I've been reading this book called Your Money or Your Life, by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. A good friend gave it to me about five or six years ago, and I'm finally mature enough to read it. The book talks about how a budget is a lot like a diet. You deprive yourself and skimp, and it works- for a month or maybe two. Then you feel you've been so good-- you can relax. And you go right back to your old spending habits. So you start a new budget. Hmmm.... Sounds familiar....

The book was written in the 1980's, from what I can tell, or at least-- a lot of their examples come from that time. So in some ways, I'm trying to maintain a current perspective while taking in the intended lesson of some of the financial examples cited in the book. Like the time that Cindy Soandso realized she was buying a pair of shoes a week and not wearing them. And on her budget, you can see she was also paying $200 in rent per month. Yeah, right. Or how this nice military man and his wife wanted a big family and a home in the country-- and on a budget of less than $30,000 a year, they saved up $45,000 in seven years, while having four children and paying off $25,000 in debts. So I figure now, that would mean an income of around $45,000 a year, and only two children. I mean, really. If I try to believe that $30,000 can support a family of six plus a 20% savings plan for a YEAR in 2007-- I will probably stop reading this book.

The book isn't about setting yet another budget. It's actually about calculating how much time/energy you spend on your current life style, and being accountable to your dreams/goals/values for the way that energy/time is spent. It's about changing your relationship with money and with the time you spend earning it. Dominguez and Robin say that all you need is enough-- and just a little bit extra. The hard part is that our culture teaches us to have endless appetites for buying. The phrase "more is better" simply means that you'll never have enough to be happy. Once you attain it, you want something else-- something more. Because more is better.

Instead, pay attention, and notice what is enough. What is important to you in your life? Do you need another foodiddler to reach that goal or have that experience you really care about? Probably not. One of my favorite tools in the book so far is the Purpose-in-Life Test. Originally formulated by Viktor Frankl, a Nazi death camp survivor, this test helps you determine if you have a strong sense of life-purpose or meaning, and if you have found ways to live your life according to that awareness.

One of my favorite questions on the test was this: "Facing my daily tasks is: a source of pleasure and satisfaction/ neutral/ a painful and boring experience." It really made me stop and ask myself why I spend so much time not enjoying my life. Frankl's book is called, Man's Search for Meaning, just in case you want to check it out. I haven't yet. I'm too busy planning world domination on $50 a week. And besides, I (just barely) have a clear sense of purpose, according to the test results. I'll take that and run with it!

I stopped about half-way through the book to go get my weekly groceries. Step One: record all expenditures to the penny for a month. I filled my water jugs. ($1.40) I got gas. ($34.79) I stopped at a local used book store for a book my mom wants, and found a great little expenditure recording notebook. ($12.37) Coincidence #1: the book she wants is on sale this week. I realized I was supposed to meet my cousin at 3pm to pick up her Christmas Gift to me (time-sensitive), so I rushed over there.

So far, I was very cheerful, optimistic, not too hungry to food shop, totally pleased to get out of the multi-everything store with JUST WATER, and working hard to remember and record everything I spent. Then I drove through downtown in nearly rush hour traffic-- on a SATURDAY, and got pretty grumpy. I also got hungry and thirsty. Bad combo. Cousin's phone was busy so I knew she'd be in. She wasn't in. I tried to find a corner of downtown to hang out in for five minutes in hopes that she'd be back, but everywhere I went, SOMEONE WAS BEHIND ME trying to drive forward. I headed back to Trader Joe's. In nearly rush hour traffic. My cousin called about 20 minutes later. She's home now, where am I? Coincidence #2: She ran to the bank for 10 minutes, and we JUST MISSED EACH OTHER!!!

I hang up and turn into the parking lot of TJ's. Everyone is at TJ's today. Everyone. And they brought their friends along too. In separate cars. Even my brother was there. Seriously. We drove past each other in search of parking. (Coincidence #3.) I haven't seen my brother in a couple of months. So we shopped together (enlightening to say the least-- $19.77 for my groceries this week! Helps that Thanksgiving is at someone else's place.) and then headed out to a late lunch together. Coincidence #4: We actually both had time to catch up right then, and we'd both missed lunch! That was pretty darn cool.

