Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The goal not the process

Trent sits on top of his litter box trying to remove the air filter. He works at is it with obsessive determination, pulling clawing and shoving but it does not move. This is not something he does once in a while but maybe a few times a day. He will work at it for ten minutes then give up. An hour later he is trying again. His determination is good but his instance on approach is the problem: the filter is removed from inside the litter box not the top.

Now it may be easy to say Trent is a cat, and a young cat at that but we are like him more often then we think. We try to do something that does not work and we do it over and over again hoping this time it will work. We think that maybe it is our skill that is the problem and we never suspect our strategy.

We need to commit to an outcome not a strategy and when a strategy does not work let it go and try another.

Editing project: Update: dreams are on our minds

Monday, August 30, 2010

Exercise time: find the difference between how you see yourself and how others see you

We have recently come to the end of a series on getting started but we failed to cover knowing where to start. The king in Disney's Alice in Wonder Land tells us "Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop." That is all well at good if we know where the beginning should be. Some times when we want to start something there is a large assortment of things we could do. A chocolates box filled with options.

If you are struggling to begin here is an exercise that can help you narrow down your choices somewhat, separate the nuts and chews for the creams so to speak.

As with a lot of the exercises I talk about here start with a blank piece of paper. Create two columns. In the first list how you see yourself. Jot down strengths and weakness and generally catalog yourself image. In the second column make a note of how others see you. There are two ways to do this step, you can go with how you think others see you or you can be brave and ask them. It gets worse we should not ask only our friends and family but people we do not get along with. How we are seen by those we do not get along with can tell us a lot about ourselves.

In this process it is important to set your ego aside. We will hear a lot of things that we may not like and probably get some complements along the way. Make note of it all, some will be true some will be false but none of it should be dismissed out of hand because we don't like it, or it is hard to think about. Instead we should only discard the things we feel are not true. Understand that these are there perceptions and options, this is you seen through the lenses of every one of their experiences. Anything they say is worth thinking about.

Now we start to compare the two lists are there any areas that show up in both lists that can use improvement? If so those are some of the best areas to begin. Problems that we have identified and that others notice are among the most glaring. However sometimes it is better to start with the things we do not notice about ourselves. The nice thing about asking others what they think of us is they do not have our ego getting in the way. It is hard to see which gutters need fixing from inside the house.

Once you have settled on some aspect of yourself that you do not like or that does not represent the person you want to be it is time to come up with a strategy for fixing it. The problems we run across in our self can vary tremendously each project deserves a considered and unique approach to how it should be handled. Create a strategy, prepare and then begin to change. Tackle the list one item at a time; there are plenty of things to get done every day. It is better to work well on a few things then waste your effort across a thousand and not see results.

The return of the editing project: Why we want to change.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Lets get started part 7: Walking away

In this series we have looked at a lot of the problems surrounding getting started. Without a beginning there cannot be an ending. If we do not start we are guaranteed not to fail but also we will not succeed all we will have is regret for the opportunity we missed. The only correct times to reject a project are during the planning stage, or after we have tried it out.

Planning is not starting; it is doing the research and determining the best way to do the thing we want to do as well as gathering the skills and materials to do it. While we are learning about what it is we want to do we may find that the project is not what we thought it was and will not have the results that we want. This is a good time to walk away before we invest our time money and energy in it. The key here is we are making an informed and reasonable decision. If the project has the results we want and have a reasonable chance of successes we should move forward with it. Do not abandon things in the planning stage because they are hard, we need to do hard things to be successful. However banging our head against the impossible is a waste of effort.

Sometimes we see things and they look good on paper but in practice they leave something to be desired. If we start project and then relies it is not going to meet our needs this is another time to walk away. It is important here to understand that failure is not a lack of successes but an admission that success ins not possible no matter want we do. Look at it this way one morning you walk out to your car and it will not start. You decide it must be the battery and go get the jumper cables and a friend. The car still does not start. Now if we stop trying to fix the car at that point then we have failed to fix it. The car sits there forever unable to start. However even when our first try was not successful if we keep working then we have not failed; even if we have to call someone else in to help. However let us say that the car that will not start is a late 70's Ford with peeling paint and more duct tape then hoses. The repairs to make it run will cost more than it would to replace the car. Walking away from the car at this point is not failure either it is a redefining of priorities. The priority is having working transportation not making the car I have work. Knowing when to walk away is as important as knowing when to stay.

The last great hurdle to starting something new is the fear we will be stuck with finishing what we start. This is only true when what we start has value and gives the benefit we are looking for. When it does not we are within our rights to stop.

Editign Project: none today unless you count the school papper. Our first issue comes out on Monday and today it is time to edit, edit and edit.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Let’s get started part 6: Jump already

Any time we start a new project we must prepare. How can we hope to be successful in anything without having the right knowledge, tools and skills? Without proper preparation we do not have a hope of succeeding however over preparing can really be an excuse to avoid doing the things we need to. Think of a stop light: Red we are not prepared, green we are ready to go, yellow we are staling and if it gets back to red we will probably never take action at all.

Preparation as excuse is one of the most insidious ways we avoid starting projects. It can trick others in to thinking we are working on something and it can make us feel as if we are actually accomplishing something. There comes a point where the time invested in a planning a project does not add any more value or increase our chance of successes. The worst is when we prepare but we feel we just need that one more thing that is not ready yet, maybe a report is coming out or we want to go over something with a partner who is never available. When we are doing this sort of stand by prep we are most likely to never do the project at all.

