Creative 20-Minute Writing Assignment

writing-with-penI took a fun creative writing class a few months back and the teacher gave us the following short writing exercise…I encourage you to try it:

Go to a public place, somewhere with enough ambient noise that you can’t really hear specific conversations.  Pick a pair of people sitting far enough away that you can’t hear what they’re saying, but close enough that you can see their facial expressions and mannerisms well.

Observe these people for ten minutes or so.  Jot down notes if you like.  Try to figure out what they’re saying.  Imagine the dialogue that goes with the actions and facial expressions you see.  After your ten minutes are up, sit down and write the scene, dialogue and all.  You have 20 minutes to write it. Go!

Here is the one I wrote:

14883751-couples-in-cafeBen and Emily, technically on their third date, awkwardly sip coffee and stare at the local art adorning earth tone painted concrete walls in a coffee shop each of them has seen a million times and never ventured inside. Still in the fumbling infancy of courtship, they both find it difficult to make eye contact. He pull at the fringe of the cargo shorts he bought his sophomore year at Penn State while she scratches her ankle just above the tattoo removal scar on her ankle. This slight itch reminders her she owes her father money for the procedure which painfully wiped away an image of a kite – a symbol of her sorority days not more than a decade ago.

“It’s true, most Ethiopians are basically on the South Beach Diet – they only eat fruit,” he said.

“Shut up! You are so gross,” she said with a laugh.

“Think about it, it wouldn’t have been as popular if it was called the Ethiopian Diet – but that’s basically what it is,” he said.

He confidently sips his coffee as she laughs at his politically incorrect hypothesis. As her laughter subsides, they both make eye contact for what seems like an eternity. He thinks about where to take her to dinner on their next date while she wonders if he’s any good in bed.

Transcending My Way Through Life

IMG_4461Transcendental Meditation (TM) – refers to a specific form of mantra meditation called the Transcendental Meditation technique, and can also refer to the organizations within the Transcendental Meditation movement and to the movement itself. The TM technique and TM movement were introduced in India in the mid-1950s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1918–2008). The TM technique involves the use of a sound or mantra and is practiced for 15–20 minutes twice per day. It is taught by certified teachers through a standard course of instruction, which costs a fee that varies by country. According to the Transcendental Meditation movement, it is a method for relaxation, stress reduction and self-development.

In January 2014, I decided to treat myself by learning Transcendental Meditation…or TM as it is widely known. I had heard good things about it for years from people I trusted, but due to the fee involved to learn, I never pursued it. I had tried many meditation practices over the years and nothing really stuck with me. So I heard  a podcast with Jerry Seinfeld where he talked about practicing TM since the 1970s and how it changed his life. For whatever reason, this stuck with me. Seinfeld seems like a no bullshit matter of fact guy – and that is really how he delivered the TM message. It works, it’s amazing, try it, or not. That was really it.

So I Googled TM in Dallas and quickly found a local teacher who was able to schedule me in so my last class/meeting (4-5 in all) was actually on New Year’s day, January 1, 2014. I took this as a great sign to kick off the New Year. It was a very simple process and yes, it cost some money but monthly installments can be arranged. I didn’t go home to Florida for the holidays so I justified the cost (which was about the same price as an airline flight).

IMG_4464What are the benefits of TM? There are many studies, but all I can share is my own experience. So what has TM taught me? A lot….

1. The ‘zen’ moment I was always looking for during the actual meditation rarely happens – and that’s o.k. The zen moments come to me throughout my day (when I consistently practice TM, 20 minutes, twice a day) in the way of stress relief and creativity expression.

2. I have more patience and clarity. One glaring example I have was my ability to leave a job that just wasn’t working for me. I’m not saying this will be everyone’s experience – but it was mine. Do I owe it all to TM? Maybe not all of it, I had a strong support system of friends to help me through it too. I do believe the TM practice taught me how to deal with this kind of life challenge in a much better way.

3. There is enough time in the day. Sometimes 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening just seems like too much, isn’t that funny? Our minds are always go go go…and endless list of things to do. What can’t wait 20 minutes? This is something I have carried into my work life. No I don’t push things off and miss deadlines, but now I ask a lot more clarifying questions and set realistic deadlines.

4. It energizes me. This was the most surprising part – but especially in the morning – I get a rush if energy that’s (almost) as good as coffee. Yes I still love my coffee, TM energy boosts are just an added bonus.

Have I been perfect with my TM practice? No, and that’s OK because I am making the effort and I believe in the benefits. My first five months of practicing I can’t remember missing a meditation. I set timers on my phone to remind in the morning and evening. I let my dogs have some chew toys and off I went for 20 minutes. These first five months are when I saw the most benefit. Truth be told, the last few months have been spotty. I got a new job, which I love, that requires some travel. ravel can be tricky for me – with all the time changes and busy work to do that comes with travel. But I recently had a check-in meeting with a TM teacher near my house (free check-in meetings for life is a great plus to TM) and it helped me get back on track.

In the weeks I slacked, I saw my patience grow shorter and shorter. I felt cloudy and confused. I get back to TM and that stuff goes away. That’s all the proof I need.

Improv-ing

traits of a good improvisorImprov of, relating to, or being improvisation and especially an improvised comedy routine.

Improve to enhance in value or quality :  make better. To advance or make progress in what is desirable.

For years, various people told me I should take an improv class. I found the thought of this pretty uncomfortable – not terrifying, just uncomfortable. I’m a planner, I really need to know what is going to happen – or at least think I do. But that isn’t how life really works, is it? I knew that uncomfortable feeling meant, for me, that improv was something I should try. Sure, I took acting classes in school – they were always a fun elective. In middle school, I even acted in a local theater group in my hometown of Gainesville (Florida) called Children’s Theater for the Deaf. We put on plays and simultaneously spoke and used sign language. It was a lot of fun and I made some great friends. But this was just fun kids stuff, I’m an adult now – what business do I have taking an improv class? Well, for a guy who is always trying to enhance his creativity – this seemed like the next logical step.

