Saturday, November 30, 2013

Happiness and Love

“Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.”
Eleanor Roosevelt
Happiness comes when your work and words are of benefit to yourself and others.

Jack Kornfield

When all your desires are distilled;
You will cast just two votes:
To love more,
And be happy.

Recently a friend said to me, “Your only real mission is to be happy and give others the love that is in your heart.”  That comment gave me pause.  Is that our mission, our purpose?  To be happy and love others?  Yes and no. 
A couple of years ago I damaged a relationship over a misunderstanding.  I told a friend that all I wanted to do was work on being happy.  The friend misinterpreted the comment to mean that I was going to be selfish and act hurtfully towards others.  My friend then told others and I was treated with indifference among a group of people without ever knowing why.  Eventually someone told me what had happened.  Besides the unnecessary loss of relationships, what hurt was two incorrect assumptions.
The first incorrect assumption my friend made was that I was talking about specific relationships or situations.  In fact, I was talking about my attitude towards life in general.  I wanted to stop complaining, stop being negative and start looking for the good.  I wanted to practice more gratitude and less grumbling.
The second, and more troubling assumption made, was that being happy is the same as being selfish.  I’ve said this before:  “Being happy is often the most loving and least selfish thing one can do.”  When I’m happy, truly happy, I am more, not less, aware of the needs of others.  In fact, it’s often when I am working to meet the needs of others that I am most happy.
Sometimes, to make a point, people say, “I’m going to be a little selfish and take care of myself for a while.”  That’s not selfishness; that’s common sense.   Not taking care of one’s self is actually the more selfish act.  I once knew a man who died from complications from diabetes.  He would often say, before he died, “It’s my body and it’s my business.”  Perhaps he didn’t realize the stress, grief and pain he was causing when he got part of his leg amputated (twice).  Perhaps he didn’t realize the cost he was incurring with emergency phone calls (this was before the advent of the cell phone) or when people had to fly out or take time off to go to his funeral.  Taking care of one’s self often assures us that we will live longer, perhaps, but certainly better. 
Taking care of one’s self probably helps keep one happier, too.  In the past, when I have allowed myself to get rundown, I was extremely unhappy during those times.  Being unhappy made me self-absorbed and often, unable, to see the needs of others around me.  Being unhappy often made me unable to see past my own unhappiness.
So, yes, it is part of my life’s mission to be happy.  The thing to remember though is that happiness is not a goal, but a result.  It is a result of the second part of my friend’s equation.  It is a result of being more loving.  While many can (and do) argue that it’s wrong or selfish to want to be happy, few people will argue that it’s wrong to be more loving.  But they go together.  The happier I am, the more I love.  The more I love, the happier I am. 
Is this simplistic?  It’s not always, but it can be.  Sometimes I can be miserable and still do the loving thing.  Or I can be so happy that I’m oblivious to the needs of others.  To be happy and loving at the same time requires a third factor – to be present in the moment, to be aware of the needs around me.  To be more loving means to be more present.
Presence combined with happiness combined with loving kindness is a formidable combination.  I can Get Started and Keep Going for a long time with those three attributes.

Still Another Letter to the Muse

“There is no place for grief in a house which serves the Muse.”


“This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.”

Steven PressfieldThe War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

“During the struggle, they will pull us down.
But please, please let's use this chance to turn things around.
And tonight, we can truly say, together we're Invincible.”

Matthew Bellamy

Dear Muse,
Thank you for visiting me today.  Thank you for spending time with me.  Today was cold and rainy, but you still took time to see me.  You helped me with my writing.  You even helped me with my shopping.  You made today very nice. 
However, I think I could have used my time better so that I could have had more time with you.  I realize now that I need to spend a lot more time with you and one way that I can do that is by being here.  There are so many things I want to do, now and with my life, but I need to use my time more wisely.
I once had the idea of writing a list of 100 things I can do each day or each week.  I referred to this idea in a previous blog (   I don’t have to accomplish all 100, but by having a longer list, I might get more done.  So tonight, after I finish this blog, I’m going to write that list.  I’ll break it down into sections.  That will be just like the idea you gave me today to divide my shopping list into different rooms so that I get everything I need.  That was a great idea, by the way. 
I think all great ideas require two things:
1.     Writing them down.
2.     Taking action on them.