So today I started the process toward financial intelligence. To the tune of $68.33. That's probably about a hundred dollars less than I spent last Saturday. Talk about financial freedom! It's not that I can afford to do anything with this money but continue hoarding it for car payments over the next six months... Nope. I'm simply excited that my life, and the time I spend in it, is mine to delineate. And I just regained control of my budget, too.

Coincidence? I think NOT!


Getting Mad

There are many different kinds of anger. Today, I'm focusing on the people who just don't GET mad. They don't have that moment of "hey-- I deserve better than this!" where anger is supposed to kick in and help us speak up for ourselves. We're so busy trying to make everyone else feel good that we often don't even notice how bad WE feel in a given situation. Maybe you don't even feel it's worth defending yourself or you don't think, "Woah! I would never treat someone else that way-- why is it okay for them to do it to me??"

When this has been your system of operation, and you are now slowly working to be more self-assured, self-aware, self-accepting and self-serving (in the sense that you finally realized nobody but you can give you what you need out of life)... Those little moments when you DO GET MAD because somebody stepped over your boundaries and tap-danced on your comfort zone or your right to be treated with fairness and respect... those are great victories in your quest for emotional health. Celebrate your mad moment.

For example, about two weeks ago, somebody gave me the deadline of November 15 to respond to a specific request. Yesterday, they emailed me with a demand for ASAP response on that request. You know? It made me mad. I've been working on it. I'm still well within the deadline. (I've got a week left, thank you!) Why are you hounding me?? ... and the fact that I got mad, instead of trying to make that person happy ASAP... for me, that was a little victory. That person is no more important than I am in my life now. The rules don't change just because they are tired of waiting or because they don't respect me. But it is up to me to enforce those same rules, to expect respect, and not to feel like I failed THEM when I don't get it.

I sent that person a clear, polite, and honest response. I clarified my position and maintained control of my process. HOW COOL IS THAT?!

Here is the deadline you set me. Here is what I've been doing in relation to that request. Here is why THIS PROCESS is important to me, and how it could also be of value to you. I know you think THIS PROCESS is a waste of time, but I appreciate (and expect) that you will humor me and do it this way anyway. Thank you.

Getting excited about getting mad helped me see just how far I've come in becoming my best self. I'm finally starting to respect and value my needs, expectations, and actions-- AND DEFEND THEM WHEN OTHERS DISAGREE. You see, anger problems go both ways. You can be someone who gets angry out of proportion to the stimulant-- you can be an ANGRY PERSON... or, you can be someone who fails to acknowledge their anger, who thinks they don't have a right to get mad and to defend themselves. They don't acknowledge their own needs OR their own feelings. This is just as self-destructive and unhealthy, people.

If you go around saying, "it's okay to step on me"... well, then people will step on you.

You have to take responsibility for getting your needs met, and you have to respect yourself, or nobody else will do these things either. We define our own worth in many ways, and acknowledging how we feel is one of the biggies. Acknowledging that we have a reason to feel that way, and then intentionally deciding on a course of action based on ALL of our awarenesses (intellectual, personal, emotional, professional)-- well, THAT's a healthy way to live.


I Do It Better Myself

I've heard this quote over and over in the past few years--
"If it is to be, it is up to me."
No idea where the quote came from, but I finally had a good long sit-down conversation with myself about what exactly that means, and how I apply it to my life. I came to a few conclusions, too.

Looking back at my life, there are so many times when I've taken on a big project-- something important to my plans for the future or to my family or my job... And even though I had the skills, the time, the need to succeed-- I haven't really. I've waited until the last minute and done a half-gassed job, or I've waited for the right time to pursue my goal and it never came, or I've decided the project was dumb and a waste of my time even though it was a requirement for my job. Whatever the excuse, what it comes down to is that I've been waiting for someone to come save me from my problems.

Prince Charming would ride up in his practical Honda Accord, and give me an extension on my final paper, or a gift of money to pay off my credit card, or maybe one of my coworkers would stop by and give me some tough love about getting that project DONE... maybe my husband or my wife would do those dishes since my feet hurt or my boss was grumpy or... Maybe someone else would just finally come and take responsibility for fixing my life.

I realized that I've been living with the Cinderella Complex (if this is a real thing, and not a name I just came up with, my apologies) for a very long time. And it is time to stop waiting for someone else to come along and make everything better. And I realized that I am responsible for my own success.

