Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve 2010

As the old year draws to a close and a new one is set to begin remember this:

What is the past is the past. It cannot be changed.

What is now is. It is the only time we have to act.

What is the future is undecided. It will be what we make it.

What is the past is the past. Learn from it and move on.

What is now is. Don't hesitate or the moment is lost.

What is the future is undecided. Look for the opportunities.

What is past is past. Let go the pain and remember the joy.

What is now is. Feel the pain, feel the joy. Live.

What is the future is undecided. Accept the pain as it comes, look for the joy.

What is past is gone

What is now is what we have

What is the future will have its time.

Live well and be happy in the New Year.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Find Your Way Home

There are times in each of our lives when we start to feel lost. Changes comes at us too quickly and pile up one after another and we do not know what to do. When this happens it is easy to lose control and make bad choices based on fear and uncertainty. When we find ourselves lost, what we need to do is find our way home.

First the grid theory:

The grid theory states that we look at the world through a grid which brings order to our world. The things that are important to us line up with the grid and shape how we see the world.

When we become lost in our own lives the cardinal points on our grid have come out of alignment, and this changes our world view. To find our way home we have to shift our grid, find a few familiar points to line up with and then start looking for what else fits in, where everything else clicks or how it relates to our grid. As we do this the relationships between each element of our lives will start to solidify once again and we will feel less lost.

This may not stop us from feeling overwhelmed but it can help us to understand what is important and what is not.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Being Selfish or Getting What You Want

I have been talking with a few friends about what is being selfish and what is not. As you may remember I am a big proponent of knowing what you want and then doing what you can to get it. On the other hand I also believe that we need to be aware of the impact our actions have and our responsibility to act compassionately. While this can be a fine line to walk, it helps to understand what it really means to be selfish.

Selfishness is claiming things that will satisfy the desires of another in excess of the amount needed to satisfy your own wants and needs. With this in mind it becomes clear that we have to know not just what we want but also when a want is satisfied.

If we ere on the side of pleasing others then we allow them to be selfish, forsaking our wants and desires to make sure theirs are met. On the other hand if we over-satisfy ourselves we risk hurting others.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Change How You See Yourself

As the year comes to a close and we start to take stock of what has happened in the past 365 days we tally up what has worked and what has not, what has brought us pleasure and what has not, and the lessons we have learned or not learned. As I do this, one thing becomes apparent to me, and that is that it is more important to my successes to change my mental image of who I am then who I actually am. Let me explain:

If I change who I am I have to fight my mental image of myself. Let's look at my battles over the years with drinking soda. I often knew I should stop; it was bad for my teeth and bad for my weight. I would tell myself ,"Okay I am going to cut out soda from my diet,"and I would for a month or so and then I would be hitting up the soda fountain machine at work again. A little over a year ago when I decided to stop drinking soda yet again I did something different, I told myself that I was a person who did not drink soda. I altered my mental image of myself. Now when I want soda I don't hear a voice in my head that says, "Bad Quinn you should not do that," instead it just feels like that is not me.

So, by altering how I see myself, how I define myself, I can steer myself away from bad behaviors and on to good ones. This of course raises the question, how do we change our mental image of our selves? There are only two ways I know of, willpower and belief. We must believe that we are our own masters, and if that is true, then there is nothing about who we are we cannot change. Then we have to have the willpower to see ourselves the way we want to and to hold that vision until it replaces the old image of ourselves that we want to change.

Monday, December 27, 2010

No Resolutions

So here we are five days from the start of the New Year. Pressure is on to set New Year's resolutions, but should you? My feeling is no.

The problem with New Year's resolutions is this: culturally we are not expected to keep them.

As a society we pressure ourselves to work on being better in the New Year but then we also expect it only to last for a few months. This type of preloaded failure makes it hard for us to stick to resolutions. Personal change and growth are important but they must be entered into with confidence and seriousness, otherwise we will fail. Rather then make a New Year's resolution with all its cultural baggage, I instead suggest picking a significant date in your own life and using this as you personal New Year.

For me I set new overarching goals on the aniversery of the blog. It could be any milestone in your life, wedding aniversery, birthday, child's birthday. Whatever has meaning to you and will help inspire you to be a better person can work. If we are serious about growing and changing then we should not need the social baggage of New Year's resolutions to make it happen.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Consistency in Different Places

Let us begin here: A cat sits on a blanket. She licks her paw and rubs the side of her head just below her ear but she does not look quite comfortable. She turns and curls up as if ready to sleep but one eye stays open. She is watching me, not trusting me, unsure. Change has entered her world and she is trying to make the best of it.

She is like a lot of us this holiday season, finding herself in strange situations, in a house filled with more people than normal and, most importantly, not able to follow her normal patterns of behavior. For her it is just a matter of finding somewhere to be warm and cozy, but for us it is a matter of keeping our good habits alive. Fortunately there are things we can do to resist temptation this time of year.

Set ourselves up for consistency: When we are coming into a strange situation it is easy to be distracted from our goals and our good habits because we do not have the usual day to day cues that help us be good. Let us look, for example, at trying to eat healthy. It is easy to do when we stock our fridge with healthy food and drinks, but harder when we sit at someone else's table. However, if we know that desert will be a temptation we can bring something healthy that we like to share. This lets us participate in desert without guilt. When we know the situations that we will find ourselves in we can create strategies to deal with the situation.

Be vigilant: Willpower is good and we need it, but to exercise willpower we must be aware of our actions. In order to be aware of our actions we need the habit of watching what we are doing. Being able to be aware of what we are doing and what we are going to do allows us to correct our actions before we take them, before they become regrets.

Have a margin for indulgence: Indulgence can be fun, and people will push us to indulge. The problem with indulgence is that it feels like we are breaking our good habits, that we are falling back into bad behaviors. But if we have enough willpower and the ability to be moderate we can allow some indulgence. This is not a tool for those of us who once we start eating a package of cookies cannot stop, but for those who can eat three and walk away, this can work great. Creating a plan that says I can have a small piece of pie or I can stay up late or I can skip my exercise this morning is fine. We must also have a plan in place for getting back on track, a commitment to start exercising again on Monday morning for example or returning to a home stocked with healthy food.

What tools do you use to stay on track during the holiday season?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Lesson in Three Trees

Christmas is almost here and as usual people have drug trees into their homes and covered them with pretty lights. In choosing a tree they can choose to have a fake, plastic tree that gets stored in the attic after the holiday season ends. They could go out and choose a tree that is cut down from a farm or forest or they can keep a tree around all year growing in a pot to use when the holiday season comes around. These three trees can also represent three attitudes and habits related to personal growth.

The Plastic Tree

Ah, the old plastic tree it has its advantages, less work, easy storage and no dropped needles, but it has a downfall, it is fake. There is also the fake tree approach to personal growth. This usually comes when we do not want to change but have others pressuring us to change. We act "better" around these other people but when we are left to our own devices we easily fall back into our bad habits. This can look like personal growth from the outside but nothing changes on the inside.

The Dead Tree

Another option is to find a real tree, cut it down and bring it inside. We feed and water the tree throughout the holidays but as the season wears on it becomes dry and brittle, needles fall off and soon it is time to set it on the curb for the garbage man to pick up. These dead trees are the New Year's resolutions of the personal growth world. These are the things we start, find to be difficult to keep going and stop. Then a few months, years or decades later we decide we need to work on that again. Now we have to go back out in the cold and chop the tree down again, drag it back to the house and fight with it to stand up straight. In other words we have to do all the ground work of trying to change again: preparing our self mentally, devising a plan and putting that plan in to action.

