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Archive for the ‘Advice’ Category


A favorite new book is Sam Bennett’s “Get It Done!” (Samantha, but she’s called Sam). I really like the book, and it has inspired me to write my own next draft. Her premise that that if a dream or goal has NO energy, we do not procrastinate. We just don’t need to do it. But if an idea just will not go away, it has a storehouse of energy worth unpacking.

Her basic tool is to work just 15 minutes on your project. And, as she writes, “And you need to do this before you open your email, BEFORE YOU OPEN YOUR EMAIL, BEFORE YOU OPEN YOUR EMAIL.” Think she’s been spying on you? Nope, she’s spent too much of her time looking at my schedule.

However you perceive this idea, I encourage you to spend 15 minutes just making a list of those ideas and projects and dreams that haven’t left you alone for days, months, years, decades. Why not?

If we refuse to beat ourselves up for NOT doing something, there is pure pleasure in contemplating what those ‘somethings’ are, and to ask the next questions:

  1. What could be holding me back from beginning one of them?
  2. Which one would I choose, and I wonder why… that one?
  3. If I were to spent just 15 minutes on this one, what might I do? Where would I do it? Whom would I need to help me, if anyone?

Small beginnings mark every single major accomplishment. I wish you well.

Now, back to my outline.

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My relationship with the To Do list is rather complicated, and it goes back a long way. In the olden days, and I am talking about sixth grade in the early 1960’s, I created a poster-sized chart with lines and places for stars and check marks. I taped it to the back of my bedroom door to be reviewed every day. On it were dozens of  tasks I had to complete, including brushing my teeth, homework, cleaning my room; a wonder it didn’t include breathing and eating. This was the first stark evidence of my inner perfectionist taking charge of my life.

This vague fear of not doing my life well without constant scrutiny has been a constant companion, the creation of driven parental modeling and messages; avoiding the dreaded curse of “not living up to her potential.”

At times “the list” creates as much angst as it relieves. This happens when I don’t take the time to clarify what is truly important, and treat weed the flower bed with equal fervor as write for pleasure. I think I want to create a list in order to prioritize it. But a friend nailed this fallacy eloquently: “The big issues are SO large, it’s easier to focus on the small stuff.”

What is it about the To Do list that still triggers a shock of enthusiasm in me? Any sane person should want to crawl under the covers after creating a staggering catalog of “undone important goals.” But for me, I feel a thrill when I fill a page of neatly organized boxes, and new energy arises as I take up the gauntlet now thrown down, “I dare you to try to complete this list of twenty tasks!” Hercules must have felt the same way when told he had to check off his picayune list of three deeds.

These days, I recognize this long-held internal conflict of inner voices and Selves, and I tend to favor my inner organizer. She sees me as marvelously intelligent and capable of major accomplishments. However, my inner sloth deserves more embracing: she regards me as perfectly fine just the way I am; a message I can use a great deal more of. I think it’s time for me to go read a novel. That must be on a list somewhere.

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This simple (ha!!) story from The Pocket Pema Chödrön, is on page 72. I love how specifically she details the actions that scared me, all of us, as children. “This is how I make you do what makes me comfortable and keeps you from knowing how important you really are!” could have been the thought bubble over every parent. I know how easy it is to believe that someone, anyone, on the other end of a phone call, my spouse, a clerk in a store, would do these things and I would be powerless. Of course, that is such a ridiculous thought, it adds in the element of shame and “what is wrong with me!?” As I said, “simple??”

HOW TO DEFEAT FEAR

Once there was a young warrior. Her teacher told her that she had to do battle with fear. She didn’t want to do that. It seemed too aggressive; it was scary; it seemed unfriendly. But the teacher said she had to do it and gave instructions for the battle.

The day arrived. The student warrior stood on one side, and fear stood on the other. The warrior was feeling very small, and fear was looking big and wrathful. The young warrior roused herself and went toward fear, prostrated three times, and asked, “May I have permission to go into battle with you?”

Fear said, “Thank you for showing me so much respect that you ask permission.”

Then the young warrior said, “How can I defeat you?”

Fear replied, “My weapons are that I talk fast, and I get very close to your face. Then you get completely unnerved, and you do whatever I say. If you don’t do what I tell you, I have no power. You can listen to me, and you can have respect for me. You can even be convinced by me. But if you don’t do what I say, I have no power.”

In that way, the student warrior learned how to defeat fear.