I take care of me, and I do it better than anyone else can or should. Because I know what I need and who I am better than anyone else. My success story and my happy ending are within me. I keep my own budget. I wash my own dishes. I manage my own health. I do my own work. If it is to be, it is up to me.

So then I took that one step further, and made it personal. I formed a new picture and a new plan for living out my happy ending, and I based that plan around the idea of balance. Somehow, balance is easier to want to work toward than "personal responsibility." So I looked at different books about symbols that relate to balance. I noticed feng shui. A whole cultural movement based around balance and nature. And I noticed that a lot of balance can be found in nature. That animals and plants must find their own nutrients and sustenance if they want to survive-- if they want to prosper. I want to prosper.

Many different cultures use four or five main natural elements to discuss balance, and since that resonated with me, I used it. If you need to re-imagine your happy ending, make a picture of balance that resonates with you. Here is the story I finally constructed, the new image of my life and my choices that I carry in my head for reference:

I am an unending stream. I take my shape from the earth that supports me and the rocks in my path that cannot stop my progress. I use the sun to clear my waters for action and the fires of courage to light my way and protect MY best interests. The air brings fresh energy and oxygen to my waters so the ideas I have planted within can grow, can spawn. I am my own best advocate, best friend, best judge. I am my own self-- and no one else can or should direct me on the path I know to take.

Who can rescue the water? Who can contain it, direct it or inspire it to change its course? No. I am the water, and I make my own path. Ever moving, ever changing. Ever inspiring, ever beautiful. I do it better myself. It is time to recognize that I know what I need to do-- and that no one else can do it for me. If it is to be, it is up to me.


Fighting Back

We women often have a hard time speaking up for ourselves until driven to the point of mindless rage. We don't make a fuss if someone elderly cuts us off in the checkout line, we don't demand that the store honor a coupon the day after it expires. We don't tell that mean boy in 5th period (or his annoying father in the next cubicle over) to stop making jokes about our bodily functions, or small bladders or comfortable shoes. We don't fight back. We don't talk back. We don't watch each other's backs.

I recently gave myself permission to defend myself. I used affirmations. It's a way of stating what we deeply want to be true of ourselves as if it is already true. "I can defend myself." "I keep a clean and tidy home." "I take time out every day for my mental and physical health." Whatever it is that resonates most with how you want to be in the world. Take that one statement (or in my case, those 21 statements), and make them into positive and simple sentences. Say it to yourself. The more you hear it, the more you think it could be true, and the more likely you are to make it happen for yourself. Affirmations.

Of course, the reverse is also effective. If we go around saying "I can't...." or "I'll never...." well, say it often enough and it's probably going to come true. You'll probably start believing yourself. So why not take that personal power, and use it to effect a positive change? Why not treat yourself as if you deserve respectful treatment in every situation you encounter. After all, it's true.


Need Sleep?

A friend asked me to make her husband some tea to help him sleep. He's a chronic insomniac, and it's getting ridiculous. I'm very excited to do this, and although I don't know how successful I will be, I'm giving it a try.

I know any number of people who have chronic trouble getting to sleep, or once they do, they can't seem to STAY asleep. And people, we all need sleep. It makes any number of daily irritants easier to fix, ignore, or overcome. It makes us safer drivers, and better friends. And most of the people I know who have sleep issues do NOT want to use chemicals to get the sleep they need. For one thing, dependgency sux. So does failing to wake up in time for work or for a child's nightmare emergency. And often, even if the chemicals do work to help someone sleep, they are expensive prescriptions, or the sleep one gets from taking the chemicals just isn't RESTFUL.

Many people don't realize there are alternative methods out there. They may be something you are uncomfortable with (take Yoga or meditation), or something you just think is too silly (like breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, or turning off the TV and the computer a full hour before bedtime)... but if you are serious about getting sleep, you might consider giving these alternative treatments a try.

Often, these are not instant solutions-- you might have to try different combinations of them, often for a week or two or three, before you see serious results. And sometimes people (like me) want so much to believe that there is an actual CURE for their problem that once they do start sleeping normally, they stop doing the things that helped them. And of course, the problem returns. That just means that what you did WORKED-- and you need to keep doing it.

