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nonfiction

Birth, Death, and Life in Between

“The problem with medicine and the institutions it has spawned for the care of the sick and the old is not that they have had an incorrect view of what makes life significant. The problem is that they have had almost no view at all. For more than half a century now, we have treated the trials of sickness, aging, and mortality as medical concerns.”  —Atul Gawande

Everyone on this earth goes through the birth process, has a life to live, and then dies. It’s a span of years, sometimes short, sometimes much longer. Why are we here? Some say it is a surprising and singular event in the universe and when it’s over, that’s all there is. Others suggest that we came from divine origins and will return to heaven or some kind of life after death and we’re here to prepare for that eventuality.

The first two books celebrate birth and life, and the final one offers some perspective on dying, which is the most difficult to face and discuss.

In her memoir Baby Catcher, Peggy Vincent tells about her journey from being a student nurse in pediatrics to eventually becoming a midwife. With humor and a delight in the miracle of birth, she shares her experiences of assisting nearly 3,000 women through the birthing process.

Favorite Quotes

“Then Zelda winked at me, and as she flashed her smile full of crooked teeth, I knew we were in it together, conspirators at a birth. An hour passed this way, and I smiled and nodded my head in rhythm to her Gospel chanting. And she was right. She didn’t fall off the bed. I was the one who did the falling as I fell under her spell. It was as though I’d stumbled into a piney woods revival tent and been transported by the spirit of a new religion. She made the process look like so much fun, I almost wanted to dance with her.

“Fortunately, those same swinging doors ushered other women like Marianna and Zelda into the delivery room. They came in huffing and puffing, and I gravitated toward them like steel to a magnet—women who knew what they wanted and didn’t want anyone messing with them.

“I lived for these occasional women, the ones who were different, who thrived on the challenge and the passion. The women who wanted to sigh and moan and deep-breathe through their labors, to move around in the bed, to squeeze my hands and look into my eyes.”

In 1971, pregnant with our first child, I expected labor to be a cakewalk. I’d been teaching natural childbirth classes for two years. I’d seen hundreds of deliveries. Talk about a setup. An hour after my own labor started, I realized I didn’t know diddly.

“Given the freedom offered by the birth centers that popped up everywhere, nurses, midwives, and the pregnant women themselves, rediscovered a wisdom more valid than any method we tried to superimpose on the natural process. Women’s bodies have near-perfect knowledge of childbirth; it’s when their brains get involved that things can go wrong.

“I’ve got a station wagon,” said Teri. She pushed Susie toward the purple-haired woman and turned to wrap up loose ends. Teri’s eyes snapped with the composure of a quarterback, and her capable hands hung ready at her sides. With her short, dark hair sticking out at funny angles from her head, she looked like a five-year old who’d been playing beauty parlor with her little sister. But I didn’t care what she looked like. She had Attitude and a station wagon. She was my new best friend. The world needs more people like her, I thought.”

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Gladys McGarey’s book, The Well-Lived Life, is full of wisdom and practices to experiment with, a 103-year old doctor shares her six secrets to health and happiness in every age of life.

Favorite Quotes

“First, take a moment to gently put your hand on your heart. Just rest it there, allowing your chest to feel the warmth of your hand, allowing your hand to feel the subtle movement of your heart beating. This is the deepest part of your being. This is where your soul lives. Whenever you fall out of alignment with life, move your hand back to your heart. This simple motion has immense power.

“Life itself is always in movement, so aligning with our life force means that we must always look for the flow within us. Though our bodies perform autonomic movement processes, it’s important for us to move consciously, as well.

“In addition, when we don’t release emotions and stuck energy, we compromise our lymphatic system, the organs and tissues that fight infection and rid the body of toxins. This is why bodywork is so important and why I myself prioritize receiving massage nearly every week in my stage of life.

“I understand anger to largely be an issue of the adrenals. Forgiveness allows life to move again, while grudges keep it stuck. Sometimes this means letting life move through us and around us without trying to stop it. Other times, it means actually getting up and moving ourselves”

 

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“I don’t know what mistakes you’ve made in the past but I’d like to suggest that you, too, mostly did the best you could with what you had at the time. If you find yourself living with regret, try to catch it and see what’s moving. Did things mostly turn out all right? If so, be grateful! Is there anything funny about it? If so, laugh! Have you learned anything new since then? If so, enjoy what you now know and express it however you can! Do whatever you can do to let your regret go—forgive yourself and, if necessary, ask for forgiveness from others—so you can move on with your life.”

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In his book, Being Mortal, Atul Gawande explains that medicine has transformed childbirth, injury, and disease from harrowing to manageable. Yet, how we help our loved ones and friends prepare for death is often an uncomfortable topic. In this book, the author explores the worst and best practices and what can make a difference.

Favorite Quotes

“In almost no [nursing home] does anyone sit down with you and try to figure out what living a life really means to you under the circumstances, let alone help you make a home where that life becomes possible

“I got better enough to realize how close I had come to losing my life, and I saw very differently that what mattered to me were other people in my life. As your horizons contract—when you see the future ahead of you as finite and uncertain—your focus shifts to the here and now, to everyday pleasures and the people closest to you.

“The soaring cost of health care has become the greatest threat to the long-term solvency of most advanced nations, and the incurable account for a lot of it.

“For a patient whose cancer proves fatal, though, the cost curve is U-shaped, rising toward the end—to an average of $94,000 during the last year of life with a metastatic breast cancer.

“Our medical system is excellent at trying to stave off death with $12,000-a-month chemotherapy, $4,000-a-day intensive care, $7,000-an-hour surgery.

“Almost all these patients had known, for some time, that they had a terminal condition. Yet they—along with their families and doctors—were unprepared for the final stage.

“In 2008, the national Coping with Cancer project published a study showing that terminally ill cancer patients who were put on a mechanical ventilator, given electrical defibrillation or chest compressions, or admitted, near death, to intensive care had a substantially worse quality of life in their last week than those who received no such interventions.

“In hospice, the initial visit is always tricky. A nurse has five seconds to make a patient like you and trust them. It’s in the whole way you present yourself. I do no come in saying, ‘I’m so sorry.’ Instead, it’s: ‘I’m the hospice nurse, and here’s what I have to offer you to make your life better. And I know we don’t have a lot of time to waste.’

“You’d think doctors would be well equipped to navigate the shoals here, but at least two things get in the way. First, our own views may be unrealistic. … Second, we often avoid voicing even these sentiments. But that doesn’t mean we are eager to make the choices ourselves. Instead, most often, we make no choice at all.

“Questions to ask: 1. Do you want to be resuscitated if your heart stops? 2. Do you want aggressive treatments such as intubation and mechanical ventilation? 3. Do you want antibiotics? 4. Do you want tube or intravenous feeding if you can’t eat on your own?

“We focus on laying out the facts and the options. But that’s a mistake, Block said. ‘A large part of the task is helping people negotiate the overwhelming anxiety—anxiety about death, anxiety about suffering, anxiety about loved ones, anxiety about finances.

“You’re trying to learn what’s most important to them under the circumstances. This process requires as much listening as talking. If you’re talking more than half the time, you’re talking too much. If time becomes short, you ask, ‘What is most important to you?’

“Bob Arnold, a palliative care physician explained that the mistake clinicians make in these situations it that they see their task as just supplying cognitive information—hard, cold facts and descriptions. They want to be Dr. Informative. But it’s the meaning behind the information that people are looking for more than the facts.

“Arnold had also recommended a strategy palliative care physicians use when they have to talk about bad news with people—they ‘ask, tell, ask.’ They ask what you want to hear, then they tell you, and then they ask what you understood.”

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Conclusion

Most of us have a choice about how we will live, whether we will take this mortal experience for granted, or numb ourselves, or become the best version of ourselves. And at different ages, if we are observant, this question will arise again and again: “Why am I here?” And eventually, “How will I prepare for the end of life?”

Categories
Inspirational

The Importance of Letting Go

“Everything you blame, you’re stuck with. Bless it. Wish it well. Wish it its own freedom, and it will be very powerful in the way that it will not come back to you. If you don’t forgive it, if you don’t bless it, if you don’t wish it well, the energy will just be magnetically drawn back to you because it’s looking for resolution. All negative energy that we’ve inherited it’s there because it’s looking for resolution.” —Adyashanti

The following books explore the long-term effects of generational pain, or trauma, and the effects of resisting the healing process and the power of stepping into it.

In her book, One Hundred Years of Exile, Tania Romanov explores the relationship she has with her father by researching her family history back to her grandfather and grandmother.

Her father’s fears and resistance to assimilation leave her with deep resentment toward him and her Russian heritage. Decades later, his unexpected death exposes Tania’s open wounds and a host of unanswered questions about him and his story.

As she travels to Russia and slowly discovers her father’s story, she realizes that it is her father’s pain that she needs to heal from.

Illuminating Quotes

“I adored my father when I was a little girls, but as I grew up in America, I was mostly angry with him. My memory of meals at our house were of raging fighting about everything.

“Finally, I had no more battles left. I gave up the fight and simply stopped communicating with him. It took years for me to forgive him and many more to understand.”

“[As I learned about their history], my compassion for what my grandparents gave up overwhelmed me. They had lived in their home for ten years when their world fell apart. Daria went from being a migrant worker, to a landowner’s wife and partner, then to being a homeless refugee in such a short time.

“For the first time, on that trip, I saw the Campo—where I had been happy as a child through my father’s eyes. I imagined what a successful man in the prime of life had to deal with. Only then did I begin to understand the reasons for his fear. Papa rarely talked about his difficulties in life.

“He fled a homeland twice. First, he and his family escaped to Yugoslavia where he grew up and married. And then, in his early thirties he lost everything again. He was evicted from that country for the simple reason of being Russian by birth.”

“My trip to Russia was gratifying beyond any of my expectations, and I struggled to process all I had learned. I wonder if this is how wisdom finds its way inside us. I have been making peace with my father for some years, and I sense he has forgiven me.

“But now, after researching his and our grandparents’ history, I feel a new, deeper connection with him, a woman ready for redemption and forgiveness, a women ready to be reconciled with her father.”

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John-Roger and Peter McWilliams explore every concept related to overcoming the habit of negative thinking in their book, You Can’t Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought.

Negative thinking is seen as a debilitating illness that will slowly kill your spirit – and for some people leads to actual physical disease. This book
is packed full of inspirational, funny, and moving quotes.

Illuminating Quotes

“The primary emotions generated by the fight or flight response are 1) anger, the emotional energy to fight, including thoughts of hostility, resentment, guilt (anger at oneself), seething, or depression and 2) fear, the emotional energy to flee, including thoughts of terror, anxiety, withdrawal, or apprehension.

“The repeated and often unnecessary triggering of the fight or flight response puts enormous physiological stress on the body. It opens us to diseases, digestive troubles, poor assimilation, slower recovery from illnesses, reduced production of blood cells, sore muscles, and fatigue. The emergency chemicals, unused, eventually begin breaking down into other, more toxic substances.

“For many, negative thinking becomes a habit, which over time, degenerates into an addition. Negative thinking is addictive to the body, the mind, and the emotions. Negative thinking must be treated like any addiction, with commitment to life, patience, discipline, a well to get better, and forgiveness.

“Why do we use the power of our mind to create a negative reality? The wellspring of negative thinking of unworthiness. It’s a ground of being, a deep-seated belief that ‘I’m just not good enough.’

“To overcome a fear, here’s all you have to do. Realize that the fear is there, and do it anyway. Move—physically—in the direction of what you want. After you do several times the thing your fear is protesting about, the fear will be less. Eventually, it goes away. Fear is something to be moved through, not turned away from.”

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The Choice by Dr. Edith Eva Eger is an inspiringly-written memoir, and a gift: one of those stories that has the potential to leave you forever changed.

Her book is a universal message of hope and possibility to all who are trying to free themselves from pain and suffering.

Whether imprisoned by bad marriages, destructive families, or jobs they hate, or imprisoned within the barbed wire of self-limiting beliefs that trap them in their own minds, readers will learn from this book that they can choose to embrace joy and freedom regardless of their circumstances.

Illuminating Quotes

“Bela and I don’t talk about what we’ve lost. I thought it was a matter of survival. Only after many years did I come to understand that running away doesn’t heal pain. It makes pain worse.

“In America I was farther geographically than I had ever been from my former prison. But here I became more psychologically imprisoned than I was before. In running from the past—from my fear, I didn’t find freedom. I made a cell of my dread and sealed the lock with silence.

“What if telling my story could lighten its grip instead of tightening it? What if speaking about the past could heal it instead of calcify it? What if silence and denial aren’t the only choices to make in the wake of catastrophic loss?

“Each moment is a choice. No matter how frustrating or boring or constraining or painful or oppressive our experience, we can always choose how we respond. I too, have a choice. This realization will change my life. And no one heals in a straight line.

“Suffering is inevitable and universal. How we respond to suffering differs. We can reframe negative feelings and the self-defeating behaviors that follow from these feelings. The truth is, we will have unpleasant experiences in our lives, we will make mistakes, we won’t always get what we want. This is part of being human.

“The problem—and the foundation of our persistent suffering—is the belief that discomfort, mistakes, disappointment signal something about our worth.

“Anger, however consuming, is never the most important emotion. It is only the very outer edge, the thinly exposed top layer of a much deeper feelings. And the real feeling that’s disguised by the mask of anger is usually fear.

“You can’t feel love and fear at the same time. If I understand anything about the whole of my life, it’s that sometimes the worst moments in our lives, that threaten to unglue us with the sheer impossibility of the pain we must endure, are in fact the moments that bring us to understand our worth.

“It’s as if we become aware of ourselves as a bridge between all that’s been and all that will be. We become aware of all we’ve received and what we can choose—or choose not to perpetuate.