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People often ask me about how to increase self-confidence so they can try new things. They imagine confidence to be a magically acquired inner quality, and that successful people are naturally fearless, willing to try new experiences, managing to look cool in the process. The real path to self-confidence is to develop COMPETENCE with practice, trial and error. To dare to follow your dreams requires the willingness to look foolish, to risk failure and rejection. Our mistakes are requirements for wisdom and true confidence. Of course, His Holiness manages to say this with much more elegance and simplicity.

Warm-heartedness reinforces our self-confidence – giving us not a blind confidence, but a sense of confidence based on reason. When you have that you can act transparently, with nothing to hide! Likewise, if you are honest, the community will trust you. Trust brings friendship, as a result of which you can always feel happy. Whether you look to the right or the left, you will always be able to smile.

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Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here.  As stated by Marianne Williamson

Is this true, that we are all open to giving and receiving and being pure love when we take our first breath, and soon after the lessons begin to convince us that we have to be perfect to be loved?

This fits, I think, when trying to cope with my own fears of rejection. When I place my guilt/shame/anxiety in a crucible, and cook out all the what ifs, what I end up holding is the fear that I have blown the chance to be accepted and loved. I know, I know, that “no one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes.” Yet, it is much easier for me to forgive others than to accept my own imperfections, because rejection is the greatest fear, tantamount to death our ancient DNA structure.

Marianne stays consistent with The Course in Miracles core teaching that we have two choices: love and fear, that to give energy to complicated variations of feelings only prevent us from reconnecting with Divine, with our own Best Selves.
Can it be so simple? That we can choose to focus on love rather than fear? I didn’t say it was easy, but perhaps it helps to simplify.  Today I wish it so for me, and for you.

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An essential part of my personal and professional practice is in hospice. Since 1978 I have worked or volunteered with the seriously ill and dying, providing support to patients and families. Every hospice volunteer or worker knows that the real gift is not in the giving of service, but in the lessons and love received. I  recommend this book to everyone, because we all will face the end of our days, and the days of many we love.

Thanks to Judith Keyssar, RN director of a hospice program in SF, for this marvelous read. “Last Acts of Kindness” tells the stories and lessons from the bedside of hospice patients, and just won a national award (to be announced in January 2012). Comfort, love, and hope on every page.

Last Acts of Kindness
by Judith Redwing Keyssar
LESSONS FOR THE LIVING FROM THE BEDSIDES OF THE DYING  www.lastactsofkindness.com

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Here is a sweet reminder from Pema Chondron

AN INNOCENT MISUNDERSTANDING

When the Buddha taught, he didn’t say that we were bad people or that there was some sin that we had committed—original or otherwise—that made us more ignorant than clear, more harsh than gentle, more closed than open. He taught that there is a kind of innocent misunderstanding that we all share, something that can be turned around, corrected, and seen through, as if we were in a dark room and someone showed us where the light switch was. It isn’t a sin that we are in a dark room. It’s just an innocent situation, but how fortunate that someone shows us where the light switch is. It brightens up our life considerably. We can start to read books, to see one another’s faces, to discover the colors of the walls, to enjoy the little animals that creep in and out of the room.

Be gentle with yourself. Blessings, Cynthia

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Multitasking is not the secret to success. A scattered, unfocused mindset sabotages the accomplishment of the major-tasking that creates lovely memories and crosses off the jobs that need doing but one time. Myriad studies prove that multitasking not only isn’t efficient in the long run, it causes stress and high blood pressure. It is the opposite of the spiritual experience of mindfulness. But this knowledge hasn’t put an end to the compulsion to confound my hands and mind with co-existing activity. My secret selves, the inner child and protector, cling to the belief that doing more than one thing at a time just has to be effective. They insist that I have to be organized before I can work on my big goals.

The truth is the adrenaline rush of multitasking is far more thrilling than boring old “Focus on one thing at a time and do it right.” I do get a lot done when in a  full-on frantic flurry, but only the mini-tasks.  I cheat myself out of the deep pleasure of seeing an important job well done.

Having a neat desk, photos scanned, files sorted, and sock drawer organized by color are mini-tasks that require focus, but bring only temporary satisfaction and come undone in a week of typical living. My friend “Lake” explained that her kitchen was never as clean as when she had a creative deadline facing her; that the hardest act of an artist/writer was to deny the small voices that told her she first had to have a clean, well-ordered house, and spent precious time completing a hundred insignificant chores before entering her studio.

The steps that lead to my heart’s desire cannot be tackled with the same mosaic of effort of cleaning the kitchen, making a meal, checking the weather channel to see if I dare hang out the laundry, all while on hold for the next available agent. Big goals, the ones that create joy, need a purer intention, a calm focus. It takes mental focus and a calm heart to consider what is important to you.