The Living Tree

Ah, the living tree. Take a seedling or sapling and place it in a pot and bring it in every year. Sure it is more work than the others. You have to care for it year round, but it does not drop needles and it grows with you. This tree represents the persistent approach to personal growth. It takes care everyday to keep growing and keep the changes that you have made in your life on track, but it is worth the effort. The work is real and comes from the inside creating change rather than just dragging the appearance of change down from the attic. Also it does not damage our mental environment by leaving stumps of failure to tear down our confidence. And after a year or two of care and feeding, the little tree grows and becomes strong, able to stand on its own

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Relating to the Other

There is a social dilemma which arises every year as the nights grow longer and the cold begins to set in. A misstep with the wrong person can cause tension, lectures and hurt feelings. This problem becomes even worse when you work in customer service. Not only do you have to confront the situation more often than others but you may be forced to react to it differently then you believe is correct. For that matter if you are not in the majority within a social group you may also find yourself forced to react in a way other than you would like to.

What could this end of year social mind field be? It's wishing a happy holidays to people we meet.

You will notice that I have chosen to use the blandest, most neutral and impersonal version in the sentence above. I do not celebrate "the holidays." My family has a nice set of Christmas traditions that we celebrate, and I enjoy that.

Why am I even talking about this? What does it have to do with personal growth? Am I just stretching to find a Christmas topic?

The answer to the first question I will show you, to the second maybe.

The problem here is that we are given to believe that if we offer someone the wrong holiday greeting they may find it offensive. It can become socially awkward when we say "Merry Christmas" and they respond "I'm Jewish" or "I celebrate the solstice." At the core of this awkwardness is the fact that celebrating different holidays puts us in different boxes. There is the Christmas box, the Solstice box, the Hanukkah box, the Kwanzaa box - all these boxes make us "other" to one another.

But perhaps, just maybe, with a smile and some good will we can change the social perception of our holiday greeting from a charge to identity and transform it into a point of understanding. Instead of implying (as some people seem to believe) "I celebrate X holiday and you should too," perhaps we can learn to hear, "This is me, who are you?"

When we ask this simple question in the subtext of our interactions with others it can break down the walls that build up between us and them, me and yourself. The place where we are the same as others is where we connect, but the places where we are different are where we learn to tolerate, find beauty, and in the interaction between those differences, find truth.

When we learn to understand that the differences in others do not mean they are out to get us, impose there beliefs on us, or change us to be like them, then we can move closer to setting aside fear.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Getting it Done: Part 2 - Schedules

So with yesterday's definitions and elements in place it is time to turn to the heart of a time management system: scheduling.

For this you will need a calendar. I like to use Google Calendar on line as I tend to lose day planers and ignore wall calendars. With an online calendar that syncs with my phone I have my schedule in a package that is hard to lose and that will give me reminders by email and alarms.

The next step in scheduling is to block out your time as we talked about yesterday. What works best for me is to highlight blocks of time so when I come back to the calendar later I can see how I have assigned my self. In Google calendar I do this by creating two separate categories (which Google calls calendars) and set them to display with different color backgrounds. I name one of these calendars 'time blocking work' the other 'time blocking free.' I use them to highlight my calendar.

Now that I have budgeted my time I know that I will have free time and when that will be. This does not mean I need to fill every moment of the work part of my day with tasks and appointments. It is good to have some flexibility built into your schedule. Start with your anchor events; these will usually be appointments that you need to keep. Once these time and place constrained events are on the calendar, look at the other tasks you need to accomplish and begin to organize them with efficiency in mind. In effect this will create a localized to-do list for each trip you make.

Now it is time to look at water and rocks. Let us look at our day as a river. The banks of the river define the passage of time, the water and the rocks that lie between those banks are the activities that make our day. Rocks are our appointments, our anchor events. They are the fixed things that everything else must flow around. Everything else that we wish to accomplish in a day is the water. The point of this is that everything other then the rocks is flexible. If a crises emerges or a fire needs to be put out we can shift our tasks around and pay attention just to what is critical.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Getting it All Done - Part 1: Elements and Definitions

Well life is getting busy again, and that is a good thing. I have one month before school starts up again and in that time I need to find a good system for managing my time. So it is time to think about time management in detail.

What does time management accomplish?

Time management is not about getting all your work done, but it does help with that. Time management is not about filling every moment of the day with productive activity. Time management is about finding a balance between work and play while making sure the things that need to get done get done.

Time management brings together two other concepts: Tasks and appointments. While the definitions of these are for the most part obvious let us take a minute to be clear about what we are talking about.

Tasks: these are the things we want or need to accomplish.

Appointments: these are scheduled items that have a set time and/or place they need to be done.

The main purpose of time management is this: Balancing the completion of tasks with the keeping of appointments while still maintaining quality of life.

Elements of a time management system

Time blocking is the first element in creating a time management system. The basic idea is to divide your day into times to do certain types of work. For example, you could divide the day into work, personal and school. During the hours set aside for work that is all you do, things related to your job, for school and personal business. You can drill down as deep as you want with time blocking, setting aside time for specific work or school tasks and so on. This does not work for me. How I want to use time blocking is to simply set aside free time and work time. Work time will be for accomplishing anything non-recreational. Running errands, setting interviews, doing school work, going to class or work will all fall into this category. This way I can guaranty myself some time to fool around each day.

The next element of time management is activity grouping. The idea here is to organize what you are doing in such a way that tasks and appointments complement each other rather than conflict. An example of this is making sure that if you need to go grocery shopping and you are meeting with someone at the Starbucks next to Safeway you can combine the trips. Tasks grouping can also mean that if you have a number of phone calls to make during the day you can give yourself an hour to just make phone calls.


Prioritizing is another key element of any time management system, and it is so critical and complex it deserves its own subheading. We only have so much time to do the things that have to get done so we have to decide what is important, what is practical and most importantly what is efficient. We need to be able to maximize out most limited resource when we schedule and that is time. We need to put that time into the tasks that will have the greatest impact on our lives and achieving our goals.

But there is a great dilemma in prioritizing. Those things that are important need to get done, however they are not always the most practical tasks or the most efficient tasks. While it is hard to realistically change the importance of a task or appointment, we can work to make them more efficient and practical. This can be accomplished by what I like to call 'event anchoring'. This is a type of prioritization that focuses on picking an important task or appointment, then uses task grouping to arrange geographically or process related tasks around that anchor event.

Another element in prioritizing to be aware of are deadlines. These can often shift the importance of events causing them to be more critical then they actually are. Managing tasks with a deadline over the entire allotted time period is critical to creating a smooth work flow.

To be continued

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Plan and a Tangent

My Plan

So with the intent of finding work as a writer I have decided that I need to create an online portfolio of my work. I have decided to simply start a second blog that I will use to collect links to my work published online as well as a place to post my résumé. In addition I have started using as a personal landing page.

The page can serve as an online business card, an easy way for me to introduce myself and share contact information with others. It also allows me to link to this blog, as well as other websites I have written for.

The next step is to start querying publications with article and story ideas as well applying to work for online news services.

A Tangent

The day before yesterday I felt paralyzed, unable to act on looking for work. Yesterday I made my public statement of intent to find work. With this the paralysis unlocked and today I feel free to move forward, create a plan and actually start putting it into action. The power of a statement of intent for me is incredible, focusing, and gives me a path to channel my energy.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A New Statement of Intent

I need to focus on money. Not just making it, but also my relationship to it. This is hard for me to think about. Money scares me. If there is one area in which I need to take back the battle field this is it. I can do it. I know I can. I can start making enough money to live on. I can spend it responsibly, and I can do it on my terms. Now I just need to figure out how.