To avoid falling in to the swamp of over prepping we need to ask what this adds to my chance of successes. As always it is important to answer honestly and question our answers. If we start seeing that everything we do does not move us closer to succeeding it is time to start.

I remember when I was a kid going to the county pool to go swimming on hot summer days. There were many things there that divided kids in to different groups, Did you stay in the kiddy pool with the little kids, did you go in the deep end, play on the diving bored or most bad ass of all did you use the high dive. The high dive holds a lesson for finding the right amount of preparedness as well as the awkwardness of over preparing. It is obvious that we cannot use the high dive properly when we are standing on the ground. We have to prepare so we start climbing, each rung of the latter is a necessary step in that preparation. Now when we reach the top of the ladder we are not ready to dive yet, the only way we have to jump is back down to the cement and the kids waiting below us. We continue to prepare to jump walking out to the end of the diving bored. Now we are prepared, we look out at the water below us and make sure there is no one below us and we leap, in other words we start our project. The other option is to over prepare, maybe we stand at the edge of the bored watching the water tell ourselves it is not yet safe to jump or maybe we bounce up and down on the edge of the bored looking like we are about to go, or we stand there paralyzed and scared not preparing but not ready to jump. No matter what we do the other kids see this and know we are staling they might start to snicker or talk about us. We need to jump otherwise our prep is a waste and we are worse off than when we started. We have wasted our time and energy as well as the time of those waiting behind us in line.

If we are not going to start there is no point in preparing which means at some point we must say I am as ready as I will ever be and jump.

Editing Project: Not dwelling

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Updates on the Quinn

Today we are going to take a quick break from all this talk of getting started to bring a quick update on what has been going on with me. The last several weeks have brought some changes to my life. I have found work, counter help at a deli, it is only one day a week but it is money coming in witch is nice. The job is not hard but it is incredibly fulfilling to be able to have my own source of income once again.

The other big change is fall semester ahs started at school and I am now working on the school newspaper staff. I have been assigned a column on cool new technology for students. It should be fun to write but I only get 450 words and issue so I will have to contain myself. One thing I think I underestimated is the amount of editing I will have to do for this class. Every article we put in the paper is edited by three people plus the author and every member of the staff pitches in with the editing. This is going to make the editing project look like a warm up. I am excited to think what all this editing is going to do for my writing style.

I have one other journalism related course this semester, the magazine class. This will deal with writing articles and submitting them to magazines as well as how to write a query letter. This is really the next step for me and probably the best way to start seeing income from my writing. The query letter process has always scared me but I feel having an education in the proper way to structure one will be a big help.

The rest of my cores load is filled with history of the U.S. through the civil war and economics 1A. Both of these classes are not anything I am too excited about, however the teachers both seem somewhat interesting so I have some hope for enjoying them. While they are not exiting they are some of the last classes I need to be ready to transfer next fall.

The knowledge that after almost a year of work and ten months of blogging I am still on track, on mission and making progress is a great feeling. Every day I am working towards my goals, not every day is progress made but the work is done and the progress does happen.

Editing Project: The personal compass Part 4: Dreams

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Let’s get started part 5: Finding the right herd

With each and every project we undertake there is an associated social cost. The things we do change the way others see us, create good will or bad and cause others to question who we are. Starting on the road to personal growth or making any major changes in our lives can cause you to lose friends. This is only one reason that we need to consider peer pressure when we begin a project.

Let us start with the example of the college student who in there freshmen year parties all the time. As there sophomore year rolls around they realize that they need to get serious and decide to stop drinking. The first Friday of the new semester arrives and they have text message after text message telling them to come out and party and sure enough by 10 p.m. they are standing in frat house with a beer in their hand.

This is just one example of how peer pressure can cause us not to start behaving in the way we would like to. As humans we are social animals, the approval of the herd is important but sometimes when we want to change who we are we need to change our herd as well. If we surround ourselves with people who want the same things as we do it is easier to achieve them. However when the people we are around do not want us to change it can be devastating.

Now when people do not want us to change it is usually not out of maliciousness but because of the impact it will have on their lives. Let's look at our example of the college student who does not want to party. Most of his friends are in the party scene around school and want the good times to continue. He is part of those good times and if he is gone they are worried things will be different. They do not want him to fail at school because he is partying the just want him there because that is part of their good time.

It is important to take a minute and understand that our friends are not our herd. Most like our friends are part of our herd but they are closer than the rest of it; the same is true for family. For friends and family we are more than just a trapping to their good time and because of this we need to handle them differently when we decide to make big changes. When we are worried that we may alienate friends and family by making changes in our lives, when this worry is keeping us from starting or their influence is we need to take the time to get them on our side. Make them understand why we want to do what we feel we need to. If we can make them see the necessity of our actions we suddenly make peer pressure a tool to motivate us rather than an obstacle to overcome.

The downside is those people who are just acquaintances; the people who our college student sees at parties every week but does really know they may drift away. If we are not the same person doing the same things the people around us will change. We go to different places and begin to find people with shared values to our own.

Editing project: My big news

Monday, August 23, 2010

Let’s get started part 4: Finding value in results

Today we continue the series on getting started. So far we have looked at why it is important to get started as well as how fear and laziness can stand in our way. Today we are going to look at motivation or rather the lack there of. In the first installment of the series I mentioned the two jugs one filled with our motivation and one filled with our excuses not to do what needs doing. So far we have looked at how to empty out the second jug now let's add a bit more to the first.

