Motivation

I’ve got sunshine

For those of you in the UK, you won’t need reminding that our weather can hardly be described as the best in the world. Sure, we don’t have to deal with extremes of temperature, typhoons, monsoons etc. but there is a distinct greyness about our temperate climate. However, with the rough comes the smooth and every once in a while there are days that make you feel good to be alive.

Off the back of recent memories of the “Beast from the East” which was just about a month ago, we have entered what looks like a pleasant period of unbroken sunshine. And what a difference it makes. I go for a walk most lunchtimes to get away from the computer screen and give my body a well needed stretch. Today was like being in a different country. People were laughing, smiling, dancing, running around and generally looking like they had awoken from hibernation. Gone were the scowls, the grim hooded faces with shoulders hunched forward against the wind and rain. Manners returned,  a couple of times strangers nodded at me knowingly as if to say “I know, it’s just great isn’t it?”

I listened to a podcast on Freakonomics Radio called Why is My Life so Hard? which explored why most of us think that we face more headwinds and obstacles in life than others, causing resentment. Conversely, we don’t appreciate the tailwinds that help us along the way, leaving us ungrateful and unhappy.

I often moan about getting wet during my cycle to and from work and wondered if my perception of this followed the Freakonomics proposition. Shane Lynn who is a data scientist has done some analysis of this and I was surprised with the results. Admittedly, I was looking at London, the closest major city to where I live and the best performer in the UK, but his work shows that just eight percent of commutes are “wet commutes” whereas equivalent analysis for San Francisco, Rome and Madrid shows wet commutes on 5.7, 5.4 and 4.6 percent of occasions, respectively. If you said that I would get wet just 21 times in 261 commutes I wouldn’t have believed you! If you live in Glasgow, then your perception of getting wet all the time is a little closer to the truth although still only 94 times in a year, just over a third of commutes.

Since listening to the podcast, I have been much more aware of the tailwinds when they arrive and have learnt to really appreciate them while they last. I feel like I have one at the moment and the sunshine is helping to power me along. The headwind will come eventually but I will try not to get resentful.

In the meantime, time to get another cold drink…it’s been a scorcher!

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Japan, Motivation, Nature

How short, this life?

Around this time of the year people all over Japan are on the lookout for the sakura cherry blossom which comes into full bloom between the end of March and the very beginning of May, depending on where you live*. The celebration, called hanami written using the characters for “flower” (花) and “watch” (見) involves groups of family, friends and colleagues gathering together under their favourite tree to enjoy meticulously prepared food and (more than) a few drinks.

What surprised me the first time I experienced  the cherry blossom in Japan was how soon after coming into full bloom did the petals of these delicate flowers come fluttering to the ground like confetti at a wedding. It is for this reason that hanami is so hard-wired into the psyche of the Japanese; it marks not only the beginning of the new year for schools and companies but also serves as a reminder of the fragility and fleeting nature of life itself.

There has been plenty put out there about how much time over the course of a typical life we spend working, sleeping, eating, washing up, cleaning or even on the toilet.  However, I came across a graphic on a website called WaitButWhy which represents a 90-year life as a series of weekly blocks. There’s not that many of them – 4,680 to be precise.

I have had times in my life when I have been looking forward to something in the future or longing to get over something unpleasant in the present. The weeks have disappeared, sometimes turning into months.  How often have you said to yourself “I wish this week would pass more quickly” or “I’ll just get this month out of the way and then I’ll…” or something similar?

As I finished the first paragraph of today’s post, I received a telephone call from the son of a dear friend of ours who has been in hospital recently. It was not good news; he had passed away after 92 years on this planet, that’s 4,784 blocks. Listening to some of his stories, he made the most of his life and the time he was given. None of us really knows how many blocks we will be blessed with, so make each one count.

I know that I’m going to.

*****

*You can plot the progress of the sakurazensen cherry blossom front on the Japan National Tourism Organization website

 

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