So I was excited to offer my little bit of herbal knowledge, and my little bit of alternative relaxation/breathing techniques, to help a friend. For the herbal tea mixture, I used Melissa (Lemon Balm) for its calming and sleep-encouraging properties, and some Nettle to help him breathe. Nettle does amazing things for hay fever and related allergy issues, let me tell you!

I put in a little St. John's Wort because it relaxes the nerves (in fact, this was its original use, and the memory thing was just a bonus!), and a little Feverfew because it is sometimes said to relax the mind. I also put in Peppermint to help with any digestive problems and Stivia to help with the taste. A little pinch of Stivia is enough to sweeten a whole big mug of tea, by the way. Too much gives it a bitter flavor.

Then, I put in almost as much Hopps as I'd put in all the other ingredients combined. Hopps are for sleeping.

Because my Hopps came in their dried "flower" form, I used my mortar and pestle to grind them into individual leaves, if not into a bit of powder. They are usually safe to drink, eat, or burn, and in all forms, they are supposed to promote sleep. No wonder people get tired when they drink too much dark beer! Of course, beer has all sorts of other ingredients, and most are totally unhealthy-- I don't recommend it as a sleeping aid. I do recommend it if you want to gain weight or pee a lot.

Not very many Hopps makes a lot of Hopp Petals, you see. And about 20 minutes after I ground mine, I took a nap. Which convinced me of the sleep-inducing powers of the Hopps. See, I slept in this morning. Late. And I'd only been up and about for maybe an hour when I ground the Hopps, breathed them in as I did so (no choice there, really), and used my fingers to dust off my grinding tool. Then I slept quite peacefully for about two or three hours. Imagine if I'd tried a cup of the tea!

So I'm going to try my Sleepy Tea blend tonight at bedtime to see how it tastes and how I react-- Hopps are supposed to taste pretty bitter-- and then I'm going to pass it along to my friend, with instructions.

You see, medicinal tea needs to be steeped for at least ten to twenty minutes. Without a tea bag. And I want him to stop eating, watching TV, and using a computer at least 30 minutes before he wants to sleep-- right when he should start sipping his tea. I also want him to make a big mug of it each night, and only drink half. I want the other half by his bed, so when he wakes at 2am, he can drink it down, maybe use some alternative breathing/relaxing exercises, and go back to sleep. I also want to explain that most experts suggest it can take as much as 2 weeks to a month to get the full results of a medicinal tea. I don't want him to give up if there is no improvement the first night he tries this.

I share this story because I think it is a good reminder to us all that for minor and chronic health issues, there are a lot of alternative treatments available. We just have to be willing to step outside our usual comfort zone. Drink a strange tea. Breathe in for four counts, and out for four, focusing only on the breathing deep into our tummy, and the counting to fill our minds with calm. We have to be willing to look silly resting with our backs on the floor and our legs in an L-shape with feet resting on the seat of a chair to relax our back, hips, and neck. We have to acknowledge that sometimes it takes more than one taste to decide if we like a food, and more than one session of yoga to see if it relaxes us. (Always being careful NOT to repeat things that don't feel right!)


Self Respect

If you don't take your own feelings, beliefs, needs, expectations seriously-- why should your partner? If you have a bad feeling or something is making you uncomfortable-- honor your own intelligence, and do what it takes to feel safe. Respect yourself enough to believe you deserve to be respected-- your concerns, your interests and your body-- by others as well. Live by example. Show respect for yourself. Even if it means leaving a relationship with someone you dearly want to build a life with. Taking the responsibility for ending an unhappy relationship is better than being dead because you stayed in it, or spending your whole life hoping for some hazy time in the future when you finally get to be happy together.

Living miserably isn't an absolute, it's a choice. You can almost always choose to make a better happier life for yourself. We never want to give up on love when there is even a sliver of hope that things will get better. But if you are looking for changes outside of your relationship or marriage to make the marriage itself a better happier place to be-- you are looking away from the real problem. If you catch yourself in a situation where you find happiness in daydreaming about how it will be after he gets a new job, after she stops drinking, after you move to yet another house or town, after there is a baby to make you feel more connected to each other... then you are daydreaming about a life you DON'T HAVE. Today is the day you are living. Are you glad to be where you are today?

If not, make a change. It does take hard work, and it does hurt horribly to leave someone you love (however hurtful that person is toward you)-- but the hurt fades in a way it never can do while you are living a hurtful life. And there is amazing freedom in realizing that you are happy-- TODAY! Realizing that you have good reasons to like and respect yourself. Realizing that each person (once they reach the age of about 7 or 8 years old) is responsible for making themselves happy. No one else can do that for you-- not your partner, not your parents, not your kids, not your job.