DCHSo off I went to Google to find a local Dallas improv class and The Dallas Comedy House in Deep Ellum popped right up. I perused the site, saw a few funny promotional videos and took them up on their recommendation to come check out a show to see if it was something I was interested in. I dragged my friend Derrick one Saturday night and saw a few shows. I was impressed. It was a packed house full of laughter. Each troop started the 30 minute sets by asking the audience for a one word suggestion to frame up the improv. Lots of words were shouted out – I don’t even remember what was used. I do know this, the shows danced around the chosen word, but didn’t solely focus on it. For example, if the word the chose was “orange”, not every scene had to do with orange. I thought this was pretty creative (I later learned this was something called A to C thinking).

Cut to me a few weeks later taking my first improv class – level one on Sunday afternoons. It was a phenomenal 7-week experience and I learned much more than I thought I would.  Here are few cool things I learned:

Yes, and/I Know Because

These simple words are the building blocks  of every long form  improv scene. “Yes” refers  to the agreement you give your scene partner  to confirm the reality in the scene. (the who, the what, and the where.) “And” refers to the new information you are adding based on what you just heard.   

bossypants-improvWho, What, Where

The sooner you establish the Who, What, and Where at the top of your scene, the better. By getting these details out within the first three lines of a scene, you can start exploring the “why.”  It will be very difficult to build upon your scene if you are a minute into it and still have not determined base reality. 

Be an Expert

When we are making things up in improv, we get to be an expert in everything. Don’t know what’s going on? Make it up. Make an assumption and turn it into a statement for everyone to hear. When in doubt, be an expert: no need to ask questions.

A to C Thinking

The audience suggestion serves three main functions within long form improv. First, the suggestion proves to the audience that what they are watching is really improvised. Since the suggestion is coming from them, it proves the show is not pre-planned. Secondly it gives inspiration to the show as opposed to having you choose from an infinite list of possibilities. Finally, it gives the team a common point of focus. All that said, the suggestion is meant to inspire, it is just that – an inspiration, not “the thing.”  Take the suggestion as “A” which makes you think of “B” and ultimately you initiate with “C.” You may want to jump right on the main suggestion, but it is much more interesting to take the story to “C”. Let’s use orange as an example – oranges make me think of Florida where I grew up, so my “C” could be alligators or palm trees or anything else that may remind me of Florida.

Improv QuoteIn conclusion…Improv class helped me ‘improve’ both my work life and personal life in many ways. It taught me to be OK with “not knowing” what was going to happen. It taught me how to support those I work with. It taught me there are no mistakes.

Are you interested in getting out of your comfort zone and learning a few life lessons? Take an improv class – you won’t be disappointed.

 

Do You Fancy Yourself A Career Renegade?

1205-brainCareer Renegade: How to Make a Great Living Doing What You Love by  Jonathan Fields came out in 2009, and yes I ‘m just now reading it. I found it quite enlightening so I wanted to share it with you, my faithful readers. The title kinda says it all. This book is all about finding your passion (which may  sound familiar) and taking steps to making a living at it. Novel idea, right? Do what you love and you can ‘t fail we ‘ve heard it before. Or have we really  heardit?

Jonathan Fields provides inspiration for anyone remotely unhappy with what they do for a living. One of the things that really spoke to me was his recommendation to leverage  social media (a personal passion of mine) to make your dreams a reality. Although much of   the social media advice is a tad bit outdated (since it was written in 2009), you can still get the basic understanding. I encourage you to do plenty of  your own  research  online to get up to speed.   This book isn ‘t necessarily about quitting your job and buying an old  Volkswagen  van to sell beaded necklaces out on the open road (unless that ‘s your dream).  Career Renegade speaks to anyone with an ambitious bone in their body. Love your career, but you feel like you ‘re in a rut? Read this book. Maybe your current job is slowly killing you. Read this book.

Since it ‘s a few years old, there are already TONS of great reviews and in the spirit of   recycling  , I have linked two of the best (in my opinion) below I encourage you to check them out AND read this book!

Review on  Lifehack.org:

What ‘s a Career Renegade?

A career renegade is someone who takes charge of his or her career and makes it work to fulfill their own passions. That may mean starting your own business, as Jonathan has done several times    but it doesn ‘t have to mean that. It could mean switching careers and going to work for a different company, or it could mean reshaping your attitude towards the job you already have    whatever it takes to transform your work life into a meaningful career    one that won ‘t eat you up from the inside out. (read more)

Review on  Zen Habits:

Become a Career Renegade: Interview with Career Expert Jonathan Fields

Leo: On the book ‘s web page, you say that   Do What You Love And The Money Will Follow   Is A Scam   can you explain this? It seems to go against what most of us believe.

Jonathan: If your passion happens to lie in some field with a clear path to a great income, like law, plastic surgery or programming, you may be one of the lucky few who can make a great living doing what you love by simply following the mainstream path.

But, what if you love teaching, painting, making music, writing, knitting, playing video games or just plain hanging out and having great conversations? Then what? Will the money really just automatically follow if you try to turn those into your living? Doubtful, no matter how good a gamer, knitter or talker you are.

No doubt, there ‘s a lot of simplifying you can do to live a lot better on less. Your book does an amazing job of laying out that process. But, what if you do all that and it ‘s still not enough? It ‘s not easy to support a family of four in a major city on a teacher ‘s salary, no matter how much you streamline your life.

So, if there ‘s no   mainstream   way to make enough money to live well in the world with your passion, conventional wisdom says either turn it into a hobby or accept that you ‘ll have to either sacrifice money for passion or passion for money.

Career Renegade is all about breaking the binds of conventional wisdom, doing what you love, then   making   the money follow.