Increasing our motivation means increasing our desire to accomplish a task. This may sound simple however lets dig a bit deeper. The most important word here is "our" the desire to do the project has to be our own. If we are working to change our lives to be more in line with what someone else wants for us rather than because the result of the change is something we want then we will not have motivation to do it and more importantly we will not find happiness when we are done. The only way to know if we are doing things for ourselves is to question. Does this idea come from me? Do I want the result? Does doing this bring me closer to the life I want to have?

Now that we have sorted that out we need to start thinking about what we can do to make ourselves more motivated; we can either increase the reward for completing the task or we can increase the value of the reward already in place.

Increasing the reward can be a great tool when we want something but the process of achieving it is hard, boring or unpleasant. When offering ourselves rewards for doing the things we know we should be doing it is important that we make sure that the reward does not work contrary to the goal. For example if we are trying to lose wait a week of eating good should not be rewarded with a fast food meal, perhaps allowing more time for hobby would be a better choice. The other thing we have to consider is how long will the reward last. In the above example a fast food meal lasts only a little while on the other hand a new video game will last a lot longer. Having a reward that does not lose its luster in the first day of having it will help build motivation. Fewer rewards with more permanence is a greater motivation then a lot of small rewards. Also when you give yourself a lot of small rewards the time it takes to experience them takes away from the time we have to work on the project.

The other option is to increase desire for the preferred outcome. We do this by reminding ourselves of two things what we get if we do the project and what we lose if we do not. While these two lists are often similar they not exactly the same; for example if you are trying to lose weight you get a longer life, less pain in your joints and sense of accomplishment. On the other hand what you stand to lose is self respect, health and social standing. We need to understand clearly what our goals are since very often the task is not the goal; When change our eating habits to lose weight the real project is not eating more salads it is losing weight.

There is no substitute for wanting a result to help us get started. If we can look at the result and understand how great having it will be we will do what needs to be done, however sometimes this is just not enough to get the ball rolling. Do not be afraid increase the reward for successes when you need to and above all make sure the thing you are trying to motivate yourself to do is something you really want done.

Editing Project: Seeing improvement

Friday, August 20, 2010

Let’s get started part 3: Laziness, rest deficits and being overwhelmed

Getting started is a hard but necessary part of any project. In this series we are examining why this is and what stands in our way but most importantly how to overcome it. Yesterday we talked about fear; today we turn our attention to laziness.

Laziness is a tendency to assign inactive relaxation a higher priority than it deserves. Rest and relaxation are both elements that we need in our lives in order for us to maintain happiness and balance. Lazy is not sitting around reading when you have nothing else to do that is rest. Lazy is lying around reading when your room is dirty.

At the beginning of a project there are two main reasons why we may be lazy: a deficit of rest or a task that looks like too much work.

In modern American culture we value being busy. If we are not doing something every minute of every day we can become known as lazy or boring. This leads us to develop a deficit of rest. To be happy to be stress free we need time to unwind to sit and think, read a good book and just generally do low energy things that we want to do. If we do not get this rest we may have trouble sleeping as we lay awake in bed doing the thinking we should have done during the day. Or maybe we start to feel overwhelmed there is so much to do and so little time to do it. These senses of being overwhelmed can cause us to put off starting projects we know need doing; in other words to much work can make us lazy.

The solution to this comes in two parts: cut out the busy work and schedule time to relax. We create jobs for ourselves just so we can look busy, this needs to stop. If a job does not produce useful results there is no reason to do it. One of my early jobs was working in a pizza place that offered delivery take out and in house dinning. Delivery was not at that point a huge part of our business but we had to have drivers on staff just in case. If we were going to pay the divers we also needed to have something for them to do. The company had the option to by our garic peeled. Instead we would by whole cloves so that the drivers could peel them while waiting for a delivery. The result of this, our drives smelled like garlic and we often ran out of garlic because they were not peeling enough. This was busy work and we create similar things in our own life. Now in the restaurant they buy peeled garlic and use the drivers to fold boxes and do cleaning projects.

We need to look at the way we use our time and make sure the things we do have meaning, value, and importance or that they bring us pleasure. If they do not then we need to find a way to remove them from our lives. Once the busy work has been cut out of our day we can schedule time to rest. Find the time to do that low energy task that lets you think whether it is reading, knitting, watching TV or something else all together. Make sure that you get the time to do these things in their own time. We should not be steeling time to rest from the time needed to do meaningful projects.

With a lack of busy work and time to relax we can address our deficit. The other issue that might make us lazy is when a project looks too big to tackle; again we feel overwhelmed and say "I'll get started on that latter." We need to break the project down in to manageable, bite sized chunks. I have talked in the past about little bricks and how they add up and allow us to accomplish big things. Let's say you have a garden you need to weed you can look at all the weeds and feel overwhelmed or you can clear the weeds around the porch first then move to the weeds by the beans and so on tell the garden is weeded. We can do a lot when we do a little bit at a time.

No matter why we are having a problem with laziness there are things we can do to address it. Give yourself time to rest; don't do things that don't need doing and see the trees not the forest to keep from being overwhelmed.

Editing project: Being Thankful for Adversity

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Let’s get started part 2: Fear, a wall of Jello

Without a beginning any project we undertake is doomed to failure. However as we talked about in part one of this series there are many things that stand in our way. At the top of this list is fear. Before we can talk about how to deal with fear we must first understand where fear comes from and what it is.