How many ideas have been lost forever because they weren’t written and then soon forgotten?  In the book, The Traveler’s Gift, Andy Andrews describes a room in Heaven that is filled with all the ideas never acted upon. I’ve had too many ideas in my own life that I haven’t acted upon.  Thank you, Muse, for inspiring me to act on this one.  Some days are harder than others and some blogs are harder to write, but as long as I Keep Going, I know you are always with me.
So I Keep Going,
·      Past doubt, past fear, past uncertainty
·      In any situation or mood
·      Because action can be trusted even when emotion, especially emotions like fear and doubt, cannot
·      Because it’s fun
·      Because it increases my self-esteem
·      Because love is something I can trust since love manifests itself as action
·      Because you keep me going.

So, again, thank you, Muse.   You told me that there are no rules other than to show up.  Then you will tell me what to do.  Then you will give me your love through that which you whisper in my ear.  And I will write or speak or teach or do those things you tell me.
I will also show up every day and I will love you with emotion, action and intellectual assent.  Some people say love is not an emotion at all, but an action.  It’s both.  It’s also one more thing.  It’s a decision to keep you at my side until the day I die.  So I’ll keep writing even if I feel I have nothing to say.  Maybe I don’t.  But I’ll keep writing anyway until you give me a different passion.  Besides, even if I run out of things to say, you don’t. 
Thank you for choosing me.  Thank you for teaching me how to Get Started and to Keep Going.  Thank you for always being here.  I love you.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Giving More

“In addition to maintaining a cheerful positive outlook, give of yourself more than you have ever done before.  Do this knowing that your returns in life must be in direct proportion to what you give.”
Earl Nightingale – The Strangest Secret

I’ve listened to the recording of The Strangest Secret at least 30 times, probably more.  Every time I listen I get something new.  Today I heard the above quote as if for the first time.  It made me think about how I could give of myself more than I have ever done before.  It also caused me to consider some questions, ways in which I might give of myself more.
·      Is my living area clean?
·      Is my workspace clean?
·      Is my car clean?
·      Am I putting in enough time towards my Purpose?
·      Am I focused at work?
·      Am I focused on any task that I’m doing at the time?
·      Am I focused on important relationships?
·      Am I taking care of myself?
·      Am I present when I’m writing?
·      Am I present when I’m talking with people?
·      Am I doing my best at all times?
·      Am I focused on the needs of others?
·      Is there anything extra I can do?
·      Am I praying for others?
·      Is my attitude helpful?
·      Are my words and thoughts positive?
·      Can I do just a little more?

In The Fred Factor, Mark Sanborn says, “Nobody can prevent you from choosing to be exceptional.  At the end of the day, the only question that matters is, What kind of difference did you make?” 
That’s what can bring quality to life – making a difference.  The good news is I can make a difference every day.  Mr. Sanborn says that it doesn’t take money to make a difference.  He says, “The trick is to replace money with imagination, to substitute creativity for capital,” and, “The challenge is to outthink rather than outspend the competition.”
So if money’s not required to excel at what I do, what is?  Just the following:
·      Time
·      Attention
·      Love
·      Determination
·      Vigilance
·      Persistence
·      Patience
·      Humor
·      Consistency

With those attributes I can make a difference.  I can easily make a difference even if it’s not always easy.  All I really need to do is to Get Started and Keep Going…and perhaps give a little more.

Mind, Body and Spirit

“You are essentially who you create yourself to be and all that occurs in your life is the result of your own making.”

“Happy people produce. Bored people consume.”

Stephen Richards

“No beating yourself up. That’s not allowed. Be patient with yourself. It took you years to form the bad habits of thought that you no longer want. It will take a little time to form new and better ones. But I promise you this: Even a slight move in this direction will bring you some peace. The more effort you apply to it, the faster you’ll find your bliss, but you’ll experience rewards immediately.”