Now, we all need to learn HOW to make ourselves happy, and we all need help now and then with finding and appreciating the happiness that is right in front of us... but that is different from expecting someone else to make us happy. This works both ways-- if someone else is holding you accountable for making them and their life happy... it's an unhealthy and hopeless expectation. It's not your job. Beyond that, it's not possible. To be honest, it's manipulative and controlling to give someone else that responsibility.

And don't confuse this conversation about self respect and personal responsibility with the give and take of a healthy relationship. Partners means you both chip in, you both sacrifice a little, and you both take responsibility for your contributions (good and bad) to the relationship and to each other. Supporting each other while still being individuals. It's a delicate balance. If you are out of balance, or your partner is, it takes more than hope and words to get back on track. And if only one of you works to GET back on track... well... do you really want to be responsible for maintaining a two-person relationship all by yourself?

Just a thought, inspired by a friend who continues to say "I'm sorry" to the man who hurts her, hoping that if the words are said, everything will be okay again for a little while. I want to ask her-- "When will you apologize to yourself for allowing the hurt to continue?" But she is blind and deaf in her fear that if she fails in this relationship, she will always be a failure. She can't see that she (and only she) is responsible for herself-- and in the area of self respect, she is already failing. I wish I could ask my question. I wish she could hear it. I wish things were different, and I didn't have to watch her suffer over and over again. I know that she is the only one who can change her life for the better. I wish I could help.


To Your Health

I don't currently have professional health care coverage. I look forward to having it again someday soon-- but right now, I've elected to find ways to take control of my own physical health. And it's working a lot better than I expected.

The simplest cure-all I've found is tea. Yes. Tea. You see, I read in my woman's herbal and nutritional healing books, and I find an herb that sounds right, and that is indicated for something that I know I'm having issues with. Take sleep or allergies for examples.

I make Stinging Nettle Tea for my hay fever symptoms every morning. I boil water (with a little Echinacea root in it if I've been doing too much and feel run-down) and then I put it into my tea pot, where I've put a teaspoon of dried nettle, a quarter-teaspoon of dried green tea leaves (hey, it IS morning, and I don't drink coffee), and some dried peppermint for flavor, good breath, and digestion. I let the tea sit, covered, for 10-30 minutes (depends on if I'm showering while I wait or rushing around like a lunatic trying to fit everything in and not be late to work). then I pour it through a strainer into my tea mug, and it's usually cool enough by then to just start drinking. I try to have a second cup of a similar mixture (without the green tea, maybe add some other herbs for fun and profit) later in the morning or just after lunch.

Then, I have trouble winding down from my busy hectic day and going to bed. So I make tea. It gets hot in the summer, so I often don't even bother boiling the water for my evening cup. I just let the herbs I've selected sit in the cold water a bit longer than usual (20-40 minutes) before I strain and drink it. I often select a mix of dried Melissa (Lemon Balm), Comfrey, Calendula, and maybe some Jasmine flowers or Chamomile to sweeten it up. Very calming.

I've got herbs I can throw in to deal with a headache or a head cold. I have dried tea herbs to treat anemia and bloating and... well, I feel like the small act of brewing my own teas has given me some really great ways to maintain my optimal health from day to day. And it's nice to not be worried about "when is it bad enough to go to the doctor and get HELP!?" Instead, I think preventative maintenance, and I tweak my tea intake every day to deal with what that day may bring, or DID bring.

I'm using those same herbs, and what I've learned about their applications in traditional and scientific medicine, to make ointments for the smaller injuries-- pulled muscles, scraped knuckles, bug bites and minor rashes, razor blade cuts, dry cracked skin-- that happen day to day. I feel like I've taken charge of my health in a very basic and fundamental way. Scientific medicine and hospitals and MD's are important-- don't get me wrong-- but now I know I have them for backup on the big issues-- setting a broken bone or treating a systemic illness-- and there are still things I can do for myself to heal should those challenges come my way.

It's liberating in a strange way-- both psychologically and physically. I don't have to wait to gain easement. I don't have to hope someone else guesses right about what my body needs. I don't have to convince some stranger that there is something that NEEDS treatment, and I don't have to worry that I'm being over medicated because there is no follow up with the doctor once the meds are prescribed.