The first thing is to create a mental image of myself as someone who makes money and spends it well.

The second is to put aside my fear of rejection, and really start selling myself as writer. I know I have the skills and I know it will take some time to find publications I fit in with. There will be rejection; there will be people who do not think I am a good fit for what they need. There will also be others who want me, and who think I will work well at their publication. None of this will happen if I do not apply and put myself out there.

This needs to be my focus in the next months.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Feeding Our Ambitions

Every day there are things we need to fuel our endeavors. We need sleep and we need food and without these we do not have the energy to accomplish what we need to do much less what we want to do. However, we need to be able to feed more than just our bodies, we need to feed our ambitions. When we feed our ambitions there is a fine line between an unproductive kind of daydreaming and the actual focusing of desire and mind on the task at hand.

The problem with ambition is that as we feed it, it puts on weight quickly. Small, good ideas grow quickly into huge, unattainable goals. The key is to maintain enough food, enough fuel to power the ambition, to give it the strength to motivate us while at the same time not letting it go crazy at the buffet table and grow too huge to manage.

One solid tool for feeding our ambitions are written goals that are measurable (we can clearly track our progress towards completion), and time sensitive (by giving ourselves a deadline we move from "some day" to a more immediate way of thinking.) The advantage of written goals is that they also have built in limits; they clearly define what we want and when we want it. This helps keep our minds from wandering, from making things bigger, better and more complex then is realistically achievable.

Another technique for feeding our ambition is to remember why we want to achieve something in the first place. A firm understanding of what we want, what desire we are feeding by ataining a goal, is a good way to keep our ambition strong but still in check.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Acting With Purpose

There is in most stories that feature a scary dark wood the scene where our hero gets lost, he walks in circles, is lulled to sleep by evil tress or falls down cliffs in the dark. Each of us in the course of our journey that is personal growth and development has the potential to get lost in the woods. Like the heroes of fairy tales and fantasy classics we can find ourselves walking in proverberial circles as we try to find our way in the thick, dark old wood of our bad habits.

The circles we walk in are the result of doing things just to be doing things rather than doing things with purpose. Let us take this blog as an example, for the last several weeks I have felt like I am saying the same thing over and over again. I have been writing because it is what I do, I write every weekday morning and share my thoughts on personal growth. However, if all I am doing is putting on the same show every day, what's the point? I write to change myself and hopefully to help others.

On Friday the going in circles became too much for me and I called out for assistance. I received several emails that let me know other people cared about the blog. It was bigger them me. If it is bigger them me and I am to keep growing I have to cover the basics from time to time - Know yourself, be honest with yourself, live in the now and do not quit. But I have to also have purpose, have direction and tell what I know with the honesty and intensity it deserves. In other words I must stop writing just to write but instead to share truths, to shine light on the truths of being me in a functional way that I come in contact with.

I have to write with purpose. I have to get out of the woods, find a high hill and get my bearings. The questions that we need to ask to verify that we are acting with purpose are these: Is this important? Why am I doing this? When we can answer these and the answers satisfy our values, our dreams, our commitments and our goals we are on the right course.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Thoughts on the Comparative Value of Happiness

There is a topic that I have been thinking about a lot lately. The basic idea is this: my actions and my choices have the power to influence the happiness of others. This being true, when making a choice that will make others unhappy but which make me happy, what moral responsibility do I have to the other?

I do not believe the answer to the question is none. We do have a responsibility to think of more than just ourselves when we make choices, but what scale do we use to rate our own happiness against the happiness of others? The problem is even harder since we have no accurate system of measuring the happiness of others. We can listen to their reports and monitor their reactions, but like quantum physics, we are studying the results of an effect on the things we can see rather than on the thing we are interested in.

Setting aside this problem there are some things we can safely gauge. First we must gauge how responsible we are for an others happiness. In other words, have we made a commitment to this other person to help them be happy or, on the other hand, to keep them from being sad? To some extent this is part of having a friendship with some one: a responsibility to help them through emotionally hard times and help bring happy times into their lives. This said, while we want our friends to be happy, we also hope that they want us to be happy, a fact that does not balance the scales of responsibility, but makes it harder to read.

In addition to considering how committed we are to another's happiness we should take into consideration the expected duration of the emotional change. How long will our choice make us happy and the other unhappy? Will our choice bring us a moment of happiness while causing months of heartache for another?

The other problem with this topic is this, with what weight do you value your own happiness? If you are one who tends to undervalue yourself it is easy to always strive to make others happy at the expense of yourself, but if you tend to overvalue yourself then you will tend to be less concerned with others happiness; what you feel will be more important. The trick is finding the middle ground of compassion for others while having enough self worth to know the value of your own happiness.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A New Direction

I have run in to a problem. It seems to me that no matter what it is I am trying to write about here it boils down to the same message.

  1. Know your self
  2. Be true to who you are
  3. Do not quit

I need to find new aspects of personal growth to talk about and that is where you, my readers, come in. Send me on a journey, give me topics to look into, specific situations even. Tell me what you want me to explore and think about. I do not want this to become a one-on-one advice column so I will look into things broadly.

Thanks for the help

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Don’t Sell Yourself Short

It has been my experience that we are capable of doing whatever is expected of us, whether this expectation comes from the inside or the outside, it does not matter. If we can do more when we are expected to do more, then we can do more when we need to do more, when no one is watching. It is the same reserve of energy and determination we draw on when we know someone is counting on us to get the job done, to accomplish the tasks others do not know about.

The key to tapping into these depths of strength is to value our own self opinion. If we give up and quit, we diminish our opinion of ourselves. On the other hand if we do pull through and find the energy to go on when things get rough we prove to ourselves that we are strong, we can succeed and that we are worthy of the trust placed in us. All of this together builds confidence and, as I have said before, confidence is the foundation for successful personal growth.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Look Carefully

As we work to grow and to change, as we set goals and look for milestones of accomplishment we need to be on guard for false millstones and false goal fulfillment. When we have worked hard for something and it appears to be before us, it is easy to rush to it with open arms and embrace it without close scrutiny. However, in so doing we might fail to see that the treasure we have battled so long to possess is a decoy.

As we draw close to our goals we need to closely examine the substance of our accomplishments. Is what we have found real or are we projecting our desires onto something that is not entirely there? It is easy to make believe that just because we are better at things then we used to be that we are good at them. Couple this with the strong desire to rest as we reach the summit of our achievement, and it is easy to falsely believe we have found what we are looking for.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Today as I sit at the keyboard I have a number of things I want to talk about, ideas I want to explore and concepts I want to share. However, each of them is half developed and I should call them notions rather than ideas. As I search this morning for a topic I have started to share one or two of these ideas and then deleted them, moving on to the next. These ideas are not ready to see the light of day.

This brings up the point that writing requires patience and so does personal growth. We need to be careful both in rushing into things and rushing out of things. Some of the work we do is long and arduous. Part way though we may reach a point where we have made good progress and it feels as if it is enough, that we are better, we are good. This good however, might just be a "good enough," enough to trick us into a false sense of acomplishemnt.

I have often thought that overcoming problems is like climbing a large difficult mountain. The climb is hard and arduous and it is easy to talk ourselves into stopping when in realty we have barely crested the mountain of where we need to be. We may be on the edge of the final assent, and in pulling ourselves up we may be catching the first glimpse of the view beyond our mountain. But we have yet to firmly plant our feet. If we rest now it will be ever so easy to tumble back into the chasm of our old ways.