Holly Mosier

I’m not going to reach my goal of 60 blogs this month, but I’m okay with that.  I won’t be okay, however, if I don’t reach the other goal of writing 50 blogs to reach my goal of 365 by December 29, 2013.  So I’m going to sit here and write until I’m done.  I have some other tasks for the day and I want to stay focused.  Right now my mind is searching for a topic.  An idea may come and my mind will say, “No.  You’ve done that one.”  So I keep writing until my mind says, “There it is! Write about that!”
So that’s what I do.  A lot of this work is physical.  Not physical like weightlifting or construction, but it’s physical when my fingers hit the keyboard or my hand moves the pen.  It’s not all cerebral.  In fact, when I’m really in the right place, my mind is almost absent.  It just watches what happens.  It might add an idea or two, but most of the work comes from the body or the spirit. 
That’s why it’s important to sit her and keep working.   Every time I get up to do something I lose the flow.  The flow is also lost when I stop working and look at Facebook or check my e-mail.  So I keep working.  I once wrote that we are always and only spirit.  But that was wrong.  I am definitely my body (too).  It all works together.  Sometimes they help each other.  For example, when my mind has a hard time starting, it helps to exercise.  When my body is dragging, it helps to get motivation.  When my spirit is low, it helps to eat.  It all works together.  Sometimes it’s okay to deprive the body for the purpose of self-discipline.  And sometimes it’s okay to give the mind a rest for the same reason.  Sometimes I need to pay attention to what’s happening in my spirit so that I don’t miss an important lesson.  And sometimes I just need a quick nap.
Neglect of one area will lead to problems in all areas.  So, as with other things, like time, money, relationships and work for example, vigilance is required.  How am I doing?
·      Am I getting enough rest?
·      Am I eating well?
·      Am I exercising?
·      Am I having fun?
·      Am I feeding my mind with good things?
·      Is my spiritual life healthy?
·      Am I studying?
·      Am I praying?
·      Am I controlling my thought life?
·      Have I expressed gratitude to and for others?
·      Have I expressed gratitude for the circumstances of my life, good or bad?

The purpose of these questions is not to be self-absorbed, but to be healthy and free to enjoy life and love others.  The greatest commandment is this:
“Love the Lord your God with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind.  And love your neighbor as yourself.”

            I think many of us forget the last part.  We don’t love ourselves.  And therein lies one of our hugest obstacles to success.  Ultimately, my image of myself affects my fortunes, my work and my relationships.  But the love I have for myself should be no greater or less than the love I have for God or my children or anyone else.  This might require a change in behavior.  I may have to start taking better care of myself.  I don’t like it when my children go without breakfast, but I skip breakfast often.  I don’t like to see someone undervalue him or herself, but I often do this to myself.  If my girls are tired, I make put them to bed, but often I have stayed up far too late.  This is not love. 
In his book, The New IQ: How Integrity Intelligence
 Serves You, Your Relationships and 
Our World, Dr. David Gruder argues that lack of self-care is a lack of integrity.  I agree.  It is also a lack of foresight.  Eventually our bad choices catch up with us.  The best way to avoid those consequences is to start making good choices now.  Right now.  Right now it’s time to Get Started and Keep Going…in mind, body and spirit.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


“Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action. ”

William James

“Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it”


“Work without love is slavery.”

Mother Teresa

What a privilege to be here.  I feel peaceful and relaxed and I’ve had a nice day.  I’m very grateful for how nicely today went.  Thank you!   Now I get to sit here and do my work.  The funny thing about the word “work” is that often this doesn’t feel like work.  Or if it does, then there’s no negative connotation around that word. 
When people talk about work one often hears complaints and negativity.  Comments like, “I can’t wait to get home,” or “Thank God it’s Friday” are commonplace.  Rarely do I hear, “I can’t wait to get to work” or “Thank God it’s Monday.”  People search and search and search for work and then complain when they have it.  I once had a client who said she was desperate to get a job.  She was worried that she would lose her home.  She didn’t know what she was going to do.  Then she got work.  When I talked to her again a few weeks later, she complained that she had too many hours! 
Sadly, this is the case for many people.  We say we will do anything to have a job, but then when we have it, we complain and/or we do as little as possible.  I think there are reasons for this.
·      The only goal is money.
·      The worker is not suited for the work.
·      Interpersonal issues are too much of a focus.
·      There is no passion or sense of purpose for the actual work.

The last reason is often the underlying cause of the other problems.  Or perhaps they are all interconnected.  It doesn’t matter.  What matters is that far too many people spend 40 hours a week or more doing something they don’t like. 
Work doesn’t need to be the focus of life, but one shouldn’t hate it either.  In a perfect world, we all go to work because we love our jobs and are well suited for them.  The next best thing is to like our jobs while having other parts of life we love.  The worst is to hate our jobs.  I’ve been in all three situations and the first one is the most desirable and the second one is acceptable.  The third is intolerable.  How then do we get to the first or second situation?
At the first level:
·      Find work that you feel passionate about.
·      Find work that suits your current skills or skills you can learn quickly.
·      Find work that you feel makes a difference in the world.
·      Find work that helps you grow personally and professionally.
·      Find work that is fun.
·      Find work that you would do for free.
·      Find work that aligns with your professional and personal goals.

