Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Good Night's Sleep

“[S]leep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.”

 Thomas Dekker

A good night’s sleep is essential to being in Purpose.  In fact, all healthful practices are.  You can be in your Purpose going on less sleep, and sometimes you will be.  “Get up earlier” and “Stay up later” are not just ideas; they’re reality.  But that doesn’t mean they have to be the norm.  Historically, I haven’t always been good at taking care of myself, but there are few things worse than being sick or in pain.  It makes it hard to be in Purpose.  I can be, but it’s a lot less fun.
            Last night I had a bad toothache.  At the moment I feel better, but it was a hard night.  At the moment I can hear a neighbor coughing.   I don’t know if he has bronchitis or emphysema, but he doesn’t sound good.  I never want to be sick again.  The best way to prevent that is to take care of myself, eat well, exercise, drink more water, and get more sleep. 
            Earl Nightingale was right when he said, “The things that are given to us for free, we take for granted.”  This includes our bodies and our health. 
            So after this, I’m going to bed.  I like sleep and I like how even a quick nap can make me feel like a new man.  The reason we sleep so much during illness is our body’s way of healing.  After a surgery I had a few years ago, I remember sleeping for the whole night, then waking up, taking the kids to school and the babysitter, and then sleeping for another eight hours.  And I was still tired.  My body wanted me to stop as much as possible, and for a few days I did. 
Today I did it again.  I woke up, wrote, and then went back to bed.  I could push myself now, but I don’t want to.  If my body and my health are gifts from God, then I don’t want to abuse them.  Neil Young sang, “It’s better to burn out than it is to rust.”  But as a former roommate reminded me, “Why do either?”
My life, my health, and my body are gifts.  So is sleep.  When I sleep, I not only feel better, I have more to offer the world.  My writing is usually better and I can produce more.  I’m also easier to be around.
Studies on sleep deprivation show that without sleep that people can soon have nervous breakdowns.  When I was in my 20’s I worked at 7-11.  In my first year, I worked different shifts each day.  Some days I would work 7-3, other days, 3-11, and other days, 11-7.  Within two weeks of this, I was becoming extremely depressed and irritable and then I would feel extremely peaceful.   My moods were all over the place.  When a friend said I needed a regular and consistent work schedule, I requested and received one.  Within a few days, my emotions stabilized. 
I’m grateful that my pain is gone.  It might come back or it might not, but I’m going to help my body heal by letting it rest.  This does not mean I am less dedicated or less committed to my Purpose.  It means the opposite.  By taking care of myself I am showing more dedication and commitment because I am taking care of the only person on earth who can fulfill my Purpose: me.
The work will be here tomorrow and so will I as long as I take care of myself.  Getting a good night’s sleep will help me to Get Started and Keep Going.  The only one who should wake me up is my Muse.  If not, I’ll see her in the morning.


“Edit your life frequently and ruthlessly. It's your masterpiece after all.”

Nathan W. Morris

“Do not depend on good motivator!
                                                       Find your words of self-motivation!”           

Toba Beta

Happy people produce. Bored people consume.”