“What will we power with the wheel of our own life? Will we keep pushing the same piston of loss or regret? Will we reengage and reenact all the hurts from the past? Will we make our children pick up the tab for our losses? Or will we take the best of what we know and let a new crop flourish from the field of our life?

“The past isn’t gone. It isn’t transcended or excised. It lives on in me. And, so does the perspective it has afforded me; that I lived to see liberation because I kept hope alive in my heart. That I lived to see freedom because I learned to forgive.

“Forgiveness isn’t easy. It is easier to hold grudges, to seek revenge. When we seek revenge, even nonviolent revenge, we are resolving not evolving. The hardest person to forgive is someone I’ve still to confront: myself. Do I have what it takes to make a difference? Can I pass on my strength instead of my loss? My love instead of my hatred?

“Doing the inner work has set me free—learning to survive and thrive, learning to forgive myself, and help others to do the same. When I do this work, then I am no longer the hostage or the prisoner of anything. I am free.

“Our painful experiences aren’t a liability—they’re a gift. They give us perspective and meaning, an opportunity to find our unique purpose and our strength.

“Time doesn’t heal. It’s what you do with the time. Healing is possible when we choose to take responsibility, when we choose to take risks, and finally, when we choose to release the wound, to let go of the past or the grief. My patients taught me that healing isn’t about recovery; it’s about discovery.”

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Conclusion

Letting go can be challenging and easy to resist. It’s a process of becoming aware of what’s no longer serving us. There is a payoff for staying angry and it’s not good for our bodies. Letting go of our fear, anger, as well as learning to forgive is a healing practice and frees us to live life more abundantly.

Categories
Self-Help

How Will You Transition at Midlife?

Midlife is a hot topic these days, especially since baby boomers—eighty-one million strong (those born between 1945 and 1965)—began sprinting through the 50s into the wisdom years, ages 60-100. Our extended life span offers us a vantage point at midlife unheard of in earlier generations.

In his book, Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life, James Hollis suggests that adulthood presents varying levels of growth and is rarely settled in the way most of us expect.

Turbulent emotional shifts can take place anywhere between the ages of thirty-five and seventy when we question the choices we’ve made, realize our limitations, and feel stuck—a time often referred to the “midlife crisis.”

Favorite Quotes

“There are reasons why these disturbances frequently manifest at what we typically consider ‘midlife.’ By this age, the ego strength necessary for self-examination may have reached a level where it can reflect upon itself, critique itself, and risk altering choices, thereby values as well.

“So, what has brought you to this point in your life? Have you chosen this life you lead, these consequences? What forces shaped you, perhaps diverted you, wounded and distorted you; what forces perhaps supported you, and are still at work within you—whether you acknowledge them or not? The one question none of us can answer is: of what are we unconscious?

“That which is unconscious has great power in our lives, may currently be making choices for us. No one awakens, looks in the mirror, and says, ‘I think I will repeat my mistakes today.’ And frequently, this replication of history is precisely what we do, because we are unaware of the silent presence of those programmed energies, the core ideas we have acquired, internalized, and surrendered to.

“I would suggest that each of us experiences a summons of the soul not once, but many times in the course of our lives

“Sometimes this crisis of identify occurs when we go through a divorce only to find our problems continuing in to the next relationship. Sometimes it rises out of the traumatic loss of a partner, which reveals to us a dependency we did not know lurked beneath our seemingly independent behaviors. Sometimes it manifests in the departure of our children, who have been carrying more of our un-lived life than we imagine. Sometimes it emerges in the context of a life-threatening illness or some other brush with death. Or sometimes it simply comes to us at a sudden shock and we realize that we do not know who we are.

“This more radical examination of one’s life, cannot be undertaken on the whim, or finessed through a weekend workshop. To engage with the summons of our soul is to step into the deepest ocean, uncertain whether we will be able to swim to some new, distant shore. For some the entry is gradual; others are pushed suddenly into deep waters.”

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In her book, Awakening at Midlife, Kathleen A. Brehony, a Jungian psychologist defines, explains, and connects Jungian concepts into an understandable framework. In the transition to midlife, questions of personal identity often arise, forcing us to reassess beliefs that seemed to hold true during the first half of our lives.

Favorite Quotes

“Most of us leave no time for introspection, reflection, or any kind of contemplation of the meaning or lack of meaning in our lives, about who we really are apart from the roles we play in life, about God, about death.

“What we call the midlife transition is actually a spiritual and psychological process, not a chronological one, and it is quite possible that the dramatic symptoms and change that we associate with midlife can occur at any point in the life span.

“What is happening that creates such upheaval in our lives? First of all, there is a realization whether conscious or unconscious, that we have lived roughly half our life. But regardless of the intensity, inner psychological forces are pressing us to grow and change toward wholeness, not perfection—who we were meant to be.

“The symptoms of midlife are a wake-up call. If they were not so disruptive, we could easily dismiss them and continue on unconsciously through the rest of our lives. The deepest, most authentic part of the soul is crying to be heard and so symptoms of anxiety, depression, relationship problems, dissatisfaction with career or work, or feelings of emptiness collide into our daily lives.

“It is the journey that is the destination. This concept, that the process itself is the important thing, is an alien idea in our outcome-oriented society. And we are being propelled down this path by our own inner strivings to become who we were always supposed to be. And that process leads naturally to an openness of spirit, a deep inner wisdom, and enlightenment. At this place it is possible to love ourselves and other unconditionally.”

“It is this space, between what we have been and what we will become, that is the most terrifying. Deep felt loss, nostalgia, grief, and mourning accompany us through this passage. In addition, we live in a culture that does not honor inner work, and instead, insists on defining goals and moving swiftly toward them.

“That is why so many people in this stage describe it as being in a riptide; where the natural impulse is to swim as hard as you can back toward the shore. Instead, a riptide demands surrender—to go forward not knowing and trusting the integrity of your own inner process, the wisdom of the Self, and your own strength toward a new and previously unknown and meaningful alternative.

“Meaning is not limited only to grand schemes; it is derived by living life in each moment with genuineness an depth. And the journey will be infinitely richer and more authentic if we follow a path with heart.”

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In my book, Awakening from the Midlife Chrysalis, I affirm midlife as a healthy transition, a time of inner questioning that is more about reinventing ourselves than surviving a crisis. This is a time, for either a woman and or a man, to give themselves permission to become her or his truest self and reflect on the questions that will uncover the self that waits to be discovered.

“There comes a time in our lives when we must enter the interior landscape of our heart. The answers from outside of us cease to satisfy our desires for meaning and contribution. As with most earth-linked processes, this interior journey has its own cycle—stages and signposts that let us know where we stand in any particular moment. Each chapter encourages an awakening to where I am and you could be—to face the fears that keep us from moving forward into authentic living for the rest of our days.

“Several years ago, somewhere within the recesses of my being, I heard a compelling call into stillness and reflection, which I steadfastly ignored. ‘Stillness,’ I though. I don’t have time to be Henry David Thoreau.’

“Those of us who wear ourselves out with our busy lives would be envious of Thoreau and the time he took for reflection and thought. Although many assume that he led his simple life in isolation, he often visited the town of Concord, was a regular at the table of Emerson, and invited others to his cabin for discussions.

“Unremarkable to historians, his mother Cynthia, an sisters Helen and Sophia, cleaned, washed, and mended his clothes and brought meals in during the two years he spent at Waldon Pond.

“I expected life to transition through college, marriage, children, and career to the empty next and into some sort of contribution later in life. I did not anticipate or chart the interior changes, the refiner’s fire experiences, or the smoldering, underground forces that shaped my life as well. Loss, disappointment, and trauma were not the experiences I plotted onto my life’s goal sheet.

“I stand at the threshold, aware of a process that has been awaiting my attention for some time. It surfaces again and again—this urge to stop everything I feel essential and desirable. The image of a chrysalis continuously comes to mind. Just as a caterpillar undergoes transformation, the initial structures of my life struggle to be broken down so that new ones can form. I hear only a small echo drumming its consistent beat: “You must grow again in a distinctly different way, apart from all you know.”

“I choose to step into this unknown, uneasy searching of the depths of my heart, thoughts, and feelings alternatively satisfied and frustrated that my specific molting process will not be generated from the advice and experiences of others. It will be developed within the cauldron of impressions I receive from my inner guide.

“I search for a handhold in a boat tossed about on the waves and into the entrance of a new uncertain and undefined turning point. My best clue that I’m seeking the quick fix without the required threshing work comes when I realize I’m mooching someone else’s idea about what worked for them. When I imagine what my life would be like according to what they offer, it’s as if I’m fitting myself into an over-sized or too—tight sweater. Either I can’t breathe or I trip over the hem.

“Yes, I need some time out. Not the kind of time out that has become a too-common parenting technique. Most of us don’t think to use it ourselves when we become crusty, like a boat that needs to be raised up so the barnacles can be scraped away.”

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Conclusion

Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place. Time at midlife offers you a journey to the heart center where you can be still, shed the old from the first half of life, and discover your future purpose and passion. What will transform for you?

Categories
Self-Help

What’s Your Explanatory Style?

“We live in an expanding universe, a universe of plenty.
Perhaps the safest prediction we can make about the future is
that it will surprise us.
Our key choice is whether to become aware
and take responsibility for the power of our intentions.”
—George Leonard, The Silent Pulse

Think of your explanatory style as reflecting “the word in your heart—the basis for your intentions.” Each of us carries a word in his or her heart—a “no” or a “yes.” Is the word in your heart a “yes” or “no?”

I’ve learned from my own experience that a no says I’m helpless—there are too many barriers. With a yes in my heart, I see possibilities. Once you’re aware, you can choose. With that clarification, you will understand why I enjoy the following delightful poem:

yes is a world
& in this world of
yes live
(skillfully curled)
all worlds.”
–ee cummings

The date Transformational Thinking (now updated in 2023 in Imagine Your Life, Discover Your Dreams, available on Amazon) came off the press signaled the fulfillment of a dream to bring the Life Creation Process into tangible book form after years of presenting and clarifying these life-planning concepts. It is an accumulation of much thought, experiences, questioning, writing, experimenting, refining of ideas, and then more rewriting.

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As I think back to that moment in 2004, I realize that I haven’t stopped learning about and refining the concepts I thought I had so clearly explained in that volume.

Ideas continue to come in clarifying ways, such as the following surrounding explanatory style captured from Marti Seligman’s book, Learned Optimism.

Some Favorite Quotes

“Self-esteem is about doing well in the world, about persisting, and therefore overcoming obstacles. The defining characteristic of pessimists is that they tend to believe bad events will last a long time, will undermine everything they do, and are their own fault.

“The optimists, who are confronted with the same hard knocks of this world, think about misfortune in the opposite way. They tend to believe defeat is just a temporary setback, that its causes are confined to this one case.

“At the core of the phenomenon of pessimism is another phenomenon—that of helplessness—a giving-up reaction. Helplessness is the state of affairs in which nothing you choose to do affects what happens to you.

“Personal control—the ability to change things by one’s voluntary actions is the opposite of helplessness. Explanatory style is the manner in which you habitually explain yourself why events happen. It is the great modulator of learned helplessness. An optimistic explanatory style dispels helplessness, whereas a pessimistic explanatory style spreads helplessness.

“How do you think about the causes of the misfortunes, small and large, that befall you? Some people, the ones who give up easily, habitually say of their misfortunes: ‘It’s me, it’s going to last forever, it’s going to undermine everything I do.’ Others, who resist giving up to misfortune, say: ‘It was just circumstances, it’s going away quickly anyway, and besides, there’s much more in life.’

“People who give up easily believe the causes of the bad events that happen to them are permanent: The bad events will persist, will always be there to affect their lives; they use always and never. People who resist helplessness believe the causes of bad events are temporary; they use sometimes and lately they believe good events are permanent.

“Some people can put their troubles neatly into a box and go about their lives even when one important aspect of it—their job, for example, or their love life—is suffering. Others bleed all over everything; they catastrophize. When one thread of their lives snaps, the whole fabric unravels.

“It comes down to this: People who make universal explanations for their failures give up on everything when a failure strikes in one area. Finding permanent and universal causes for misfortune is the practice of despair. People who make specific explanations may become helpless in that one part of their lives yet they march stalwartly on in the others. Finding temporary and specific causes for misfortune is the art of hope.

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Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers helps individuals look at the underlying messages that keep them stuck in resistance language and change them into possibility thinking.

Some Favorite Quotes

“If you knew you could handle anything that came your way, what would you possibly have to fear? The answer is: nothing! What I have just told you means you can handle all your fears without having to control anything in the outside world. All you have to do to diminish your fear is to develop more trust in your ability to handle whatever comes your way.

“As my confidence grew, I kept waiting for the fear to go away. Yet each time I ventured out into a new territory, I felt frightened and unsure of myself. I learned that the fear will never go away as long as I continue to grow.

 

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“The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it. The only way to feel better about myself is to go out and do it. Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness.

“If everybody feels fear when approaching something totally new in life, yet so many are out there ‘doing it’ despite the fear, then we must conclude that fear is not the problem. The real issue has nothing to do with fear itself, but, rather, how we hold the fear.

“For some, the fear is totally irrelevant. For others, it creates a state of paralysis. The former hold their fear from a position of power (choice, energy and action), and the latter hold it from a position of pain (helplessness, depression and paralysis).

“To help your pain to power path, it’s important to realize that certain words are destructive; others are empowering. ’I can’t’ implies you have no control over your life, whereas ‘I won’t’ puts a situation in the realm of choice. From this moment strike ‘I can’t’ from your vocabulary. When you give your subconscious the message ‘I can’t,’ it really believes you and registers on its computer: weak . . . weak . . . weak. Your subconscious believes only what it hears, not what is true.