At the second level:
·      Find work that you like.
·      Find work that suits your current skills or skills you can learn quickly.
·      Find work that does no harm,
·      Find work that does not leave you emotionally drained.
·      Find work that is a nice way to pass the time.
·      Find work that is fun.
·      Find work that you would continue doing at the wage you’re earning.
·      Find work that aligns with your professional goals.

Is work part of our purpose?  It can be but it doesn’t have to be.  The important thing is to enjoy it or at the very least, not hate it.  Right now I’m tired and I don’t want to do the work of writing.  But passion and joy trump fatigue.  So I Get Started and I Keep Going.  Tomorrow I will do the same and keep doing it for as long as it’s part of my Purpose. 


“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

“We are our choices.”
Jean-Paul Sartre

“We don't get to chose what is true. We only get to choose what we do about it.”

Kami Garcia, Beautiful Darkness

It is the morning of Thanksgiving Day.  I have been awake for less than an hour and I have already had an experience in gratitude.  When I woke up this morning, I realized I was out of my favorite coffee creamer.  I have an alternative, but it’s not as good.  As I was using the alternative, my mind went to being unhappy and discontent about it…for just a moment.  Then I realized my unhappiness was a choice, just like the coffee creamer.  At least I had choices.  And if I didn’t, some other choices would have presented themselves.
My coffee “problem” was very minor, a small irritant at worst.  But it didn’t even have to be that.  The truth is I always have options.  With regard to the coffee, I could have used the other creamer.  I also have some of those little mini-containers from 7-11.  If neither of those choices had been available, I could have gotten in my car or walked to a nearby store and gotten more.   Or I could have used milk and sugar.  Or I could have had tea.  Or water.  Or nothing at all.
There are two things that lead to unhappiness: 
1.     Not being content with what I have at the moment
2.     Not remembering that there are other choices

There are always choices.  Sometimes those choices require that I act differently.  Always those choices require that I think differently.  My life really is easy.  Here’s what I know:
·      The apostle Paul sang hymns in prison and wrote much of the New Testament while in prison, between prison sentences or chained to a prison guard.
·      Victor Frankl developed an entire school of psychological thought based on his experiences in a concentration camp.
·      Nick Vujicic, a man with no arms or legs, wrote a book.
·      Randy Pausch, a man with terminal cancer also wrote a book.
·      Stephen Hawking, a man with ALS, is a renowned physicist.
·      Joni Ericson Tada, a paraplegic and breast cancer survivor, became an artist, a writer and a wife.
·      Candice Lightner formed Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, after her 13-year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver.

Honestly, I can’t think of anything worse than what some of these people have endured.  But all of them chose to create something good out of something horrific.  This is, ultimately, the best and only option I have – to change my thinking.  When I change my thinking, then my pain, my struggles, my disappointments, even my failures can be transformed into something great, something better than for which it was intended.  I can become an alchemist, turning lead into gold.
So when I look at my life, I must be careful to make the correct comparisons.  More accurately, I must be careful to make no comparisons at all.  If I compare myself to those I think have it better than me, I will always be unhappy.  That is obvious.  But if I compare myself to those on the list above or others like them, then I miss the point.  It goes deeper than that.  Yes, I’m glad that I’m not in prison or paralyzed or terminal.  But if I were, I would need to create a reason for it.  There would be a reason for it and it would be my job to find it.
That is not to say that I wish any of those things on myself or anyone else for the sake of “personal growth.”  Life has enough challenges and, to be honest, I don’t handle many of those well.   I need to find the purpose in my life as it is now.  It’s there, trust me.  There is a reason for my life.  There is a reason for all our lives.  None of us is created by accident. 
I need to do only the following:
1.     Be aware in each moment that I can choose gratitude or any other emotion.
2.     Consider my Purpose and live it.
3.     Get Started.
4.     Keep Going.
5.     Thank God that I always have choices.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Few Questions

"Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple."
Dr. Seuss

"He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever."
Chinese Proverb

"If you want a wise answer, ask a reasonable question."