Stephen Richards

This is my 700th blog, but it won’t be my last.  There will be more.  There’s always something more.  What is it that drives me to write 700 blogs or more?  What is it that drives us to build bridges, climb mountains, invent, work with autistic children, paint, dance, get up earlier, stay up later, or do anything difficult in order to make the world, the lives of the people we love, and our own lives better?
Yes, some people are meeting a need.  Bridges need to be built.  Diseases need to be eliminated.  Poverty needs to be eradicated.  Sexual slavery and domestic abuse need to be gone.  That is pretty obvious.
But does the world need one more book, one more blog, one more song, or one more work of art?
What drives us?  We have all we need, at least in this country and many others.  Most Americans, even among the poorest, have jobs or some source of income, enough to live on.  We also have enough television and other forms of entertainment to keep us occupied until we go to bed.  And it seems that this is indeed enough for many people. 
But it’s not enough for everyone.
Some seem to have a drive to do more and to be more. 
Is it for money?  Perhaps for some it is, but that wouldn’t explain it for everyone.  For every rich author, artist, or dancer, there are hundreds, if not thousands, who struggle financially.  Yet still they do it. 
Is it fame?  The argument above applies here.
Then what is it?   What drives some people to center everything in life around this elusive concept of Purpose?  Thoreau said, "All men want, not something to do with, but something to do, rather, something to be."
There are some in this world who know that life is not just what we see, but what we create. Does everyone know this?  My optimistic side says yes, but the evidence suggests that either not everyone sees this, or not everyone acts on this.  For my purposes here, it is not my intention to examine or criticize those who do not reach their potential.    Perhaps they are like the crystal shop owner in Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, who is content to dream about his pilgrimage to Mecca, but knows he will never go.  In fact, the dream is more comforting than the reality.  This may be true for many people.
In The Pledge – Your Master Plan for an Abundant Life, Michael Masterson writes, “Failing to live your dreams is not necessarily a bad thing.  Lots of people are perfectly happy dreaming of one life but living another.  The problem arises when the gap between fantasy and reality results in unhappiness or even depression.”
For some, if they don’t live out their dream, if they don’t at least try, they will never be truly satisfied.  For better or worse, I am one of those people.  This is why I spend most of my free time working, writing, studying, and trying to improve.  Do I hope to make money?  Yes, and a lot of it.   Will I stop if I don’t?  No.  There is something within many of us that causes us to want more from ourselves and from life.  Perhaps it is a gift from God, a blessing that becomes a curse if ignored.  Perhaps it’s in our DNA.  Perhaps some people have simply had enough and know things can be better, that we can be better.  A friend recently said to me,

“Everyone has the ability to achieve any purpose.  The drive, motivation, and the love a person has... it can make you do wonderful things.  It's like a magic power.  You could eat the world if you wished.  There is nothing you cannot accomplish when you have the support and love within you.  It's magic.   It’s strength.  It's a spiritual thing, which makes you feel you can achieve all.  It's the engine that says to you daily, ‘I must give my best, and trust myself.  I am admired and respected for who I am.’  It drives you to want to be better at what you do, you think, and say in all your actions.”

There’s something more to life.  I believe this.  I also believe that I have a spiritual obligation to find it or create it.  That’s why this is my 700th blog, but not my last.  That’s why there will be more music, art, literature, and dance.   That’s why there will be more entrepreneurs, artists, and teachers.  That’s why there must be.  That’s why we Get Started and Keep Going.  Because there’s something more.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Another Reminder

"People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed."

Samuel Johnson

It is another day.  You know you have work to do, but you have frittered away time doing almost anything and everything to keep you from doing your real work.  The good news is that you used that nervous energy to clean out the refrigerator, empty the trash, wipe down the counters, and make the bed.  You haven’t completely wasted your time, though you’ve wasted some of it, but you haven’t used made the most effective use of it either.  There was an almost-frenetic quality to your cleaning, because, as helpful as that was, you knew that it wasn’t what you were supposed to be doing.
            The good news is your place is clean or your files are put away or you have returned your phone calls or checked your e-mail and so those things are out of the way.  It could have been worse.  You could have watched TV or played online games or just done nothing at all.  At least your place looks nicer.  But when you started looking around for something else to do, you knew what was really happening.  You weren’t really interested in cleaning or organizing or anything else.  You were avoiding your real work.
So the trick, no, the strategy, the answer to this is simple:  do your work.  Move forward to your objective.  Get it done.  Write.  Paint.  Balance your budget.  Study.  Do that thing you know you’re supposed to be doing.  Do that thing you’ve been avoiding.  This is why you’re here on this planet.  Don’t waste time worrying about the time you’ve wasted.  That’s just more wasted time and one more way to self-sabotage.  Just do the thing you’re supposed to be doing. 
Also, don’t berate yourself for needing to learn this lesson every day.  All of us do.  Be glad for another reminder.  There is almost never a day when self-sabotage doesn’t strike in some way.  Usually it comes before we start working.  It comes in the form of doubt, self-loathing, embarrassment, apathy, fear, or fatigue.  All of these vanish within ten minutes of doing your work because they weren’t real.  They felt real, but they weren’t.  
Sometimes self-sabotage comes while we’re working.  It comes in the form of distractions (or allowing distractions).  Suddenly the kitchen desperately needs cleaning (though you haven’t washed the dishes for three days).   We suddenly think of all the little tasks we must do now.  At this very moment.
The solution is the same:  keep working.  Don’t worry about how you feel or what else “needs” to be done.  Just do your work.  As much as possible.  As often as possible.  Get Started.  Keep Going.  Don’t Stop.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Disadvantages of Purpose