(read more)

 

Death, Taxes…and a Book Review

Uncertainty-book-web-205x300In the year 1789, Benjamin Franklin wrote in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy:      In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.   That was a long time ago. I suppose it still holds true, however grim it may be. Although not everyone in the world has to pay taxes, I guess they just have death to be certain about. Newsflash: Life is Uncertain! Yes, we get up and have a pretty good idea of what we ‘ll do on any given day (at least a rough idea). If your engaged to be married and you ‘ve set a date, you can be fairly certain you ‘ll get married on said date. Are you pregnant? You guessed it, you can be certain you ‘ll give birth in about nine months. Finishing school, planning for retirement, countdown to vacation the list goes on. We humans are good at setting up these scenarios in an attempt to be   certain   good little control freaks we are. Reality check: Nothing is Certain and that ‘s okay.

This leads me to my latest book review:Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance, by Jonathan Fields. You may remember my recent post about Jonathan ‘s other book, Career Renegade: How to Make a Great Living Doing What You Love  . Well buckle-up, Uncertainty takes you on a creative journey to transform uncertainty, risk of loss and exposure to judgement into catalysts for innovation, creation and achievement. Still with me? Good.

  1. Are you tasked with creating new ideas to make your organization succeed?
  2. Are you contemplating a new business venture but feel uncertain it will succeed?
  3. Are you happy with life but always  seeking ways to grow personally and professionally?
  4. Do you just feel   stuck   and bored with life?
  5. Are you working hard towards a promotion at work and want a competitive edge?

I think you know where this is going. If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you should read this book.

What I love most about this book are all the resources and case studies given to support everything. Sure, my critic can pop up and say   duh, this is common sense stuff meditation and  exercise  help the creative process, nothing new here.   I  politely  tell my critic (Bert) to go take a nap and I focus on the fact that while some of this isn ‘t new information to me, the research to back it up IS new to me. This helps my skeptical reptilian mind.  Plus, I don ‘t even have a solid meditation practice or  exercise  routine down right now so this is especially helpful for me (but I digress).  Lots of great stuff in this book, so in the  interest  of space and time (and your attention span), I ‘ll focus on my favorite parts:

Building a Creative Hive    Chapter 5 lays out the importance of creating a safe, honest and productive creative hive (group, cluster, sewing circle, whatever you want to call it). This is  something  I ‘ve written about as well because I ‘m a huge believer in healthy  collaboration  and support. Working in a  vacuum, especially on a creative  endeavor targeting any kind of audience, can be futile. Sharing can bring about clarity and improvements. Afraid of criticism? Well, its  inevitable and I bet you ‘d want to hear it from a trusted source before an unknown customer. Do you live in the woods or are you too shy to reach out to other creatives in your field?  Several resources for finding OR creating your own creative hive are offered, proving there is a group out there for just about anyone.

Meditation /  Exercise    In chapter 7, the term   attentional training   is used to discuss various forms of meditation. Many people get too caught up on the word   meditation   because they think you have to chant or sit for hours and envision a perfect golden sphere floating in your mind. Sure, some mediation is like this, but certainly not all. Attentional training (AT) is all about creating a daily practice where you can focus your awareness. This can be in the form of  exercise (hiking, jogging, walking, cycling, yoga, etc.), writing/journaling, kitting, etc. Any activity where you find yourself getting (safely) in the   zone   (please don ‘t go jogging off a cliff). I have found this kind of AT through jogging and writing my morning pages.  If your form of AT happens to involve physical exercise, score! If not, that ‘s okay too. You ‘ll just want to find an exercise routine in order to reap the full benefits. Why? Because research indicates that both exercise and attentional training are capable of growing new brain cells. Who doesn ‘t want new brain cells?

Uncertainty is a fact of life. Lots of fear can come with the   unknown  , but why? If everyone knew exactly what was going to happen, life would get pretty boring quick. This book offers practical advice for transitioning uncertainty from an enemy to an ally. The following excerpt stuck with me:

  When you run from uncertainty, you end up running from life. From evolution. From growth. From wisdom. From friendship. From love. From the creation of art, services, solutions, and experiences that move beyond what ‘s been done before to illuminate, serve, solve and delight in a way that matters. In a way that makes you come alive and that people will remember    

Give it a go! Evolve! It ‘s a quick read, only about 200 pages. I  recommend reading as much as you can in one sitting. Due to all the case studies and resources, it flows well and if your ADD like me it ‘ll sink in better if you make a day of it. Carve out your Sunday and dive in!

Bosses Behaving Badly

WFYIWFMBossa person who exercises control or authority; specifically :  one who directs or supervises workers. 

If you have been working long enough, I’m sure you’ve had one…that’s right – a horrible boss. They may not be a horrible person, just a bad boss. Or they may be a horrible person and a bad boss. The boss has many faces and can come in the form of a client, partner, co-worker or even a ‘bossy’ friend who technically isn’t your “boss” but sure acts like it (this can be even worse). I have been there. I’m happy to say I am now in a good place in my career – right where I’m supposed to be…but this wasn’t always the case. I want to share a book with you that literally changed my life – it’s called “Working for You Isn’t Working For Me,” by Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster.

Not only is the book amazing, they have a great website with a quiz and sample chapters to help you. This book isn’t about bashing bosses or people in management – in fact, if you are a boss yourself, you should give it a read. This is an action oriented book with helpful advice. There is an in-depth assessment that allows you to figure out your work styles – it then matches it with the type of boss you have. Knowledge is power. You can learn why there may be issues and (in some cases) work to resolve them. Sometimes work styles just don’t mix, and that’s okay. Sometimes toxic people have power and make life miserable for everyone in their path – and that’s not okay (especially if they are managing you). Our jobs are where we spend most of our waking hours, don’t take it lightly.

