Wednesday, March 27, 2013

How to Make Sure You Follow Through on Making Changes

This is so wild, so funny and so true.  My Zen Habits guy that I've been following for a few years now is all about leading a simpler, less stressful life.  The barrier to getting this done, for him and for me too and apparently for a lot of other people judging by the thousands of followers he has on his blog, is procrastination.  He posts articles every few days as well as links to other bloggers working on similar issues.

He has a Sea Change program that I signed up for to make 12 habit changes (one per month) in 2013.  The first thing we worked on was "unprocrastination" which was about choosing a "Most Important Task" (MIT) and establishing a habit of getting that done first.  The next was adding more nutritious food to your diet and this month it was establishing a meditation practice.  I did okay with the MIT thing (which was writing) although I'm not doing so hot now.  I did okay with the nutrition thing although I'm slacking on going to the store so I have what I need.  I've done really well with the meditation thing. 

A few days ago he posted a guest article on insuring success that knocked my socks off.  This guy hired a gal that he found on Craig's list (for $8.00 an hour) to sit with him while he wrote.  If he stopped writing, she was supposed to slap him.  According to the article, she did have to slap him a few times, but he managed to finish the project he was working on in record time!

This same guy had people take him to a cave in an isolated are where he camped for a month - no cell phone, no computer, etc.  He hand wrote an entire project during that month and was completely finished when the people came back to get him.

A long time ago I read a true story about a guy that was consistently late to work, to the unhappiness of his boss.  So he hired somebody to come into his house, wake him up, take him to the shower and turn it on, make coffee and breakfast and follow him to his office so that he got there 30 minutes early.  Problem solved.

This is all very serious and hysterically funny at the same time.  The funny part is obvious.  The serious message is:  "How serious are we about getting the things done that we've been putting off?"

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

It's Possible to Never Have Another Argument Again!

It's a fact that you never have to have an argument with another person as long as you live!  I can prove the truth of this because I stopped having arguments with people.  If I can do it, anybody can.

What I'm not promising is that you will never be invited to have an argument.  You'll probably have plenty of invitations.  Not very many people give up arguing like I did, so other people are bound to invite you.  Not that I'm better than anybody else - I just learned that I could quit.  I think that the truth about arguments is not well known among humans.

The thing is, it takes two humans to make an argument.  If one person has decided to stop arguing, there will be no arguments.  Simple.  Very simple.'s not an easy thing.  Those invitations are extremely difficult to decline.

So what is so incredibly attractive about arguments that swearing off is so very, very hard?  In my case, I argued in order to prove I was right (very important since being right was all I had to shore up my low self-esteem).  I also argued to defend myself whether I actually needed to defend myself or not.  I often perceived a threat from other people whether there was one or not.  I defended myself just in case.  The bottom line, though, was that I was trying to get my way about something.

The sad thing is that arguing never, never, ever, ever got me anything but a worse relationship with another person and a feeling in my body that I had been poisoned.  Once in a great while I got my way, but that was so very rare.  Even when I got my way, I didn't enjoy it because of the emotional hangover from being in an argument.

So I eventually got willing to investigate another way.  It turns out that it's tremendously more effective to just ask for what I want instead of fighting for it.  Asking in a friendly way and being willing to accept "no" for an answer, doesn't invite a fight and may encourage the other person to say "yes."  If someone else wants to pick a fight with me, I can do my best to understand what they're really saying to me and resist my impulse to fight back. 

In order to have the capability to resist my impulse to fight back, I have to live each day, with the help of a higher power, as best I can in accordance with my values.  When I make mistakes, I try to correct them.  Cleaning my side of the street keeps me from being so defensive when someone is wanting to fight with me.  This is a very hard, lifetime job.  I'm not great at it, but I have finally practiced enough that I at least remember to try every day. 

Usually when I'm invited to a fight, the other person is telling me that they've interpreted my actions as a threat whether I intended a threat or not.  Maybe their feelings are hurt because they think I meant to hurt them.  Maybe I said "no" when they had a lot of energy bound up in my saying "yes."  There are a ton of reasons why someone might want to fight me.  I often wish I could reassure them that I mean no harm, but that rarely works.  I can just remember what someone told me a long time ago - "You add just as much suffering to the world when you take offense as when you give offense." and refuse to take offense myself. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Stuff that It's a very Bad Idea to do in Relationships, Part 3

In addition to criticism and being bossed, people really, really, hate being ignored.  I've heard it said that children will disobey, knowing they will be punished, just to keep their parents' attention.  I've noticed that most of us adults retain a lot of childish attitudes and behaviors even though we look like mature human beings.  Examples:  pouting, temper tantrums, competing for attention.  Maybe we also retain the fear that if we're ignored, our needs will not be met.