  • It’s not always fun.
  • There’s usually a lot of work involved.
  • It may make the concept of free time a thing of the past.
  • You may feel like time not being in your Purpose is wasted time.  This may make you irritable.
  • Often when you get started on that day’s work, you won’t know what you’re doing or what the result will be, until you have been working for a while.  This is especially true of writing or any artistic endeavor.
  • You often have to get up earlier or stay up later…or both.
  • You may go years before you see any financial remuneration…if at all.
  • Despite your dedication and your work, the first thing many people will ask is, “Are you making any money?”
  • Things that once seemed enjoyable now seem meaningless.
  • Sometimes even your closest friends won’t show much interest in your work.
  • It may change, or more accurately, expose the nature of many of your relationships.
  • You will probably get more criticism than support.
  • You may find some people who vehemently oppose your work.
  • You may hear words like “drone,” “workaholic,” or “obsessed” directed at you.
  • You may find only one person who fully understands ands supports what you do. You will need to hold on to him or her.  That might be your soul mate or your best friend.
  • You may ask for mentoring, but you will often not get it, so you will have to teach yourself and you will have to study…in addition to doing your work.
  • You may still have to hold down a job, or support a family, or finish your education.
  • You will have to spend a lot of time by yourself. 
  • You will almost never get a day off from your Purpose.
  • You will almost never get a day off from self-sabotage, procrastination, fear, or self-doubt.
  • No matter what you did yesterday and no matter how good it was, you will have to do more today.
  • You will never be able to go back to the way things were.
  • If you do succeed in going back to the way things were, you will wonder why you did so.
  • You may look askance at others wondering why they aren’t in their Purpose. 
  • You will realize that you have discovered a secret (if not the secret) to fulfillment and happiness.   You will try to share this secret with others and you will be rebuffed, ignored, or criticized.
  • You will work harder than you have ever worked in your life.
  • You will have higher standards than you have ever had in your life.
  • You will be your toughest critic and your own best friend.
  • The “good old days” won’t seem as good as they once did, because these days are better.
  • You might find yourself working when you’re sick, because your drive is greater than your illness.
  • You may lose your ability to enjoy television and other forms of entertainment, including gossip, complaining, and criticism.
  • You will be ashamed of the times you spent criticizing others who were in their Purpose, because now you understand.
  • You may look back on the past with some regret for having wasted so much time.
  • You may go through all of the above and more.
  • You will realize that none of it matters.
  • You will wonder why you are so content.
  • The more work you do and the better you become, the more humble you will become, because you will realize that you are only the vehicle of a higher power.
  • You will wonder why you didn’t Get Started and Keep Going years ago.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


Bringing my two children up while writing was just a part of life. I'd much rather have had their interruptions than been stuck in a sterile office. This way, I had welcome distractions. I had to load the washing machine, I had to go out and buy lemons.

Deborah Moggach

Sometimes you just have to get stuff out of the way.  You have a dream.  It’s very clear.  You’ve written it down and you review it constantly.  You do the work you need to do and you’re diligent about it.  You’re working, studying, and preparing.  You’re doing everything right.
            Then, in the midst of your most productive time, the phone rings and you have to take care of something that was unexpected.  Or you have to go to work.  Or you have to get the car fixed.  Or you have to pick up the kids.  Or you have to follow up on that commitment you made three weeks ago. 
            The truth is you choose to do these things.  Your choice may be a good one, because the consequences for not doing so may take more time from your Purpose, so you do what is asked of you.  But the truth is that you’d rather not do it.  You might even feel a little resentful towards your job, your family, your friends, or anything else that gets in the way.
This is part of the process.  The distractions are more than distractions – they are tests.  They are testing two things – your resolve and your character.
First they are testing your resolve.  How badly do you want what you want?  How badly?  What are you willing to do?  What are you willing to give up? 
The truth is this:  very few people have enough time.  More accurately, every one of us has the same amount of time – 24 hours.  For some that’s enough.  How are you going to use yours?  How much of your time will you devote to your Purpose?  Yes, we’re all busy, but how much time will you give?
To make things more complicated, to be truly in your Purpose, you cannot devote all your time to your loved ones; nor can you neglect them.  When Steven Pressfield was divorced and alone, in 1973, he rented a place to finish his first novel, and he never left it.  By his own account, he missed Watergate entirely.   The only time he did leave was for a couple of months to pick apples.  Then he returned to his work and didn’t leave his house until he finished his first book.   Most of us don’t have the luxury to lock ourselves away and just work.  I use the word “luxury” cautiously.  He was broke, divorced, and almost homeless at the time.  But now he had the time to write.
Only you will know the right amount of time to give to your Purpose and the rest of your life.  Each of us must have a guideline, but there’s no perfect formula or rule to help you.  This ambiguity also applies to work, friendships, and self-care.  You probably won’t be able to be in your purpose for 18 – 20 hours a day.  So you either have to have a consistent schedule or you have to do what you can when you can.  I recommend both.
Remember, too, that distractions are testing your character.  Can you be joyful?  Can you be loving?  Can you be patient?  Can you be attentive to the moment?  If you can’t, you may find that you will struggle with the same issues while in your Purpose.    The Purpose of Purpose is love.  The Purpose of love is to make us the best we can be while accepting who we are.  The Purpose of love is also other-directed.  When we get irritable because we can’t be in our Purpose, we may be missing the point.  We can be in our Purpose all the time, no matter what we’re doing.  We just have to act lovingly.
The only guideline I can offer is this:  be in your Purpose as much as possible and as often as possible.  Whatever else comes along in life, accept it joyfully, do it fully, and get it done as quickly and as well as possible.  Then get back to your other Purpose.  Be with your work and be with those you love.  Because Purpose and love are the same thing.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Doubt - And What Beats It