There is always something-- however small-- that we can do to take personal responsibility for our own health and well-being. Even when our primary care is being undertaken by someone else.
Be well.


For Peace of Mind

I started to think about those basic things that could be done to make life easier, less complicated, and more peaceful on a daily basis. Here's what I came up with, in no particular order. I laughed after I wrote the list, but I also think it's a good guide for me to check back with on occasion-- I'd like to be a high achiever in the "peace of mind" category, too. I hope it helps you decide what your list will contain.

  • Yearly Credit Check
  • Yearly Exam (important for men and for women)
  • Back up the Hard Drive Again
  • Weekly Self-Exam
  • Laugh More (with friends is good)
  • Get the oil changed and the wiper blades replaced sometimes
  • Listen to good music on a good sound system
  • Walk More, Gossip Less
  • Keep your tax packets from past years together in one place
  • Use a pop-up reminder program for birthdays
  • Own 3 pairs of sunglasses
  • Get your pet fixed
  • Have comfey dining chairs
  • Take a daily multivitamin that tastes good
  • Buy Organic Foods
  • Wake up 5 minutes earlier
  • Get to know your neighbors
  • Rent a Safety Deposit Box
  • Floss
  • Keep your favorite children's books handy
  • Throw out the skinny jeans, the fat jeans, and the itchy designer sweaters (anything you are keeping out of guilt-- doesn't fit, cost a lot, a recent gift, what if, never wear it but...)
  • Own a shredder
  • Set up a savings account with auto deposit from your checking each month
  • Collect Memories, not stuff
  • Schedule Alone Time, Beach Rambles and Tea Breaks, Too
  • Smile when they want to take your picture, even if you feel like a drowned rat
  • Don't burn candles on plastic surfaces
  • Change your pillow case more often than your sheets
  • Switch to Frozen Yogurt
  • Plan to sleep in sometimes
  • Dream.


On Procrastination

I have this book... "It's About Time!" by Dr. Linda Sapadin. The book is basically a break down and treatment of the six styles of procrastination. Now, I usually find self-help books to be rather silly. Either too simplistic, too full of themselves, too lacking in actual helpful "here's how" information, or just dumb. But this is one self-help book that I'm planning to buy for most of the people I know.

The book includes tests so you can figure out what your major form(s) of procrastination are, your minor form(s), and which ones might be good to read just on general principles. Apparently, most people have one major form, and a couple of supporting procrastination styles. And if you score over 10 on a test-- that is the major one you need to pay attention to.

Uhh.... Dr. Linda? I scored over ten on ALL of them... can I go home now?

Anyway, then I started reading the three I scored highest in. And for the first one, I kept saying-- "That isn't me! I don't do that. Do I DO that? I don't do that." So then I decided maybe my test scores were a little off. Maybe I was so intent on how horrible I am about procrastinating that all I could think was that I was horrible at everything. Well, so with a much lighter frame of mind (Okay, I'm not a total failure, here.), I read the one I scored second-highest in.


Yeah... That's Me.

I can now tell you with ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY that I am a perfectionist procrastinator. I'm sure you already knew that. But see-- I didn't. And for each of the two styles of procrastination I've read so far (means you'll probably get to read more blogs about this in the future)-- there are two sides to the coin.

So with the Perfectionist Procrastinator, you either are ALWAYS WORKING WAY TOO HARD to get everything perfect-- and may not turn things in at work (or school) on time because you are still busy adding things to it to make it PERFECT-- an impossible task that leaves you constantly stressed and worried and wanting to DO MORE and BE BETTER.

Or- you're like me.

You are so worried that you won't do it perfectly (whatever it is) that you find reasons not to do it at all-- or not to do it until your time is so short-- it's the perfect excuse for the final product to be imperfect-- and it's just NOT YOUR FAULT that it's not PERFECT LIKE YOU THINK IT SHOULD BE-- and you assume everyone else thinks it should be, too. Because if you'd just had more time, you'd have done it right. Whatever "right" is.

The best thing about this book-- other than helping me see the pattern of my behavior in a clear and unavoidable fashion-- is that it also offers simple things that I could actually DO to help each style of procrastinator overcome their habit. From now on, you'll hear me changing my "should" statements to "could" options. My "have to" shackles to "want to" intentions. And a few other things, too.

