Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what’s next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little.
The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark. – Agnes de Mille.
I have always felt very uncomfortable the moment I began to feel even slightly comfortable. Some of my dearest friends have called me out on this. They say I have “commitment issues”. Maybe. Who knows. I just like the momentum of daring, trying, risking – smartly. Exposing myself and my mind to something new.
Today’s post is a passage taken from week seven “Recovering a Sense of Connection” from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
The passage below resonated with me. Why? Because I fool myself daily because while I think I am taking risks, I am not taking big enough risks. The type that will catapult me to the next level of living adventurously. Here we go. Let me know if this rings true with you as well.
We’ve all heard that the unexamined life is not worth living but consider too that the unlived life is not worth examining. The success of a creative recovery hinges on our ability to move out of the head and into action. This brings us squarely to risk. Most of us are practiced at talking ourselves out of risk. We are skilled speculators on the probable pain of self-exposure.
“I’ll look like an idiot,” we say, conjuring images of our first acting class, our first hobbled short story, our terrible drawings. Part of the game here is lining up the masters and measuring our baby steps against their perfected craft. We don’t compare our student films to George Luca’s student films. Instead, we compare them to Star Wars.
We deny that in order to do something well we must first be willing to do it badly. Instead, we opt for setting our limits at the point where we feel stifled, smothered, despairing, bored. But yes, we do feel safe. And safety is a very expensive illusion.
In order to risk, we must jettison our accepted limits. We must break through “I can’t because. . .” Because I am too old; too broke; too shy; too proud? Self-defended? Timorous?
Usually when we say we can’t do something, what we mean is that we won’t do something unless we can guarantee that we’ll do it perfectly.
A few months ago I began stripping away all that no longer serves me in my life. What is that suppose to mean? Without boundaries, I let way too much in and life got way too crazy. I was tired, pulled in a million directions and honestly, I allowed it. Frankly, I didn’t know how to say no.
I said yes to everything and everyone. It’s not a good idea. Well sometimes, in the beginning saying yes is good, like when you are building a career, but too much yessing can lead to real chaos and letting people down, including yourself.
I am moving towards a minimalist lifestyle that will give me the freedom to go and do what I want without the burden of having so much to take care of, including a house too big, a life too wide open and the collection of twenty years of unnecessary, unwanted “things”. Things I don’t use, wear or want any longer.
I started by cleaning out twenty years of clutter in the attic. It was exhausting and energizing at the same time. While I am not one to hold on to things, like memorabilia, my daughters had piles and piles of grammar and high school “stuff” they had collected throughout the years up there. I even made it a moment. I asked them all to come over for a memory lane party. They laughed at old love letters, praised their early art work and cringed at their eighth grade diaries. They didn’t want the stuff either. The memories they decided to keep are tucked away in the corners of their mind or on Instagram. The rest they let go of along time ago.
Clearing away the clutter for me also involves displacing anything and anyone (eew, that sounds harsh) that is no longer useful, helpful, valuable or lovable in my life. You see, I began to feel like others were pushing and pulling me in too many different directions, while my priorities were left on the back burner. I am now older and wiser and know that whatever time I have left on this planet, I would like to deliberately create some moments of creativity and adventure before it’s too late.
So what am I going to trim down, clean up, give away and simply remove from my life?
Frumpy Frocks & Spontaneous Purchases. Starting with my closet, shoes, sweaters, shirts, bags, dresses and worn out jeans that I have not even touched in six months or more. Good will and good riddance. I want to create a really fun “uniform” to wear. Something I don’t have to think about. That’s one less decision in the day.
Space Fillers & Dust Collectors. Souvenirs, books, artwork and other knick knacks that are no longer aesthetically pleasing to me. If it does not spark joy, I just don’t want it. I haven’t read Marie’s book and I won’t. The sparking joy was my review take away. It makes sense.
Crazy Makers. People that require special handling, those that need kid gloves and jokers that confuse me. Anyone that I find annoying or that appears to be even relatively unstable. You know, I have been a magnet for the crazy makers for many years. This also includes anyone who bores me, those that aren’t original, open-minded or interesting or genuinely fun to be around. The self-absorbed, stuck or painfully sad. Anyone I don’t have a true kindred enthusiasm for or feel I can growth with as I adventure on. Yeah, they’re gone.