If you are feeling some struggles with your boss, I encourage you to take this quick quiz from the “Working For You Isn’t Working for Me” website…

BOSS STRESS TEST

As a result of working for your boss…

1.) … do you find yourself eating more or less than you normally would?
Yes ___ No__

2.) … are you sleeping more or less than usual?
Yes ___ No___

3.) … are you constantly trying to predict your boss’s reaction to what you say and do?
Yes ___ No___

4.) … are you overindulging in alcohol, recreational drugs or other mind-altering substances?
Yes ___ No___

5.) … do interactions with this person leave you feeling deflated and drained?
Yes ___ No___

6.) … do you frequently experience feelings of self-doubt?
Yes ___ No___

7.) … do you feel as if the harder you work, the more there is to do?
Yes ___ No___

8.) … has your self-confidence dropped?
Yes ___ No___

9.) … do you feel angry and resentful every time he or she asks you to do something?

10.)… have you stopped exercising or doing things to release physical tension?
Yes ___ No___

11.)… have you lost your ability to see the humor in situations at work?
Yes ___ No___

12.)… does the sound of your boss’s voice make you feel tense?
Yes ___ No___

13.)… do you spend a lot of time covering up mistakes to avert criticism?
Yes ___ No___

14.)… do you frequently take over-the-counter medications for headaches, stomach aches, heartburn, back aches or other chronic ailments?
Yes ___ No___

15.)… do you spend a lot of time outside of work complaining about your boss?
Yes ___ No___

16.)… is your mind constantly reviewing and replaying emails, conversations and meetings with this person?
Yes ___ No___

17.)… do your friends and family complain that you’re always preoccupied with work?
Yes ___ No___

18.)… do you find yourself short-tempered — blowing up over small incidents?
Yes ___ No___

19.)… do you feel tired, drained and out of control?
Yes ___ No___

20.)… do you have revenge fantasies involving your boss getting hit by a car or pushed out of a window?
Yes ___ No___

Total “yes” responses: ________


Results:

If you scored 0
No boss stress. You are in good shape. Your job may be challenging, but your boss isn’t problematic.

Rx: You may want to read Working for You Isn’t Working for Me so that you can help others manage their bosses.

If you scored 1 – 5
Some stress – The boss is on your back. You experience some degree of pressure and frustration on a daily basis. You keep hoping that your situation will improve.

Rx: Order Working for You Isn’t Working for Me and you’ll quickly see how to improve your situation.

If you scored 6 – 10
Considerable stress – The boss is giving you heartburn. You have tried many things to improve the situation, but it seems like you can’t win. You are having a hard time taking care of yourself outside of work. You talk about the relationship a lot.

Rx: Purchase Working for You Isn’t Working for Me, and read sections one and two ASAP.

If you scored 11 – 15
Too much stress – The boss is giving you nightmares. Interactions with the boss are taking up more and more of your waking and sleeping hours. Your mind and body are showing symptoms of overload. You often wake up dreading the workday.

Rx: Buy Working for You Isn’t Working for Me immediately. Identify your boss’s behavior and use section three to reduce your anxiety.

If you scored 16 – 20
DANGER – The boss is lethal. Get immediate assistance. You look and feel like a Prisoner of War. You’d like to look for work, but you’re too burnt out to take any action. You feel like you need a year in Tahiti to recover.

Rx: Run, don’t walk to the closest bookstore and buy Working for You Isn’t Working for Me. Take a mental health day to read the book and begin implementing the strategies for relief.

SOURCE: http://www.workingforyouisntworkingforme.com

Have you dealt with a challenging boss? Tell us how you survived…

 

 

 

Don’t Be All Stressin and Stuff…

Stress Free ZoneStress   -  typically describes a negative concept that can have an impact on one’s mental and physical well-being, but it is unclear what exactly defines stress and whether or not stress is a cause, an effect, or the process connecting the two. With organisms as complex as humans, stress can take on entirely concrete or abstract meanings with highly subjective qualities, satisfying definitions of both cause and effect in ways that can be both tangible and intangible.

Geez, I got stressed just reading that definition! Although a bit confusing, it paints a decent picture of stress. How often can stress creep up on us. We often live with stress before we even realize it. Then if we try to forecast stress (i.e. my meeting tomorrow with the boss is really going to stress me out) we ‘ve already begun the cycle. Is it all necessary? Sure, some stress is good we ‘ve all heard it can be a survival mechanism. However, I think most of us can agree we live our lives with way too much  unnecessary  stress. Guess where most of that stress grows into that unnecessary mass of mental destruction? Right between our very own ears. Our minds can be the best little stress factories on the planet! Tips to relieve stress are abound. Do most of these   tips   ever set in? Nah, we ‘re too busy. Have no fear, change is possible. Awareness of stress is the first step.

Today, I want to share the following 12 Stressful Things to Stop Tolerating from a kickass blog called Marc and Angel Hack Life. I found these to be great reminders for me a great way to start the day! Enjoy!