Fear is our warning system that something might cause us harm. Humans are social creatures. This means that we see danger to the herd as danger to ourselves and we also see expulsion from the herd as dangerous. This means that a fear response is not just triggered when we are in physical danger but also emotional or social danger. In starting something new we risk failure, and failure is something that the herd does not value; people who fail risk being rejected by the herd. These rejections may be small or large but either way they still have the power to hurt us.

The only way to deal with fear is to determine if the risk is worth the reward. This will not however stop you from being afraid; it will however put things in prospective and give us the impetus to move inspite of the fear. Overcoming fear is a waste of time. When we feel we must overcome our fear before we start we are most likely looking for an excuse to avoid the project all together. Fear is not a process of logic but of emotion and as such no matter how much we tell ourselves that a fear is false we are still affected by it. All that happens now is we create a negative image of ourselves; if the fear is groundless and we are still afraid then we must be a weak person.

So rather than reaching a state where we no longer fear before acting we should act and show ourselves that the thing we are afraid of is survivable. Here we must apply reason and evaluate the thing we are trying to do. If my project is to randomly punch people in the face I risk getting beat up and possibly incarcerated, and these are the results of me being successful. This may not be a good project to pursue. On the other hand if my project is to champion an unpopular cause that I believe in it may have the same emotional impact on those around me as a slap in the face, however there is the potential for a positive outcome, more people coming to see the cause as just.

If after evaluating the project and determining that the results of successes are something that is worth the risk we can only move forward. Most often we will find that the pain our fear was trying to tell us to avoid is less than we expected. We can find ourselves standing tall and proud; this is something the herd values and when they see it they welcome us in.

Fear is like a 20 foot high wall of Jello, hard and time consuming to climb. On the other hand we can burst through that wall with nothing more than deep breath and a full head of steam.

Editing project: Resource and obstacle card

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Let’s get started part 1: Two jugs

Yesterday I was talking to my mother and she suggested I write a post about getting started. This is something I have been meaning to touch on for a while so I figured I might as well do it. Curiously this has been one of the hardest posts in a while to actually get started on, go figure. The main problem I have encountered in getting started is there are so many reasons that we do not get started, each one is different and quite worthy of discussion in its own right.

At first I thought I would just do a simple list post about the things that stop us from starting. However the subject is deeper than that and deserves more attention because if we do not begin we will not succeed. Without action the best laid plans of mice and men do not have a chance to go astray, instead they sit at the back of the cupboard and grow mold. There are a lot of stories that we tell our selves, some true and some false, about why we do not begin.

Picture two jars setting on the counter side by side. The first one contains clear liquid, this is our motivation. The second has various liquids, layered like oil on water, these are the stories we create, the excuses that keep us from starting. We only begin to act when the volume of our motivation overcome the volume of our excuses. There are two ways we can make this happen increase our motivation or decrease our excuses.

The truly productive way to get started comes from overcoming the excuses and this will be the focus of the series. Just because something is an excuse does not make it a lie. There are two types of excuses we must consider before we go any farther: conscious and unconscious. The first the conscious excuse has no real place in this discussion these are the reasons we give other people for not doing the things they want us to do. We think about them or go looking for them or create them to serve our needs. Our unconscious excuses are the ones we tell ourselves without realizing it. They do not have a place in this discussion either. They are just the pretty face, the models trying to sell you on not starting for the real bad guys, the reasons.

We have many motivations for not doing things. Once we have recognized those motivations, tracked back the excuses to their sources so to speak we can empty them out of the jug. Every reason must be approached differently but fortunately there are not that many of them. In the days ahead we will be looking at how to overcome fear, laziness, lack of motivation, being unprepared, peer pressure, and lack of confidence.

Editing project: The personal compass Part 3: Passion

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Equator of Completion

Good enough isn't. Perfection is the enemy of progress. Both statements are true but it can be hard to balance our selves between them.

Good enough isn't: People will tell us this when they are trying to get us to do a better job, when they think we are slacking or when something is not done to their standards. The truth of the matter is it can be easy to quit early. We work on a project and get it done except for a few pesky details that are not all that important, we decide not to paint under the eaves or maybe we stop cleaning before we get to the hall closet. The point is any time we stop working on something when we know that there is just a little more to do in order to do it right we are selling ourselves short. If we do this on a regular basis we get known for shoddy work, and as I have mentioned before we act the way people expect us to.

Perfection is the enemy of progress: In 1997 the game Duke Nukem Forever was announced year after year press releases and release dates would come and go and the game would not come out. The rumor is that the game desirers wanted to make the perfect video game; every time the hardware got better they rebuilt the game to take advantage of it. The problem is if we struggle for perfection we find ourselves like the producers of Duke Nukem working on the same thing for 12 years and having nothing to show for it.

What we need to be able to do is consistently work to the best of our abilities without getting hung up on perfection. One variable in this equation is the cost of a project which is more than just the money put in to it. Our time and our effort are equally limited resources and we must know how to spend them most effectively.

The am I proud of this test: My way of staying balanced between the two poles of slack and obsession is simple. When I think I am done with a project I ask myself would I be exited to show off my work on this to friends? Could I feel good bragging about this? If I answer yes to that question then I am probably done.

Editing Project: Passion gaming and work

Monday, August 16, 2010

The tool box of self improvement

No matter what it is we are trying to accomplish in our lives there are only a small set of tools we have to work with. Most problems we will face will require most, if not all the tools is the box to one degree or another so it is important to understand how to, and when to use each one. On top of that like other tools all of the tools of self improvement require maintenance, so let's take a look at the tool box and see what we have to work with.