Obsessive Worrying & Ruminating Thoughts. Negative thoughts that clutter my mind, that make me feel less than I really am. Small thoughts. Sad thoughts. Critical, mean self-talk. No more worrying, because, “Worrying is like praying for what you don’t want.” Read on: 12 Toxic Thoughts You Need to Drop for a Better Life
Shitty Projects & Confused Corporates. Work that feels stupid, repetitive and ridiculous. People that go round and round because they don’t have a blueprint. Working with incompetent people. Things I just don’t want to do that I don’t have to do.
Excess – too many of any one thing. Rooms in my house, blankets on my bed, uncomfortable chairs, hard pillows, greased-bottom pots, scratched pans, broken cups and any sticky old debt on the credit cards. Oh to simplify and simply live with just what I need.
Random Files & Duplicate Photos. Files on my computer, my “filled-to-the-brim” email inboxes, old notes, usb drives with old brochures and dead campaigns, duplicate photos, and old contacts in my phone. People that I no longer talk to.
Crackers, Chips & Junky Food. Food and drink that makes me feel sluggish, fat and tired. Nah. Doesn’t serve me well at all. I never understood why they called it comfort food, expect for warm dishes of mac and cheese or mashed potatoes.
Time & Energy Wasters along with Old Fears & Everyday Frustrations. Good bye time, energy and money wasting activities. Waiting on lines, calling customer service, meetings in person that could have been Skype-d. Drives to stores when Amazon delivers. Anything that makes me feel like I need to be doing something else while I am doing that. Like commuting.
Mediocre Netflix Series & Silly Youtubers No, I just can’t. This is no way to fall asleep at night. I no longer enjoy watching crappy HBO shows just because everyone else is binging on them.
Bad habits. Yeah, like relaxing with two glasses of wine before I go to sleep. Fading into Facebook as my head hits the pillow. Any excuse not to work out. Answering the phone most of the time. Being too nice and polite to time suckers. Being neurotic while calling, emailing and texting the same message to one person.
Packing My Schedule. Yes, I am clearing out the calendar and filling it up with dates I save in the future for things I want to do. Wrapping up old projects and getting rid of the guilt. End commitments with a clear conscience.
One of the most difficult clutter to clear is that which we think we are suppose to keep. The inherited heirlooms, the mementos, the sentimental shit. I don’t make photo prints of photos any more, so shouldn’t I just digitize the old ones?
My new mantra everything should have value. When we begin to desire to clear out the old and useless, we are getting ready to heal, grow and begin a new. Getting clear about what you do want is a process of trial and error.
When you’re stuck in a state of ambivalence, you must do whatever it takes to break the impasse.
I am concerned about filling it all up again. I am a big believer that new habits must replace old ones in order to grow.
I will watch the slow the accumulation of possessions, for to live is to create and consume. It cannot be avoided – especially in our society and culture. But if the influx of possessions into our homes can be slowed, clutter can be managed efficiently.
To slow the accumulation of things in our homes, we need to change our mindset and begin evaluating our purchases differently. Realize that your purchases cost far more than the price on the sticker. Each one will also require time, energy, and effort once they enter your home. Before making a purchase, begin asking yourself these questions:
- Is this item really needed?
- Do I have a place to store this when I get it home? Do I want to lug it around with me?
- How much extra work will this possession add to my life?
- Am I buying it for the right reasons?
There is only one thing I know for sure. I’m not getting this moment back. Nope. I am talking about this very single moment RIGHT NOW, this ONE. Yeah, it’s YOUR moment too. Nope it’s gone. . . forever, unless by chance I read it again or you read it again – and if we do, it’s just a memory.
All this angst about leaving a legacy. Creating a more purposeful life. Finding your so-called passion. Those are such big, big thoughts. Maybe, just maybe, it starts with adding more meaning to your little moments.
and becoming a little more self-aware with each one of these significant moments.
Luctor et Emergo (I struggle and emerge)
Ridiculously Messy Moments
1. Understanding Certainty vs Accuracy
The Quest: How to know the truth.
Understanding that just because someone appears confident in what they are telling you, meaning they seem to be 100% certain about their story, doesn’t mean that the story is 100% accurate. Be careful and cautious about believing what you hear, read and watch. “Certainty” does not always equal accuracy. Stay cautiously skeptical.
2. Awareness of The Likability Bias
The Quest: How to remain aware of our behavior.
It’s such a simple concept to understand, yet we continually fall prey to it when we really don’t have to – and great sales people know how to use it. The liking bias knows that the more we like someone the more we are likely to buy something from them or help them in some way. Be weary of people throwing you compliments, those who are friendly too fast. This can have you purchasing things you don’t really need and over extending yourself to do something you really don’t have time to do.
3. Asking Bigger, Better Questions
The Quest: How to have better outcomes.