In moments when our progress seems clear and the future is almost within sight we still need to keep going. At that point we should not find a place to rest and take in the view. We need to push on to stand in the light and not be satisfied with a pale reflection.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Intuition and Fear

In the battle of fear and intuition we too often let fear win. Fear can speak in a rational voice; it can tell us all the really good reasons we should not give in to our impulses. However, sometimes our rational mind and our worries about what will happen can stop us from finding what we are looking for.

The skill to learn is to trust your intuition and to be able to listen to it and follow it. The crazy thoughts - I should talk to that person, bet on red, turn left instead of right - can lead us to interesting place and new experiences.

However, we do still need to apply our usual tests to the intuition. Are these actions in line with our values and our commitments? Can we follow these impulses without regret or will they lead to heartache? And is the heartache necessary? Sometimes we cannot learn lessons without making mistakes, sometimes we have to explore the consequences to understand the outcomes. The insight of the intuition can come from the fall out as much as the dive in.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Maze of Fear

Last night I watched the movie, The Anatomy of Hate, A Dialog of Hope. This film looks at the social context for hate groups and the fear that motivates them. After viewing the film there was a question and answer session with the filmmaker, Mike Ramsdell. One thing he talked about was how we as social groups create walls of fear that separate us from other social groups and prevent us from seeing them as we see ourselves.

We have to walk this maze of fear to get through our day-to-day lives, to interact with those that are other then ourselves. But we also have to walk through the maze of fear to look inside, at things we hide from ourselves. To see into our own hearts we need to move around the walls and look at what hides inside.

Being fearless is not about not feeling the fear but about being able to move past it, through it or around it without letting it exert too much pressure on our actions or letting us act in violation of our values. It is when we let fear control us, consciously or unconsciously, that we tend to make decisions that take us from the path we choose to walk in life.

We must, therefore, be aware of our fear and recognize it for what it is. We must understand it and see if it is rational fear (as in fear of lions) or if it is irrational ( a fear of all cats large and small.)It is ok to react to the rational fears, the voices that help us avoid real pain, death and injury, things that can actually happen. But we must not let the irrational fear, the fear of the possibility of pain or death makes us act in ways that are not in line with who we wish to be.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Last month I mentioned that the changes I wanted to make in my life this year would focus on my relationship with money. Since my finances are something that has been a long running problem for me, this has been something I have been scared to look at, and so of course, I have been procrastinating.

Last night I got started on creating a budget tracking spread sheet based on the one recently reposted by You can find it here and the directions for using it are here. I modified their spread sheet a bit to account for my weekly pay schedule and to help track spending on food, since at the moment, this is one of the largest controllable expenses I have.

While the experience has not been pleasant the outcome is not as bad as I feared. Also with this first step to taming my financial demons I have begun to feel like I can do this, and, as I have mentioned before, confidence is a powerful force in helping us make the changes in our lives we want to make.

The next step for me is to make a habit of using the budget sheet. While this will not be easy at first, if I can write a blog regularly then I can enter my financial data regularly.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


The cultural obsession with happiness can contribute to unhappiness. We are programmed to believe that if we are not happy there is something wrong with us. What happens is that we begin to feel bad and then subconsciously we feel bad that we feel bad because feeling bad is wrong.

We need to understand that it is ok to be sad, it is ok to be angry and it is ok to be disappointed. We need to feel our emotions if we are to be happy. We need to give our "negative" emotions a chance to exist. If we sit on our sadness it festers, and rots at the happy moments.

Giving ourselves over to the moment and the emotions that live in the now is the best way to see ourselves through. If we do not we carry the baggage and the hurt with us for our entire lives.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


One of the problems that come from tying happiness to satisfying exterior wants is that what we want is not always realistic. When we desire or must have this product or that gadget and think we must have it to be happy but the money or the supply is not there we will be disappointed, and worse, distracted from finding the things that can really make us happy long term.

We live in a world that literally sells us the idea that we can be happy if we have things and that no matter how much we have we could always use the newest model of it to be that much happier. We live surrounded by the din of advertising, salesmen and peer groups who show us that this is the right way to live.

We have to be on guard every minute to make sure the voice in our head telling us what we want is our own voice. How will this gadget satisfy a need in our life? How does this product make our lives better? Is this a real need we have? Is it an area of our lives that needs improving? Being able to sort out our real desires from those placed there by advertisement is one of the basic steps we need to take to find the direction to guide our lives in.

Monday, November 29, 2010


Happiness, we all want it. We are told there is something wrong with us if we do not have it and it always seems to be a fleeting thing when we do have it. The secret to happiness is being honest with yourself, understanding who you are and what it is you want.

The false fleeting happiness that we chase after, those that come from outside ourselves are like a drug addiction, we need that next fix to feel happy. This is not the way we want to go through life.

When we begin to listen to our inner voice and hear the wants and needs of our heart we can begin to find long lasting ways to fill them. This is why we change our lives, to create a space to make ourselves happy. This happiness comes from within and gives us a place of refuge in times of stress, in times of darkness and times of pain.

I cannot tell you where to find happiness as each one of us is different; we each have different drives, wants and needs. But I can tell you where to look. Look inside yourself, take the quiet time to listen to your heart. Take the time to compare what you want to what you think you should want. Understand where these desires are coming from, find if they are safe desires and find a healthy way to fulfill them.

There are also unhealthy desires. Wanting something is not enough to justify it. A drug addict may want drugs but that need is hard on his body. We need to examine our wants and see if they are just a mask to make us feel good or if they are the deeper wants of our heart. Facing the deeper wants is hard. We wear fake happiness most of the time because we need to hide from the knowledge that we do not have the things we want in life. However, if we are able to face the hard things we can start constructing a plan to get what we need. Ignorance of what we want will only lead to more covering up, and more sadness all around.

Friday, November 26, 2010


The one who wins is the one who does not give in. Determination, the willingness to stand up again and again is one of the most importent qualities we can have in our quest to be the person we want to be.

One of the best ways to foster determination is to set goals we really want to achieve. When our tasks go beyond satisfying the expectations that society puts on us we are willing to suffer more hardship to realize them.

By chasing what we really, truly want we develop the habit of determination.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sticking to Our Commitments

It is one of those mornings when I am having problems getting started. It is savagely cold in my neck of the woods and the very thought of crawling out from the covers was daunting this morning. I was even considering reposting my piece from last Thanksgiving on being thankful for hardships just to have an excuse to stay in bed a bit longer. However, I knew by noon that would be weighing on my conscience. It might not be cheating, but it would feel like it to me.

This is the thing about commitments we freely take on. They are part of us and how we handle them affects how we see ourselves. I may not be clamoring to write every morning when I drag myself out of bed, I may not be proud of everything I post every day, but I am always proud of myself for doing it, for sticking with it.

We may not want to do the things we commit to, however, once we have committed to them they are a powerful motivator. Like deadlines they can compel us to act and also help us redefine ourselves.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

On Thankfulness

Thankfulness is something on every American's mind this week. But what does it really mean?

Thankfulness is an attitude that comes from the understanding that we are not alone, that the things we need and the things we want do not all come from inside us. Thankfulness is the understanding that we have received help to get where we are today. Thankfulness is a willingness to admit this and allow it to humble us.

Being thankful, truly thankful requires that we set aside our ego and admit that we cannot do it alone.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Staying on Track During the Holidays

This time of year is traditionally the time for indulgence but lowering our guard too much can cause us to lose our way on our journey of personal growth. So before the turkey, before the lights, the trees and the mistletoe let us take a moment and remember what we are working towards.