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”

Barack Obama

“What were you thinking?”
“Are you crazy?”
“Do you know what the odds are of you being successful?”
“Don’t you remember all the other times you’ve failed or given up?
“Why can’t you just be happy with the way things are?”
“What makes you so special?”
“Why don’t you do just enough to get by?”
“Why do you have to work so hard?”
“Why don’t you wait until things are easier?”
“Why don’t you wait until you have more time?”
“Why don’t you wait until you have more education or training?”
“Why don’t you give up?”
That last question is the real one, isn’t it?   The voice of Doubt is whispering in our ears to give up.  I’ll admit, these questions sound reasonable.  Sometimes doubt shouts in my ear and sometimes it just stands there watching me, leaning against the wall, arms folded, with a smirk on its face, waiting for the next mistake, the next problem, so it can say, “See, I told you.  This thing you want to do…well, it’s just not going to happen.”
Maybe you feel it, too.  The odds seem overwhelming.  You worry about the economy, your abilities, the competition, or your lack of self-discipline.  You feel afraid, scared, and a little hopeless.  There’s one good piece of news:
Your feelings don’t matter.
Not the feelings that come up when doubt takes over.  They don’t matter.  Doubt, fear, anger, stress…none of these matter.  Here are the emotions that truly matter.
Love – you do what you are doing for love.  Love for others, love for God, and/or love for yourself.  You are doing this for the love of a better life, the life you are meant to live.  You are doing this because you love the work.  You are doing this because you love yourself.
Determination – the emotion with no emotion.  There’s no anger here.  You are not making a steely resolution that you are going to change or get better or do great things one day.  Most of all you’re not waiting for inspiration or for “when you feel like it,” or for when the time is right.  The time is right now.  You’re doing your work now, no matter how you feel.   You are simply sitting down and doing your work and you aren’t going to stop.  Ignore your feelings or embrace them or run right over them; it doesn’t matter.  All that matters is not giving up. 
It’s greater than not giving up.   “Giving up” doesn’t even enter into it.  This is not a battle against the negative; it’s an affirmation of the positive. You’re just doing your work.  You’re moving forward.
You’ll notice other emotions.  Besides love and determination, you’ll notice joy for having finished your work.  You’ll notice peace.  You’ll feel self-confidence.  Those are the feelings that really matter.
So let Doubt come.  It will come like rain, but sooner of later it will evaporate.  Then it will come again.  But it doesn’t matter.  All that matters is that you do your work.  You Get Started.  You Keep Going.  As you do, you’ll gradually or suddenly notice that Doubt is gone.  Doubt cannot stand against action.  