I have to admit I struggled with this one for a while, but I think I finally got it down and I will start with an example. I can ask myself “What do I need to do today?” or I could start with a better question “What should I do today to make it a more productive day?”
I can also get more detailed with each question. For example, instead of asking “Where can I learn editing techniques for my videos?” I can ask “What three editing techniques do I want to learn to make awesome videos?”
I’d love to hear what you have learned or what you find useful in your life. Please share in the comments below.
While I enjoy reading, listening and watching experts talk and write about mindfulness and ways to recondition my mind and habits for a deeper sense of connection and meaning in daily life, what I really love doing is developing new habits to making them effective. Taking action for daily improvement. The doing does it for me.
I am bookmarking today’s post to return to as I use it as a reference tool to upgrade my current morning and evening habits and practices to create a more present state awareness which in turn helps me become less reactive and more responsive in life.
1. Listen or read The Most Important Moment by Leo Babauta
Why: I don’t want to discount this moment right now for the one that is coming up soon. No moment is less important than any other in your life. This moment is filled with sounds, tastes, actions and elements that are your life. Just because you are waiting on line somewhere does not make it a useless moment. Make every moment count or you will end up with a pile of wasted moments that end up in the Where did all the time go? landfill at the end of your life.
2. Watch your words – your word choice determines your thought choice which determines your emotions and actions -inspired from the 21 Day Non-Complaint Challenge
This is one of the reasons why I am expanding my vocabulary Roget’s Thesaurus of Words for Intellectuals: Synonyms, Antonyms, and Related Terms Every Smart Person Should Know How to Use
3. Signed up to join the beta version of It’s Koko which was created as a solution for peer-to-peer mental health – a social network that helps you feel better. Learn more about how Koko works by listening to the Your Not So Smart Podcast interview with Robert Morris developed this brilliant app and next generation crowd-sourced problem solving tool.
Why: Because one day we will be astonished that people actually went to one single therapist to “sort out” their problems, which in my mind is a ridiculous waste of time and not an intelligent way to improvement. Collective reasoning and cognitive reframing reign supreme.
4. Develop a daily practice of Dr. Dan Siegel’s Wheel of Awareness
Why: I believe this practice is an upgrade to my daily practice of vipassana meditation. It is an active practice that focuses your attention to an inner place of clarity. It takes commitment, but so does everything that changes you for the better. Learn more about the benefits of mindsight from Dr. Daniel Siegel here
5. Practice Poverty – Tim Ferriss has a great 29-minute podcast of how he practices mindfulness including this recommendation from Lucius Annaeus Seneca Letters from a Stoic (Penguin Classics) One of my favorite pieces of advice ever. While it’s not something you have to do every day, try living for a week with the bare minimum. While Seneca advised to sleep on the kitchen floor and drink from the dog’s water bowl and discover that you are okay in the morning, Tim works it in a more civilized way. Wear the same clothes, eat a minimal diet, don’t spend any money, see what you are so afraid of to find out how strong you really are.
Why: I know I have not taken risks having worried about failing.
6. Stay more focused throughout the day. Download the Chrome extension Momentum and let Google keep you on track so you can concentrate on your goals.
Why: Too many damn distractions. Life on and off the internet is beyond fascinating, but in order to accomplish anything great, we must stay focused.
7. Invest in a 5 Minute Journal exercise each morning (another Ferriss tip) The Five Minute Journal: A Happier You in 5 Minutes a Day
I have already been writing in a gratitude journal every morning, The Five Minute Journal upgrades the experience by having me consider –
What would make today great? What I am truly grateful for each day? What I dare to challenge myself with that day, etc. Better questions lead to a more thoughtful day.
8. Learn more about the importance of practicing cognitive reframing
Why: Because beating cognitive distortions will help me think more clearly, which will hopefully have me examine my common decision making failings. Cognitive distortions are categories of automatic thinking. Some of them include always being right, blaming, disqualifying the positive, emotional reasoning, fallacy of change, filtering and cognitive biases, jumping to conclusions, labeling and mislabeling, magnification and minimization (catastrophizing), over generalization, personalization, should statements, all-or-nothing thinking, etc.
9. I am currently reading The Art of Thinking Clearly by Robert Dobelli which describes how to counter cognitive distortions with instructive good sense.
Why: Biases are the invisible air we walk through, exerting their influence outside of our conscious awareness. Read more about the dangers of cognitive biases here.
Question for you – what have you found that has made you more mindful? Please share in the comments below.
I really appreciate practical approaches for creating meaningful change in my life.