“You might be saying ‘I can’t’ simply to get out of a dinner invitation. In fact, ‘I can’t come to dinner is an untruth. The truth is ‘I can come to dinner, and I am choosing to do something that has a higher priority at the moment. So instead, say, ‘I’d love to come to dinner, and I have a meeting that’s important to me. So, I’ll pass for tonight and hope you’ll invite me again.’ That statement has truth, integrity and power.

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Conclusion

Each of us chooses how we face our fears and distress. Both of these books can inspire you to make different choices about your thinking. Examining your explanatory style and making some adjustments can give you a perspective and encourage you to move from helplessness to a positive and accountable way of viewing the world you live in.

P.S.

My latest book, How to Make Communication Easier is now available on Amazon. It’s the last of the “how to” books I’ve written: How to Make Writing Easier and How to Make Financial Independence Easier. As an instructional writer, it’s been my intent to write books that are easy to read and where concepts are clearly explained.

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Categories
Self-Help

How to Awaken to Whole-hearted Living

I was in a workshop a few years ago with Kate Hofer where Angeles Arrien, a cultural anthropologist, educator, and author, directed us to pay attention to the four-chambered heart—not the physical four chambers, rather the emotional four chambers of the heart.

In her book, The Four-Fold Way, she explains that the Four-Chambered Heart is full, open, clear and strong. For vision to be 20:20 the heart must be firing on all chambers.

  • Where are you currently full-hearted in your life and work?
  • Where is your heart open to new ideas, people and experiences?
  • What are you clear about with respect to your vision, values and behavior?
  • What situations require courage and perseverance, the fruit of strong-heartedness?

What are you awakening to? Any unhealthy thinking patterns and limiting assumptions: where you may be are stuck in resistance thinking, and how you can transform your thinking into possibility thinking.

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The following three books explore the importance of studying and learning from our heart’s perspective.

The Gifts of Imperfection

Brené Brown is a researcher and a storyteller, a leading expert on shame, authenticity, and belonging. In her book, Gifts of Imperfection, she shares ten guideposts of wholehearted living—a way of engaging with the world from a place of worthiness.

Some Favorite Quotes

“In the process of collecting thousands of stories from diverse men and women who lived all over the country, I saw new patterns that I wanted to know more about Yes, we all struggle with shame and the fear of not being enough. And, yes, many of us are afraid to let our true selves be seen and known. And in this huge mound of data there was also story after story of men and women who were living these amazing and inspiring lives.”

“As I started analyzing the stories and looking for re-occurring themes, I realized that the patterns generally fell into one of two columns. One column brimmed with words like worthiness, rest, play, trust, faith, intuition, hope, authenticity, love, belonging, joy, gratitude, and creativity. The other column was dripping with words like perfection, numbing, certainty, exhaustion, self-sufficiency, being cool, fitting in, judgment, and scarcity.”

“How much we know and understand ourselves is critically important; but there is something that is even more essential to living a Wholehearted life: loving ourselves.”

“People may call what happens at midlife ‘a crisis,’ but it’s not. It’s an unraveling—a time when you feel a desperate pull to live the life you want to live, not the one you’re ‘supposed’ to live. The unraveling is a time when you are challenged by the universe to let go of who you think you are supposed to be and to embrace who you are. These unraveling journeys could include: marriage, divorce, becoming a parent, recovery, moving, an empty next, retiring, experiencing loss or trauma, or working in a soul-sucking job.”

“It’s not something we accomplish or acquire and then check off our life. It’s life work. It’s soul work. It’s a process, the journey of a lifetime.

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The HeartMath Solution

Doc Childre and Howard Martin, in their book, The HeartMath Solution, ask the following personal-evaluation questions. What is you could easily . . .

  • Make better decisions?
  • Gain control of your emotions?
  • Enhance creativity?
  • Reduce high blood pressure?
  • Increase personal productivity?
  • Slow down aging?

You can, simply by understanding your heart’s intelligence—which has more impact of our emotions, our mind, and our physical health than was ever thought possible.

Breakthrough scientific research proves that the heart is the control tower of the body’s systems and overall health. Pioneers of this research have developed a program to harness the power of the heart with simple, proven techniques. These life-altering techniques will show you how to deepen the qualities long associated with the heart—wisdom, compassion, courage, love, strength, and joy.

Some Favorite Quotes

“This book shows in depth, how the heart is at the core of our body and at the core of how we think and feel. The solution is derived from realizing that the heart is both a physical object, a rhythmic organ, and love itself. It recognizes the heart as the central rhythmic force in the body and shows us how to use the coherent power of love to manage our thoughts and emotions. Like a pebble that creates a ripple of waves where dropped into a still pond, so love and positive feelings in the heart create a rhythm that spreads health and sell-being throughout the body.”

“The intention of this book is to confirm to you, the reader, what you may already feel or know—that the heart is involved in understanding yourself, people, and life. If you take to heart what you read and make even a small sincere effort to apply what you learn, you’ll experience a profound shift in your perceptions and emotions. Life will respond accordingly. It won’t take years to benefit from the HeartMath Solution. In fact, it will save years of looking for answers that are only as far away as the shift from mind to heart.”

“As we enter the new millennium, our increasingly global society is faced with daunting challenges. Many important institutions and systems that we rely on for security and order are in disarray. Largely because of all this change, stress is at an all-time high. As Albert Einstein said years ago, ‘The significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.’ To live happily and healthily in all the turmoil that progress brings requires exploring new idea.”

“Heart Intelligence is the intelligent flow of awareness and insight that we experience once the mind and emotions are brought into balance and coherence through a self-initiated process. This form of intelligence is experienced as direct, intuitive knowing that manifests to thoughts and emotions that are beneficial for ourselves and others.

In other words, heart intelligence is really the source of emotional intelligence. From our research at the Institute of HeartMath, we’ve concluded that intelligence and intuition are heightened when we learn to listen more deeply to our own heart. It’s through learning how to decipher the messages we receive from our heart that we can the keen perception needed to effectively manage our emotions in the midst of life’s situation and challenges.”

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Heart Minded

Sarah Blondin has written a book about being heart minded—how to hold yourself and others in love. Heart Minded includes a variety of meditations and teachings to help you detach from your busy, and perhaps sometimes frantic mind and tune into your feelings heart. You may have turned away from your heart and stayed in your mind. Sarah Blondin suggests that we can learn to re-open to and live from our heart.

Some Favorite Quotes

“Each of us has unique reasons for shutting down our hearts and hiding the part of ourselves we are ashamed of. We tuck wounds and vulnerabilities deep inside and make our bodies battlegrounds. We push down and away all the ways of being and feeling that we sense—or are explicitly told—are ‘unacceptable,’ and create rifts between the self we present to the world and what is really going on inside us. Everything we hide and suppress siphons energy we could be using to create a beautiful life and blocks us from accessing joy and abundance, dulling and dimming the light of who we are.”

“To discover the language and message of our hearts, we need to take the time to look deep within ourselves. We must decide to search for the tender parts of us we have abandoned and hidden away. Our hearts house the essence of life and source. They are the well of divinity within us which when aligned with, awakened, and re-connected to, will eradicate and heal, forgive and dispel, and reconcile and release each hurtful relationship and memory. Our hearts are the source of our inspiration to spread and stir love and goodness throughout the world.”

“If you want to live a heart-minded life, the decision is yours. It begins by making the choice to take just one small step toward yourself, instead of away. More importantly, you need tender, gentle, and constant encouragement to strengthen your resolve in keeping your heart open, especially when your finely tuned instincts to protect are activated. This book is built of practices that will do just that. And don’t just read it, live it. Learn what your heart wants you to know, find your antidotes to the hindrances around your heart. Practice.”

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Conclusion

The beginning of a new year offers a chance to evaluate where you are in your heart. Any effort you make to connect or re-connect with your heart intelligence will bring you closer to whole-hearted living.

When you are full-hearted, you are consistent, trustworthy, and committed; not half-hearted.

When you are strong-hearted, you are courageous—able to face conflict in honest and creative ways.

When you are open-hearted, you see life and the human experience as friendly and have a positive attitude. You are willing to learn.

When you are clear-hearted, you are certain, congruent within yourself, and patient; not confused.

Categories
Self-Help

How to Avoid a False Start

“False start” is a term borrowed from sports—specifically from sprinting. Sprinters wait in a state of primed readiness on the blocks for the gun to fire to signal the start of the race. When a runner is over-anxious, other signals from the track (or an internal cue) will set them off. When this happens the race is stopped, and the runners ready themselves on the blocks again.

When you feel anxious or uncertain about the future of your life or the next step in your career, family, or goal, you may experience a false start. You skip ahead of yourself. Taking time off to figure out the next step is labeled wasting time. Other pressures, such as needing to provide for the family may mean you grab what comes along even it isn’t not a good fit.

And, if you fuel your expectations with have tos, ought tos, and shoulds, you may unconsciously create resistance. In fact, these phrases, common though they are, feed into fear and resistance.

The following two books are full of ideas and questions to consider as you move forward in any area of life and want to avoid a false start.

Start, Stay, or Leave by Trey Gowdy is one of the best books about decision-making. Part memoir, and part counsel, Trey asks a number of forward-thinking questions:

  • What are your real motivations related to the decisions you have to make?”
  • “Will you be making the decision for yourself or for others”
  • “What have you accomplished?”
  • “How do you want to be remembered?

Best Quotes

“There is a tremendous difference between what we ‘do’ and what we ‘accomplish.’ Accomplishing something requires intent and purpose. Accomplishing something requires foresight of the ending. When we work toward accomplishing something, we have direction; if we are merely doing something, we are moving without direction, and we are more likely to get lost.

“It’s hard to pinpoint the precise moment I traded the lure of [climbing the ladder of success] for the steady assurance of a mirror. I no longer felt the need to be different or successful in the eyes of everyone else. I no longer needed a title to set me apart.

“With the mirror model, success—the definition of success and the actualization of that success—comes from within. Success is not an external monument of your achievements that you’re constantly building; rather, it is a practice of self-reflection and inner fulfillment enabling you to make decisions that echo your desired path.

“Everyone has a natural bent toward making decisions with their head (logic), their heart (emotions), or their gut (intuition. All three play an important role in our lives, and none should be minimized to the point of having no power.

“When you come to that crossroads, think about what will be best for you over the long haul, not what is best for you in the shorter term. Rushing your aspirations, hurrying your goals, and forcing your dreams into fruition comes with consequences that could very well put life’s other priorities in real jeopardy.

Major in Success, written by Patrick Combs, is aimed at your college student who has no clue why they are in college; they just know it’s often the next step toward adulthood. Even so, it’s also great information for those of us who are transitioning into a new stage of life.

Best Quotes

“Why are you in college? Ultimately, college will give you the opportunity to increase the quality of your life,both now and in the future. Unfortunately, a lot of students do little, if anything, to actively increase the quality of their lives while they’re in school.  Many students seem to think that they won’t start improving their lives until after they graduate.

“In reality, from the day you start college your future resume and even your lifestyle has started to take shape. Moreover, you can get good grades and still not be able to get a good job.

The most dangerous way to approach college is with the idea that all you need to do is attend class and get your degree. After graduating, you’ll discover that you were paying dues to get into a club of people who missed the point.

The point is that you’re not in college to work for your professors, or your parents, or anyone else.  You’re there to work for yourself and your future.

“College is a good thing to do but a college degree doesn’t necessarily result in a great job.  Many college graduates struggle to find meaningful employment. That’s why there are three more steps to being successful:

  1. Discover what kind of work you enjoy.
  2. Get a clear sense of what naturally motivates you the most and then develop a picture of the jobs that suit your interests.
  3. Do things that get the ball rolling. You’ll have different options to choose from and you’ll see many possible routes to your dream job. Focus on what’s really important: motivation, marketable skills, abilities, resources, credentials, and your dreams.

“Benjamin Bloom, a professor at the University of Chicago, studied 120 outstanding athletes, artists, and scholars. The characteristic that they had in common was extraordinary drive. EXTRAORDINARY DRIVE COMES FROM DOING WHAT YOU ENJOY:

“Doing what you love, going with your strongest interests, and your deepest aspirations. Success in any endeavor takes work. The key to doing a lot of work is liking what you’re working on. You know that you are practicing your true vocation when you love all the hard work, responsibility, and tedium that goes with it.

“Work that is to the liking of your heart turns obligations into opportunities. It transforms chores into chances. In addition, no matter what you major in, if you can’t answer the phone, make a presentation, do a spreadsheet, or write a business letter, nobody needs you.

“Graduating without a clear picture of the kind of work you’d enjoy is like getting ready to sky dive without a parachute—you’re guaranteed a hard landing.

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“You can bring your passions and dreams front and center with journaling. In a diary you mostly reflect on how your day went. In journaling you mostly write about how you desire your ideal days to be. Not, “My day went like this . . .” Instead, “Ideally my days will be like this . . .” Also,

  • Continually revise.
  • Write when you’re inspired.
  • Write when you’re reflective.
  • Write when you don’t want to make the same mistake ever again.
  • Think big.
  • Write more from the heart than from the head.
  • Spell out your dreams specifically, right down to the smallest details about what you want.
  • Describe your dreams accomplished in the most successful manner possible.
  • Avoid the phrases “I wish” or “I hope.” there is only “I am” and “I will be.”

“When I first started journaling, I was hard pressed to come up with answers longer than a few sentences. but once I started, there was no turning back. My mind was engaged and I began getting floods of answers at the oddest times.  It is a process like this that transforms you from a person with loosely based wishes and dreams into a person with high motivation, passion, and a plan.

“It is a process like this that enables you to define who you truly are. What you journal about comes true quicker, and often, in seemingly strange and coincidental ways. Your unconscious mind has genius power to filter for, direct you to, and even attract things and resources that will help you create what you have said you want.”