Self control: Nothing is more powerful than our ability to tell ourselves no. However self control is something that we posses in finite amounts, think of it as the battery that powers the rest of the tools; every so often we have to give it time to recharge. So it is important to pick our battles, trying to create lasting changes in our self that go against our basic desires more than a few at a time can over tax our reserves. When we run out of will power before we have created new habits we fall back in to our old ways, we create a cycle of failure.

Motivation: We do the things we do to get a result, this is true of behaviors that we want to have as well as the ones that we don't. We will not do anything that does not produce a pleasing result in one way or another. The problem is that it is easy to get distracted by things that bring short term rewards vs. long term rewards. If we want to create lasting changes we want to have a firm understanding of why we want the change to happen. If the path you are creating for your self is a hard one it is sometimes necessary to add extra motivations. Make watching your favorite TV shows contingent on getting the house picked up for example. In the tool box motivation is the level and the t square, as long as we remember it is there it will help keep our projects looking good and proceeding according to plan.

Introspection: Call it self awareness or inner knowledge; if we do not know what we want why are we even trying to achieve it? If we are making changes in our life because Oprah said we should or our friends think we need to do something but we do not want it we will not be happy. This is not to say Oprah or friends cannot be the inspiration for the changes we want to see in our life, but that desire has to come from within. Introspection is the measuring tape in our toolbox. With it we know what fits for us. Happiness comes from getting the things we want and lasting happiness comes from getting those things in a sustainable way. Most of the other tools help us find the sustainable ways; this one helps us find what we want.

Reason: Here is our saw. Think of our potential actions as a large sheet of plywood. There are a lot of different shapes that are in that plywood but only a few that will help us create the life that we want. We apply reason to the wood cutting out the shape of the action that best fits our life, that create positive change and that satisfy our motivations. Without reason to cut the good plans from the bad we would be paralyzed with too many things to do more of them wrong then right. With reason we can cut the wood, toss the scrapes and can focus our energy on the task without distraction.

Time: Every project we undertake takes time. It is the nails, the glue the staples that holds our constructions together. If we do not give ourselves enough time, a realistic amount of time to create changes in our lives there are two possible results. Hurried shoddy workmanship which will not hold up for more than a few weeks or a pile of lumber we have not even begun to assemble. We must understand that there is no greater resource that we can invest in our own development other then time. Given enough time we can change anything about ourselves, but we must constantly strive for the change. Just because we know we have years to accomplish some change does not mean we can procrastinate. Personal growth should be like a tree growing not like an earth quake. Slow inexhaustible change over a year produces more positive effects on our lives then sudden violent moments of compressed change.

Confidence: Lastly we come to the hammer in our personal growth toolbox. With confidence we can do the delicate work of putting in the finishing nails of a project or the heavy labor of smashing through a wall. As long as we know we are capable of succeeding at a task it becomes that much easier to succeed. Confidence is how we know we will be successful in what we do. The key is to develop it a little at a time. Learn to succeed, pick up that hammer and give it a swing, drive home a few nails before you start building a book case or framing a home. Every little success we have goes a long way to making us more confident. As our confidence grows we become willing to tackle larger projects.

Take good care of your tools and they will take good care of you.

Editing project: The state of the blog

Friday, August 13, 2010

Capitalizing on Capitalization

I have noticed something lately that I do that really bugs me. I do not capitalize my own name when typing or the letter I when referring to myself. What I have been wondering is if this has anything to do with my subconscious self image. Maybe one some level I do not feel I deserve the capital letters. I am not a very assertive person by nature, I can be when it is necessary but it always takes a social push or environmental stimulus for me to get what I want. I think these two issues are tied together I do not fight for the things I want because like the capitalizations of my self references I do not think I deserve to have what I want.

I am going to try an experiment. I am going to train myself to capitalize the letter I and my name every time I write them. The idea is that if become conferrable with asserting myself in the course of a sentence then it may become easier to assert myself in other areas of my life. By doing this I am making a statement to myself that I matter, that I am important and that I deserve to have things I want.

Editing Project: Setting aside your doubts

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Congratulations are in order

While I have on occasion taken the time to announce the achievement of small victories in my life I would like to take the time today to congratulate my sister in a very large victory. For the last several years she has been working on a masters degree in applied anthropology and on Tuesday she delivered her practicum presentation, had it approved and now has the right to put the letters M.S. after her name. While there have been struggles and hard ships along the way, she also started her own business and moved a few hundred miles in those same years, she has stuck with it. In reaching this milestone she has worked many small goals to reach the bigger goal. Good job sis, I'm proud of you.

Editing Project: Inertia in the age of instant gratification

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Importance of Now

Right now is important. No matter what else you may learn, here or come to understand today remember this: Right now is important. This moment is the only chance you have to do anything and yet most of us let right now slip through our fingers. We become blasé to right now because it is always right now. However this does not change the fact that every right now we let get away is one we will never get back.

There are two main ways we squander right now:

Dwelling: There are two types of dwelling and both are equally distracting from the now. We can easily be drawn to the things we regret beating our self up over past failures, or we can waste our time thinking about all we have accomplished. If we do wither of these things we will not be present in the now our ability to act correctly becomes greatly diminished. Worse we become so focused on either reproducing the successes or avoiding failure we lose the creative spark that makes our actions uniquely us. Instead we become imitators of our own style, Thomas Kinkaid's of living our own lives; cranking out cheap copies of the actions that where once great.