If you feel that you just aren't happy with your life as it is. You are bored, or stressed, or you just can't seem to ever do the things you want to do in your life, your career, your personal life, or somewhere else entirely-- this book might be a good place to start. You might find yourself using some of the patterns the author describes, and you might find a way to change your style for the better. the way...
I'm not shooting for perfection anymore, either. I just want to be a high achiever. I think maybe I can do that. Without so much stress, and so little free time. And without feeling bad about myself and how little I actually achieve (or do perfectly) anymore. What a relief.


Do I Matter?

I think most of the people in the world are not big picture people. If they were, they'd all be advancing quickly from high school student to CEO of a large corporation. They'd all be competent. They'd all be overworked and underpaid. They'd all be making strategic plans or starting their own side businesses.

Most people in the world are only comfortable knowing their relative importance in relation to a scope that lets them BE important, without having to grow or change or do anything uncomfortable. You know? It's the idea that if most people looked into Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker's Guide series) slice of fairy cake and saw their relative importance to the whole universe, REALLY, they'd go insane. People need to feel needed-- on some level, in some area of their lives. It's part of what makes us human.

For a lot of folks, this shows up as a complete lack of interest in business practices or advances that occur in a business other than their own office. An administrative team might set a goal that only takes into account their position relative to similar businesses in the same geographic location (the same town, the same state). Or a coworker becomes so preoccupied with looking good compared to YOU that he/she doesn't realize that when you BOTH do a good job and look good doing it, the company benefits, and therefore you BOTH BENEFIT. It's the driver who doesn't care if he causes an accident so long as he (or she) gets to be the one in front. The fastest. The coolest. The one getting the most attention. And that is one way to feel important.

But it is a limited view. The reality is that we can each make a big difference in the world-- be needed or be valued for our contributions at work or at home-- but we have to work at it. We have to take risks. We have to keep learning and growing and stretching. We have to keep giving to others. And we have to change our perspective.

Look around. Who do you respect for what they gave? Not for how much they got, not even for how much they gave-- but for the quality of the thing they gave away to help someone else. I see doctors who have a day job, and a free clinic for people who could not otherwise receive quality medical care. I see teachers who start college funds for every child who passes through their classroom, creating an expectation and a sense of possibility in each child. I see a teenager who volunteers at the local retirement home on a regular basis. I see the big brother who shows respect and appreciation to his younger siblings for their accomplishments.

Now, look at yourself. What do you have to give that would make you feel good about your impact on the world? Do you want to get active in a city-wide committee to improve living conditions or parks or to change bad laws? Do you want to devote a certain number of appointments or products in your work week to folks who couldn't afford what you do or what you make otherwise? Do you want to bring flowers to a stranger who never gets visitors at the local nursing home once a month? Do you want to start a carpool for soccer practice, to save gas and reconnect with your child's daily life? Maybe you just want to work on being a safer and nicer driver when you're on the road.

Believe it or not, the littlest things make a big impact on the world. If it is given freely, and with an honest desire to do something to make someone else's life a little better-- you will feel better about your place in the world for doing it. Take another look at that piece of cake. See that tiny speck that is you in the universe? See how it's tinged with purple? Now look-- there is a spider web radiating out from you of glistening purple gifts. The good feelings you gave someone else. They show up. They show up in the universe long after you cease to exist.


Power of Positive Thought

Yeah, it's a cliche-- if you think good thoughts, good things will happen to you. Well, you see, it's a bit more complex than that. Positive thinking is a great idea. A good thought. Positive. But sometimes bad things still happen-- and sometimes we are doing our best to be positive in a really negative situation, and just run out of energy. What then?

Well, positive thinking is a strategy, and there's more to it than just saying "it will be okay" to yourself over and over while the world falls apart around you. First, you have to decide what your goal is. Be a cheerful person? Enjoy your life? Get something good out of every adventure/accident in your life? Find a job with higher pay and a better work environment? Get through school or through training with an A? Or something else completely? Decide on one thing for now.

Next, phrase it in a positive way. "Stop Being So NEGATIVE" is pretty difficult to feel good about-- it's your old negative self adding on another criticism to the situation. So start being positive, or find some other way to make your goal something you are moving TOWARD and not moving away from. Also, make sure it's a goal that doesn't require a magic wand. Make it something for your every day experience.