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Four Ways to Deal with Life's Shocks

“The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to”

William Shakespeare – Hamlet

There may not be a thousand and they may not be natural, but life seems to hand us a fair number of shocks.  By shocks I mean the awful and unexpected – disease, car accidents, being betrayed by a friend, an unexpected death of someone close, a job loss, the loss of a love.  Again, what makes them a shock is the unexpectedness of them.  Troubles are hard enough when we expect them, but there’s a different kind of suffering we undergo when they hit us out of the blue.
What do we do with the shocks?   There are no simple answers, but the following steps have worked for me.
First, accept your pain. This is actually the worst part of it.  There may be more grieving or difficulties later, but the initial shock is the worst.  You might feel hurt, sad, or angry, but mostly you will feel disoriented.   You won’t know what to think or say or do.  You may try to fix the situation or at least make sense of it, but you won’t be able to.  This makes it worse.  You may go through a gamut of emotions all at once, but you really won’t know what to feel or what to do.
The other part of shock may be a sense of disbelief.   When my best friend died at 18, I could not intellectually or emotionally accept it.  “How can be dead?  He’s only 18.  I just talked to him the other day.”
 The disbelief is powerful.  I once lost a job I loved.  It was completely unexpected.  I knew that layoffs were coming, but I thought I was too valuable to be let go.  When I found out otherwise, I literally couldn’t believe it.  I remember going to the movies that night, but all I could think, over and over, was, “How could I have lost my job?” 
Second, accept that the pain, as great as it feels at the moment, will pass.  It will still hurt for a while and depending on the situation, may recur.  You might feel anger, sadness or fear but they won’t feel as bad as the initial shock.   Eventually, given time and getting help if necessary, the pain of most difficulties pass.  For those who are still grieving a pain that is more than a year old, I recommend getting help to process the grief.
Third, make a decision.  Take action, or accept what is.  Or do a little of both.  There’s not a single answer to all of life’s difficulties, but decide on a course of action and then move forward.  Moving forward might mean doing nothing at all.  The important thing is to make a decision and not allow your emotions to decide.
Fourth, get back in your Purpose.  Today I experienced another shock, but after I calmed down I thought, “Sometimes I think all problems are sent to us to either keep us from our Purpose, or drive us deeper into it.  My resolve is being tested once more.   Okay, great, now get back to work.”
Maybe all problems are nothing but distractions. 
So I’m writing now and I notice my sense of shock is gone.  Tomorrow I might have to deal with some unpleasantness.  My plan is this:  I will do whatever it takes to get the unpleasantness to pass quickly.  Then I will get back to writing as quickly as possible.   I was not created to suffer.  I was created to do my work and live joyfully.  We were all created to Get Started and Keep Going.  To live otherwise is too much of a shock.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Least

“Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time, who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done, if we are always doing.”

Thomas Jefferson, Letters of Thomas Jefferson

Sometimes thoughts like these may come:  “Relax.  Take the day off.  Your work will be here tomorrow.  You should take a break.  Let it go, just for today.” 
The problem isn’t that set of thoughts.  The problem is determining their source.  There are times when there is a legitimate need to take a break or a day off from Purpose.  I’m just not sure when.  It’s not that I want to be a workaholic or burn myself out.  But there’s a qualitative difference between genuinely needing rest and being seduced by the Enemy. 
The best way to judge this is to set a goal.  Malcolm Gladwell says we need 10,000 hours of practice before we are really proficient in our work.  If you take a break, will it significantly impact that number?  Probably not.  But if you say, “Ten thousand hours?  Yes, I could use a break, but maybe just one more hour towards my goal won’t hurt,” then you should Keep Going. 
Taking the day off won’t make a huge difference, but it will make a small difference, and it’s the small differences that add up
The other factor to consider is this:  You probably don’t know how close you are to10,000 hours.  The work you do at this moment may get you to that magic number.  At the very least, it will get you closer.  So unless, you’re completely exhausted, then do just a little more.  If you’re completely exhausted, by the way, you’re doing it wrong.  Purpose shouldn’t exhaust us, it should invigorate us.
At the moment, I’m not completely exhausted, but I am tired.  I’ve done just a little more tonight.  This may not be my best blog.  It’s certainly not my longest blog.  But at least I wrote it.  At least I did something to move forward.  At least I remembered to Get Started and Keep Going.  And sometimes my least is my very best.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Do We Deserve to Be Happy?