Conclusion

Fear creates insecurity, lowers your confidence, and silences your heart. Learning requires mistakes. People who have reached great heights were not fearless; they learned from their mistakes.

The ones who make it are the ones who can move forward despite having fears. They become clear about what they want, thus avoiding a false start. Remember, self-discovery is a lifelong process that when done with consistency, provides focus, motivation, and joy.

 

Categories
Self-Help

Helping Teenagers Succeed

With all that teenagers are bombarded with these days, plus all the activity and curricular opportunities, it’s critical for parents to have access to constructive resources that encourage them in raising their children.

Add to this the importance of creating safety for their questioning spirits—their enormous curiosity about life—helping them develop and explore their own inner landscape can anchor and nourish them.

Why Focus on Strengths?

In their book, Now Discover Your Strengths, Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton have created a program to help readers identify their talents, build them into strengths, and enjoy consistent performance.

Unfortunately, most teenagers have little sense of their talents and strengths, much less the ability to build their lives around them. Instead, guided by us, by teachers, and by psychology’s fascination with pathology, they are encouraged to identify, analyze, and correct their weaknesses in order to become strong.

Best Quotes

“This advice is well intended but misguided. Faults and failings deserve study, but they reveal little about strengths. Strengths have their own patterns. To help your teenager excel in his or her chosen field and find lasting satisfaction in doing so, they will need to understand their unique patterns. You will want them to become expert at finding and describing and applying and practicing and refining their strengths.”

“By defining strength as consistent, near perfect performance in an activity, there are three important principles of living a strong life: First, for an activity to be a strength your teen must be able to do it consistently. The acid test of a strength? The ability to fathom themselves doing it repeatedly, happily, and successfully.

“Second, they don’t have to have strength in every aspect of their role in order to excel. They do not have to be well-rounded. Third, they will excel by maximizing their strengths, never by fixing their weaknesses. This is not saying, ‘ignore your weaknesses.’ Instead, help your teen find ways around their weaknesses, thereby freeing them up to hone their strengths to a sharper point.”

Counteract Learned Helplessness

In her book, How to Father a Successful Daughter, Nicky Marone suggests that “there are all kinds of parents. Some get locked into a particular kind of message that puts pressure on a daughter to conform to the stereotypical role of learned helplessness.

The following questions help raise our consciousness so we can begin to understand the complexity of the forces that act on females and affect their lives significantly.

  1. Do I encourage my daughter to explore her environment, seek new experiences, and challenge her physical limits? In other words, do I encourage her to take risks?
  2. Am I inclined to rescue my daughter whenever she becomes frustrated or upset? Do I hover, ever watchful to ensure her comfort and security?
  3. Have I ever shown my daughter how to defend herself or enrolled her in a self-defense course?
  4. Do I accept “I’m scared” or “I don’t want to” as a legitimate justification for avoiding a challenge? (Would you accept this justification from a son?)

Premature Rescuing

“Because of realistic fears concerning their safety, we train girls to be careful and cautious. We do this out of love, and love can make mistakes.

“When we rescue prematurely or protect too aggressively, we send a powerful message: “You can’t do this alone. You need help.

“The result of this training is that girls become fearful and dependent. They rarely get the opportunity to experience the sheer exhilaration of a risk successfully negotiated.

“Consequently, girls are often cheated out of the growth and self-knowledge that come from pushing beyond one’s comfort zone.

“When interacting with daughters, fathers displayed a curious behavior which they did not display with sons. They would pick up the puzzle piece and put it in place for the daughter —before she requested help.

“This [often unconscious] type of behavior, obviously motivated by love and a desire to protect, has devastating effects. Ultimately, it produces a type of behavior called “learned helplessness.

“The theory of learned helplessness is aptly conveyed in the label itself. It states that given the right conditions, individuals learn to be helpless. In other words, the helplessness, which many females exhibit is not a feminine trait, but rather one that has been taught and reinforced. One of the vehicles for teaching learned helplessness is premature rescuing.

“The unspoken message says, “You are not capable of doing this by yourself. You need help.” Females receive this message much more frequently than do males.

“With males, we allow them to experiment in order to build character and test their limitations. We do not offer females the same luxury. Instead, by rescuing them, we cripple them.

“Unfortunately, in a father’s overly zealous desire to protect his little girl from risk and the discomfort of anxiety-provoking situations, he tells her that she is incapable, incompetent, and in need of help. His behavior sends the message that that is what he thinks of her, so she comes to believe it herself.

“Always wait until your daughter requests help. Even then, you may decide it is in her best interest to withhold assistance a little longer. Never, never give help before it is requested. Stop and think, ‘How many times in my adult life has anyone barged in to rescue me before I requested it?’

“Since it is adult life you are preparing her for, the answer is self-evident. Unless it is an emergency situation, pause and ask yourself, “Would I rescue her from this situation if she were a boy?”

“With every risk successfully negotiated comes an equal and proportionate surge of confidence and vitality. In a way, one is almost ensured of success whenever one takes a risk because the act of taking the risk in the first place is a positive self-assessment and a boost to self-esteem, even if one fails at the undertaking! Not to try is the ultimate failure.

“Safety and security are dead ends. They do not foster personal growth, they do not encourage development of one’s coping skills, they do not inspire one to push beyond one’s comfort zone.

Motivate Boys to Learn

In his book, Boys Adrift, Leonard Sax highlights several disturbing trends influencing growing boys. He draws on the scientific literature and his more than 25 years of clinical experience to explain why boys and young men are failing in school and disengaged at home.

Best Quotes

“Many kids who are being diagnosed with ADD/ADHD today are misdiagnosed. They’re not paying attention, true, but their deficit of attention isn’t due to ADHD, its due to a lack of motivation in the classroom.

“Those boys don’t need drugs. What they need, first is a curriculum that is developmentally appropriate, and second, teachers who knew how to teach boys.

“There are two kinds of knowledge: book learning and experiential learning. Kids need to experience the real world. Only the past decade have developmental psychologists come to recognize that a curriculum that emphasizes book learning at the expense of experiential learning is deficient.

“You can easily find high school students in America today who can tell you about the importance of the environment, the carbon cycle and the nitrogen cycle, and so on, but they’ve never spent a night outdoors. They have plenty of book learning but not a trace of experiential learning.

“For boys in particular, emphasizing book learning while ignoring experiential learning may seriously impair development—not cognitive development, but the development of a lively and passionate curiosity

“‘Nature is about smelling, hearing, tasting,’ Richard Louv reminds us. ‘The end result of a childhood with more time spent in front of computer screens than outdoors is what he calls cultural autism.’ If boys are deprived of that balance between book and experiential learning, they may simply disengage from school.

“What about video games? One key is balance. If time spent on video games is crowding out time spent with friends or time spent on homework, then your son is spending too much time on video games.

“Researchers find that the more time you spend playing video games, the more likely you are to develop difficulties maintaining sustained concentration on a single item.

“No one else can do this job for you. You must know what games your child is playing. There should be no expectation of privacy when your son is playing a video game.

“If your sons is going to a friend’s house to play video games, you must find out whether the parents share your concerns about violent video games. What rules should you lay down?

“Professor Anderson recommends first of all that you either play the game yourself or watch it being played.

Conclusion

These books provide numerous ideas for you to consider. It’s easiest to raise our teenagers on autopilot because we’re all so busy with so many things. It takes time to check out their video games and it takes awareness to notice when we’re rescuing them.

Time is what you have for a short eighteen years, and consciously deciding how to help your teenager discover their strengths, avoid premature rescuing—allow them to make mistakes and learn from them in order to develop self-reliance, and helping their balance their lives will, in the long run, help them become more successful in life.

 

Categories
Self-Help

Are You Creating Your Life or Drifting?

Are you consciously creating your life or drifting?

Years ago, my husband finished his job in Mississippi, and moved to the Texas Panhandle to be near his family. I assumed our lives would roll smoothly through the next job change and sale of our home without any effort or planning . . . and it didn’t.

I was a victim of what Michael Hyatt refers to as “the drift”—a metaphor for living without a plan. In his book, Living Forward, Michael teaches, “Drift usually happens for one or more reasons:

  1. It happens when we are unaware.
  2. It happens when we are distracted.
  3. It happens when we are overwhelmed.
  4. It happens when we are deceived.
  5. As a result, you drift, feeling powerless to change course. Drift is a state of no passion and no progress.

A study of the responses of 4,000 retired executives over the age of 70 by Dr. Gerald Bell revealed a common regret: They wished they had done more life planning. “I would have carved out life goals and owned my life.” I should have taken charge of my life through goal setting.” “I would have spent more time on my personal development.

“A Life Plan won’t insulate you from life’s adversities and unexpected turns, but it will help you become an active participant in your life, intentionally shaping your own future.

“The experience of creating a Life Plan, regularly reviewing it, and updating it as necessary, has been transformational. As family, friends, career, and other interests have grown, our Life Plan has kept us on track, holding true to the things we value most.”

Experiment

It took a financially unstable transition for me to wake up. As I became thoughtful about how I perceived the situation, I came to realize that expecting the worst colored my thinking and kept me stuck. That’s when I began to experiment with my thinking patterns and eliminating those that kept me in a place of resistance rather than possibility—I moved into problem solving and imagining my life better.

I brainstormed what I wanted to have happen in several areas: marketable skills to develop, education goals, financial goals and personal growth goals. This included goals like getting m teaching certificate and master’s degree, planning a career path, living debt free, creating an emergency fund and college funds for our children, and figuring out fun things we wanted to do and places we wanted to see with our children as they grew up. This was the genesis of the book, Imagine Your Life, Discover Your Dreams.

Write Your Plan Out

Most people I talk with about creating a life plan fall into two categories:

  1. Those who want to take life as it comes.
  2. Those who wake up and decide where they want to go.

Using the activities found in Imagine Your Life and Discover Your Dreams, these individuals create a flexible action plan that moves them toward what they want in life. They make a life list of things they want to accomplish and think about attitudes and talents they want to improve. Thoreau wrote,

“Most people live lives of quiet desperation: they die with their music still in them.”

Let your music out by creating your life as a blueprint on paper first. Then evaluate and adjust your plans along the way. How will you bring more happiness, gratitude, and enjoyment into your life?

Download and print my 5-year planning handout – set up the years in the left-hand column: 2023, 2024, 2025, 2026, 2027.

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One Step at a Time

You can improve your life one step at a time. Once you have begun to create the details for your primary goals, the next step is to:

Brainstorm: Brainstorming helps us expand our thinking to include goals and aspirations that can be integrated into our daily lives. We can invent the future in our imagination before creating it tangibly to discover possibilities—moving ideas from vision into form. Use the following open-ended sentences to generate 8-10 new ideas:

  • If I could do, be, or having anything, what would my heart say?
  • What would I do if I could do anything without training?
  • What would I do for fun?

Go for Detail: When we create dreams without the particulars, what we want is usually too large in our heads. Our desires need to be broken down into smaller tasks or amounts, just as we make smaller monthly payments to pay off a large loan, for example.

Set up timelines: Creating a structure, framework, or blueprint offers a view of what lies ahead before you move forward. Follow through is essential; it includes creating timelines and dated action plans for managing the details of dreams to ensure continued progress.

Once you have specific details, you can identify the smallest action that fits into your weekly and monthly schedules. To say you will lose a pound a month, or save $100 toward a family vacation every paycheck lets you make continual progress toward your goal.

You begin to bring your dreams into reality.

Stay in the language of possibility: The most important rule of creation is to avoid negative self-talk ordevalue your efforts. Your self-talk powerfully impacts intention and commitment and keeps you either flowing energy or depleting energy.

The language of possibility fosters hope, optimism, and responsibility: “I can,” “I will,” “I’ll figure it out,” “I want . . .,” and “I promise,” are phrases that encourage you to move forward and open you to further insight and problem solving.

Enjoy the process: If we wait to celebrate until the fulfillment of our goal, we miss the pleasurable moments of the journey in the middle—the illuminating ahas, and what the experience is teaching us. Savor each moment of struggle and ease.

Choosing to develop your creative imagination and engage in life planning will transform your life. As your thoughts and dreams become visible, you will discover pathways leading to their fulfillment . . . and live a life free of regret.

Categories
Inspirational

3 of Karen Pool’s Inspirational Favorites

In an earlier blog I highlighted three of my favorite fiction book series. Even though I read many, many of these, I also read as many or more nonfiction books that have been inspiring and expanded my thinking in new ways.

Mind Expanding

Some books expand my mind and open me to new ideas and ways of thinking. This one was suggested to me by one of my brothers. The Art of Possibility by Ben and Rosamond Zander brilliantly captures ideas and reframes concepts that help anyone extend their reach, their influence, and change their paradigm toward endless possibilities. It’s one of the most inspiring and practical books I’ve read.

The chapter titles launch you into an exciting, paradigm-shifting journey: 1 – It’s All Invented, 2 – Stepping into a Universe of Possibility, 3 – Giving an A (awesome for educators), 4 – Being a Contribution, 5 – Leading from Any Chair, 6 – Rule Number 6 (my favorite chapter), 7 – The Way Things Are, and more.

Quotes that Resonate

“When we practice Rule Number 6, we coax our calculating self to lighten up, and by doing so we break its hold on us. We portray the calculating self as a ladder with a downward progress.

“It represents the slippage that occurs when we try to control people and circumstances to give ourselves a boost. We become more hard-headed. Inevitably our relationships spiral downward. As the calculating self tumbles out of control, it intensifies its efforts to climb back up and get in charge.

“When one person peels away layers of opinion, entitlement, pride, and inflated self-description, others instantly feel the connection. As one person has the grace to practice the secret of Rule Number 6, others often follow.

