Experts tell us that exercise gives us a mood boost and also is a key to overall health. One way to maintain a decent baseline of activity is to take 10,000 steps a day. I’ve started wearing a pedometer; I love getting a gold star, so seeing the numbers climb on my pedometer makes me more likely to hit the pavement.
I’ve discovered one downside, however. I need to keep careful control of my thoughts.
While walking allows me a chance to think quietly and freely, and I’ve had some of my best ideas while walking, it’s also true that I sometimes find myself working myself into a rage. I go over annoying things that happen to me, I replay arguments…I’ve found myself fighting with the Big Man about some wrong that he hasn’t even committed!
Research shows that unhappy people are more apt to dwell on negative events. By ruminating on petty slights, replaying negative encounters, or wallowing in sadness, people drive themselves into the blues.
In fact, some researchers suggest that a reason that more women get depression than men is that women are more likely to “overthink,” while men are better at distracting themselves from negative thoughts.
I tell myself to “find an area of refuge” – that is, find something positive to think about. As part of my resolution to “Make books,” and following Samuel Johnson’s admonition to “lay up a treasure of pleasing ideas,” I’ve just decided to start gathering great, elevating passages for a book I’ll make for myself. (Oh, how I love Lulu. For $30, I can make a book of anything.)
Why I have a military flavor so far, I don’t know, but here are a few I’ve gathered –
I love reading the message that Eisenhower drafted to be released in case D-Day failed.
Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.
After surrender documents were signed, although all his colleagues proposed grand language for the victory message, Eisenhower rejected all suggestions, and wrote: “The mission of this Allied Force was fulfilled at 0241, local time, May 7th, 1945.”
My research on Churchill for Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill has given me a huge stack of wonderful quotations from him. No one writes like Churchill. Here’s the tribute he wrote in 1940, at the death of Neville Chamberlain — whose policy of appeasement Churchill had opposed so strenuously. This passage is long, but it’s worth reading carefully.
The only guide to a man is his conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions. It is very imprudent to walk through life without this shield, because we are so often mocked by the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations; but with this shield, however the fates may play, we march always in the ranks of honor.
It fell to Neville Chamberlain in one of the supreme crises of the world to be contradicted by events, to be disappointed in his hopes, and to be deceived and cheated by a wicked man. But what were these hopes in which he was disappointed? What were these wishes in which he was frustrated? What was that faith that was abused? They were surely among the most noble and benevolent instincts of the human heart – the love of peace, the toil for peace, the strife for peace, the pursuit of peace, even at great peril, and certainly to the utter disdain of popularity or clamour. Whatever else history may or may not say about these terrible, tremendous years, we can be sure that Neville Chamberlain acted with most perfect sincerity according to his lights and strove to the utmost of his capacity and authority, which were powerful, to save the world from the awful devastating struggle in which we are now engaged….Herr Hitler protests with frantic words and gestures that he has only desired peace. What do these ravings and outpouring count before the silence of Neville Chamberlain’s tomb?
From more recent times, I’ve included a section of the letter written by Sherron Watkins to Enron’s Chairman Kenneth Lay, to warn him about problems in the company’s accounting.
I didn’t follow the Enron story closely enough to understand exactly what happened. But as a lawyer myself, whenever I read about this kind of corporate wrongdoing, I wonder, “Would I have questioned what was going on? If everyone around me seemed comfortable with a transaction, would I have been able to see problems for myself?”
So when I read the Watkins memo, written by an accountant I felt a huge surge of relief. She had her standard.
“The overriding basic principle of accounting is that if you explain the ‘accounting treatment’ to a man in the street, would you influence his investing decisions? Would he sell or buy the stock based on a thorough understanding of the fact? If so, you best present it correctly and/or change the accounting.”
I just started a few days ago, but I can already tell it will be a lot of fun to work on this book. Plus, when I’m walking my 10,000 steps, if I catch myself brooding, I have a place to take my thoughts.
Thanks to the people who wrote to make sure that I knew Oprah did a show on “How happy are you?” yesterday. There’s interesting material on her website, including a short quiz to measure your life satisfaction.