult task or problem - that is not just enough.  Every day is filled with difficult tasks and problems.  The difference is that it has to be a difficult task or problem that is something that I care about and is motivational to me.  Continually performing the difficult without it being something that matters to you merely wears you down.  It may build up any number of capacities - strength, resistance, even skills - but it will wear away at the spirit.

2)  A task or problem - it has to be something concrete to solve, do, or achieve.  Ethereal concepts or things which are not something which can be acted on become frustrating in the extreme because there is nothing which can be acted upon to produce a result.

 Part of this, I suppose, is handled by how one defines things.  Am I defining things in the context of a challenge?  Or am I merely defining things as something that has to be done?  More fundamentally, have I gone through the list of things before me and defined them in terms of a challenge?  And if they are not definable as such, have I redefined them?

Have I even considered how I define the challenges that I care about for my own life?

The challenges are there.  Perhaps the problem lies not so much in them as it does in me to recognize and then define them as such.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Challenges, Work, Reward

I had an epiphany last week at work.

It was Friday and I was enmeshed in preparation for the upcoming quarterly meeting which I have been responsible for for the last 5 years.  As I was laying all the slides in order and preparing for the updated portion, I suddenly thought "This is no longer challenging".   And my mind went racing from there.

Work, I realized, was no longer a challenge.  Yes, there is still lots to do - but there is always lots to do.  It is just that in doing it, there is no longer any challenge to it.  There are no more meaningful mountains to climb, only a series of hills to navigate.

I sat and thought about this further.  What I realized is that this felt true of much of my life as well.  The challenge from most of the things that I do has left.  It is more of going through the motions of doing the things that I have done because I have done them, not because there is something more challenging about them.

As I have realized in times past, I excel at something like going to school.  It is a pretty simple process:  understand the challenge, do the work, get the reward (a good grade).  Transferred into my own real life it is the same thing:  understand the challenge (shoden certification, publish a book, play the harp, raise quail), do it, and get the reward (certificate achieved, book published, music played, quail in house).

And then what?

Work is notorious for this, I suppose:  without an adequate challenge and reward system no company will achieve great success (because who can keep generating high level enthusiasm for the challenge without the corresponding reward).  But I had never before grasped that this is one of the elements of my own personal life as well:  after having done a thing gotten the immediate reward and not seeing the next challenge from it, interest wanes.

Another item related to this:  the challenge and reward has to be almost completely within one's control and ability to achieve.  Grades are great for this, of course:  do the work and get the A.  And something like physical activity can be like this too - in Highland Athletics, my performance is a direct output of my effort put in.  But for some many other things - even such as work - the reward is determined by things outside of my control, thus lessening the ability to re-engage when I find out that the challenge has (once again) not resulted in the outcome that seemed to be promised.

What to do?  That's the real issue, is it not?  If I know that if I am not challenged I do not do my best and if I know that I need the challenge/work/reward system to do my best and if I know that I need to angle myself towards those rewards that are as much in my control as possible (so they can be achieved), how do I restructure my life to find them?

The first step - the specially big one - is to simply realize and admit that this is the case.  I need challenges.  I need them defined as such.  And if I cannot find them where I currently am, I need to look elsewhere.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Clouds and Enthusiasm

I think it is safe to say that I am trying to find my way of a cloud of depression again.

My enthusiasm for doing almost anything at this point has evaporated. Things that I previously enjoyed seem gray to me now, something that I have to work up to doing. The thought of doing almost anything I used to enjoy seems to be a burden now, something I really have to work up to do.

I wonder if it is simply an extension of the way my life seems to working through other things currently:  a long sense of endurance, of doing without the belief that anything will get any better, rather than a sense that I am improving or making progress in anything.  When one is doing something because one has to and there is no realization that anything is getting better or one is getting better at it, there seems to be a significant loss of enthusiasm.

It is not a question of recognizing the issue.  It is a question of what to do with the issue.

How does one generate enthusiasm for anything?  This seems to be the core question.  How does one take where one is, look to the land of where one wants to be, and then find the fuel to take one there?

It has to be something internal.  I get that.  Trying to rely on outside circumstances or outside people to get the drive you need to succeed in anything will never work.  It has to come from you to weather the times when circumstances are against you or people are non-supportive or non-responsive.

The question is, where does one find it?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sick?

I woke up this morning to my body finally having its way with me.

Oh, I know it has been coming. I have received hints of this for three days running.  The tiredness of course, but I always seem to be tired.  The lack of interest and energy in doing anything but again, that has become something of a course du jour of late.  But last night I just had enough go to eat dinner and do the dishes before I went to bed.  That should have been the sign.

And so it was.  I woke up this morning, made a go of praying, and then realized that my body was simply done for the day.  I officially called in sick.

On the one hand it is a little surprising to me - after all, I think this is the first sick day I may have taken in two or three years.  My health is generally pretty good, a blessing I probably do not appreciate as much as I should.

The part that concerned me a little bit as I considered it further (from the warm Fortress of Solitude that was my bed) is that this is way I seem to feel all the time now:  Run down.  Tired.  Exhausted.  If I try to combat this alone with more sleep and better eating it never really seems to do the trick.  Why?  Because these do not seem to cut into the major areas that this is arising from.

I am grasping at straws at this moment, my thoughts half formed.  The sickness is the logic outcome of exhaustion and some level of poor nutrition, that I understand.  But (putting my investigation hat on)  what is the root cause of this?  Why am I feeling this way all the time?

Questions to ponder, I suppose.  For now, it will be a retreat to a chair with a large cup of tea and a book to sit and recover.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Winter Comes

Winter is here.

It arrived yesterday, blowing down through the Plains as the advance runner of a mass of cold air.  At 0500 it was 60 F and not windy; 1 hour later the temperature was steady dropping and the wind was up.   It continued to drop all day until, this morning, it is almost 50 degrees colder than it was on Saturday during the day. 36 F now, and 32 F tomorrow night.  30 F low on Sunday with highs in the 50s at best.

And so the wind down happened this weekend.  Rabbits and quail were safely relocated over the weekend to their winter quarters in the garage.  Outside furniture and BBQ were moved inside as well so the back porch is empty except for the lone dog igloo that Syrah the Mighty disdains to use but I keep in case it gets so bad she decides she needs shelter.

The desultory winter garden was planted as well, onions and garlic this year.  I have to seriously rethink my garden and wanted to make a fresh start of it in the spring.  The okra plants are there with the last little remaining okra as is the jalapeno pepper plant with its bounty; I suspect they will all be gone and withering by Friday.

The heater is ready to be fired up.  Larger quantities of coffee are being generated in the morning.  Running in the morning is prepared with heavy clothing to go out in.  And the wardrobe has completely changed to prepare for the inevitable fact that the heater cannot keep up at work.

Winter is here.