“Now, with the calculating self revealed and humored, the central self shines through. Our central self is the remarkably generative, prolific, open, aware, and creative nature within us.

“Being present to the way things are is not the same as accepting things as they are in the resigned way of the cow. It simply means, being present without resistance.

“Mistakes can be like ice. If we resist them, we may keep on slipping into a posture of defeat. Instead, we can mentally raise our arms and say, “How fascinating!” and reroute our attention to the higher purpose at hand.

“Radiating possibility begins with things as they are and highlights open spaces, the pathways leading our from here. Then the obstacles are simply present conditions. This calls for an expansion of ourselves; we encompass contradictions, painful feelings, fears, and imaginings, and—without fleeing, blaming, or attempting correction—we learn to soar, like the far-seeing hawk, over the whole landscape. This allows us to alight in a place of openness, where “truth” readies us for the next step.”

Attitude Changing

Other books surprise me with insights that change my attitude or my life and help me navigate through life’s ups and downs with more grace. In Kitchen Table Wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remens suggests that we’ve lost our ability to recount stories around the kitchen table—sharing those experiences that pass on the wisdom of the ages to the next generation.

We’ve lost our ability to savor time; we’re too busy moving into the next event or project, and we’re nervous if we’re not busy to the max. We rush through meals, checking our smart phones, instead of listening for, and cataloging what we’re learning. I reread this book when I was working on slowing down and recording what I was learning in life.

Quotes that Resonate

“Wholeness lies beyond perfection. The pursuit of perfection has become a major addiction of our time. Fortunately, perfectionism is learned. No one is born a perfectionist, which is why it is possible to recover. I am a recovering perfectionist. Before I began recovering, I experienced that I and everyone else was always falling short, that who we were and what we did was never quite good enough. Perfectionism is the belief that life is broken

“Sometimes perfectionists have had a parent who is a perfectionist, someone who awarded approval on the basis of performance and achievement. Children can learn early that they are loved for what they do and not simply for who they are. The life of such children can become a constant striving to earn love. Of course, love is never earned. It is a grace we give one another. Anything we need to earn is only approval.

‘Inner peace is more a question of cultivating perspective, meaning, and wisdom even as life touches you with pain. It is more a spiritual quality than a mental ability. We are here for a single purpose: to grow in wisdom and learn to love better.”

Increase Creative Abilities

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Albert Einstein

Creativity and imagination have been the two favorite topics that I have explored, studied, and taught, especially to students and adults who somehow sealed in their hearts and minds that they were not creative or imaginative.

Penny Peirce, author of The Intuitive Way, wrote: “In your imagination anything is possible. It’s easy to access information from any level, rearrange a configuration of ideas and belief, plant seeds of intention that will later grow into manifested reality, or even dissolve a reality that’s interfering with the birth of a new experience.

Quotes that Resonate

“Imagination fulfilled a bridging function in your mind by helping to link your lower and upper brains. Right before an insight or message pops into the highest part of your brain, it becomes visual. So symbols are the universal language of intuition, served up to us via our imagination. Imagination determines the quality of our lives since what we can imagine is as far as we’ll let ourselves go.

“We rarely pursue something unless we can imagine it first and get a ‘felt sense’ of how it might unfold. Vivid imagination with its rich sensory input and endless variety of emotional tones, makes ideas more real for us, and thus realizable. Imagination is your friend and can flesh out your life, bringing messages from your soul about how to increase creativity, self-expression, and possibilities.”

Reading inspirational nonfiction books has given me many of my greatest aha’s—mind expanding concepts to practice, finding quotes that resonate, and discovering ideas that increase my creative abilities—these kinds of books are delightful, and keep me learning and growing.

 

Categories
Inspirational

The Mental Game in Everything

Do you want to improve or grow a new business venture? Do you want to become a better parent or life partner? Do you want to improve an aspect or area in your life?

It’s the mental discipline that will have the greatest impact in your life. And it’s your unconscious thinking patterns that sabotage your progress.

In the movie, “The Last Samurai,” Tom Cruise’s character learns the concept of “too many minds” which keeps him from succeeding during a practice fight. This is so often what happens in life.

When we’re overwhelmed with all we want to do and have to do, all the while juggling family and work responsibilities, we’re habitually mindless. As we go throughout our days, our minds are fractured, full of worry, self-doubt, and self-judgment.

These three books I’m showcasing include ideas to help improve mental performance in any activity or aspect of life.

The Inner Game of Tennis

Every game, even the game of life, is composed of two parts, an outer game and an inner game. There are many books offering instructions about the outer aspects of living. Timothy Gallwey, in his book, The Inner Game of Tennis, suggests, “that neither mastery nor satisfaction can be found in the playing of any game without giving attention to the relatively neglected skills of the inner game.”

Illuminating Quotes

“This is the game that takes place in the mind of the player, and it is played against such obstacles as lapses in concentration, nervousness, self-doubt, and self-condemnation. It is played to overcome all habits of mind which inhibit excellence in performance.

“The player in [the game of life] comes to value the art of relaxed concentration above all other skills. The secret to winning any game lies in not trying too hard. An individual aims at the kind of spontaneous performance which occurs only when the mind is calm and seems at one with the body, which finds its own surprising ways to surpass its own limits again and again.

“Moreover, while overcoming these common habits of mind, the player of the inner game uncovers a will to win which unlocks all his energy and which is never discouraged by losing.

“The best athletes in most sports know that their peak performance never comes when they’re thinking about it. Clearly to play unconsciously does not mean to play without consciousness.

“He is not aware of giving himself a lot of instructions. He is conscious, but not thinking, not over-trying. The unconscious or automatic functions are working without interference from thoughts.

“Perhaps a better way to describe the player who is “unconscious” is by saying that his mind is so concentrated, so focused, that it is still. As soon as we reflect, deliberate, and conceptualize, the original unconsciousness is lost and a thought interferes.

“Quieting the mind [whether in a game or in life] means less thinking, calculating, judging, worrying, fearing, hoping, trying, regretting, or controlling.

“The mind is still when it is totally here and now in perfect oneness with the action and the actor. It is the purpose of the Inner Game to increase the frequency and the duration of these moments, quieting the mind by degrees and realizing thereby a continual expansion of our capacity to learn and perform.

“The first inner skill to be developed is that of nonjudgmental awareness. Judgmental labels usually lead to emotional reactions, and then to tightness, trying too hard, and self-condemnation.

“When we ‘unlearn’ judgment we discover that we may simply need to be more aware. There is a more natural process of learning waiting to be discovered.”

Read Our Review

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Boys in the Boat

A second surprising book about the mental game in everything is Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. This is an exciting, richly-detailed, and beautifully-crafted true story about the nine Americans from the University of Washington’s rowing crew that was never expected to defeat the elite teams of the East Coast and Great Britain, let alone win an opportunity to row in the Olympics of 1936 held in Berlin where Hitler concealed his true intentions behind well-orchestrated propaganda.

The emotional heart of the tale lies with Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not only to regain his self-regard, but also to find a real place for himself in the world.

This book is about teamwork, and the boat builder, George Pocock’s wisdom is worthy of reading about if you’re interested in improving the mental game in your life.

Illuminating Quotes

“To defeat an adversary who was your equal, maybe even your superior, it wasn’t necessarily enough just to give your all from start to finish. You had to master your opponent mentally.

“When the critical moment in a close race was upon you, you had to know something [your opponent] did not—that down in your core you still had something in reserve, something you had not  yet shown, something that once revealed would make him doubt himself, make him falter just when it counted the most.

“There is a thing that sometimes happens in rowing that is hard to achieve and hard to define. It’s called ‘swing’—that fourth dimension of rowing It only happens when all eight oarsmen are rowing in such perfect unison that no single action by any one is out of synch with those of all the others.

“It’s not just that the oars enter and leave the water at the same time. Each minute action—each subtle turning of the wrists—must be mirrored exactly by each oarsman from the one end of the boat to the other.

“At the gun they got off slowly, falling behind all three other boats. Then something kicked in. Somehow determination conquered despair. They began to pull in long, sweet, precisely synchronized strokes.

“By the end of the first mile, they had found their swing and surged into the lead. For the remaining mile and a half, the sophomores settled in and rowed gorgeously—a long, sleek line of perfection, finishing a comfortable two lengths ahead.

“When you were done and walked aware from the boat, you had to feel that you had left a piece of yourself behind in it forever, a bit of your heart. Rowing is like that. And a lot of life is like that, too, the parts that really matter anyway.”

Read Our Review

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The Energy of Money

The third book that explores the mental game in everything is The Energy of Money by Maria Nemeth. She teaches about two realities: the physical with form, density, and size, and the metaphysical with information, ideas, inspiration, and intentions. With focused consciousness, we bring the metaphysical into the physical every day.

Illuminating Quotes

“When we bring ideas from the metaphysical into the physical, we bump into trouble at the border, an invisible line where old unresolved issues come up. What comes up are your fears and unfinished business.

“It takes energy to move the boulders away–clear away any barriers that would keep you focused so that you are able to take an idea or inspiration or dream past that trouble at the border fully and completely into physical reality.

“People who succeed have the same doubts and fears and worries as anyone else. They don’t spend time analyzing. They see that those doubts and fears aren’t relevant to who they are or their goals. They just keep going.

“Success is doing what you do with ease—a sense of fun, even if you’re working hard, versus doing what you want with struggle.

“Something else: your basic assumption is a decision you made many, many years ago about yourself or life–a reaction to threat. It occurs at a deep & cellular level: Fight (people are awful, you can’t make me), run away (I can’t; life is hard; I’m dumb), or freeze (I don’t know; I’m not sure).

“There are four steps to help you move past the trouble at the border: 1. Be willing to look—direct your attention towards your money issues, 2. Be willing to see—discern something that was there, perhaps in the background, 3. Allow yourself to tell the truth, and 4. Find the opportunity to take authentic action.

“To be financially successful is doing what you said you would do with money with ease. Make a promise about money using the four steps. Telling the truth gives you some breathing room.

“Monkey mind becomes very loud at the border, and tries to protect us. Say “thanks for sharing,” when monkey mind says this is stupid.

“To say probably, try, hope to be willing, or maybe is the language of fear. Yoda: there is no try—only do or do not. Yes or no is more conscious and brings clarity and ease. You are no longer able to fool yourself.

“Once you are conscious about your relationship with money (or anything else, for that matter), you can no longer pretend that you don’t know what you’re doing.”

Read Our Review

Buy on Amazon

Each of these books illuminates the mental game in everything—whether in sports, about money, or the game of life. You are making choices every day—decisions that show how you are using your mind.

Either you’re making yourself crazy by consciously or unconsciously filling your mind with worry, doubts, and fears—feeding monkey mind, or you trust yourself and practice the empowering art of mindfulness.

You can find your peaceful center, the ability to stay in relaxed concentration; you can find your swing.

Categories
Inspirational

Tips for Writing Your Personal Life Story

“Look forward. Turn what has been done into a better path.
Think about the impact of your decision on seven generations into the future.” —Wilma Mankiller, Chief of the Cherokee

This quote has stayed with me ever since I heard it at a workshop in Rapid City, South Dakota in 1996. I had not considered the legacy I would leave for generations to come. This Native American concept emphasizes the interconnectedness of all life, respect for previous generations, and nurturance of future ones.

Have you felt a nudge or impression to write some of your thoughts and impressions?

Have you lived through a trial or trauma and felt it was important to record your experience?

Have you learned some important life lessons that would benefit younger generations?

We stand at a pivotal point—as each generation does—a place where we can look backward and forward. We may view our own contribution as insignificant and justify our reasons for not illuminating it, or we can truthfully acknowledge that we were born into this earth-life experience at a critical time that allows us to have a lasting influence on generations to come.

Begin Writing

Julia Cameron’s book, It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again, is an excellent resource of activities aimed at those transitioning into the second act of life—leaving one life behind, and heading into one yet to be created. It’s also a course for anyone who wishes to expand his or her creativity.

“Here are several basic principles for Creativity Recovery:
• Creativity is God’s gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God.
• When we open ourselves to exploring our creativity, we open ourselves to God: good orderly direction.
• Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a divine source. As we move toward out dreams, we move toward our divinity.

“The Basic Tools section in each chapter includes a Memoir section. A weekly guided process of triggering memories and revisiting your life and answering questions in several-year increments: ages 1-6, 7-12, 13-18, 19-24, 25-32, etc. By answering a short list of questions each week, you will trigger vivid memories, discover lost dreams, and find unexpected healing and clarity.

Inspiring Quotes

“Every life is fascinating. And when we are willing to look at, and thus honor, the life we have led, we inevitably bring ourselves to a place of both power and appreciation. As you become open to revisiting your life, your life will become open to revisiting you.

“As you delve into early childhood memories, you will reconnect with the wonder of a familiar—and perhaps long-ignored—sense of possibility. You will start to examine and discard old ideas that may be stopping you from exploring new horizons: the inner blocks of skepticism and self-censorship, even the idea that it’s “too late” to begin something new.

“You will begin to look at yourself—and your story—with more compassion. With wonder, you will begin to recognize yourself as a unique being with much to contribute to the world.”

“Once you begin writing about your life, your Inner Censor shows up. In dealing with the Censor, it helps to know that its negative voice is not the voice of reason. Rather, it is a caricature villain who will always be on the attack until we stand up to it and say, “Oh—that’s my Censor.

Afraid of feeling foolish, we often back down from our dreams. In reality, it is the Censor’s voice that is foolish, talking us out of our joys and future rewards. When the Censor shows up and tells you that your idea is crazy, respond with, “Thanks for sharing,” and move forward.”

Create First, Edit and Refine Later

In Celebrating Women’s Voices, I introduce the concept of first-thought writing. We forget to create first, and evaluate later. We can’t drive a car in first gear and reverse at the same time. Likewise, when we mix different types of thinking, we strip our mental gears.