Planning: We all plan out days, it is a natural thing to do to stay on task and keep ourselves organized. However it should not be a constant process. There is a time to plan and there is a time to do. If we are constantly planning, replanning or reviewing what we should be doing next rather then focus on what we are doing now we are squandering the now. Make time to plan and when you are planning do that with all your attention but once the plan is made enact it with all your attention as well.

Once we have stopped squandering the now we can begin living in it:

Use all your senses: Often in an attempt to remove distractions from our lives we tune out our senses. We don't pay attention to the sounds around us or to the smells, the textures or the taste of our food. If we are to fully live in the now we must constantly be experiencing the now in every way we have.

Listen to your mind: We often worry about being distracted but in the right now there are no distractions. There are simply things that your brain finds relevant and things your brain does not. For example as I write this I can see the pizza box sitting on the counter where I left it last night. I know these needs to be cleaned up. I could see it as a distraction or I could listen to my mind and get up and throw it away now or I could see the example and work it in to my post. Counting this as a distraction would be wrong since that would mean I would tune out part of my awareness of my environment diminishing my experience of the right now. Getting up and cleaning up right now is a reasonable response however allowing the interruption does not allow us to move smoothly from one now to the next. Instead by including the example and acknowledging that the cleaning must be done I respond to the worries my brain has and progress with the task of the now. Most often the things that catch your eye are the things that are important to you; the things that once dealt with will bring a measure of peace, satisfaction and accomplishment to your life. When we don't listen to our minds we are more prone to pouring effort in to tasks that will have little impact on our lives.

Now is all we have this it the only time and the only place we may have an impact on our world, on our life and on the course of history.

Editing Project: Commitments

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Emotional Pool

We live in a culture that tells us there is something wrong with us if we are not happy. This is a lie. If every time we are angry, sad or frustrated we start to feel that there is something wrong with us then it makes it that much harder to get over those emotions. Being happy is fun and we should work to living life in such a way that we are happy as much of the time as possible however we need to make sure that it is base state happiness not transient stimulated happiness.

We have types of emotional states we can find our self in: base states and stimulated states. In a stimulated emotional state we usually feel the emotion intensely and for a short period of time. It may be the momentary amusement at a joke or the flash of hurt from a snide comment made by a loved one. Both of these give us a momentary burst of emotion but we get over it quickly and fall back to our base state. The emotional base state is where we spend most of our time and may be an underlying frustration, or general contentment. On most days for most people our base emotional state is the way we wake up feeling in the morning.

Let's think of our emotional base state as a pool of water. Standing on a platform in the middle of the pool is a machine filled with different color dyes. When we come in to a stimulated emotional state the machine splashes some dye in to the water and the pond changes color then after a few minutes the pond reverts to normal. Now there are also two types of dye, to types of stimulated emotional states: Persistent, these leave a faint hint of their color on the base state after they fade and transient, when these are gone they are gone.

We need to allow ourselves to experience our emotions as they happen. If we do not recognize and deal with our emotions moment to moment we do not truly experience our lives. Our emotions are our reaction to the events in the world around us, they exist to guide our actions and help us to learn. If we do not allow ourselves to deal with them in real time we can concentrate a number of transient stimulated emotions into a base state. This is a process that most often happens with the so called negative emotions: Anger, sadness, envy, fear, and so forth. This is because we have been trained by society and culture that it is bad to feel that way and worse to show others you feel that way. The result is we resist felling our emotions until they overflow and fill our base state pool. Once this effluent of unfelt anger or sadness has contaminated our base state it can take a long time to clean up the mess.

While it is damaging to hide from our emotions the desire to be happy is not in and of its self wrong. The means to achieving this however is not to hide from the "negative" emotions but instead to feel them and let them pass like clouds driven before a storm. While we are doing that we also need to adjust our lives to create opportunities to experience persistent stimulated happiness. What this means for each of us is different. What are the things that make you happy that stick? Is it time with friends? Is it a clean house? Is quiet time with a good book? It may be one of these or it may be all of these, either way if we wish to be happy we must make sure there is room in our lives for these experiences.

Here is not how to be truly happy. Fill your life with transient stimulated happiness. Here we feel happy but it fades quickly. This is a chocolate bar or a one night stand. These are things that feel good while they are happening but can bring guilt or shame or emptiness as the sensation fades. When the feeling fades we have to find another fix, another hit.

Be happy as much of the time as possible but allow yourself to feel what the moment requires of you. Create a way of living that sustains your happiness without creating false highs. This is the path to lasting happiness. The way to keep your eye on the path is be aware of the moment and be honest with yourself.

Editing Project: Small Victory

Monday, August 9, 2010

Some Monday Morning Randomness

There are a few unrelated random notes and announcements rattling around my head this morning that I thought I would share with everyone.

The big news: For those of you not in the know one of my goals of late has been to find work once more. Since I left the insurance business I have been job hunting with no success; that is until earlier this week. I found a job working in a deli 1 day a week but if this works out I will be getting more shifts at another location. It may not be much of a job but the mental impact of knowing I am working again is huge.

Summer semester is over: My course work for the summer is over and I have a little bit of a break before school starts up again. My scores this semester were a mixed bag and I doubt that I will be doing the online courses again.

Thoughts on the editing project: My old posts do not contain pictures and every time I work on editing one of them I wonder if I should start adding photos. What do you people think? Photos on the old posts or leave them photoless like they were when I first posted them?

mGSD: Last week I did a brief write up on mGSD and I mentioned that the real key is whether or not I keep using it. No matter how good the product if you do not use it then it is worthless to you. I am happy to say that a week latter I am still using mGSD and finding new ways to be more efficient with it. We will now see if I can keep up with it for another week.

