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We all want to feel safe and secure. I am not just talking about physical security. I’m talking about security in our finances, in our living arrangements, in our relationships, in our employment, in every aspect of our lives. We want to feel like we are in control. To be successful, we need to act as if we are in control. We need to try and focus on those things that are important to us, and as the Hagakure says, we need to keep moving forward. 

However, the reality is that there are a lot of things in our lives that we have little to no control over. Our situation can change in a moment. For instance, friends of ours were alerted by a neighbor to the fact that there was smoke coming from their house. A fire had caught in the attic and by the time the fire was put out, the house was a total loss. Or in my case, I found myself at the emergency room with my wife. She needed surgery. She had an extended hospital stay. Another friend has recently passed away. She was in great shape. She was 32. 

All three cases blew apart the llusion that we had things under control. We don’t. We are advised not to stress or worry over those things, but the reality is that most of us do. However, as many things as we worry about, there are so many more that we don’t. Most of those things don’t even register consciously. The advice to not worry is best. Worrying over something we can’t change just causes stress. It just wears us down. But there’s a big difference between not worrying and being oblivious to the fact that our situation can change in a moment. 

That’s why I say safety is an illusion. Don’t count on safety. Don’t get caught in the trap of believing that you are and always will be safe, that your life is impregnable. Don’t live in fear, either. The happy medium is to enjoy the safety you have, so long as it doesn’t limit you, but to be prepared if that safety suddenly evaporates. Relationships crumble. Jobs comes to an end. Medical costs cause bankruptcy. Houses burn down. We can’t always prevent these life events. Let’s not pretend that we can. Instead, let us develop ourselves to handle it when we lose security unexpectedly. 

One of my former youth posted something about wanting to prove wrong those who didn’t believe in her. A few of us quickly commented to ignore them. There are several good reasons why.

First, there are always going to be naysayers. You could succeed smashingly and someone is still going to find something negative to say. If you’re energy is invested in proving them wrong, you’re always going to be pouring it on people who will never acknowledge your success.

Second, people who will always find something negative to say aren’t worth your time. The people who believe in you, who stand by you, who aren’t afraid to tell you the truth even when it’s painful – those folks are worth your time. Invest in the people who care about you, not in the people who don’t.

Third, you should be doing what you do because it’s important to you. That’s not to say that you’re doing something for someone else. For instance, you could work the job you are in because you know that it provides the necessary resources for your family. But you’re doing that job because it’s important to you because your family is important to you. You can get caught up into listening to naysayers in such a way that you start doing things for them. You start trying to do things that are important to them. Except, as we already established, it doesn’t matter what you do, you aren’t going to please them. So why bother? Focus on what’s important to you.

With all that said, just because someone doesn’t agree with your goal or your direction, that doesn’t make them a naysayer. As a parent, I have found myself disagreeing with a direction one of my children is taking. However, I’m still behind them, supporting them, loving them, and wanting the best for them. The reason I disagree is bound up in all of those things. Sometimes the direction they are looking at isn’t the best direction for them. So don’t immediately categorize someone as a naysayer just because he or she disagrees with you. Why is that person saying no? What’s the motivation? That’s how you determine who is a naysayer. 

And once you identify someone as such, learn to tune those folks out. Don’t let them discourage you. Don’t let them distract you from your goals. Use what they say as fuel for your fire, sure, but do so in a way that doesn’t become a crusade to prove them wrong, but rather stick to the fact that what you’re doing is important to you. 

This is a simple concept: you have to put your words and ideas into action. You can’t make positive progress towards your goals unless you do. 

However, so many people don’t. It isn’t that they can’t; they can. Just for one reason or another, they don’t. 

I’m just as guilty. I want to learn Latin. I’ve got a good book. However, I’ve not opened it up for the purpose of actually learning the language. It is time to change that. 

What are you holding back on? What have you thought about but not done? Why not start today?

January has just passed. How are you coming on your goals for this year? If you made any New Year’s resolutions, how are you doing on them?

Periodically, it is good to take some time to assess our progress (or lack thereof). With one month of 2015 in the past, now is a good time to do so. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Were any of my goals or resolutions unrealistic (too hard or impossible to accomplish)?
  • Were any of my goals or resolutions too easy?
  • Are there any goals or resolutions that aren’t applicable any longer?
  • Did I miss capturing any goals I must/should accomplish?
  • Of the goals / resolutions I have listed after the previous questions, what progress have I made?
  • Of the goals / resolutions I have listed after the previous questions, what are my next steps?

If you have failed at some things, remember that failing is a result, not the end. We can learn from our failures to do better. If you think back to your childhood, if you ever played a sport or practiced an art, you failed many times. However, most failures didn’t stop you. You just practiced to get better. That same mentality should be true of you now.