  1. The decision to settle for mediocrity.     It’s not always about trying to fix something that’s broken.   Sometimes it’s about starting over and creating something better.   Sometimes you need to distance yourself to see things clearly.   Sometimes growing up means growing apart from old habits, relationships, and situations, and finding something new that truly moves you    something that gets you so excited you can’t wait to get out of bed in the morning.   That’s what life is all about.   Don’t settle.
  2. Your own negative thinking.     Your mind is your sacred space.   You can close the windows and darken your space, or you can open the windows and let light in.   It’s your choice.   The sun is always shining on some part of your life.   What do you typically think about?   How far you’ve come, or how far you have to go?   Your strengths, or your weaknesses?   The best that could happen, or the worst that might come to be?   Pay attention to your self-talk.   Because maybe, just maybe, the only thing that needs to shift in order for you to experience more happiness, more love, and more success, is your way of thinking.    Read  Emotional Freedom.
  3. Other people’s negativity.     If you don’t value yourself, look out for yourself, and stick up for yourself, you’re sabotaging yourself.   You do not have control over what others say and do; but you do have control over whether or not you will allow them to say and do these things to you. You alone can deny their poisonous words and actions from invading your heart and mind.   Remember, if you do not respect your sacred inner space, no one else will either.
  4. Unhealthy relationships.     Choose  your relationships  wisely.   Being alone will never cause as much loneliness as the wrong relationships.   Bewith people who know your worth.   You don’t need lots of friends to be happy; just a few real ones who appreciate you for who you are.   Oftentimes walking away has nothing to do with weakness, and everything to do with strength.   We walk away not because we want others to realize our worth, but because we finally realize our own worth.
  5. Dishonesty.     Inner peace is being able to rest at night knowing you haven’t used or taken advantage of anyone to get to where you are in life.   Living a life of honesty creates peace of mind, and peace of mind is priceless.   Period.   Don’t be dishonest and don’t put up with people who are.
  6. perfectionism-sarah-hobbsA work environment or career field you hate.     If it doesn’t feel right, don’t settle on the first or second career field you dabble in.   Keep searching.   Eventually you will find work you love to do.   If you catch yourself working hard and loving every minute of it, don’t stop.   You’re on to something big.   Because hard work isn’t hard when you concentrate on your passions.
  7. Being disorganized and unprepared.     Get up 30 minutes earlier so you don’t have to rush around like a mad man.   That 30 minutes will help you avoid speeding tickets, tardiness and other unnecessary headaches.   Clear the clutter.   Get rid of stuff you don’t use.   Read David Allen’sbookGetting Things Done   for some practical organizational guidance.
  8. Inaction.     The acquisition of knowledge doesn’t mean you’re growing; growing happens when what you know changes how you live.   You can’t change anything or make any sort of progress by sitting back and thinking about it.   If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.   The best time to start is now.
  9. The lingering of unfinished business.     There’s nothing more stressful than the perpetual lingering of unfinished business.   Stop procrastinating.    Start taking action  to tie loose ends.   Putting something off instantly makes it harder and scarier.
  10. The choice to mull over past mistakes and regrets.     If you feel like your ship is sinking, it might be a good time to throw out the stuff that’s been weighing it down.   The next time you decide to unclutter your life and clean up your space, start with the things that are truly useless, like old regrets, shame, and anger.   Let it go.   You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep rereading your previous one.
  11. A mounting pile of personal debt.     Financial debt causes stress and heartache.   Live a comfortable life, not a wasteful one.   Do not buy stuff you do not need.   Do not spend to impress others.   Do not live life trying to fool yourself into thinking wealth is measured in material objects.   Manage your money wisely so your money does not manage you.   Always live well below your means.    Read  The Millionaire Next Door.
  12. Your reluctance to say what you need to say.     Everyone has this little watchdog inside their head.   It’s always there watching you.   It was born and raised by your family, friends, coworkers and society at large, and its sole purpose is to watch you and make sure you stay in line.   And once you become accustomed to the watchdog’s presence, you begin to think it’s opinion of what’s acceptable and unacceptable are absolute truths.   But they’re not truths; they’re just other people’s opinions.   Remember, the watchdog is just a watchdog, he just watches.   He can’t actually control you.   He can’t do anything about it if you decide to rise up and go against the grain.   No, you shouldn’t start shouting obscenities and acting like a fool.   But you must say what you need to say, when you need to say it.   It may be your only chance to do so.   Don’t censor yourself.   Speak the truth    your truth    always.

How will you battle stress today?

Are You Addicted to Information?

evolution_onlineAhhh yes you know who you are. Can ‘t wait to check that email, Facebook, Twitter feed come on, fess up! I happen to be one of these types of people, so don ‘t feel bad. I wanted to share the following post from Zen Habits where Leo breaks it down for us there is light at the end of the tunnel!

A Survival Guide for Beating Information Addiction

Post written by  Leo Babauta.

Are you suffering from information addiction? It’s a growing problem as people spend more and more of their time online    and while online tools are amazing, being addicted to checking them can steal most of your day.

You know you’re an information addict if you:

  • Check email, Facebook, news, or some other social network first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
  • Are constantly on your mobile device when you’re away from home/office.
  • Can’t get away from the computer in order to get outside, exercise, or spend time with people while disconnected.
  • Are constantly posting to Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, or texting/emailing, when meeting with other people.
  • Can’t get important work done because you have to check your messages.
  • Feel anxiety if you’re completely disconnected for more than a few minutes.
  • Can’t imagine spending an entire day disconnected.

Now, if none of these seem like a problem for you, even if you do them, then they probably aren’t a problem. But if you see yourself in one or more of these and want to change, this guide is for you.

This survival guide isn’t the ultimate guide to beating an addiction, however    it’s a set of tips and techniques I’ve used to survive the constant pull of the online world.

onlineaddictFirst Steps

Don’t know where to start? These first steps can be done today.

1. Assess your habits. What are you addicted to most? When are you most likely to be sucked into your addiction? For the rest of today, and the next several days, keep a handy little piece of paper and a pen/pencil with you, and write down the things you check often, putting a tally mark next to those things each time you check them. A TV news channel? Facebook or Twitter or G+? Pinterest or Reddit? Keep a tally so you know what you’re dealing with.

2. Introduce the pause. Addictions are something we often do automatically, without thinking. Start to break this chain of trigger-habit auto-response by wedging a small  pause  in between them. When you get the urge to check something you’re addicted to, notice this urge, and pause for just one second. During this pause, simply ask yourself, “Do I really want to do this, and why?” You can then go on to do it, no matter what the answer, but the important thing is having at least the briefest pause.

3. Take a break every hour. Even if you’re stuck on the sites you’re addicted to all day long, take 1o minute breaks once an hour. Set up an hourly reminder on your computer, and when that reminder pops up, get away from the computer. Take a walk for 10 minutes. Stretch. Do some pushups and squats. Clean your messy house. Write in a notebook, or sketch. Talk to someone in person. Drink some water and have a fruit. Meditate. When you come back to the computer, try closing the browser for a few minutes and doing some non-Internet work before going back online.