By focusing on what we really want to accomplish in our own lives we can save our willpower for things that coincide with those goals. If we are working on financial issues we need to keep a close eye on our budget and not overspend on presents. We may have to turn down some holiday invitations or just work with what we have. If we are working on controlling our weight we need that will power to not have that glass of eggnog or rich desert. No matter what the goal we need to keep it in mind throughout the season.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Finding Time for Myself

I took the night off last night. Not from work, that was all caught up. Not from trying to change my life, that is ongoing. No I took the night off from other people. I took some time to be alone with nowhere to go, nothing pressing to get done and just gave myself time to rest. As we move into the holiday season it is easy to get stressed out, to think about all the things we have committed to, the places to go, the presents to buy, the notes to write and so on. We get so caught up in the good times that everyone is trying to have we forget to take care of ourselves.

Taking time for ourselves like this is not selfish though it can feel that way when friends you have not had time to see lately call wanting to visit. If we do not take time for ourselves we become cranky, irritable, and frustrated. The things that should be fun and exciting become commitments, something else to get through before going to the next thing. There is not always time to take a night off but when we feel ourselves getting overwhelmed and pressed in on all sides by the social, occupational and scholastic commitments we have made, we owe it to ourselves and those around us to find the time.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Preholiday Rant

We are moving into the holiday season again. With this come the reminders to be thankful, to give to the needy and all that stuff. All of this irritates me. Not because I do not want to be thankful or do not want to give what I can to help those who are in need. What gets to me is that we need a reminder.

One of the things I believe is that as we grow and change and strive to meet our goals we must also be more compasionate and develop stronger connections to our community. We have to be aware of the needs of others not because there is someone out front of a store ringing a bell or because the nice people on the T.V. tell us to be. We need to be aware of others needs just because they are there.

Every day of every year there are ways to give and get help. There are organizations that need our time as much as they may need our money. When we see problems that no one else is addressing we cannot just sit back and hope that someone else will deal with it. We must remember we are everyone else's someone else everyday. The homeless are sleeping under overpasses whether it is raining or sunny. People go hungry on Monday as easily as on Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Yesterday I went for a long walk, not out of a need to think or a desire for exercise but because there was somewhere I had to be and there was no other way to get there. Trips like this are always good times for reflection and an opportunity to come up with new ideas. They are also always longer then I expect them to be. About ¾ of the way through my trek I was worn out and tired in the middle of nowhere. I just wanted to sit down and quit.

At about this point I get a text from the friend I was walking to meet. "Tasty beverage?" Just that little encouragement put the spring back in my step, well maybe not the spring but it was enough to squeeze a few more miles out of me.

The shift in attitude that some outside encouragement can bring is incredible. The problem is when the encouragement is asked for it is nowhere near as effective, even worse is when we are fishing for encouragement and we don't get it.

To make encouragement part of our lives we have to do a few things. We have to have people in our lives that tend to build us up rather then tear us down, and if they do tear us down it is only as part of a remodeling project. We need to be encouraging to others, and we need to do things that are worthy of encouragement.

Surround yourself with encouragers: Some people have the gift to inspire and encourage and these are the kind of people we need in our lives. Then there are those who only have the ability to point out the things we are doing wrong. While we need to be told when we are behaving badly or hurting others this cannot be all we hear. If the only people we have in our lives are the latter we need to find some of the former.

Create a culture of encouragement: As it is important for us to be encouraged it is important for us to be encouraging. If we are looking for the rewards of honest and sincere encouragement we have to give it. As those around us are reminded of the power of encouragement they are more likely to reciprocate. Also if we are encouragers we are more likely to attract other encouragers in to our lives.

Do something that deserves encouragement: We should not be looking for encouragement for every little task or chore we do. "Yay, good job you can do it! Keep breathing," or "Good job going to sleep last night." These are not the sort of things we need to hear. So if we want to be encouraged we need to do the big things, make the big changes, go for the long walks and put on the big events.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Power of the Inevitable

Some things feel like they are inevitable. It just feels like this thing or that thing is going to happen no matter what we do. This is powerful in that when we feel something is inevitable we are more likely to cause it to happen. This can be for good or ill and is for the most part subconscious.

There have been many times when I have been working on a project and suddenly had the realization that it will not work. This is not the understanding that I cannot do it, or that those I am working with will drop the ball but a realization that no matter what happens the plan will not come together. On the other hand there have been times where the opposite is true, a project looks bleak but I know it will work out.

When we feel we already know the outcome no matter what our actions, it effects our motivation, and the quality of work and effort we put out. In other words it can be a self fulfilling prophesy. The question then becomes, is there a way for us to create a false sense of inevitability in the things we do to motivate us and drive us to complete them? This goes beyond visualizing the task as complete or needing to meet a deadline. This is creating a knowledge in ourselves that this will be done. So how do we do this, how do we create the knowledge that successes are the only possible outcome of our indeverers?

I'm not sure but it is something I will be thinking about in the days ahead. If you have any ideas leave me a comment here or via face book or email. Thanks have a great day.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Maintaining Successes

This morning I am finally back to being able to post from my computer. The new cable arrived faster than expected and worked perfectly. This brings to mind a question, what do we do when things go right?

It is easy to talk about what to do when things go wrong, we feel we need to take action, change things, do something or we will not survive. But when things start going right that changes. The most important thing to do when life starts going well for us is not to coast. When we have what we want out of life it is easy to say, "Nice I can sit back and enjoy this." While we can do that for a few days, we have to get back to work or the good we have created will start to slip away from us.

This is not to say we should be pessimistic about the continuance of good fortune. Instead it means we have to recognize that we have done good work to create good fortune and that work must be maintained. In the past I have used the analogy of constructing a home to constructing the life we want. Confidence is the foundation, planning is the frame work, and action is sheet rock and so on. Like any house once it is built and lived in we have to maintain it, replace a garbage disposal here, slap on a coat of paint there. Our lives are like that as well.

Monday, November 15, 2010


There are times when we want to acomplish things in our lives, but feel we can't because we do not have adequate resources. For most of us this is just an excuse, a reason to not do and save face. Not having the resources to make the changes we want to make is just another challenge to overcome.

As long as we have two things we can do whatever we want and change what we want to change. These two things are time and the willingness to do the work. Funds can be raised, habits broken and connections formed. However in order to make things happen we have to make a plan and we have to be willing to put out the effort.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Just a quick post this morning as I am off to take part in the world's fastest novel event. A local coffee shop is hosting a group of writers to try to collectively write a novel in a day. Wish us luck.

Events like these give us an opportunity to try to do things we like in big ways in a suportive environment. It also give us oppertunities to meet people with similar intrests as us.

Finding comunities that coincide with our goals can help us to keep going when we are feeling overwhelmed. Knowing people who are where you are at, or have been where you are now gives us an idea base for overcoming hardships.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Keep Moving

Remind me to never write about dealing with the uncontrollable again. Yesterday was a whirlwind of uncontrollable events and for a time I did not deal with them well.

Shortly after I finished my post yesterday I realized that my laptop battery was low even though it was plugged in. I had been having some problems with the power cord the last few days so I did my ritual of unplugging parts and blowing on things but it did not bring it back to life.

Ok, so I have a momentary panic attack. What am I going to do? I have no money to repair the cord but I cannot be without my computer. Fortunetly I remembered some Amazon gift cards I had and was able to order the cord.