“Then comes the fourth obstacle: the fear of realizing the dream for which we fought all our lives.
Oscar Wilde said, ‘Each man kills the thing you loves.’
And it’s true.  The mere possibility of getting what we want fills the soul of the ordinary person with guilt.  We look around at those who have failed to get what they want and feel we do not deserve to get what we want either.  We forget about all the obstacles we overcame, all the suffering we endured, all the things we had to give up in order to get this far.  I have known a lot of people who, when their personal calling was within their grasp, went on to commit a series of stupid mistakes and never reached their goal – when it was only a step away.
This is the most dangerous of the obstacles because it has a kind of saintly aura about it: renouncing joy and conquest.  But if you believe yourself worthy of the thing you fought so hard to get, then you become an instrument of God, you help the soul of the world and you understand why you are here.

Paulo Coelho – Introduction to The Alchemist; 10th Anniversary Edition

This passage was terrifying.  Though I have been prone to exaggeration at times, I picked the adjective “terrifying” with deliberation.  It’s terrifying.  Imagine working almost non-stop for the last two years, trying to heal my personal, professional, spiritual and financial life, succeeding at it, and then destroying it.
Imagine the job seeker who gets the job she always wanted and then forgets to be the person she was in the interview.  Imagine the man pursuing the woman he loves, winning her, and then making her life miserable until she leaves him alone and empty.  Imagine the aspiring student working for years to get into the college of his dreams and then not studying when he gets there.
Self-sabotage occurs twice: on our way to victory and when we’ve achieved victory.  In my life, I’ve sabotaged my best efforts many times.  I’ve been fired from jobs I loved.  I was kicked out of school.  I’ve damaged my finances.  I’ve hurt people.  Some of these things I’ve been able to repair.  Others I was not.
Now I am experiencing a new life.  Perhaps you are, too.  Perhaps life has taken on a new meaning because it finally has a meaning.  There are few things more stimulating than the pursuit of a goal.  When I am pursuing a goal, I feel alive and present and joyful.  Even with the inevitable difficulties, it is an amazing time.  The problem is that when we’ve reached our goal, we think we have reached our goal.  We haven’t.  Each goal should be a step to the next goal.  You should never completely arrive.  Never.  If you do, then you’re dead – spiritually or literally.   Improvement or a forward movement should always accompany the attainment of goals.
When you get that job you’ve always wanted, you have to act as if you’re still applying for it.  When you marry the woman you love, you have to continue winning her heart.   When you get that scholarship, you have to work as if it could be taken away any moment or as if you could get it doubled. 
Fear of loss is not the solution here.  Awareness is.  We need to be aware before, during, and after the attainment of our goals.  This may not be the best news, but it’s the truth:
The battle never ends.  When you win one battle, there will be a new one to fight.  There will be new goals.  There MUST be new goals. 
This is not bad news.  It is simply the truth.  As long as I have goals, then I will have something to live for, something beyond myself.  In The Secret of Shelter Island – Money and What Matters, Alexander Green writes, “(M)illions more suffer from a chronic melancholy that emanates form an entirely different source: a lack of meaning in their lives.”
What about those who have self-sabotaged just before the attainment of their goals?  If they are wise, the will do one of two things.  They will either try to undo the damage they’ve done and keep striving towards their goals.  Or they will start again.  They will learn to understand the source of their self-sabotage, embrace it and move forward.  The next time they won’t ignore those feelings of unworthiness.  They will look at them, accept them and keep moving forward.
This leads to the next question:  Do we deserve to be happy, especially when so many are unhappy?
There are two ways to answer the question.  The first is to realize that it’s the wrong question.  The problem with this question is two words – “deserve” and “happy.”  A better question is this:  “Are we obligated to live meaningful lives?”
The answer is yes.  We are here for a reason.  It is not to be happy, though if we live in our purpose, we will find happiness most of the time.  Our purpose resides deep, or not so deep, within our DNA.  It aligns with our choices of the people we love, the careers we choose and the way we spend our time.  We feel a sense of peace, joy, and accomplishment when we are in and when we stay in our purpose.  When we wander outside of it, the wolf is waiting at the door.
There’s one other way to answer the question of deserving to be happy.  The answer is yes.  If you have worked towards your goals with diligence, determination, and consistency, then you deserve everything you get.  So Get Started.  Keep Going.  Even when you’ve arrived.  Especially when you’ve arrived.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Tough Love from the Muse

“Difficult things take a long time, impossible things a little longer.”