Changing Habits

Over the long term, you can change your habits. This will take a month or two, so you’ll want to  fully commit  to a change. Any change done half-assed won’t last.

onlinejunkie11. Start with your biggest trigger. Assuming you’ve done the assessment and introduced the pause as recommended above, you should know your most common triggers    the things that cause you to go check something. That might be things like: starting a work task (and wanting to avoid it), getting on a bus/train, waking up, eating, getting a notification on your phone or computer, being bored or stressed, thinking of something you want to look up. Whatever your triggers are, pick the one that happens most. If there are several, just pick one of those randomly.

2. Pick a replacement habit. What do you want to do instead of checking email, Facebook, Twitter or the like? Pick something positive and fun that you can do in 5 minutes every time your most common trigger happens. That might be: reading a few pages of a novel, journaling, doing pushups, taking a walk, drinking water, meditating, writing, painting, practicing a language, writing a letter with paper and pen, etc. You’re going to try to do this every time the habit happens, instead of the actual habit.

3. Do the new habit after the trigger, every time. Don’t allow any exceptions, or you won’t form the habit. A new habit is formed much faster, and more strongly, if you do it extremely consistently after the trigger. If you’re inconsistent, and still do the old habit, you are allowing the old habit to stay in place. Now, just because you miss once or twice doesn’t mean you should give up    just start again and try to be more consistent, figure out why you failed, and plan to beat that obstacle. But set a rule that you’ll allow no exceptions!

4. Use positive public pressure. Having accountability helps. Blogging about your new change, or posting it on Facebook or Twitter (I know, a bit ironic), can help you feel some public accountability. Tell everyone you know that you’re not going to check Facebook (for example) within 15 minutes of starting an important work task. My friend  Michael Ellsberg  uses negative consequences (something I’ve done in the past as well): if he eats sugar or refined carbs, he has to make a donation to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign (not a good thing for Michael, who is not a Romney supporter). Leverage the power of social media to beat social media.

balance1A Balanced Life

In the long run, it’s good to have an idea of what life would be like if you’re not controlled by an information addiction.

How will you work? What will you be like if you’re not checking things all day? Some things to consider:

  • The goal isn’t to eliminate all information sources  and be shut off from the online world. It’s not to throw out your iPhone or laptop. These tools are incredibly useful and powerful    obviously I make my living using them, and they have changed our lives in so many positive ways. The idea is simply not to be controlled by them, and to have a balanced life that includes other activities.
  • Schedule time for non-Internet and non-media activities. That means actually block them off on your schedule. If you want to exercise, block off some time during the week for exercise (even just 30 minutes 3 times a week). Schedule time to spend with your friend and loved ones. Schedule time for a walk in  solitude.
  • Work without distractions. Each morning, figure out the 1-3 important things you’re going to get done that day. Do the first one first, before diving into email and online distractions. Shut down your browser if you can. If necessary, do the work somewhere without Internet, or unplug your router and give the router cord to someone to hold for an hour. Turn off all notifications on your computer and mobile device. Close everything but what you need to do your task. Learn to  focus.
  • Schedule a limited time for your information sources. How often do you want to check email and Facebook (or other sites)? Pick a time and schedule for using these tools in your life, and set a limit    twice a day for just 15 minutes a session, for example. This limit allows you to use these tools but also have time for other things, and it forces you to decide what’s important within that limit and to use the limited time efficiently.
  • Choose your sources wisely.  Cull your information sources and tools to the most important. Sometimes we use things just because everyone else is, but they might not be really adding much to our lives. For example, I deleted my Facebook account last year, and haven’t missed it. My life goes on! You might decide to delete your Instagram or Pinterest account, to save yourself from endless browsing of things that aren’t really important, for example. You might decide to only read 10 really good blogs instead of 50 ones that take up your attention. Your attention matters    you should only give it to the things that make your life better.
  • Get some sleep.  A lack of rest makes us less able to focus, and more likely to deviate from a plan of any kind of self-control. It also makes us more likely to be distracted by the Internet, according to a new study. Make rest a priority.

Toxic Relationships to Avoid

meditatingHave you ever experienced any toxic relationships – romantic, professional, with family or friends? It can happen a variety of ways. The worst is when it’s professional – for some reason toxicity seems to be tolerated longer in professional settings. I think this is because people may not be expecting it and toxic boss or co-worker does a pretty good job at masking their toxicity with “work or management style”. Thankfully I’m not in a toxic job or personal relationship right now – but I have been there and it isn’t any fun. Toxic relationships are not good in any situation – but I really want to bring your attention to toxic work situations and how they not only hurt your self-esteem and self-worth – but your overall outlook on life and security (since it’s tied to making a living).

Below are some great tips from the Marc and Angel Life Hack blog…take note and consider these in ALL areas of your life…boss, friend, co-worker, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, brother, sister…the list goes on…

 

1.  Relationships run by one person.

A relationship is toxic when one person is running it.  Period.

When you feel out of control or a little lost it can be tempting to look for someone willing to take charge of your life for you, just to alleviate the pressure.  But before you do consider this: If you put a collar around your own neck and hand the leash to someone else, you’ll have no say about where they lead you in life.

We should never feel powerless or trapped in a relationship.  In fact, if either person feels powerless or trapped, the relationship doesn’t really exist.  Because that’s what relationships are all about: freedom.

Yes, healthy relationships are built on a solid foundation of free will and teamwork.  And since relationships are one of the greatest vehicles of personal growth and happiness, the most important trip you will ever take in life is meeting someone else halfway.  You will achieve far more by working with them, rather than working against them or trying to control them.  It really is a full circle.  The strength of a relationship depends on the individual strength of its two members, and the strength of each member in the long run depends on the quality of the relationship.

2.  Relationships that are supposed to “complete” you.

Our culture, which is predicated on fantasies of romantic love, often suggests that once you meet “The One,” you will be lifted out of your misery or boredom and elevated into a state of perpetual wholeness and bliss.

So, it’s easy to believe that it’s your partner’s job to make you feel joyful and whole.  But the truth is, while a healthy relationship can certainly bring joy, it’s not your partner’s job to fill in your empty voids.  That’s your job and yours alone, and until you accept full responsibility for your emptiness, pain, or boredom, problems will inevitably ensue in the relationship.