Later in the day I realized that my phone charging cable was not in my bag so there goes another way of keeping connected. Fortunately my boyfriend has a spare cable that works with my phone and we where able to revive it that night.

I was grumpy and irritable. I had a story I was working on but could not finish because all my notes were on the computer, and I was feeling isolated without my phone.

The problem was I was dwelling on the dilemma and not the solutions. I was not rolling with the punches but letting them hit me full in the face. It was not until I moved on that my mood improved.

I started working on a house ad for the paper and doing some image editing. Then wound up having a wonderful night cooking and visiting with friends. The key for me was not dwelling. Once I had a plan in place I could let go of the anger and frustration.

When the unexpected happens we have to deal with it, then keep moving.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dealing with What We Can’t Control

This may sound depressing at first but the vast majority of things in this world we have no control over. We cannot make people get their stories in on dead line, we cannot make people act the way we want them to act and we cannot stop sorrow from entering our lives.

When the uncontrollable variables of the world enter our lives we have to have strategies for dealing with them.

Know where you are going: The first strategy is to have a plan. Knowing where you want to be when you come out of a situation lets you guide your responses to bring you closer to where you want to be. It is like a ship in a storm, there is a heading you want to stick to but the wind may blow you off course. As you sail through the wind and waves you try your best to correct the course but when the wind stops and the sea calms you may still have some corectining to do, but at least you know where you are. You will know where to find land, provtions and repairs.

Expect people to be who they are: Most of our disappointment in people comes from expecting them to act the way we would act rather than the way they would act. We hope that people will notice things that we think are obvious or feel the things that we feel, but they do not. We need to be students of those around us so we can predict how they will react and expect them to be themselves. This does not mean we cannot give them encouragement to act differently or stress the importance of deadlines, but it does mean we shouldn't expect them to be someone they are not.

Accept some things are beyond our control: When we try to control and micromanage every aspect of our lives we wear ourselves out. We need to accept that not everything will go acordining to plan and save our energy for the important tasks. Knowing that we do not have to deal with every fire that erupts, that it is not our job to do everything, can alow us to roll with the punches, adapt and change and move fluidly through life.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Knowing When to Stop

It is easy to get caught up in doing the things we have been doing because that is what we do. Sometimes it is necessary to stop doing those things because they no longer bring us joy, pleasure or growth. We do them because they are expected of us when we used to do them for us.

No matter what it is we do in our lives we should be seeing some benefit from it, whether it is personal growth, happy memories, or the satisfaction of living well and doing right. When doing the things we loved becomes a chore we need to stop and ask ourselves why? What has changed? Is it us? Is it the way the task in question is treated by others? If we have lost enthusiasm for something it may be time to stop. Maybe it has lost its usefulness to our lives.

However if we have lost our love of doing something just because it has gotten difficult that is no reason to quit. We need to push through the difficulty to get better. Knoing when to quit, when enough is enough is an important skill to develop. Like so much of personal growth it comes from training your inner voice to be honest and then listening to it. When we can trust ourselves to tell us the real reason we want to throw in the towel, then we can make informed decisions.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Meteoric Insights

This morning I would really like to say something profound. I would like to find some skittering part of the human condition and put a pin in it and say, 'see this is how this is.' While over the weekend I have had several moments of reflection and interesting thought that I hoped to share, this morning they are evading my memory. That is all right.

Not all truths, revelations and understandings are meant to be held onto. Instead there are insights that are like meteorites. They streak brightly across the sky of our thoughts flashing with great brilliance and we say to ourselves, 'how did I not know this before? I will always remember this.' When they strike our consciousness we feel them in our toes, there is a tingle in our spine, our hair stands on end. We want to act, we want to write, we want to create art.

Like a meteor, however, after it hits it buries itself in a crater, driving through the layers of our conscious mind to our subconscious. The unremembered insight does not leave us, it becomes part of who we are. It becomes part of the frame work of our understanding of the universe where we can interact with it intuitively. It is another wire under the board, or perhaps a better way of thinking about it would be this: these flashes of insight into the human condition and the nature of consciousness are the cable ties that keep all our wires neat.

These flashes of insight are just that, flashes, because they are too encumbering for our conscious mind to deal with. The part of us that has to remember to take showers, get dressed and brush our teeth is not the part of us that needs to understand when it is the right time to draw someone a picture or to know when they need a hug. So do not go chasing after lost shooting stars. If you find them they will just be a cold lump of rock in your hands. Instead let their iron insights be part of you and be stronger for it.

Just a brief behind the curtain moment here to share with you. As I wrote the first words of this post today I did not know where it was going. This is just an example of how the meteoric insights can bubble to the surface and make themselves known in what we do

Friday, November 5, 2010

Bravery in the Face of Opportunity

Part of personal growth is having courage. We have to be brave enough to face the parts of ourselves that we do not like and change them. We also have to be brave enough to take the opportunities that present themselves. As we grow in skill, confidence and knowledge doors will open to us but it is still up to us to walk through.

It can be easy to say,'I am not ready for that, they would never pick me, why bother trying.' Well, this is the sort of attitude that holds us back from realizing the dreams we have. To make our lives what we want them to be we have to apply for the positions we want, we have to fight for the recognition we deserve and we have to be brave enough to not be chosen.

Just because we apply for a job, a college or a loan does not mean we will get it, but if we do not apply we surely will not get it. We do need to understand that it is a competition. Just because we are not picked does not mean we were not qualified, it means someone else was more qualified. Our confidence can weather these sorts of setbacks. We can only try and take advantage of the opportunities that come our way.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Ostrich Effect

We have all seen a cartoon where the ostrich sticks it's head in the sand to avoid seeing what is going on around it. I have a tendency to be an ostrich, to know that something is not right in my life and to avoid dealing with it. If I do not see it, do not think about it, it will go away. This does not work and often in my life has made things worse. It is one of the things that I have tried to work on in the past year and have had some successes. Being willing to be brave and confront the parts of myself I do not like has been hard but it has also been rewarding.

So how do we pull our head out of the sand? What steps can we take?

Acknowledge that we are not perfect: We make mistakes and bad choices in life. Those are as much a part of who we are as the victories we have won. They do not make us a bad person; instead it is how we repair our mistakes that truly show our character.

Accept the consequences of our actions: Sometimes our mistakes incur punishments and penalties. When these are deserved we should not try to avoid them but instead weather them as best we can. This means fulfilling the obligation we have brought upon ourselves with our actions. Once we have recognized the consequences and survived them we can move on and put the experience behind us.

Do something about it: The longer we spend hiding from a problem the worse it gets. If it is money related the bigger the debt grows. If it is emotional the deeper the wound becomes.

Put it behind you: Once we have handled a situation we do not have to put the energy into avoiding it. We do not have to worry and we can get on with living in the now not worrying about what happened then.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Beginning of the Financial Plan

Money management. This is not one of my strong suits but by this time next year I intend for it to be. To make this happen I need a plan.

Using excel I am going to start analyzing my financial patterns. First I am going to track how much money I make this month and how it gets spent. I am also going to start tracking bills and projected expenses and create a budget for the life I want to live in the next few years while I am at school. This way I will have a target income that I need to generate. This will give me the metrics to set my goals and benchmarks by which to measure growth.

Also understanding my spending habits will help me change them. By understanding that I am spending too much on coffee and not enough on food I will be able to make adjustments. This financial course correction is just the beginning. As I get my finances on track I want to move from being competent with money to being financially stable. To me this means having a savings account, an emergency fund and that I live inside my means.