State of the blog: Some were in the last two weeks I passed the 200th post mark without any fanfare. Some days it can be like pulling teeth to find things to talk about and others it feels as if I am just hitting my stride. That said I have been lax in trying to promote the blog so readership has fallen off. So I am asking if you like a post share it with your friends or if you want to help go find a post you really like and share it on Facebook or twitter today. Thanks in advance, I appreciate the help.

Editing Project: The path of our journey: Goals

Friday, August 6, 2010

Rewiring our buttons

Not all problems we have with people come from within us but often all we can control is how we react to other people. I may suggest changes in the behavior of others but unless I have a close relationship with them or a relationship built on the understanding that I am an advice giver this will most likely go unheeded, or potentially make matters worse. What we do have the ability to work on is our own reactions. Before we do this however we should look to see if the reaction we have is reasonable or not. In the example below it may be reasonable for me to say "Screw you it's my room and it is clean enough for me." This is not how I reacted and I do not like the way that I did. What happened inside me is I suddenly became tense and grumpy; ready to counterattack the perceived threat. But I get ahead of myself.

I was in a situation yesterday a few times were a friend said something to me and immediately got defensive about it. It was not what was being said and he was not trying to be mean, cruel or petty. The problem was who was saying it and the tone that was being used, these two factors came together to push my buttons and I reacted without thinking. These situations spring up in all manner of relationships; friends, families and coworkers are just a few examples. It is up to us to realize what pushes our buttons and find a way to rewire them, or maybe unplug them all together.

The first thing we need to do is look at the wiring schematic and figure out why that button triggers that response. For example my friend likes things neat and clean, which is not a bad thing, however he has a much better eye for cleaning projects and there solution than I do. He also has a way of suggesting things to me in a way that makes it sound like you are dumb for not seeing this. When these two things connect I get begin to feel that I am under attack.

Now let's look at what this button triggers and why. The first problem is when he points out something I missed in a room I feel is clean he is right most of the time. I don't like being wrong and that makes me react badly. A lot of the time he points something out that I know I should be doing but have put off and being called on it gets my hackles up as well. The tone of voice he uses is also part of the problem for me; it cuts past my filters and hits me right in the emotions every time.

For the next step we need to focus on the things we can affect. I cannot change his tone of voice though I have told him the effect it has on me and I hope that he will change. The biggest thing I can do to unwire this mess is do the things I know I should do before someone tells me. Since a large part of the defensives comes from justifiably being called lazy I can correct this behavior. If I was to have done all the things I knew should be done I could hear his suggestions as good ideas and helpful insights that they are meant to be.

As with most aspects of personal growth rewiring our buttons takes time and quite often the creation of new habits. Most of our button pushes are reflexive reactions. Because of this we will, especially at first, have to get in the habit of catching our reaction and dismantling it before it goes too far. To do this we need to be able to say those who push our buttons "This is not how I want to react give me a minute." Then take a minute to analyze our own reaction and respond to it in a way that is appropriate, proper and reasonable. This is not an easy thing to do especially when we are in an emotional state but if we want to change how we react to cretin people we have to do it. Every time we let a button be pushed it gets a little softer; a little easier to push.

A quick recap of the rewiring process: Recognize the trigger. Know what it is that sets you off. Understand what is being triggered. Figure out what emotional state this button being pushed puts you in and why. Rewire the button. Once we know what cause the reaction and what the reaction is we can begin to solve the problem that causes us to trigger in the first place.

This last step bears a little more explanation. In my example I have a behavior I need to change but this is not the only reason a button may exists. Sometimes they run on anger we have not gotten rid of or expecting other people to behave like someone who hurt us. We have to be able to see the reason that we are acting out in a situation and then work to remove that trigger. Putting anger to wrest can take time but if we are conscious of it the process becomes easier. Realizing that people are different is easy on an intellectual level but not so much on an emotional level. Like most things worth doing this will take some work. Have a great weekend.

Editing project: Disaplaner

photo By fihu

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Getting Uncluttered

Clutter can slow down our work flow. This is one of those things that is common knowledge but what can we do to tame clutter?

We have to see it. This may sound simple at first but a lot of the time we are so used to our own clutter that it does not bother us. We have our system and we know where things are. Unfortunately having a desk overflowing with papers is a great way to lose some of them and while we might know where everything is on that desk we still have to dig through it to find it. We need to look at the place we spend our time with new eyes.

Do not get overwhelmed. It is easy to look at the clutter and feel defeated from the first moment we lay eyes on it. There can be so much it seems impossible to overcome. If you feel this way you can narrow your focus to one room at a time. If that proves to be too much tame a book cases this week and the desk the next. If you are going to do one step at a time make sure you do not move the clutter from one place to another. If an area is decluttered it may not receive new clutter.

Clean it up. Once you see the clutter you can clean up the space. Make the cluttered are look the way you want it to. This may be a simple as putting the cluttering objects in their place or it may go as far as creating new place to put things. Either way make your space look the way you want it to.

Find the source. Now we want to know what normal should look like we need to figure out where the clutter is coming from. Do we have work papers that pile up, is it our comic book collection that winds up everywhere or maybe it is cat toys that litter the floor? No matter what it is we have to figure out where the clutter is coming from.

Make new habits. Mostly we will find that in some way we are responsible for the clutter. Since we already have the space looking the way we want it we now need to create habits that will keep it this way. We need to get in the habit of putting those comic books back in the box when we are done with them or maybe get a box where we can put the unread issues while we work our way through them. Once they are read we can file them away before next week's shipment arrives. This sort of process can work with junk mail work papers whatever it is. We have created a place to put things in step two now we just need to be in the habit of putting things there.