Most of us highjack our writing attempts and other creative endeavors because we evaluate and edit too soon and too often, and therefore create less. In order to create more and better ideas, you must separate creation from evaluation, coming up with lots of ideas first, then judging their worth later.

For instance, write or brainstorm, even for a short amount of time, say 10 or 15 minutes without stopping. Then let what you’ve written rest, even for a day or so. Write, then get away in your hammock or other favorite place and let your mind rest. Then another time separate from creating, work on the editing and refining process. Celebrating Women’s Voices includes a variety of topics to get started writing.

One More Idea

As I converse with individuals about writing their personal life story, I hear expressions of both enjoyment and exasperation. Some follow a timeline, compiling dates and events as they occurred from birth to the present, highlighting the important memories and experiences in sequence.

You can add depth and flavor into your writing by asking different questions as you review your life’s experiences. Consider these:

• What were 5-6 transformational or defining moments in your life?
• Where did your given name come from, and why is it important to you?
• What are some of your favorites: color, flower, book, author, type of meal, dessert, game, candy, vacation spot, season, fruit, veggie, flavor, quote, song, hobby, sport, movie, etc?
• Who are the five most influential people in your life?
• What are 3 lessons you learned from your father/mother?
• What legacy do you hope to leave your children and posterity?
• What has been your life’s purpose?
• What are 4-5 things that have contributed to your life in a deep and abiding way?

It’s easy to wonder if you’re coming up with the kind of answers others are expecting, or you may feel inadequate as a writer. Create ease by remembering that there is no one right way to record the events of your life, and critical feedback closes the door to this type of insightful writing.

Record new questions as they arise and come to your attention. These are precious, personalized, and will draw you into a deeper understanding of yourself. Record them for future writing.

In the conclusion of Celebrating Women’s Voices, I wrote: “Our thoughts about our lives and learning—the things we ponder and notice, what is interesting to us, the depth of wisdom that comes from our experiences—all this and the story of our lives, contribute to the record of this world.

“Our life’s star didn’t blink momentarily and then die—we were here, alive, and visible. We worked, entertained, suffered, learned, laughed, loved, rejoiced, and wrote about it. We need to tell our stories and share the deep feelings of our heart voices, not so that younger ones can necessarily follow the same pattern, but so that they can see that we value our lives, our voices, and our thoughts enough to record them.”

The tips in this blog post can help you start the process of writing your life story, one sentence, one paragraph at a time. Julia Cameron suggests, “Writing by hand is essential. When we write by hand, we go slowly enough to record our thoughts with accuracy. On a computer we whiz along, dashing our thoughts to the page; our perceptions are fleeting. Many of us feel we can write faster on the computer. Fast is not what we are after.” Instead, we are writing for clarity, to release/let go, to create, to forgive, and to tell the truth about our lives. Start with a notebook. Later, you can use the computer. Once you begin, you will receive nudges and inspiration about how to proceed further in your story-telling.

Categories
nonfiction

How to Make Financial Independence Easier

I’ve studied a plethora of books on money management and developing financial intelligence in preparation for presentations, workshops, and classes I’ve taught at the university level and in the community over the past several decades.

Beginning Steps

I’ve gathered and integrated best practices into a set of easy-to-follow guidelines and published How to Make Independence Easier last year for those who want to improve their financial situation and eventually become financially independent. This book has three parts:

  1. A look at roadblocks that stop us before we even start on a path toward financial independence,
  2. How to create structure, and practice several basic strategies,
  3. How to develop long-term plans and problem-solve with you’re in the messy middle of achieving our financial goals.

I’m reminded any time I visit with an individual or a couple in financial distress of how easy it to become mindless about spending.

It’s not that we don’t budget for certain monthly expenses and manage those. It’s that if anything else comes up, we get in the habit of spending or charging without considering the consequences, or without thinking about saving for it if we don’t have the money in hand.

Saving for what you want is called delayed gratification. We practiced this with our children, who were frustrated sometimes when insisted at times that they wait until they had saved money for what they wanted. I’ve learned from books, and also from my own unrealistic financial decisions.

Of those listed in the resource section of my book, two others are my favorites and I recommend these to others who want to study and learn more about developing financial resilience, and teach tried and true principles to their children:

Financial Prosperity

The 4 Laws of Financial Prosperity tells a story about a man whose financial situation is a disaster and how following four specific laws transformed his life.

I like the sprinkling of quotes that are part of each chapter. I really believe that when I don’t know where I’m going, I’ll end up in a place I don’t expect—the result of default planning.

It’s always good to be tracking our expenses and see where we can trim things up for the next few months.

Best Quotes

“Progress in our financial lives is directly related to the ability to measure. Smart people find the exact places their cash flow when they thought it was going to flow. They backtrack along the pipeline looking for leaks, knowing that if they can find the leaks, they can fix them. You’ve got to measure it before you can manage it.”

“Once you get out of debt and don’t have to pay all that interest, you don’t stop spending, you just spend differently. You begin to include savings and investments.

“Financial training is critical—learn more about real estate, reading books on stocks, bonds, and securities investments, and find a financial counselor or money manager who is interested in a long-term relationship.

“Most of us need to change the way we acquire and keep track of our money. Most of us need to change the way we budget so we can live on less than we earn. You may carry some emotional baggage—inherited attitudes and behavior patterns from parents.

“The people who understand money spend it on assets that generate wealth. Those who don’t understand money spend it on things that consume wealth, and thus the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”

Comparing Two Stories

Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki contrasts the stories of two fathers, a rich one and a poor one. Robert writes, “One was highly educated and intelligent, had a Ph.D. and continue his advanced studies, all on full financial scholarships. The other father never finished the eighth grade.

Best Quotes

“Both men were successful in their careers, working hard all their lives. Both earned substantial incomes Yet one struggled financially all his life. The other would become one of the richest men. The other left bills to be paid.

“Both men were strong, charismatic and influential. Both men offered me advise; they did not advise the same things. Both men believed strongly in education but didn’t recommend the same course of study. Instead of simply accepting or rejecting one or the other, I found myself thinking more, comparing and then choosing for myself.”

“Financial intelligence is the mental process via which we solve our financial problems.

“The world has changed, but education has not changed with it. Children spend years in an antiquated educational system, studying subjects they will never use, preparing for a world that no longer exists. Today, the most dangerous advice you can give a child is, “Go to school, get good grades ad look for a safe, secure job.

“Money is not taught in schools. Schools focus on scholastic and professional skills, not on financial skills. This explains how some smart bankers, doctors, and accountants who earned excellent grades in school may still struggle financially all their lives. Our staggering national debt is due in large part to highly educated politicians and government officials making financial decisions with little or no training on the subject of money.

“As I learned from both influential fathers, I gained valuable insight into the power and effect of one’s thoughts on one’s life. For example, one dad had a habit of saying, ‘I can’t afford it.’ The other dad would say, ‘How can I afford it?’ One lets you off the hook, and the other is a question. One lets you off the hook, and the other forces you to think. My soon-to-be-rich dad would explain that by automatically saying the words, ‘I can’t afford it,’ your brain stops working.”

Rich Dad Poor Dad dispels the myth that you need a high income to become rich, defines an asset and a liability, and teaches you what to teach your kids about money for their future financial success. He also has developed a game, Cashflow for kids (about $79) to help you teach your children how to get out of the rat race.

There are critical financial principles we want to live and teach to our children; a way for them to develop delated gratification, learn the importance of earning instead of paying interest, and make plans for the future. These offer individuals and parents peace of mind in an uncertain world.

Categories
fiction

Some of My Favorite Fiction Series

When I created bookreviewpro.com, I immediately identified categories of books I wanted to highlight and, in many cases, share favorite quotes from them. I knew I would have a category for my all-time favorites.

I’ve always read—partly for the enjoyment of a good story—also because I’m a student of life with lots of questions. I find numerous answers in many of the books I read, which I track. I underline and sometimes even type my underlined parts into a separate document.

I read mysteries, fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, and quite a few young adult books. In addition, I read business books, self-help books, books about science, writing, and research books about educational issues, and most recently about the second half of life.

So how do books get on my all-time favorite list of the literally hundreds of books I’ve read over the years? There are several criteria for fiction book series where the characters find themselves in surprising and challenging experiences with each book:

A Stunningly Beautiful World

I love books that create such a beautiful world that it’s heart breaking to leave it. This is what Juliet Marillier does in her fantasy series time and time again. These books are elegantly written based on fairy tales. The Sevenwaters series is based on the Seven Swans story. The first book is Daughter of the Forest. She fills out the characters, the setting, the sorrow, and the tenacity of those who overcome devastating challenges out of love for family and friends.

Her mother dies at her birth, and Sorcha is the seventh child born after six brothers. Her brothers grow up running wild in the forest around the keep of Sevenwaters.

“Maybe I wasn’t the seventh son of the old tales, the one who’d have magical powers and the luck of the Fair Folk, but I tagged along with the boys anyway, and they loved me and raised me as well as a bunch of boys could. Our home was named for the seven streams that flowed down the hillsides into the great, tree-circled lake.

“The boys grew up quickly. By the time Liam was twelve, he was undergoing an intensive training in the arts of war. Not long after Diarmid’s particular skill with the spear earned him a place, and all too soon both were riding out with Father’s band of warriors.

“Cormack could scarcely wait for the day when he would be old enough to go to war. Padriac had a talent with animals and a gift for fixing things.

“The rest of us were different. Conor was Cormack’s twin and loved learning, struck a bargain with Father Brien, and was taught to read. Eventually he found his place keeping the records and accounts and maps for our father.

“Finbar would find his own path; he could handle a horse and learn sword and bow to defend himself or me, or aid my brothers in time of peril. But he would have nothing to do with Father’s campaigning. Finbar could see ahead, and offer warnings.

Sorcha would continue to teach herself the healer’s art, because her heart told her that this would be her true work. All is well until their father remarries.

An Invented World at Its Best

Another cleverly-written series is the Mercy Thompson books by Patricia Briggs. The first book in this series is Moon Called. Patricia has created an urban-fantasy world about a Volkswagen mechanic living in the Tri-Cities area of Washington. Mercy’s Native American heritage has gifted her with the ability to shape-shift into an unremarkable coyote.

When her mother didn’t know what to do with her, she sent Mercy to be raised by the Marrock—head of the North American werewolves. She always finds herself in the middle of a variety of complicated and dangerous circumstances in a world of far more powerful supernatural beings—werewolves, vampires, fae, and witches.

“Grunting with effort, I held the transmission where it belonged with my knees and one hand. With the other I slipped the first bolt in and tightened it. I wasn’t finished but the transmission would stay in place where it was while I dealt with my customer.

“He looked gaunt, as though he’d been a while without food. My nose told me, even over the smell of gasoline, oil, and antifreeze permeating the garage, that it had been an equally long time since he’d seen a shower. And, under the dirt, sweat and old fear, was the distinctive scent of werewolf [who said to call him Mac].

“Adam Hauptman, who shared my back-fence line, was the Alpha of the local Tri-Cities werewolf pack. Werewolves don’t take to strangers very well. There are all sorts of protocols they insist upon when a new wolf comes into someone else’s territory, and something tells me that Mac hasn’t petitioned the pack.”

A Surprising Twist

I especially enjoy books that are cleverly written with a surprising twist.

The Cadfael mystery series is written by Ellis Peters. Cadfael is an herbalist at the Shrewsbury Monastery in 12th century England. The first book in the series is titled, A Morbid Taste for Bones. This is a delightful story of a soldier in the crusades who becomes a monk later in life. He sometimes is at odds with the strictness of the order as mandated by the head abbot.

Because of his experiences with wounds and poisons, he finds himself right in the middle of the latest murder. This gives him some relief from the strict schedule of the monastery. The story usually includes a romance, and there’s a surprising back story that runs as a thread through the series.

I enjoyed this series so much that during one visit to England, a friend and I went to Shrewsbury “on pilgrimage” to see the village and monastery where the story was placed.

“In the enclosed garden within the walls of the Shrewsbury Abby, Brother Cadfael ruled unchallenged. The herbarium in particular was his kingdom for he had built it up, gradually through the fifteen years of labour, and added to it many exotic plants of his own careful raising, collected in a youth that had taken him as far afield as Venice, and Cyprus and the Holy Land, and ten years as a sea captain. For Brother Cafael had come late to the monastic life.

“On this particular May morning Brother Cadfael rolled to his own chosen corner, well to the rear and poorly lit, half-concealed behind one of the stone pillars. It was his habit to employ the time to good account of sleeping, which from long usage he could do bolt upright and undetected in his shadowy corner.

“After the reading, he knew that most of the remaining time would be given to Prior Robert’s campaign to secure the relics and patronage of a powerful saint for the monastery. Three other priories nearby had rediscovered or recovered relics and the great Benedictine house of Shrewsbury was as empty as a plundered alms box.

Prior Robert had been scouring the borderlands for a spare saint now for a year or more, looking hopefully towards Wales, where it was well known that holy men and women had been as common as mushrooms in autumn in the past. Brother Cadfael had no wish to hear the latest of his complaints and urgings. He slept.”

These kinds of books—a beautiful world created, an invented world at its best, and books with a surprising twist, provide the learning and entertainment I enjoy most.

Categories
Inspirational

Five Trends of the Creativity Age

In the mid-1980s, John Naisbitt named 10 trends that identified the transition from the Industrial Age—to the Information Age. This dramatic shift beginning in the 1950s brought with it what Naisbitt identified as the “collapse of the information float,” making data instantaneously available around the world, and the impact of a global economy, among others. (Megatrends, 1982.)

Now, decades into the Information Age, we are transitioning even more rapidly than before into the Creativity Age—the period in which ordinary people from every economic strata are waking up to their creative potential.