Do you know what your most precious goals are? Not for your whole life, or the next twenty years. It’s scary for me to notice that at 62, I need to plan a shorter frame. So I’ll begin to think about what I really want to achieve, this year.  Best to work on a short list, two to five, that includes the long denied joys, as well as essential obligations of adulthood. Mine include a first trip to Europe. A return to the gym three times a week. Complete the taxes without deadline stress. More vague,but still important: How can I be a terrific partner for my family members? Read more meaningful books?

When you consider yours, don’t  judge them by size–you’re looking for something that keeps pulling you toward a single sweet focus. Write down two steps to lead you toward each of  your dreams, and post them where you can see them every day. Then turn off your phone, bungee cord yourself into your chair or the treadmill at the gym. The dishes will be there when it’s time for a break. And when you do the dishes? Do them one at a time.

I will if you will! These next ten questions might give you some other clues as to what is befuddling your efforts to get to your dreams.

Self-Discovery Quiz: Mini-Tasking versus Major-Tasking

Rate your responses 0 (not me!) to 5 (how’d you know!)

1. I have a short list of important goals for this year firmly in my mind and written down.

2. At least once a week I make a small step to move toward one of these goals.

3. I believe in the motto “Do it once and do it right,” and am working to be good at it.

4. When I catch myself engaged in simultaneous activities, I stop and choose one to complete.

5. I’ve learned to seek support from my family, friends, and experts to realize my big goals.

6. While at a creative task, like writing a blog, I turn off the sounds of email and phone.

7. I keep reminding myself to “focus” and imagine how good I’ll feel after completing the current task.

8. While waiting for the microwave to ding or the washing machine to complete its spin cycle, I don’t fret, instead I take deep breaths and release tension in my upper body.

9. I don’t feel guilty when chores or family needs are temporarily delayed, because it serves everyone when we each work on our big goals.

10. This quiz is making me nervous!

If you have low numbers on #1-9, and #10 is too true, you believe multi-tasking is more effective than major-tasking. For today, you might choose one of the ideas embedded in the first nine, try it on and see how you look wearing it.

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Are You Decisive or Ambivalent?

No one feels confident about what to do all the time, but some are more decisive than others. Review the following 20 questions, thinking about how you approach making decisions. Each moment offers us a choice that takes us to a next step, whether it is building daily habits or making big changes.

Give 0 points for each YES and 5 for NEVER, with graduating scale of 1 to 4 for the gray areas.

1. I am excited when starting a new project but seldom complete the ones from before.
2. I am admittedly impulsive, often regretting what I have purchased, agreed to, or done.
3. I seldom give 100% attention to a project–I answer the phone, delay, or sabotage my progress.
4. I often wonder if I made a mistake by choosing my current (or recent) career .
5. I envy or admire many other people’s habits and choices: most seem smarter or braver than mine.
6. I listen to Drs. Phil or Laura and secretly would love someone like them to just tell me what to do!
7. I sometimes blame society, my parents, partner, wife, and/or kids for my not being happy.
8. Deadlines help me sometimes, but too often I give up and say the goal didn’t really matter.
9. People close to me would be surprised at how indecisive I can be.
10. I have much to be grateful for, but regret how I may have blown my chances for a much better life.
11. I often daydream about living a very different life: adventures, successes, sex, risks, then sigh.
12. I feel like an impostor when people admire me or compliment my achievements.
13. I pretend to be more confident than I actually feel about the strength of my relationships.
14. In looking over my life, I see how I’ve blown opportunities by hesitating.
15. I frequently start a new diet or health routine with extreme rigor, and then blow it within a week.
16. I dislike many personality traits (unhappy, depressed, worried) I display much of the time.
17. I often think that if I just lost weight or had more money, most of my problems would be solved.
18. I hate my money situation, body, job, marriage, home, or car, etc., but feel powerless to change it.
19. I have no idea how to really approach a major change or project. I don’t even want to know!
20. I’m not sure I answered these questions the way I should have. (It’s okay to redo them!)

How to grade? Well, 100 obviously some kind of problem, but am not sure what…. The grading is not intended to make you feel bad, I want to encourage you to address the underlying issue of constant dissatisfaction and self-doubt. Take the test in a week and see if the numbers change. Sometimes a quiz helps us to motivate ourselves. Or to accept ourselves and the lives we have managed to create.

If you believe that you are more likely to make worthwhile changes if someone you trust advises you, then seek a life coach or therapist. Life is too short to be living in uncertainty and regret. http://www.cynthiawall.com

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