On workdays I don’t have a lot of time for breakfast. I had gotten into the habit of eating poorly, whether that be grabbing a couple of Pop-Tarts, stopping at a fast food joint for a biscuit (and soda, since I don’t like coffee), or getting a 3-egg omelet from the restaurant downstairs in my office building. Eating is important to getting physically fit and it’s the area I fail the most, which is why I’ve struggled a lot with building fitness and losing weight.

In one of my runner magazines, I saw a suggestion for “summer porridge,” because it was easy, healthy, and something that can be prepared the night before. If you’re not familiar with summer porridge, it’s basically oatmeal that has time to soak the liquid up overnight in the refrigerator, removing the need to cook the oatmeal. Perfect if you have a limited amount of time in the morning. Here’s my simple recipe:

1/3 cup quick cook steel cut oats
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup fruit
1/2 tablespoon honey

Note that all the key ingredients are 1/3 cup. That’s what makes it easy to remember.
I throw the ingredients into a container, mix the ingredients together with a spoon, and then put the porridge into the refrigerator, where it’s waiting until morning. It’s been great! I find the meal refreshing, filling without being too heavy, and I stay full until lunch time. Also, I’m getting real fruit, not fruit juice (which too often has added sugars), I’m getting the oatmeal for fiber, and the yogurt helps with digestion.

Now you may be thinking, “What kind of yogurt?” I did. There are some recipes that say to use Greek yogurt and that if you substitute with regular yogurt, you need to reduce the milk. I am using regular yogurt but I didn’t reduce the milk. For me, it’s the right consistency. For my wife, it’s a little too much liquid, so you’ll likely need to adjust the milk/yogurt amount depending on what type of yogurt and how much liquid you like with your oatmeal.

As for the plain yogurt, I did see recipes that called for vanilla flavored yogurt. In my case, I’m getting enough sweetness through the fruit and the honey. Therefore, I didn’t want the added sugar that you get with flavored yogurt.

That brings me to the last item, which is the fruit. We’re in winter and fresh berries aren’t available where I live. I do have frozen blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, etc., in my freezer. I have found that if I measure out the 1/3 cup and combine, that by morning the fruit are chilled but no longer frozen. Therefore, I don’t bother trying to defrost them.

There’s a big difference between setting goals and making New Year’s resolutions. Remember, goals should be specific, should be attainable, and you should be able to measure progress towards them in some way. Also, in each case you want to think about what your next steps should be in order to complete each goal.

As a result, the process of setting goals requires more thought and consideration than deciding on New Year’s Eve that you want to lose 20 pounds, be a nicer person, or win the World Series of Poker.Given that we’re at the beginning of December, there is plenty of time to do the mental work of goal formulation before January 1.Therefore, now is a good time to start the process of setting your goals for next year.

It is also a good time to review the progress you made towards this year’s goals. If there are goals you didn’t accomplish, did those goals remain important to you? If they did, what derailed you from completing them? What can you do in the coming year to try and complete the goals which are still relevant? If a goal became irrelevant, why did this happen? How might you better ensure that you don’t have such goals this coming year?

GundamBeamSaberRecently, Lockheed Martin announced plans for a compact fusion engine, one it believes can be developed possibly in the next 5-10 years. As soon as I heard the announcement, my mind went to a series of Japanese manga and anime, all around “mobile suits” called Gundams. Ever since the first Mobile Suit Gundam, the multiple series have produced both scientific and government inquiry into the possibility of producing a Gundam. There are a lot of limiters, but the biggest one is the power source. If a compact fusion engine becomes viable, it increases the viability of a real Gundam.

In reality, we may never see a mobile suit that approaches the capability of a Gundam. The cost is prohibitive. Still, it’s incredible to dream about. To get to the point where you could conceivably build a Gundam, there’s a lot of math, science, and engineering involved. When you’re a homeschool family like mine is, especially when you have children already absorbed into Gundam, this is a useful dream. Ultimately, it means what are typically banal subjects for a lot of students can be turned into opportunities to build towards the possibility of the dream.

That’s where I’m taking it. When I first proposed the idea to my two high school boys, their eyes lit up. Slogging through Calculus and Calculus-Based Physics and college-level biology isn’t very exciting to them. However, couched in terms of Gundam, and in seeing the possibility of how to make a Gundam, well, that’s a different story entirely. This should be fun and challenging.

As far as homeschooling is concerned, it’s one of the freedoms we do have. We can consider projects and learn based on them. In this case, we’re talking about something that all of us may be working on for years to come, because it would indeed be wonderful to have the knowledge to actually design and build a Gundam. I don’t have that knowledge now. Therefore, it’s not just a challenge to my children, it’s a challenge to me as well.

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