But as in any other instance of personal growth, with financial issues the first thing is to know myself, to look honestly at the situations I have gotten myself into and not look away.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Quick Note on Overscheduling

It is election day, a day when in the US we are called upon to do our duty to our country and vote. It is also a good time to think about our other duties and commitments. We fill our lives, and our time with so many wants and needs they eat away at the things we want to do or that we need to do. We need to manage our time and manage our commitments. This is a lesson I am reminded of again and again as I overfill and purge my schedule. On that note, I confess, I have once again overdone it. So here is the message short and sweet, go vote, manage your time and don't be afraid to say no when you need to.

Monday, November 1, 2010

New Blog Year Resolutions

As a new year of bloging starts the question becomes where do I go from here?

This year I plan to transfer to a four year school and continue to study journalism and I want to make enough money from writing to pay the rent. Last year if you would have asked me if I thought this was possible I probably would have given some weasely answer about how it is what I want to do but my lack of confidence in myself as a writer would have shown through. As this new blogging year dawns I feel I have the skills I need to make it happen.

On the personal front I am still looking for a place to call home. While I have a place to live there is not much of me in it, but if I can get more money coming in from writing I can finally have a place that feels like my own. The new relationship is going well and I am looking forward to this continuing in the next year.

Money, my ability to make it and manage it needs to be the major focus of this year. As always I am open to tips and suggestions and as I find tips that work for me I will share them with all of you. Have a great day and look forward to having all my great readers around for the second year of the blog.

Friday, October 29, 2010

One Year Anniversary

One year ago today I started Up From the Ashes and what a year it has been. I was just looking back at the first post, statement of intent, and the blog has changed from what I meant for it to be, however the central purpose behind the blog has not changed. In the beginning it was about me struggling with my issues and trying to understand what I can do to make my life better. While finding the flaws was a good public exercise, a blog full of I went to class today, I did not procrastinate, would be boring to read and boring to write. Along the way I have tried to share some of the victories, some of the goals and some of the stumbling blocks I have faced.

To day I am going to share some of the accomplishments I have made in the last year. Things have really been coming togather in the last few months I have started writing for the junior college newspaper the Oak Leaf. After a short time here I have progressed to being the Opinion Editor and I help to write editorials, news, opinion and feature articles. Below are links to a number of the articles I have written this semester

Every issue I have a column in which I write about technology and students. The first one listed below is my most recent published column on the necessity of connectivity for most people today. The second story from the column is about online classes and this column earned me an invitation to the District Online Committee, the committee that advises the school on online education.

Necessities in the Information Age

Online Classes Need a Makeover

I am also linking to some of the regular articles that I have written for the paper. The first is a look at the state budget that was passed and how it affects students. The second is a restaurant review I did for the coffee shop across the street from my school.

California Senate Passes Record Late Budget

Review: My Friend Joe's

Also I have been working for We the People, now Gay , I have a column there called Everybody's Business where I interview local gay business owners about their lives and business.

I am working in my desired field, and making progress to bigger and better writing projects. Change is possible, change is necessary and we can be the change we want in our life.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thoughts on the Eve of the Anniversary of the Blog

So tomorrow will mark the 1st anniversary of Up From The Ashes. For tomorrow's post I will be looking at what I have achieved in that time and the changes I have seen in my life. Today I want to take the time to let you know that while I have not reached all the goals I have set for myself in the past year I have seen real and measurable change. No matter what you think about yourself there is room for growth and we are all capable of taking charge of our lives.

We do not need to measure successes by what is on the TV screen and we do not need to be afraid of who we are. We can be the person we are inside and people will like us, we can measure successes by our own happiness and we can live our dreams. But in order to do any of that you have to make the choice to listen to your heart, to know who you are and to know you are worthy of receiving happiness and joy. Most importantly you have to be willing to make changes, not just talk about making them but actually putting plans into action. Once you do this you will succeed. It is only a matter of time. Success comes when we get what we want, failure happens when we stop trying to get what we want.

For those who are scared to start changing I want to be able to offer up role models of those who have made their life into what they wanted it to be. For this reason I am putting out a call for guest posts relating to stories of successes. If you know someone who is a good role model please let them know. If they do not wish to tell their own story but are willing to be interviewed I am willing to do that as well.

We can all change, we can have the life we want and one day we can be the role model for others. For now we live, we learn and we search for happiness.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Putting the Day in Order

A few weeks ago, or maybe less (life has been rushing by pretty fast these last few weeks) I talked about increasing morning productivity by knowing where you left off the night before. While this is a good way to hit the ground running I have been playing with another way to streamline my activities for the day. One thing I have been playing with is what I am calling a goal list.

This list is not a to-do list and it's not a long term set of goals. Instead it is the big picture view of what I want to get done that day. What I am trying to do is come up with goals the night before, then in the morning I can work on the process I need to go through to accomplish these goals. All the goal list does for me is put the day in order; give it a bit of focus so I know where it is I am going and how to plan the best route to get there.

With this goal list and subsequent planning there is no need to fill every moment of every day with activity. The idea is to make sure I am aware of what needs doing and have a plan for getting to all of it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

An Odessy

It has been a long week and it is only Tuesday morning. After spending a near sleepless week on newspaper production and meatloaf production I came home yesterday hoping to get some sleep. However upon arriving home I found my friend and roommate in need of help moving out, not an unexpected development. So we loaded the car and went to find food and drop off the load of tables and bookcase we had thrown in the back of his truck.

Everything went smoothly until we had the truck unloaded and we were on the way home, or more importantly to me, I was on the way to bed. Then the truck ran out of gas. We were about a quarter of a mile from my friend's new place and there was a gas can there so we began the trek back to recover it. A quick text to my boyfriend so he would not worry turned into him coming and driving us to the gas station. Then when we added the gas to the truck it still would not start. Again my boyfriend came to the rescue by calling Triple A. They however did not come to the rescue. We waited an hour and then we left the truck there, dropped my friend off at his new place and then we went to the meeting that I had made my boyfriend late for. I finally made it home a bit before 10 p.m.

What is important for the discussion we have here is this. My friend could have grumbled and blamed the situation. I could have cursed and cussed. My boyfriend could have been impatient and angry about being called out to help. None of this happened. Because we kept focused on solutions rather then what was happening it never turned into a bad time. Instead it was an unplanned time to hang out. We joked, shared stories and two people I care about had a chance to get to know each other a bit better.

Situations will happen we cannot control but we can control our attitude about them.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Point Of No Return

There comes a point in most any project where it costs more to stop then to finish. This is commonly known as the point of no return. When we have put a certain amount of energy into a project we must go on no matter how hard it is, how tired we are or how impossible it seems. This is the point where you will learn who is truly committed to change and who is willing to sacrifice hours, days weeks or years of effort when things get too hard.

The term point of no return originated as a description of the point along a journey where a craft would not have enough fuel or other supplies to return home without refueling. When we set out to change our lives we to0 can reach a point where the change that we have made in our life is too great to back away from. This may mean we are not the same person we where or that we are so close to a milestone in our journey that it would be foolish to stop trying.

Fortunately once we are past this point we usually have enough momentum to carry us through the hardships that come at the end of a project. What is really the key is being able to realize when we are approaching the point of no return. It is then that we must evaluate if the work we are doing is worth the effort it takes, if the changes we are seeing make it worth the work. Here we have to be cold, we can not let our own exhaustion, our own fear or our own longing blind us to the truth. As we approach the point of no return we must decide if we will or will not proceed. If we do not make the choice to quit, then we will have to see the process through to the end.