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Okay.  I got a blog written, but it took a long time to do it, not because it was particularly difficult, but because I am so easily distracted.  So for this blog, I’m going to do my best to write without stopping. 
I have taught writing before and one thing I would tell my students to do was to write for a few minutes without stopping.  This was a good way to get past the writer’s block that so often occurs.  Writer’s block may be another form of what Steven Pressfield calls resistance.  I suppose I get it sometimes, but it usually goes away after I’ve been writing for a while.  I’m not sure how it all works.  I have a lot of questions regarding the process and results of writing?   Here are some of those questions:
·      Did Shakespeare or other prolific writers have writer’s block?
·      Why do some writers only seem to have one or two good books in them, while the rest are less notable?
·      Is the purpose of writing to create best sellers or great literature?  Or is the purpose of writing just to write?
·      Is financial success or popularity a sign of good writing?
·      What is it that the public is looking for when a book becomes a huge bestseller?
·      Why are some books hugely popular for a while before they fade into obscurity or disfavor?
·      Is everyone who gets a book published motivated by the Purpose of writing?
·      How come there’s so much bad writing out there?
·      Do people who write badly but get published anyway know or care that they write badly?
·      Could I intentionally write a bad book?
·      Would I?
·      Should I write every day or should I take off one day a week?
·      If I write every day, am I in danger of burning myself out?
·      If I don’t write every day, I would miss 52 days of writing a year.  Do I really want to do that?
·      Is it wrong to hope that my writing will help make me wealthy?
·      Would financial success or popularity be a trap?
·      How do I stay sharp and fresh as a writer?
·      Will the time come when I stop writing?
·      Does anyone understand how healing it is to write?
·      Is there some way I could make the world understand how healing it is to be in Purpose?
·      Will I ever get tired of telling people to Get Started and Keep Going?

In answer to the last question:  No, I don’t think so.

A Good Day

Every day is a good day, some are just a little better than others”

Jeff Garthwaite

“The difference between a good day and a bad day has less to do with the circumstances than the power we have over our thoughts.”

Neil Sutton

I was debating whether or not to write today.   I feel relaxed after a good day and I thought it might be nice to take a day off from the keyboard.  Then, while browsing around the Internet, (and avoiding my work) I see an article that says, “Writers must write every day.”   I won’t reference the article because, ironically, I didn’t think it was very well written, but the title made me feel like God was trying to tell me something. 
So here I am doing my work.  One of the things that the article suggested was that I write about the best thing that happened to me today.  There were a few. 
·      I woke up healthy. 
·      I had food to eat. 
·      I made a sale on eBay. 
·      One of the students I work with may have been offered a job.
·      I had a good talk with a friend.
·      I saw a beautiful lily.
·      I got a nap.
·      A guy gave me his parking pass so I wouldn’t have to pay for parking while I was downtown.
·      I got some paperwork done.
·      My car worked.
·      I exercised.
·      I spent very little money. 
·      I got paid.
·      I got a lot of time to myself to read and write.
·      I made a very good dinner.

So it’s been a good day, a relaxing day.  Sometimes day like this make it harder to write because I’m not stirred up with conflict.  Things are peaceful.  The battle comes when it’s time to write, because I don’t really want to write.  Still, I have to admit that it feels good to be here.  It feels good to be doing the thing I’m supposed to be doing even if I don’t feel the need to be doing it.  So why am I doing this? 
·      As I said, it feels good.
·      If I need 10,000 hours to get really good at this, then this gets me closer.
·      It’s healing.
·      It’s fun.
·      It might inspire someone else to do his or her work.
·      I can feel God’s presence.
·      It helps me to be peaceful.
·      It’s a privilege to do this.
·      There are few other things I’d rather be doing.
·      The few other things I wouldn’t mind doing still aren’t as fun as this.

There are times when I feel that I could write all day long.   As I said, this is a privilege.  I’ve been entrusted with a gift.  What an honor.  It would feel wrong not to make the most of this gift.  When I look back on my life, I won’t regret missing TV, movies or comic books, but I might regret not having written more often.  So I want to write as much as possible, as often as possible.  I truly love doing this.  There are few things that make me happier.  It’s said that the true test of character is what ones does when no one’s watching.  Well, no one’s watching me now, but I’m in my Purpose anyway.  Not to prove anything, but because I want to be here. 
I think that’s also one of the true tests of our Purpose.  Would I do it if I never made money from it?  Would I do it if no one noticed?  Would I do it if I got no emotional support?
Here’s the beauty of being in Purpose. 
·      None of those things matter when I’m in Purpose.
·      I don’t think any of those things will be problems if I persevere.
·      Those aren’t my reasons for writing or being in Purpose.

That’s all I want to say now.  It’s been a good day, but it’s not over.  I’ve made it a goal to write two blogs a day.  If I want to reach that goal tonight, I need to Get Started and Keep Going.