The longing for completion that you feel inside comes from being out of touch with who you are.  Nobody else in this world can make you happy.  It’s something you have to do on your own.  And you have to create your own happiness first before you can share it with someone else.

3.  Relationships that rely on codependency.

When your actions and thoughts revolve around another person to the complete disregard of your own needs, that’s codependency, and it’s toxic.  When you set a precedent that someone else is responsible for how you feel at all times (and vice versa), then you both will develop codependent tendencies.  Suddenly, neither one of you is allowed to plan something without getting approval.  All activities – even the mundane things such as watching a TV program – must be negotiated and compromised.  When someone begins to get upset, all personal needs go out the window because it’s now your responsibility to make one another feel better.

The biggest problem of developing these codependent tendencies is that they breed resentment.  Sure, if Angel gets mad at me once because she’s had a crappy day and is aggravated and needs attention, that’s understandable.  But if it becomes an expectation that my life revolves around her emotional well-being 24/7, then I’m eventually going to become very bitter towards her feelings and desires.

As Jim Rohn once said, “The greatest gift you can give somebody is your own personal development.  I used to say, ‘If you will take care of me, I will take care of you.  “Now I say, I will take care of me for you, if you will take care of you for me.’”

In other words, take responsibility for your own emotions and expect your partner and friends to be responsible for theirs.  There’s a subtle yet important difference between being supportive and being obligated at all times.  Any sacrifices for others should be made as a self-directed choice and not seen as an obligation.  (Read Codependent No More.)

4.  Relationships based on idealistic expectations.

You don’t love and appreciate someone because they’re perfect, you love and appreciate them in spite of the fact that they are not.  “Perfection” is a deadly fantasy – something none of us will ever be.  So beware of your tendency to “fix” someone when they’re NOT broken.  They are perfectly imperfect, just the way they should be.

Truthfully, the less you expect from someone you care about, the happier your relationship with them will be.  No one in your life will act exactly as you hope or expect them to, ever.  They are not YOU – they will not love, give, understand or respond like you do.

The biggest disappointments in life and in relationships are the result of misplaced expectations.  Tempering unrealistic expectations of how something or someone “should be” will greatly reduce unnecessary frustration and suffering.

Bottom line: Any relationship that’s real will not be perfect, but if you’re willing to work at it and open up, it could be everything you’ve ever dreamed of.

5.  Relationships where past blame is used to justify present righteousness.

When someone you’re in a relationship with continues to blame you for your past mistakes, your relationship is toxic.  If both people in the relationship do this it becomes a hopeless battle to see who has screwed up the most over the years, and therefore who owes the other one more of an apology.

When you use someone else’s past wrongdoings in order to try and justify your own present righteousness, it’s a lose-lose situation.  Not only are you dodging the current (valid) issue itself, but you’re digging up guilt and bitterness from the past to manipulate the other person into feeling wrong in the present.

If this goes on long enough, both people in the relationship eventually spend most of their energy trying to prove that they’re less guilty than the other rather than solving the present problem.  They spend all of their time trying to be less wrong for each other instead of being more right for each other.

You must recognize that by choosing to be in a relationship with someone, you are choosing to be with all of their prior mistakes.  If you don’t accept those mistakes, then ultimately, you do not accept them.  If something bothered you that much in the past, you should have dealt with it then.  It’s time to let bygones be bygones.  (Angel and I discuss this in detail in the “Relationships” chapter of1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)

6.  Relationships built on daily lies.

Trust is the foundation of a healthy relationship, and when trust is broken it takes time and willingness on the part of both people to repair it and heal.  All too often, I’ll hear a coaching client say something like, “I didn’t tell him but I didn’t lie about it, either.”  This statement is a contradiction, as omissions are lies too.  If you’re covering up your tracks in any way, it’s only a matter of time before the truth is revealed and trust in the relationship is broken.

Remember, an honest adversary is always better than a friend or lover who lies.  Pay less attention to what people say, and more attention to what they do.  Their actions will show you the truth in the long run.

If you catch someone you care about lying to you, speak up.  Some people will lie to you repeatedly in a vicious effort to get you to repeat their lies over and over until they effectively become true.  Don’t partake in their nonsense.  Don’t let their lies be your reality.  Don’t be afraid to stand up for the truth – YOUR truth.  Forgiveness and reconciliation can’t begin until this truth is told.

7.  Relationships that lack forgiveness and the willingness to rebuild trust.

Failing to understand that broken trust CAN be repaired leads to a grim future.

When trust is broken, which happens in nearly every long-term relationship at some point, it’s essential to understand that it can be repaired, provided both people are willing to do the hard work of self-growth.

In fact, it’s at this time, when it feels like the solid bedrock of your relationship has crumbled into dust, that you’re being given an opportunity to shed the patterns and dynamics with each other that haven’t been serving you.  It’s painful work and a painful time, and the impulse will be to leave, especially if you believe that broken trust cannot be repaired.  But if you understand that trust levels rise and fall over the course of a lifetime you’ll be more likely to find the strength to hang in, hang on, and grow together.

8.  Relationships in which passive aggression trumps communication.

Passive aggressive behavior takes many forms but can generally be described as a non-verbal aggression that manifests in negative behavior.  Instead of openly expressing how they feel, someone makes subtle, annoying gestures directed at you.  Instead of saying what’s actually upsetting you, you find small and petty ways to take jabs at someone until they pay attention and get upset.

This is obviously a toxic relationship situation.  It shows that you two are not comfortable communicating openly and clearly with one another.  A person has no reason to be passive-aggressive if they feel safe expressing any worries or insecurities within the relationship.  A person will never feel a need to hide behind passive aggression if they feel like they won’t be judged or criticized for what they are thinking.

In healthy relationships, feelings and desires are shared openly.  Make it clear that the other person is not necessarily responsible or obligated to your ideas and opinions, but that you’d love to have their support.  If they care about you, they will likely give it, or at least compromise in some way.