André A. Jackson

Do you think this is difficult?  Do you think this is hard?  Do you think this is unfair?  Are you wondering why others get to watch TV or sleep in or do nothing while you keep working?  Are you getting tired of it? 
Then stop. 
No one made you choose your goals. 
The vision you have for your life is yours.  But you don’t have to follow it if you think it’s too hard.  
As long as you’re thinking about how hard it is, you should also know this:  almost no one reaches his or her goals immediately.  Here’s worse news.  You may not reach your goals at all.  That’s not likely, but it is possible.  
So you don’t have to do this. 
You can quit.
You can relax, turn on the TV, and have a beer.  You can stop right now. 
You can go back to the way things were before.
(And if that thought doesn’t terrify you, I don’t know what does.)
But you can.  You can go back to the way things were before.
Except that you really can’t.  
Yes, you can appear to go back to the way things were before.  You can put the manuscript in the drawer.  You can continue suffering the abuse.  You can stop looking for a better job.  You can stop taking risks.  You can tell yourself that this is all there is.  You can tell yourself that this is all you deserve.  Or you can skip self-pity and go directly to anger.  You can blame God, the government, your family, the economy, your boss, or whomever else is handy.  You can do just enough to get by until retirement.  You can say that you didn’t have enough support and that no one understood you and that you couldn’t catch a break and that you were tired and that you had so many responsibilities.   The good news is you’ll have company.  Lots of company.  Misery really does love company.  You can find other disappointed, frustrated, depressed, and angry people and they’ll understand and agree with you about how hard it is to move forward in life.  You can go back to the way things were before.
The problem is this:  you can’t go back.  Oh, you can quit.  You can give up.  But you can’t go back.  You’ve seen too much.  You know too much.  You tasted freedom and hope.  You realized there’s more to life and now the old life just doesn’t work any longer.  It never really did.  That’s why you tired to change things in the first place.  But now it really doesn’t work, because you know.   You know what your real life looks like. You know what it’s supposed to be.  And you will never be the same.
You can quit if you want, but I wouldn’t want to be you.  I wouldn’t want to look in your mirror.
You can keep going.  Do one more thing, just one. One more thing to move you towards your goal.  Write one more page.  Read one more chapter.  Walk one more step.    Do one more thing. 
Then do another…and another…and another.  Action breeds hope faster than anything else.  There’s a solution to your problem and taking action will help you find it.
Yes, creating goals made your life harder.  The minute you decided to move forward in life, you put a target on your head.  You also put angels at your back and a Muse at your side. 
Will you make it?  Will you reach your goals?  There are no guarantees but this:  if you continue to work, if you don’t give up, if you keep your eyes on the prize, you will be further along in life than you ever dreamed possible.  You will do more and be more.  You will bless God, the world, your family and friends, and yourself.   You will make the world and your world a better place.
So go ahead and complain for a while. 
But then Get Started and Keep Going.  Your new life is waiting.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Using Time Well

“The common man is not concerned about the passage of time, the man of talent is driven by it.”


Most of us don’t have a lot of spare time.  We have obligations and commitments.  We try to get time with our loved ones, for our jobs, and for ourselves.  There is never enough time.  Yet, somehow, some people manage to get things done and others don’t.    For better or worse, the same principles apply to all of us.
First, we all get 24 hours each day.  All of us.  This applies to literally every human being on earth.  That’s 24 hours.  That’s 1,440 minutes.  That’s 86,440 seconds each day.  With some exceptions, people who are infants, ill, or imprisoned, we all have the freedom to choose how to use each one of those seconds.  Even children have this choice.  (For that matter, so do many people who are ill and imprisoned.  They may just have fewer choices.)
Second, we all live with the rewards or consequences of our choices.  All of us.  This also applies to literally every human being on Earth, with the same exceptions.  We may be affected unfairly by others’ choices, but even then we can make choices with our attitudes and actions.    Spending time in blame, resentment, or regret is also a choice. 
Third, making choices is rarely easy.  Sometimes there aren’t just two choices, but several choices.  For example, at this moment I’m writing.  But I could choose to do any of the following:
·      Take a nap.
·      Clean my place.
·      Read.
·      Play an online game.
·      Talk to a friend.