Now, think of one person-- or two or three, if you have them-- that you have access to who can help you with your goal. They can be a role model of someone who already achieved it, or a person who gives good advice and might know some tips to help you on your way. Maybe this is a friend who will check in with you to see if you've done anything to reach your goal this week, if you ask them. The important part of this step is to acknowledge that you you don't have to do it by yourself-- you can look for help, even ask for help. As long as you remember it is YOUR GOAL, not theirs. This makes you the one who has to do the most hard work to get it. Have someone in mind? Put their name(s) aside for now, but know you have a back up plan if it gets hard as you go along.

Okay, good. Now, close your eyes and picture yourself in that situation. In your mind, have this image of you feel the things you will feel when you reach your goal. Look around and see evidence of having attained this goal. Do you see new faces, smiling and industrious, all around you in a strange office? Do you see a new and better watch on your wrist because with your new job, you can afford it? Do you feel more powerful, more positive, more excited about getting up to face the day? Stay with this image of having reached your goal until you recognize yourself in it.

Makes you want that even more, doesn't it. This is the power of positive thought. Going back to this image, smell, taste, feeling in your head when you get up in the morning, and before you lie down for bed at night--- and as often as you want in between. This is what starts your subconscious self on the path to achieve it. Suddenly, you'll start to notice that job ad in the paper or on the web that might be what you are looking for. Maybe you'll find yourself sitting down to re-write that resume so that it highlights your achievements-- and the things that will make you a good hire for a good job when it comes along.

Maybe you'll notice that the sun makes the trees look especially cheerful today, or the rain is making it easier to breathe. You might comment on how you like a coworker's silk scarf or a comic on his cubicle wall-- whatever it is, if you keep envisioning this goal WITH YOU IN IT, as something you focus on exclusively for a few minutes each day-- you'll start to see the opportunities that exist in your life (yes, they've been there all along, you just weren't mentally prepared to notice them)-- and realize that you do have the choice to follow up on them.

Choosing to make the best of each chance we are offered to be better people is what makes us better people. Making the best of a bad situation that isn't going to change-- that's when we start envisioning a new situation for ourselves, and get out of the bad one that isn't going anywhere. That's when WE have to get going. And making those choices-- now that you see the opportunities to do so-- is what gives Positive Thought it's power.

So-- to give you an idea of how looking for the good brings good things into your awareness, here are a couple of websites to get you in the mood:

Simple Things

Three Beautiful Things

Mo's Inspiring Moments

Really, I'm as Old as I Feel?


The Cards We Are Dealt

We all start somewhere. Maybe you started where I did-- scared, alone but for a few loyal friends, still loving the person you need to get away from, not sure you will survive the next step, knowing you won't survive if you don't take the next step. Maybe you started somewhere else-- life was okay, but something was missing, so you kept adding more projects, more purchases, more plans-- hoping you'd find that THING that would make you content with what you are and what you have. Maybe you started somewhere else entirely.

The thing is-- you've started. That first step toward health is often the most difficult one. Starting toward health and away from the familiar is scary. Sometimes we've actually been moving in the right direction for a while when that hardest step comes, and we bog down, lose direction, lose self-confidence, because we thought the tough stuff was over... So here you are, starting again, feeling a desire for hope-- maybe even feeling hope.

Be hopeful. Your life has started, and wherever you are, you can always move forward from there. But be aware-- it is a choice. You choose your path. And that, my friend, is the most powerful piece of advice I will ever give. Even when the choices are horrible, there are choices to be made. You choose your path. The next most important piece of advice I will ever give you is this:

You cannot choose the outcome of your decision. You can have clear intentions, you can have clear goals. You might be a world-class manipulator... unhealthy and dishonest as that route may be for your own development... (and sometimes, we live that life to survive until we figure out how to choose something better) But the fact remains-- you don't control the outcome. Just the effort and the intention.

When you start putting your energy into the effort and into the intention, and stop wasting energy on trying to MAKE him react like THIS, or make your boss do that, or make your friend feel like this because of what she said... you will become productive. That is a huge step toward living a better life, and having more energy to spend on feeling hope for your future. Huge.

Have hope. Make the effort. Take responsibility for yourself.