In the last few days, I have gathered some tips from Tony Schwartz author of The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal and Robin Sharma The Greatness Guide: 101 Lessons for Making What’s Good at Work and in Life Even Better
My focus this week, moving from the survival zone to thriving in the performance zone.
This is where many of us spend a good portion of our days. I was just a mess yesterday as I spent my morning commuting through Manhattan’s busiest transportation hubs thinking about terrorist threats. I shut off the news immediately and stayed out of the subway.
Letting anger, frustration or fear take control. We don’t normally choose it, most of the time it happens to us. Whether we don’t feel appreciated, valued, respected or recognized, it doesn’t matter. We just can’t really live our best lives in this state.
the performance zone
A place where we feel clarity, freedom and a sense of accomplishment. This is a nice place to be. I like it here.
Robin Sharma recommends starting each day with a 20/20/20 lift off.
20 minutes of exercise, 20 minutes of journaling (gratitude and thoughts) and 20 minutes of learning.
Tony Schwartz recommends the four following simple ways to living better days.
Physical – sleep more -it’s more important than eating. Go to bed 30 minutes earlier and wake up 30 minutes later. Play around with the time and see how you feel.
Emotional – feeling frustrated? Don’t send that email just yet! Quiet down the body with deep breathing in for a count of three and out for six. Do it slowly for three minutes. This cuts out the flow of cortisol and puts your body and mind into a more relaxed state.
Mental – do the most important thing every morning for 60- 90 minutes (no more) every day. Do the work that will add the greatest value to your life and business first.
Spiritual -remind yourself who you are serving and reconnect to your values. Doing the right thing. Ask yourself everyday How would I behave at my best today?
I am curious, how do you lift off for better days? All practical tips and advice are welcome. Please share!
How to be irresistibly relevant in your life and your career by taking extreme ownership over your future.
I liken this to updating your internal operating system. Discover the essential actions you need to do, the specific knowledge you must have and the most efficient skills needed to become great at what you want to do.
3. Skill Building
Soak up the knowledge needed to build these skills by using on demand learning tools like Udemy, Coursera and Lynda. Education has never been more accessible and affordable. Stumble your way to success by learning, practicing and doing. Practice your new skills daily.
4.Tune in to News
Set your Twitter, Instagram and SmartNews channels to key words for up to the minute news and information about your profession, industry, career path or passion.
5. Meet Up, Connect and Communicate
Join communities of people that are committed to doing the same. It could be a special invitation on eventbrite, meet up or a Facebook group. Connect with others and learn from them.
I am astonished at the benefits I have seen from taking just a few quiet minutes a day for stillness meditation. I am not talking about Buddhism here, but a simple commitment to quieting the mind, while sitting still and focusing on your breath.
What Top Performers and Leaders Say About Meditation
“Meditation more than anything in my life was the biggest ingredient of whatever success I’ve had.” That’s what Ray Dalio, the billionaire founder of Bridgewater Associates — the world’s largest hedge fund firm — explained in 2012.
Oprah Winfrey meditates for 20 minutes a day. Sitting in stillness helps her consistently perform. “Knowing for sure that even in the daily craziness that bombards us from every direction, there is — still — the constancy of stillness. Only from that space can you create your best work and your best life.”
Personally, for me, there has been a self awareness that has increased which has helped me become more confident and aware of what I am doing in the current moment when I am not quieting my mind. Its the after effects of meditation. Like when my husband spilled his Heineken all over our modem in the middle of a Jet’s touchdown, frying out the wiring and shutting down our internet service. I didn’t freak out like I use to. It was like a calmer storm. A category 1, not a 5.
The Benefits of a Calmer Mind
As your meditation practice develops you start to see things in your everyday more clearly. Insights arise to help you make connections and you notice things that you hadn’t noticed before. You listen to others more intently. You have more ideas and additional benefits like. . .
- The ability to act consciously instead of reacting to people and events.
- The ability to redirect your negative thoughts and emphasize positive ones.
- The ability to think more clearly and solve problems more creatively.
Ten Minutes of Meditation a Day
I know you have 10 minutes somewhere in your day. Schedule it now on your calendar. Find a quiet spot for you to take a break, a momentary pause. Find a place to sit still and close your eyes. As you begin quieting your mind, focus on your breathe moving in and out of your body, while synchronizing your body and mind to be together for ten quiet minutes.
Yes thoughts will come. Your mind will move in all different directions. That is okay and very, very normal. You will think about emails you have to write, items you have to pick up from the store on your way home, bills you have to pay and that person you want to tell off at the office.