None of my other choices is necessarily bad or wrong.  In fact, one or more of them might even be a better choice than writing.  Then why am I writing?  The answer to this leads to the fourth principle.
Having a Purpose can help clarify our choices.  There might still be a struggle with time management, but it won’t be because you don’t know what to do with your time.  You may be avoiding your work, but at least you know what your work is.  As a Career Coach, I have worked with many job seekers and I’m still surprised when I ask what they want to do and so many have no idea, other than “to get a job.” 
This is sometimes followed with an “I guess.”)   But they don’t know what job they want.  They don’t know what they love to do.
Love can clarify our choices, because love and Purpose are the same. Purpose is connected to whom and what we love.  Yes, it may be manifested in an activity, but the Purpose of Purpose must always be love.   Otherwise, it becomes another obligation.    When I work in love, there is no time except that moment.  And that moment is being used well.  I am able to Get Started and Keep Going and use my time well.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

To Be and Become

“You, too, can change your life if you are:
  • Dissatisfied with the lack of success you’ve had so far.
  • Willing to make a big change – and not just a minor adjustment.
  • Prepared to start working differently and thinking about yourself as a different kind of person.
  • Willing to start now by preparing yourself to succeed.”

Michael Masterson – The Pledge – Your Master Plan for an Abundant Life

I’m fascinated by the idea of being a different person.    I use the word “being” rather than “becoming,” but I wonder if both can be true.  Can one change gradually and instantly at the same time.   Before exploring this topic further, I have to ask, “What’s wrong with the person I am?” 
To answer that question, I have to assess my current life situation with the guiding principle that everything currently in my life, good and bad, is the result of choices I have made.  Yes, there are things beyond my choice, such as the origins of my birth, my family, many of my childhood experiences, and conditions or illnesses I might have.  (But even with those factors, I have the choice of attitude and how I will view them, and whether I will use them as obstacles or stepping-stones.)
The few X-factors aside, everything else in my life, good and bad, is the result of choices I have made.  The solution is simple then:  what I don’t like I have to change and what I do like I have to reinforce.  When I take an objective look at myself, I think I don’t always use my time as well as I’d like.  I can change that.
Sometimes I get irritable with people.  I can change that.
I struggle with being on time.  And I often delay work until it becomes a source of stress rather than pleasure. I can change these things, too. 
Today people can change their appearance through surgeries, reductions, enlargements, or transplants.  These procedures can be costly and painful.  Changing our character and habits is sill much more difficult.  It’s also more costly.  It will cost time and concentration.  It will not be a one-time fix.  You will have to do it every day.  You will have to stay up late and get up early.  You will spend less time with friends.  Forget most forms of entertainment and distraction. Forget sleeping for eight hours a night.   You will find that time is your both your favorite and least favorite boss.  Unlike people, time wants to be taken advantage of.  The more you take advantage of it, the better it will treat you.  
You may have to become a new person.  The old ways don’t work.  If they did, you wouldn’t consider changing a thing.  But they don’t work; if they did, you’d be wealthy or published or famous or fit or employed or whatever you want to be. But you aren’t.  But you can be if you change the way you do things and change the way you think.  How that looks specifically for each person is different, but change usually falls under one of the following categories for most of us:
·      Use of time
·      Use of money
·      Communication style
·      Work habits
·      Creating structure
·      Planning
·      Consistency

This is why I write almost every day.  I struggle with consistency, time management, creating structure, and work habits.  Writing on a daily basis is the key to changing my less desirable characteristics.
A change of attitude may also be required.  The following is something I’ve never shared with anyone, but I’m going to share it here, because my Muse wants me to be honest.  For much of my life there has been a voice whispering in my ear that says, “Take a break.  You work too hard.  Enjoy life.  You’ll make yourself sick if you overdo it.”
If I listen to that voice too much, (and I often have) then I usually get little or nothing done and, worse, I don’t even feel rested.  Rest comes after work, not before or during.  There are those who are on the opposite end of the spectrum who say to work 16-hour days 7 days a week.  Perhaps that extreme behavior keeps me stuck in the opposite end of the spectrum.  But to be a different person, I have to find the right balance and I have to begin thinking differently.  Thoughts change behavior and behavior changes thoughts. 
With regard to thoughts, I also need to be aware of mine.  If thoughts become angry, repetitive, or obsessive, then unless these help me in some way, they are useless at best, and harmful at worst.  Thoughts should be productive not destructive.  Few of us can afford the time or energy for useless thoughts.
It helps to know that we don’t have to change every area of our lives.   Some things work.  Some things are good.  We only have to change what doesn’t work, without neglecting what does.
We have to Get Started and Keep Going if we’re going to be new people.