Through awareness and experimentation, we are beginning a transformational process in our own lives and reaching out to the larger community to effect change.

The human mind, though, and its potential for ideas and insight can remain a largely untapped resource in the workplace. Unrecognized in the midst of “right answers,” expert advice, well-used linear thinking, and lock-step employee performance, is the Creativity Quotient or “CQ.”

In contrast to IQ—a number used to express the apparent relative intelligence of a person—the CQ represents each individual’s capacity for creativity and inventiveness.

Adding the dimension of creativity to our thoughts and actions allows us to cross a threshold into a world of unlimited learning and thinking potential.

And so, in the midst of great change, a massive upheaval of all systems— economic, political, cultural, demographic, and social, these five trends—or attitude strengths—indicate a shift toward this Creativity Age as we have moved into the 3rd decade of the 21st century:

A Visible Attitude of Optimism and Thriving

Perceptibly improved attitudes during times of change are evident as more individuals experiment and adapt, moving consciously into uncertainty and new pathways. Regardless of dire predictions from the media, many of us are thinking outside the box.

Authors of The Cultural Creatives, Paul Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson coined this name for those creative individuals and suggest that they are 50 million strong within the United States. This group is neither nostalgic or cynical.

In addition, they have a capacity for self-reflection, and “carry forward a positive vision of the future. They are comfortable with not knowing as they venture onto new life paths.

Their life stance is ‘leaning forward’ to embrace new values and worldviews, rather than ‘leaning back’ to the past or ‘standing pat’ in the present. Leaning forward means stepping outside the old story and discovering a new one.”

And with each imaginative thought, each consideration of possibility, comes an additional source of energy—even if that energy is only a fresh perspective.

A Shift Toward Internal Accountability

This larger group is beginning to transition from external to internal accountability. This requires an awareness of our thinking. This mindfulness fosters a willingness to assume total responsibility for our choices and for the consequences of our decisions.

Such people recognize that accountability is a catalyst to empowerment and resiliency. Becoming more internally accountable, they can step into potentially upsetting circumstances with an attitude of curiosity, identifying what can be done rather than fearing the unknown.

As a result, these individuals are able to ride out the bumps of life and deal more constructively with ambiguity and transition. Their lives become an expression of initiative and contribution.

One of the observable benchmarks of this directional shift is that we become compassionate and less judgmental of ourselves and others.

Acceptance of Diversity and Partnership

Embracing diversity and partnership,  is not only acceptable, it is fundamental to our success in the 21st Century. We have a global awareness of the effects of war, hunger, poverty, and illiteracy, or condone violence.

Jennifer James, author of Thinking in the Future Tense, suggests: “We need to make ourselves global citizens: able to move easily among countries, currencies, languages, and customs. When we use terms that indicate respect for people rather than dehumanizing them, it alters our perception of how to treat them.

Companies especially are paying attention to this fact. They cannot hope to manage a diverse workforce or develop a diverse clientele in a global market if they fail to speak of people with respect.”

Shedding the Myths Surrounding Creative Abilities

Next, we are becoming clearer about our creative abilities. Nudged by John Briggs and David Peat, authors of The Seven Life Lessons of Chaos, among others, we now question our limited views of creative abilities and are expanding our definition of creativity to include what we bring to an assignment, problem, or relationship that is uniquely ours—what comes when we tap into our original thoughts, rather than blindly accessing the known or controllable.

Instead of assuming that creativity is the gift of a few, we are realizing that creativity is available to everyone.

“Creativity is not just about what takes place in traditionally recognized fields. It’s what happens in our small and large moments of empathy and transformation.

“The key to creative activity lies in the self-organization of available materials. For humans this means we must literally create with our lives.”

An Expanded View of Thinking, Potential, and Creativity

Finally, our expanding awareness of thinking, potential and creativity is changing how we view others. We are beginning to assume that people have intellectual and creative potential.

We realize that using only linear and dualistic (either/or) thinking restricts us from imagining additional possibilities. The world is too complex for linear analytic thinking alone.

And Jennifer James declares: “The old blueprint for intelligence—storing information that could be called up on demand now limits our thinking and suffocates fresh perceptions and treats new information as just more data to be fed into well-established formulas of thought.

“Our brain has almost infinite capacity, yet too often we close down the system rather than learning to use our minds in new ways. The widely used Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT), does measure literacy, memory, vocabulary, general comprehension, pattern identification, spatial ability, reasoning, and math.

But it does not measure many other forms of intelligence— perceptive ability, verbal communication skills, teamwork or relationship abilities, ingenuity, intuition, creativity, flexibility, mental health, multicultural awareness, varieties of experience, sensitivity toward ethical codes, or what is now being called emotional intelligence.

In addition, Adam Grant, author of Think Again, suggests that there’s another set of cognitive skills that might matter even more:

The ability to rethink and unlearn.

He invites us to let go of views that are no longer serving us well and prize mental flexibility, humility, and curiosity over foolish consistency. If knowledge is power, knowing what we don’t know is wisdom.

Conclusion

What’s the “so what” about identifying these trends? For one thing, naming allows us to measure how we are progressing individually, and in our communities, our families, and our businesses.

For another, it illuminates our capacity to create our lives and our work in a way that sustains us and heals all that is harmful in our society, environment, and world—and not just for a select few.

These attitudes increase resiliency to stress, especially in times of transition. They help companies retain intellectual talent, reduce turnover and revitalize employees who feel they have been thrown into the thrashing machine of change and ejected, unsure of the rules and expectations in a tumultuous world.

Our ability to thrive in times of rapid change and to be resilient—adaptable and able to handle the multiple, unavoidable complexities of work and family—is enhanced by our willingness to embrace ambiguity. It depends on our ability to rethink assumptions and to champion others as they engage their creative energies.

These, in turn, are impacted by individual efforts—and each effort is the essence of what Briggs and Peat call “butterfly power.”

“Butterfly power identifies just how deeply influential ordinary individuals can be in society, powerfully so when [that influence] is exerted in a positive way. When we act with honest, sincerity, and sensitivity, we subtly influence the feedback of change within the entire system.”

“Cynics do not contribute, skeptics do not create, doubters do not achieve. We have every reason to be optimistic in this world. Tragedy surrounds us, yes. Problems are everywhere, yes. Yet, we can’t, we don’t, build out of pessimism or cynicism. Look with optimism, work with conviction, and things happen.” —Gordon B. Hinckley

A willingness to contribute—to step forward and to see innovative means of doing so—is the pathway through uncertainty that is propelling us into the Creativity Age.

Categories
Self-Help

How to Teach Kids Mental Immunity

No matter how healthy or dysfunctional or absent or controlling our parents were while we were growing up, this generation of parents has the opportunity to improve and provide a safety net for their children to develop mental immunity.

And, while we’re raising a family, it’s critical to increase our own mindfulness and working on ourselves to increase our resiliency during these challenging and uncertain times.

This means more than over-scheduling their time with an abundance of activities, competition, and regulating social media.

It requires us to carve out time and create a safe place for them to express the myriad of swirling thoughts and feelings that accompany growing into adulthood in today’s confusing, distracting, and morally shifting” world.

Defining Mental Immunity

Besides defining mental immunity, here are three concepts contained in the following books that can help parents make the difference:

  • create safety through containment,
  • accept who our children are, and
  • listen for their brilliance.
  • The term, mental immunity is explored in The Book of Joy by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama. Besides sharing their own experiences of suffering and joy, they also identify the science of various related aspects of joy. They write, “So much of our unhappiness originates within our own mind and heart—in how we react to events in our life.
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Quotes that Resonate

“‘Mental Immunity,’ is learning to avoid the destructive emotions and to develop the positive ones. If your mental health is sound, then when disturbances come, you will have some distress, and quickly recover.

“Initially, we’ve got to accept ourselves as we are, and get to know the things that trigger us. We should not berate ourselves for our negative thoughts and emotions; they are natural and unavoidable. These are the things that we can change, and we ought not to be ashamed of ourselves.

“We cannot control the inevitability of adversity, illness, and ultimately death; we can though, influence their effect in our life by adjusting the attitude we take toward them.’

The first step is to accept the reality of suffering. So much of what causes heartache is our wanting things to be different than they are.” Having unrealistic expectations is the cause of much unhappiness.

“Through self-inquiry and meditation, we can discover the nature of our minds and learn to soothe our emotional reactivity. This is the process of developing mental immunity.”

Create Safety Through Containment

In his book, The Clarity Cleanse, Habib Sadeghi teaches the path to clarity. “By honoring both positive, negative, and in-between emotions, we integrate them into the clear space inside us that’s our true being. Clarity is a cup. Like water being poured over tea leaves without a cup, our thoughts and feelings flow all over the place.”

Habib tells the story of a man who said, “‘I was a mess—until my friend Gary came along and did for me what I couldn’t do for myself. He contained me. In that crucial moment, he served as my cup.’

Quotes that Resonate

Containing means being able to gather and hold what we’re feeling, being present with it so that we consciously experience it in a nonjudgmental and empathic way. As we process it in this way, we enable it to pass through us.

“Clarity is a clean cup. The muck stuck in the bottom of our cups consists of our biases and prejudices. It’s our limiting beliefs and our many distractions. It’s repressed emotions and unprocessed experiences that stick with us, drain our energy, and get in our way.

“If we cannot properly digest our emotions, we tend to react by rejecting the situation outright, often dramatically by blaming others and venting our outrage. This is feeling without thinking, and it means we are emotionally uncontained.

“One of the main things we aim for as we reach for greater clarity is the practice of containment in ourselves in any situation, which allows us to solve the problems we are presented with rather than—

  • expecting someone else to solve them as we adopt a powerless attitude,
  • blaming someone else for them as we adopt an aggressive attitude, or
  • avoiding them altogether by adopting a passive attitude.

“When we practice containment, we see and accept a situation as it exists, and then work with it to achieve a positive outcome, learning what we can from the experience along the way. This doesn’t mean we have to be happy about what’s happening to us or that we allow others to avoid responsibility for their part.

“Parents are our primary teachers in the art of emotional containment, but if they haven’t mastered it for themselves their children may never learn it.

With clarity on your side, you’ll find yourself more prepared for whatever life may throw at you. You’ll better enjoy the ups and more easily handle the downs. You’ll be more resilient, and more powerful, and better able to steer your life in the direction you want to go,” and help your children learn emotional containment also.

Accept Who Our Children Are

Shefali Tsabary’s book is my all-time favorite parenting book.

Shefali explains in her book, The Conscious Parent: “You are raising a Spirit throbbing with its own signature. When children are just being themselves – creative, joyous, generous, forgiving, they are their own person. It’s easy to not pay close attention to them. It’s no surprise we struggle to tune into our children’s essence.

Quotes that Resonate

“How can we listen to them, when so many of us barely listen to ourselves? Does your parenting method especially include listening to your child’s spirit?”

“It certainly isn’t out of a lack of love that we impose our will on our children. Rather, it stems from a lack of consciousness. However, when we begin to be aware, we redesign the dynamic we share with our children. Until then, children may pay a heavy price when we lack consciousness. This is because, coming from our own unconsciousness ourselves, we bequeath to them our own unresolved needs, unmet expectations, and frustrated dreams.

“Despite our best intentions, we enslave them to the emotional inheritance we received from our parents, binding them to the debilitating legacy of ancestors past. The nature of unconsciousness is such that, until it’s metabolized, it will seep through generation after generation. Only through awareness can the cycle of pain that swirls in families end.”

“While you may believe your most important challenge is to raise your children well, there’s an even more essential task you need to attend to, which is the foundation of effective parenting. This task is to raise yourself into the most awakened and present individual you can be.

“As much as conscious parenting is about listening to our children, honoring their essence, and being fully present with them, it’s also about boundaries and discipline. Even when we are called upon to discipline, consciousness shows us how to do so in a manner that bolsters our child’s spirit rather than diminishing it. To parent consciously requires us to undergo personal transformation.”

“A certain child enters our life with its individual difficulties, stubbornness, and temperamental challenges in order to help us become aware of how much we have yet to grow. When we approach the relationship between parent and child as “this is it” then we introduce an element of awareness.

“The most ordinary moments provide us with opportunities to nurture self-definition, resilience, tolerance, and connectedness—the attributes that spring from being fully present. Keep in mind that the conscious way of parenting is something we inch our way into. Even a tiny shift in the vibes in a family has the power to alter the consciousness of the entire family.”

Listen for Their Brilliance

Nancy Kline’s book, Time to Think, is the best book about listening I have ever read.

Quotes that Resonate

“Listening to a child—giving them good attention—makes them more intelligent. Poor attention makes them stumble over their words and seem stupid. Most parents see themselves as guides, protectors, and assume they know best for their children.

“We think we listen to our children, but we don’t. We interrupt what they’re saying with our own stories and comments and judgment. We look at our watches, sigh, frown, tap our finger, read what’s on our smartphone, or walk away. We give advice, additional counsel, and more advice. We talk at them all the time and wonder why we don’t think they are listening.

“We have been taught this almost since we could breathe, that helping people means thinking for them—giving them our ideas. Therefore, we listen only as long as it takes our brain to think of an idea for them.

“But our ideas are not their ideas. Real help consists of listening to our children, of paying respectful attention to them so that they can access their own ideas first.  What are we listening for? We’re listening for their brilliance; their own best ideas.

“This is not to say that advise is never a good thing or that our ideas are never needed. Sometimes our suggestions are exactly what the person wants and needs. Just don’t rush into it.

“To help a child think for themself, first listen. And listen some more. And just when they say they can’t think of anything else, you can ask them the question, “What else do you think about this? What else comes to mind that you want to say?

Conclusion

When we’re trying to help a child or teenager sort through themselves, our listening empowers them to think for themselves.”