One last note on the problem of clutter is not just confined to our homes. We may have clutter in our backpacks and hand bags, our computers and cell phones, or even in our own thoughts and emotions. We can tackle any kind of clutter by fallowing this method whether it is electronic, emotional or physical. It is a matter of identifying, organizing and maintaining. Now this sounds simplistic it is not. Just because the steps can be conveyed in three words finding place for things may be a system of trial and error, building new habits takes time and tracking down the source, well look at how long it took to find the birth place of the Nile.

Clutter can be beaten but we have to start the fight because the clutter won't clear its self.

Editing project: Learning To Succeed

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Forget the Finish Line

Deadlines are important and are a great way for us to motivate ourselves to get things done. However they can also distract us from doing quality work. When our eyes are on the finish line it is easy to lose track of where we are in the race.

When you are working on a project do you see each individual step as something important to get done or something important in and of themselves? If the tasks that make up a goal or project are just stepping stones to the end we will not put the effort in to them that they may require. Let's imagine that we are building a pyramid from scratch. We cut the stone, shape the bricks and hall them in to place. We could approach it in two ways: we could rush through the stone cutting and shaping and slap together a pyramid or we could make sure each brick is well formed and perfectly square then build the pyramid. From a distance these two pyramids would look quite a bit alike but as we draw closer we will begin to see how slip shod and uneven the first one is.

By forgetting the finish line it becomes easier to focus on the element of the goal at hand rather then worrying about the entire project. If we are able to focus on each individual task then the project will take care of its self. IF the breacks are made level the pyramid will be as beautiful from ten feet as it is from one thousand feet.

Editing project: personal compass: part 1 values

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Complements are good

Here is something I never understood when I was managing a restaurant: We would write up employees for bad behavior but we kept no permanent recorded of when they did things right. This is something that happens in society as a whole we are more apt to remember failures, our own or those of others, much longer then we remember the good things that people do. Unfortunately I do not have a solution to that other then perhaps giving out more complements.

If we are going to do this however there are some rules that should be fallowed.

Be sincere: If we are just throwing out complements for the sake of complementing some one then they become cheapened. However if we really appreciate what they are doing that comes through as well.

Be timely: Complements are not as powerful if we wait a year or two to give them. Let people know you notice their hard work, there effort or their skill when you notice it.

Be free: This is the hard one, do not just reserve complements for those you like and love. People we don't get along are also capable of doing good work and a few appreciative remarks can go a long way to building bridges or lessoning hostilities.

So why talk about complementing others in a personal development blog? Because by teach our selves to look for complements to give we will change the way we look at people. We will shift our attention from people flaws to their strengths. As this becomes habit we begin to see the world differently, we do not stop noticing the flaws but we begin to see that they are balanced by the positive efforts each and every one of us contributes to society every day.

Also complements are contagious. It is human nature when someone says something nice about us that we want to return the favor. Receiving complements is a great boost to the self esteem and confidence. By being in the habit of pointing out the positive aspects in others we help them to look for our own positive aspects. Take the time this week to look for the good jobs that other people deserve recognition for and give it.

Editing project: Look for your limiting beliefs

Monday, August 2, 2010

mGSD and a new way for me to work

It is new productivity toy time for me. If you have been reading this blog for any length of time you probably know I like web apps and particularly to do list programs for my computer. My goal has been to find a tool that fits the way I work. I prefer to be process driven, in other words I like to know do this then this then do this so I always know what my next step will be be. I have started playing with a new tool this weekend that looks like an improvement over what I have been using. It is called mGSD and while I found it a little confusing to use at first I like the layout and the project driven organization.

To be fair despite my earlier advice here about reading the directions first I did not so the lack of intuitive user interface any partially be my fault. Also after a quick review of some of the documentation just now the creator suggests a familiarity with David Allen's GTD system. While I have glance over how this works I have not spent much time trying to implement it so I am coming at this web site cool if not outright cold. That said I find the time I have put in to figuring out the sight worthwhile.

One of the strongest features of the app in my opinion is the ability to create complex projects and group tasks within that project in to sub tasks. This allows me to compartmentalize any process I am working on at the moment. For example I have been working on an essay for film class. Essay writing can be broken down in to several steps: research, planning, writing. Now in mGSD I can create a project containing each of these tasks and can cross them out as I complete each one. I could also go for finer detail. Rather than creating them as actions I could create them as subprojects for the essay writing project. Then under research I might create the tasks watch The Big Sleep, watch Diehard. Planning and writing subprojects would also get their own actions.

Another potentially powerful tool in mGSD is contexts. These are associations projects have. They may be times when the action is done, places the action is done or what type of action it is. I have the ability to view actions by context as well as by project. So if I have a number of things I want to get accomplished in the evening I can give them each the evening context then when I get home from school I can view that context list and get to work on those projects.

One potential flaw I have with this system is I would like to be able to schedule things to specific times. This is not a problem I have with mGSD but rather with GTD in general. However I am also not that good at sticking to the schedules of activities I make for myself. Perhaps it is time I step away from the mentality that there is a time for everything and everything done in its time. If I embrace a work flow that does not require me to stick to a posted schedule but rather works to keep me productive I may be better off. As always the biggest test of this type of app is will I use it? I will give it a week and report back with my findings.

Editing project: Lessons Learned From Google Wave