9.  Relationships governed by emotional blackmail.

Emotional blackmail is when someone applies an emotional penalty against you when you don’t do exactly what they want.  The key condition here is that you change your behavior, against your will, as a result of the emotional blackmail.  In other words, absent the emotional blackmail you would do differently, but you fear the penalty so you give in.  This is extremely toxic behavior.

The solution, as with passive aggression, is simply better communication.  There should never be a penalty, just an honest conversation.  It’s crucial for both people in a relationship to know that negative thoughts and feelings can be communicated safely to one another without there being penalties and harsh repercussions.  Otherwise people will suppress their true thoughts and feelings which leads to an environment of distrust and manipulation.

Perhaps there’s something that really bothers you about your friend or lover.  Why aren’t you saying something?  Are you afraid they’ll get upset?  Maybe they will and maybe they won’t.  Either way you need to deal with it upfront, constructively, and avoid burying it until it worsens, festers and explodes out of you.

Remember, it’s fine to get upset at someone you care about or to not like something about them.  That’s called being an imperfect human being.  Understand that committing to a person and always liking a person’s choices is not the same thing.  One can be committed to someone and not like everything about them.  On the contrary, two people who are capable of communicating sincere criticism towards one another without judgment or emotional blackmail will strengthen their commitment to one another in the long run.  (ReadEmotional Blackmail.)

10.  Relationships that are always put on the back burner.

Failing to carve out quality time for important relationships is one of the most toxic relationship mistakes of them all, and yet it often goes unnoticed… at least for a while… until everything starts falling apart.

The truth is, relationships are like any other living entity: they require dedicated time in order to survive and thrive.  It’s easy to allow life to take over, especially when you have young children, work, and a body that needs nourishing food and exercise.  But your relationship with someone is a body as well, and if it’s not watered with quality time every week, it will start to wither.  Make time every week to focus only on those you care about, and time every day to pour even just a few minutes of quality interaction into your closest relationships.

Nothing you can give is more appreciated than your sincere, focused attention – your full presence.  Being with someone, listening without a clock and without anticipation of the next event is the ultimate compliment.  It is indeed the most valued gesture you can make to another human being.

Passion is Creation?

confusion_11Passion: any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate.

I have mentioned the word passion a lot in my recent posts. I used to be confused by this word, although I didn’t know it. I thought it was either referring to sex or crazy people. The passion sex association is easy enough. The reason I associated it with crazy people is because I found the word misused to describe those “passionate” about XYZ. In business, it can be very politically correct to describe crazy people as passionate. How many times have you heard “yes, I know he can be difficult he’s just passionate about ” It’s a bummer even the definition has a negative connotation, to passionately ‘hate’ something is lame. Well the confusion ends here.

I want to share an excerpt from an amazing book by Lynn Grabhorn called, “Excuse Me, Your Life Is Waiting“, where she eloquently writes about passion. This hit the nail on the head for me. I highly recommend the book, which is about the law of attraction. I know, I know you’re thinking of The Secret. I did too. I don’t want to bag on The Secret, I’m sure it helped many people. Here’s the deal, law of attraction is all about positive thinking and feeling. Done. That’s it. If you get all scientific about it, things may get murky. Keep it simple. Think about happy stuff, don’t focus on negativity or lack of. Even the thought of   I wanna lose weight   has some negativity. Instead, try to think   I want to be healthy, feel great and weigh XXX pounds   and see how that works for you. Envision what you ‘ll look and feel like at your goal weight. Think abundance and your life is sure to be abundant, just maybe not the way you thought it would be. Ahh, but it’s so hard for us to think positive thoughts consistently through the day. I know. So many books, articles, blog posts, etc. will continue to be created on this topic as reminder for us. It’s all good, maybe one day it’ll sink in. If you read anything about law of attraction and simply wished for millions of dollars and world peace, then immediately got angry when these things didn’t come to be, you’re missing the point entirely.

In the meantime, read the following and be inspired

Excuse Me...Excuse Me, Your Life Is Waiting“, pages 141-142:

Passion. We’ve talked a lot about it. It’s one of those words that sounds great, but what does it mean? How do we get it? And do we really need it? Here’s your clue: passion is created! Contentment is swell, but passion makes it happen. Contentment is an open valve, a nice safe haven with no negative focus, a place of rest. But passion makes it happen. Passion is living. Passion is creation. Passion is about feeling your power. When negative conditions pop up for whatever reason (as they always will because we require the contrast), instead of talking about how tough things are, dig down and feel your power. You’re not only connecting to the force of well-being, youare that force. That force is Life. That force is passion. And passion is creation.

Passion comes from excitement of having something in the making. Contentment, on the other hand, comes from looking at something already achieved, more like a satisfaction. Contentment is positive energy, true, but it’s not a fuel; it won’t take you any place. It is not an energy of creation. If you think your lacking this most intoxicating of feelings, passion, check to see if you’re still talking about or focused on a Don’t Want. There’s not a Don’t Want in the universe that can evoke passion, for all the Don’t Wants will ever get you is negative energy, closed valves, greater resistance, and more Don’t Wants.

So here’s yet another reason for giving more time to your Want, for the more time you spend on it, the more passionate you will become. And passion is creation. Passion doesn’t mean rah-rahcheerleading, or spastically bouncing off walls. Sure, passion comes in various degrees of excitement and enthusiasm, but more important, passion is a strong inner knowing. It’s a quiet sureness that life no longer has you by the ear lobes, and that the tiger you’re holding by the tail is actually you!

You want more passion? Then follow your joy! Go smell more roses, watch more sunsets, find more grass to walk barefoot on, visit more favorite restaurants, laugh more, find more places to explore, go to more ball games or plays, indulge in more hobbies, be more spontaneous, play more golf, listento more music, find more places to skinny-dip, smile more, have more fun. Now you’re vibrating in open-valve passion. And passion is creation.

Tell us, what will you do to entice your passion today? Tomorrow? This weekend? Inspire us!