These three parenting skills: containment, acceptance, and listening provide a bedrock—a solid foundation, safety, and a sustainable opportunity where our children can develop emotional immunity.

Categories
Inspirational

How to Thrive During Transitions

It isn’t the changes that do us in, it’s the transitions.

What is the difference?

In his best-selling book, Transitions, William Bridges explains, “Change is external, transition is internal. There can be any number of changes, but unless there are transitions, nothing will be different when the dust settles.”


Ignoring the Space

The biggest misstep people make in transition is ignoring the space between endings and beginnings.

Organically, a transition needs a space between the end of one thing and the start of another, but we crowd it out with anxiety—the pressure that we need to hurry ahead. We’re told stopping for a minute is being lazy.

David Whyte laments this in his book, The Heart Aroused, “The hurried child becomes the pressured student, and finally the harassed manager. This process [of hurrying through life] is begun very young, and the inability to pay real attention to our world may be difficult to recognize.”

These transitions can be: family-related, career-related, unexpected, or we may experience adult developmental stage transitions—where deep questions of the soul arise and our perspective must change, requiring a more inward shift.


Facing a Transition

When facing a transition of any kind, we come to a crossroad and the opportunity to face our fears about the path ahead. Our next calling pushes us to develop and grow ourselves in new ways, and most often requires us to think in new ways also.

When we’re not mindful and sometimes unclear about the next step, in her book, Elegant Choices, Healing Choices, Marsha Sinetar reminds us that, “in unconscious regions of our souls, we fear our own goodness and talent and strength, which when developed fully, make us more responsible to take on the things we now avoid.”

There are times when we’re wanting to move forward and the only place we can go for ideas is the creative, unique, and nonconforming territory of the true self; a place we can reach only when we are still and unhurried.

What transitions am I facing currently?

What do I want to have happen?

Explore the space between endings and beginnings

William Bridges continues, “That many individuals ignore this space in between and jump from the end of something in their lives directly into the next endeavor.

For example, someone loses their spouse or partner and immediately jumps into another relationship. Or, they lose their job and feel pressured to move immediately into something else so they can pay their bills. Then, a few weeks or months later, they realize this job isn’t a good fit.

There is a middle in the transition process—the nowhere between two somewheres. In transition there is an ending, then a neutral, and only then a new beginning. But those phases are not separate stages with clear boundaries.

The three phases of transition are more like overlapping, slanting strata in any situation. This is a space between the old reality and the new. It is a time when the old way is gone and the new doesn’t feel comfortable yet.

Common responses to the neutral zone:

1) If you don’t expect it and understand why it is there, you’re likely to rush through it and to be discouraged when you cannot do so. You may mistakenly conclude that the confusion you feel is a sign that there’s something wrong with you.

2) You may be frightened and try to escape, or

3) You will realize that the neutral zone is the individual’s best chance for creativity, renewal, and development. This is a time to step back and take stock, a time to question the “usual,” a time for creative thinking, for experimenting, a chance to embrace losses as entry points for new solutions, a time for brainstorming.

Sometimes you feel empty or flat. You have to keep going, but your fantasies seem to involve quitting and getting away from it all. You’re surrounded by conflicting signals and contradictory demands.

One day things seem to be moving forward; the next day backward. Nothing makes sense. You’re busy, even overwhelmed by your life—and, at the same time, you feel apart from the world where everyone else acts comfortable.

Occasionally in this state you have moments of clarity in which you suddenly see everything in a new and meaningful light. But then a moment or a day later, the clarity is gone.

Strategies that allow you to thrive during transitions

This involves stepping into uncertainty rather than stepping away. Everyone’s experience in the neutral zone is personal, and so it’s easy to assume that ours are not normal. The fact to remember is that they are normal. So,

• Take time outs—quiet times and solitary places as a retreat from the chaos of the nowhere.

• Examine priorities. The “middle” may be a time between one set of purposes in your life and another. It’s a time to look at how you’re doing in relation to your priorities and ask if they still make sense to you.

• Look at yourself creatively: what you desire, what your real abilities are, what resources you have and what your temperament suggests.

• Brainstorm a list of possibilities—15 or 20 of them, ridiculous as well as plausible, trivial as well as serious.

• Look for little ways to experiment with new behaviors.

• Design a new learning adventure.

• Make a plan to change your life.

Remember that even the changes you want to make put you in transition. When this happens, follow these rules: show up, be present, tell the truth, and let go of outcomes.

Conclusion

The times when we are empty of ideas, adrift in a sea of ambiguity and nothingness are part of transitions.

In our linear culture, any episodes of disruption, time out, feeling lost, or time off are viewed suspiciously. Yet life is a series of cycles and was never meant to roll out on a straight line.

Thriving during transitions (in the neutral zone) demands a range of skills: being willing to let go, staying in the dark long enough, nurturing your visions and dreams, following the clues as they present themselves, remaining true to yourself, and having the belief that something will appear.

What has been my life pattern of change and transition?

What helps me to manage the void?

What have been the important catalysts that moved me into a new stage?

What encourages me in the face of uncertainty, transition, and unexpected challenges?

As I’ve looked back at the trials and life changes I’ve experienced, there has always been a learning experience that builds confidence and resilience as I move from one stage to the next.

When I’ve used the space between to carefully ponder my next step, I’ve made the best transitions. It’s as if I’ve hung windchimes that remind me there is music in the air—even in the middle of a storm.

Categories
Inspirational

The Value of Reading & Writing a Memoir

We all have stories to tell, and times in our lives when we feel strongly impressed or inspired to document what happened. This is the description of a memoir. It’s a nonfiction narrative where the writer focuses on a snapshot from a specific time period or reflects on a string of related themed events.

This differs from an autobiography, which is a historical account of a person’s entire life. A memoir is not a self-help book; yet those I have read carry the reader into insights and meaningful bits of wisdom gathered from the writer’s experience. There are many variations as there are individuals.

Why Read a Memoir?

The fact is, reading memoirs is a beneficial way to learn how to write one. It is a beneficial way to explore an insightful, traumatic, or life-changing experience. Brian Clark states, “The better you read, the better you write.”


My Favorite Memoir

In my favorite,  First You Have to Row a Little Boat, Richard Bode relates his experiences with sailing and sailing terms he learned as a young boy to a number of truths he discovered about life: zagline, in irons, becalmed, and fogbound among others.

He writes, “At times, I found myself moving toward my goals backwards, like a boy in a row boat guiding myself by an inner sense of direction which tells me I’m on course.” This is an insightful, thoughtful read.


A Memoir About Autism

In, The Electricity in Every Living Thing, Katherine May tells of her walk along the 630 Mile South West Coast Path in England, during which she processes the realization that she may be autistic.

She shares some illuminating discoveries about herself that help her make sense of who she is.

It’s an especially helpful book for anyone to read who has dealings with or is raising an autistic child or grandchild. Katherine May is able to describe to the lay person exactly what an autistic person is experiencing in the world around her.


Memoir on Overcoming Prejudice

In Pat Conroy’s memoir, The Water is Wide, he chronicles his prejudices learned while living in the South.

His aha about that inspires him to take a year-long teaching assignment in 1968 on Yamacraw Island off the coast of South Carolina.

His experience shows the impact of illiteracy and ignorance perpetuated by the school system there, and the many creative techniques he used to bring his students into the twentieth century.


A Summer of Transition

I wrote Awakening from the Midlife Chrysalis during a time of transition between full-time work and an uncertain and unidentifiable future. I knew it wasn’t a midlife crisis as we are socialized to call it, rather an awakening to the invention of a differently-paced life.

“I’ve been a student of life’s transitions. This latest shift into midlife surprised me more than I expected because it seemed to require more of a step inward than forward. As I studied what others had written about the subject of midlife, I felt impressed to document my own journey.”

“This time of reflection for me began with the image of a caterpillar unravelling in a chrysalis. When I tore apart my first draft to start over again—immediately the ideas for new chapter titles came into my mind. It was as if I stood at the entrance to an interior metaphorical structure. Writing this book provided a way for me to order and share the perplexities, insights, and discoveries of my journey.”

4 Writing Tips for Memoirs

Whether you’re interested in writing a memoir, or writing a story as part of your autobiography, there are a few tips to follow:

  • Write in first person, establishing yourself as the main character.
  • Identify the central theme, and create a structure or scaffolding: plan on a compelling introduction, middle, and end of the story.
  • Keep your focus narrow, rather than moving off into tangent experiences, like the Hobbits in Lord of the Rings that you think your story can’t do without that instead confuse the reader.
  • Even though you’re writing for yourself, remember that you may also want to have an audience, even if it’s only your immediate family.

How to Start Your Memoir

If you’re not sure where to start, order my book, How to Make Writing Easier, for an easy step-by-step guide.

Here’s what one reader said, “After college, it is fun not to get a letter grade for my writing, rather to get thoughtful and helpful ideas and encouragement. And doing it at my own pace. Super fun!”

Conclusion

Practicing your writing will provide information and clarity so you can move your project forward.

The content, questions, and writing activities will help you experiment with the process of first-thought writing, learn how your mind works; what gets in the way, and practice with a set of tools that will improve your writing skills.

 

Categories
Self-Help

Habit Books: Influencer vs. Atomic Habits vs. Tiny Habits

There are dozens of published books about changing habits and other self-help books that include a variety of tools for individuals to improve their lives. In today’s post I’m going to review three of the most well-known books available.

Why I like the book, Influencer, better than the books, Atomic Habits and Tiny Habits

I recently finished reading BJ Fogg’s book, Tiny Habits, which is the Mitchener edition of changing habits—everything you ever wanted to know and much, much more.

It’s a dense, tightly spaced, slow read. BJ Fogg, PhD, founded the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University. In addition to his research, Fogg teaches industry innovators how human behavior really works.

For those who are willing to wade through his book, there are gems to be found therein:

  • Stop judging yourself.
  • Break your goals down into small progressive actions.
  • Embrace mistakes as discoveries and use them to move forward.
  • You change best by feeling good, not by feeling bad.
  • No behavior happens without a prompt. A prompt, whether inside yourself, or from someone else, cues you to take action.
  • Emotions create habits, not repetition; emotions make behavior more automatic.
  • Celebrate immediately after a new behavior and your brain repatterns to make the behavior more automatic in the future.

There are plenty of helpful ideas in BJ Fogg’s book, including chatty stories and multiple graphs.

I gave his book 4 stars.

Atomic Habits

James Clear is an author and speaker focused on habits, decision-making, and continuous improvement.

This is an easier read with better spacing without a plethora of graphs and illustrations. In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear teaches similar principles to help readers develop a positive change in their behavior.

By committing to the process of making tiny changes, marginal gains, 1 percent improvements, eventually new habits become part of your identity. You take the smallest action that confirms the type of person you want to be.

Here are some gems from his book:

  • Habits do not restrict freedom. They create it. In fact, people who do not have their habits handled are often the ones with the least amount of freedom.
  • Create a good habit: Cue – make it obvious; Craving – make it attractive; Response – make it easy; Reward – make it satisfying.
  • Break a bad habit: Cue – make it invisible; Craving – make it unattractive; Response – make it difficult; Reward – make it unsatisfying.
  • Reprogram your brain to enjoy hard habits. Change just one word: You don’t “have” to, you “get” to. Reframe your habits to highlight their benefits rather than their drawbacks.
  • Changing habits is a continuous process.

James Clear’s book is another helpful book about changing habits, and the stories are better crafted.

Still, I gave his book 4 stars.

The book, Influencer, is authored by Kerry Patterson, et al., leaders of VitalSmarts, and follows the stories of 16 change agents from across the world.

There are actual people out there who—instead of asking for the serenity to accept the things they cannot change and seeking the wisdom to know the difference—have sought the wisdom to make a difference.

The purpose of this inspiring book is to share the principles and skills routinely employed by a handful of brilliant change agents so that readers can expand their set of influence tools and bring out important changes in their personal lives, their families, their companies, and even their communities.

In their summary sections, the authors encourage readers to search for vital behaviors, those few behaviors that can create a cascade of change, and recovery behaviors when you make a mistake—notice where you went wrong, and without judgment, take corrective action.

They suggest six sources of influence: personal motivation—make the undesirable desirable, personal ability—surpass your limits, social motivation—harness peer pressure, social ability—find strength in numbers, structural motivation—design rewards and demand accountability, and structural ability—change the environment.

Pick a challenge of your own and read these six chapters. Then fashion your own six-source influence strategy.

Here are some gems from this book:

  • Almost all profound, pervasive, and persistent problems in our lives don’t require solutions that defy the laws of nature; they require us to act differently.
  • If you want to change how you behave, you have to first change how you think.
  • The greatest persuader is personal experience.
  • A characteristic of human nature is our capacity to transcend and hence transform our own behavior. If we can find a way to change the feeling associated with a vital behavior, we can make formerly unappealing activities become satisfying.
  • The most powerful incentive known to humankind is our own evaluation of our behavior and accomplishments.

Influencer – The New Science of Leading Change

I found Influencer to be the most inspirational book about making changes and gave it 5 stars.

In a nutshell, each of these books has something to offer to any person who wants to make changes for the better in their life among many others that have been published.

The best read is Influencer because it crystalizes critical problems nobody could possibly fix and identifies how the change agents analyzed the problem and figured out how to fix the impossible.

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What happens, though, is expressed by Tessa Warschaw in her book, Rich is Better:

“Too often what we read and profess becomes part of our libraries and our vocabularies, instead of becoming part of our lives.”

What I have learned is that when I want to make a meaningful change, however small, it makes all the difference in the world if I’m wholehearted about it—loving myself in the process, rather than half-hearted, doubtful, and judgmental.

And that’s a blog for another time . . .

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