It’s okay, let them go and go back to your breathe. For ten minutes a day. Make it a practice and you will see an incredible difference in your life over time.
The Real Magic of Meditation
The benefits will include seeing things differently, solving problems that had you stumped, new connections and ideas will come to you, innovative ideas, important ideas. Your creativity will begin to bloom. You will begin to notice how you behave under certain conditions. You may want to change that behavior and you may have never noticed it before you began your daily mind quieting practice. This is called self-awareness and this is the biggest benefit and magic of mindful meditation practice.
Inspiration to Read and Listen to
Unmistakeable Creative A Soulful Exploration of Inner Wisdom with Susan Piver of the Open Heart Project
1. Build Your Mind Muscle. Meditate your way to a deep sleep every night. In order to have a great workout routine, you must have a nightly relaxation ritual that does not include a couple of drinks to calm you down. Some of the best guided meditations for sleep and relaxation are here.
2. Be your Own Best Coach – but first you must listen to how you feel. Do you hold any guilt, anger, resentment? You can’t carry that extra weight to the gym. It’s not like fat that you can burn off. That baggage is heavy and more exhausting to schlep around than those extra pounds.
Really get a sense of how you feel during the day. Log those emotions. Do you tighten up when you see your coworker? Feel anxious when someone stands just a bit too close on the train? Feel like you want to choke the loud cell phone talker on the street in front of you? Those emotions are invaluable. They’re keys to the things that will really improve your life if you dig into them, because those kinds of emotional responses that we quickly temper are signs of an internal disagreement.
More on how to be your own life coach here.
Remember, resolving the internal disagreements that lead to unhealthy emotions and choices are vital for improving your life.
3.You can’t head to the gym in your paint-stained sweat pants that double as your bathroom/kitchen cleaning outfit. Eventually you will want to go pro and prepare with the right workout gear. This includes clothes, water, podcast or music playlist, headphones, FitBit, etc.
My favorite picks for the gym here and more here –
4. Play the Leading Role in The Award-winning Film of Your Life – This is what worked for me. Weigh yourself, look in the mirror, see yourself as you are now.You are the star. This your time. Every day. Then, in your mind, see yourself as you want to be. Visualize yourself. Want to drop 10, 20, 50 pounds or more, fit into a tight tee shirt or just feel more energized? List the things you must do to become who you want to be. Write them down. Now do one simple thing each day on this list to get yourself closer to where you want to be during your workout. Note: you need to eat less to weigh less, so tracking calories for a 500 deficit each day is imperative to losing weight. Do this in conjunction with your work out if you want to lose weight.
5. Talk to Yourself, Incessantly. I repeat the following to myself every time I walk into the gym. 123 Tone. That’s my goal weight of 123 pounds and my tone body. I have linked it to the photo of myself in my mind of what I look and feel like at 123 pounds with slim tone arms, a flat stomach and strong legs. Keep that vision in front of you as you work out. See yourself slipping into those jeans.
6.Set a time limit and and a target list of what you will perform while you are at the gym- don’t leave until you are done. Today my goal was 60 full minutes of cardio and three rounds of 22 push ups, 60 and sit-ups. Although I fought it – yes, I really did want to leave early, I did not walk out the door until I finished. It wasn’t easy.
7. Listen to Someone Motivating. If you have a smart phone, down load a motivating podcast to listen to while you are on the treadmill. My favorite today –The Good Life Project. Click here for more.
8.Sweat and track you success daily. I have come to understand that if I am not sweating or getting really heated up during at least a part of my workout, than, I are not working out hard enough. You have to push yourself. But first you must know your target heart rate. It is a very simple calculation and you can find it at Every Day Health, here. After working out a while, you will be able to physically tell if you are in fat-burning mode by the way your body feels.
9. Switch it up. Do not do the same thing every day. You will get bored and you will not optimize your workout. Try new machines and classes, today I did 20 minutes on the tread mill -a set of sit-ups and push ups and then 20 minutes on the Elliptical followed by another set of sit-ups and push ups and then another 20 minutes on the other machine that looks like the Elliptical but it’s a stair climber thing. Play with the buttons on the treadmill – build an incline, jog for a minute, slow walk, then speed walk, etc.
10. Move Every Single Day. Do something active every single day. I work out every day but every day is just bit different. One day is a 5-7 mile walk with hills and stairs, another a day at the gym, another is Spinning class, etc. I don’t take a day off from movement and do not believe it would help if I did.
Do you have a workout tip that is simple, easy and effective? I would love to learn from you, so please share in the comments below.