Once we have changed who we are enough we can never get back to our old life. It will never be good enough for us, for we have seen the sun beyond the clouds. We have fought past the turbulence and begun to learn to live, not to just exist. Live in the sun, live beyond the clouds. Push past the point of no return.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Be Kind

"Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you've got to be kind." Kurt Vonnegut Jr., God Bless you Mr. Rosewater.

As true as it is for the babies in God Bless you Mr. Rosewater Vonnegut's one rule is true for us as well. Be kind to one another. It is easy to be mean, it is easy to be neglectful, and it is easy to be angry. All these ways of treating people come from quick reaction. Being kind should flow the same way, but so often it does not. So often we count the cost of kindness when all we may need to give is a soft word, a gentle touch.

We are all equals here and deserve to be treated as such with the same kindness with which we treat ourselves.

However, kindness is not always gentle. It can be a kindness to share a flaw or illuminate a fault. When this is done from kindness and is not done to hurt then it is done to nurture and open an opportunity to grow. Kindness does not gloss over faults but gives the best, most supportive and heartfelt advice on how to fix them. It gives the strength that is needed to do the work and it brings the beer afterwards.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

This Is It

This is all there is. Worrying that it is not normal, not socially acceptable or not what others have is a waste of time. What we have before us is what we have and what we must work with.

While we should not worry how others feel about our situation, our possessions or our feelings there are questions we should ask ourselves: Does it hurt others? Does it hurt me? Do I want this?

We should seriously consider removing ourselves from any action that causes pain to others directly. If people are causing themselves pain based on our actions, that is a different story. For example, if we are in a relationship with someone and there is another person who is jealous, that is not our fault. They are bringing the pain to themselves.

When we find ourselves hurting because of a situation or because we are doing things we do not want to do, then it is time to change the situation. Just because this is all there is does not mean that there is no way to change it. But when we are told that the way we are living is different or strange or wrong we need to accept that this is what is and that there is no normal. We need to come to grips with that which makes us unique and accept in others that which makes them unique.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

No More Snap Judgements

In the town where I go to school there is a sculpture I do not like. It is a ring of metal sitting on a V of metal with a bent pole of metal leaning against it. From some angles it looks like a falling soda cup and from others a giant metal cause ribbon. It is placed prominently along the main drag in town and I have to look at it every day. Today I learned something that may change my feelings about the sculpture. It is the shadow the sculpture casts that is the art.

As in most things the lesson goes beyond the sculpture and its shadow. It can be easy to jump to snap judgments and write off people, places and events without really knowing what they are about. We should not hate or even dislike out of hand. As a matter of fact it is better to not have any opinion then to have a uniformed opinion. Just because society tells us that we are supposed to have a stance on everything, does not mean we do, or for that matter can. It is ok to say I do not know about that.

When we do make snap judgments we can get ourselves in trouble. We close doors that may have provided excellent opportunities to learn and grow. We also increase the estrangement of people one from another when we put up walls against liking people because of snap judgments.

I challenge you today, take a look at the snap judgments you have made and take the time to get to know people, places and things.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Work With What You Can Control

One of the lessons that I have learned in the last year is to focus on the controllable. In a way it is something I have known for a while but not something I have vocalized before.

It used to be that I was obsessed with finding love. I looked outside myself to other people to find it. I needed their constant reassurance that I was loved, that I was good enough, and that I was worthy of being happy. To get all this I tried to do things that pleased others. I tried to get reactions from the people in my life to show they cared. I was focusing on the uncontrollable, other people. I could provide a stimulus and hope they reacted in the way I wanted them to but I could never be sure they would.

Now what I try to control is myself. By making changes in me, learning to find love inside myself for myself, I am not as dependent on external reassurance of affection. This has led me to being more confident and more worthy of the attention I receive. This change has happened because I am working on the things I can change, being a good student, being a hard worker, beginning to realize my dreams of becoming a writer. All the things, all this hard work on things I can actually affect has changed my life.

The energy I spent all those years trying to make people like me was wasted. I was trying to be the person they wanted me to be or the person that they would give attention to but I was not being myself.

The only actions we can control are our own. The only reactions we can control are our own. Striving to have others behave the way we want them to is wasted effort and wasted energy. Be who you are and you will attract people who will treat you the way you want to be treated. Control yourself so that you act as the person you want to be and you will be that person.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Live A Little

Life Lessons: Everything is better on the Panini grill with butter.

The real lesson here is that sometime we need to make room for excess. If we are constantly trying to limit the things we want, we squander out willpower and deny ourselves the opportunity to revel in all the world has to offer. We need to allow ourselves time to relax and time to enjoy living.

The problem with excess is knowing when it is ok to indulge. Indulgences need to come where they will not detrimentally affect our work of becoming the person we want to be. If we are trying to change our diet we should not be indulging in food, but indulging in something else that excites us. And we cannot indulge constantly for then it loses the power to motivate us, to exite us and to bring the joy that is the advantage of indulgence.

This joy is the reason we need to indulge in moderation. Go ahead, take the chance to do something different, to shake things up and make yourself smile, but don't do it all the time. To have those special times, we need to continue the work of change and keep it the focus of every day. When we allow ourselves to indulge it should be intentional so as not to create guilt. Then it is something we are allowing ourselves because life should be fun, life should exiting and, by indulging sometimes, we can make that happen.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Set Yourself Up for an Easy Start

Every day we wake up and have to face the situation we left behind the night before. But we will get back to this.

One of the lessons I have learned in my endeavors to write fiction is this: stop working at a point where you know what happens next. Yes, it would be easy to finish the paragraph or the scene and feel good about where we have left off. However, when we pick up work again we are staring at a blank. You may know where the story is going, but you do not know what the next scene is. By stopping where you know what happens next you can build momentum, get the creative fires fed and stoked before you hit that next scene. The writing becomes more approachable and less frustrating.

The same idea can be applied to our lives.

By waking up knowing what we are doing next we can create momentum. This can mean laying out your clothes for the day the night before or having a list of goals at hand that we want to focus on. By creating this frozen momentum the night before it becomes easier to keep ourselves on track.

Let's look at an example.

Perhaps one of your goals is to eat healthier. Before going to bed you could gather together in the refrigerator a package containing the ingredients for your breackfast. This way you know what you are having and some of the work is done already. Scrambled eggs and toast is a lot better than a danish at the coffee shop, and it is easy to do if we know that we are doing it from the moment we wake up.

Waking up to the same situation we were in when we went to bed is not a bad thing as long as we take charge of what that situation is. By creating a context of continued improvement we not only keep ourselves moving but we get to save some of our willpower for latter.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Working With Limitations

We all have limitations. We need to accept these limitations and work with them rather than try to work past them.

Before we go farther we do need to clarify. There are actual limitations and then there are false limitations. False limitations are things we think limit us, and they only do so as long as we allow them to. When we confront these false limitations, these limiting beliefs we are able to accomplish much more than we thought we could. These are not the limitations we are talking about.

When we try to work past a limitation we spend energy trying to change that limiting aspect of ourselves. I'm dyslexic, for those who do not know. I could spend hours memorizing words and studying lists of homophones to try and make myself a better writer. This is trying to work past the limitation.

Another option is to just write and then let others see that writing. If I have accepted the limitation and know that it will not be perfect, I can look at the corrections without ego. This too will make me a better writer. This is working with the limitation.

By creating a work flow that allows us to work with whatever problem we face we can minimize the impact of the limitation. In addition working within the limitation builds confidence and reduces the impact it has on our lives. The more I write and receive editorial feedback the better a writer I become.