Looking like we're paying attention is almost as important as actually paying attention.  I happen to be one of those people who hear best when I'm looking away from the person.  Unfortunately, that leaves the impression that I'm actually not listening.  So I have learned to look at the person that's talking even if I'm a little uncomfortable.  It's a gift I can give that lets them know I care.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Stuff that it's a Very Bad Idea to do in Relationships, Part 2

I have learned that people (including me) hate, hate, hate being told what to do.  For me, at least, I think it relates back to being criticized.  I react as though they're telling me I'm wrong to be doing what I'm doing and that I should be doing something else.  I hate, hate, hate that.

The thing is, I tell other people what to do.  They hate, hate, hate that!  I have an excuse - the last two jobs I had I supervised people and it was my job to direct their activities.  Also, I sponsor people and since they ask for my input, I end up telling them what to do.  This is a very bad habit.  What works much better is for me to share my experience.

I really don't believe there's ANY need for us humans to try to tell each other what to do.  For one thing, we're all very different and what one person should do is not what another person should do.  Usually, though, the reason one person is bossing another person is to get that person to do what they want.  Bossing them is terribly ineffective though.  Asking politely works soooo much better.

The trigger that starts me telling someone what to do is when they're complaining about something.  So I am working on reminding myself that they're probably just making conversation.  So much of our human conversation consists of complaining.  I can do my part by responding sympathetically and by not complaining myself.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Stuff that It's a Very Bad Idea to Do in Relationships Part 1.

I've learned a lot of things about relationships with other human beings the hard way - which means I didn't believe some of the very useful stuff I heard as a child.  For example, I heard, "If you can't say something good; don't say anything at all."  This is not only extremely good advice, it's been my experience that it's an essential building block of having happy relationships.

Humans hate being criticized and judged.  We hate, hate, hate it!  I always thought criticism was just necessary in life.  I thought, "How else do we learn?"  Well, I most assuredly do not believe that any more.  Criticism beats us down and takes away our energy.  Most of us already believe we're unworthy so criticism just backs up that idea.

The very best thing I've learned to do about criticism when it's leveled at me is:  

1) To pause, hear it, and decide whether it's true or not.  (This is a lot harder than it sounds.  But as I've gotten more comfortable with self-examination, it's gotten easier.)  Sometimes input from other people is useful if I don't let it stab me through the heart.

2)  To realize that critical people usually are incredibly self-critical and are just taking a break from kicking themselves by kicking me.  They also might be fearful of me in some way and are defending themselves in advance.  That last one sounds weird but I've had that happen to me more than once. 

3)  For me the best responses are: 
(A)"Thank you"
(C)"That could be.
(D) complete quiet with a smile.
All of these work just fine.

As for my criticisms of other people:  Best thing to do is zip my lip.

There is no reason for me to criticize anyone - even myself.  There aren't ANY good outcomes.  What works is to focus on what I want to be like and what I want my life to be about.  As I focus on what I want and act accordingly, my thoughts, feelings and actions crowd out much of the negatives. 

If I don't like what someone else is doing and it actually affects me and I've talked my idea over with a wise person, I might ask the person I've thought of criticizing for what I want instead.  This is rarely necessary.  My belief is that I can accept most people the way they are.  When I reach perfection, I can work on perfecting other people.

The thing is, all of this requires that I practice, practice, practice shutting up.  Unless I keep quiet, there's no chance I'm going to speak in a way that avoids criticism.  Warning:  This is a lifetime job.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Hope for the Best; Plan for the Worst

From what I saw on CNN last night, there are social psychologists that study things like optimism and pessimism.  (I would rather they study something more important for the species like what ways of parenting yield the best outcomes.)  It seems that pessimists are right more often than optimists but optimists are happier.  Pessimists also live longer because they are on guard and anticipate trouble (but optimists are happier).

I'm thinking I want to be an optimist; hoping for the best, but at the same time look ahead and plan for escaping possible disaster.  Best of both worlds.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Looking Back I See the Pattern of God's Grace

It's a practice in recovery to "tell your story" so that listeners can see how the program helped you to recover.  I've done it dozens of times and each time I see something new and enlightening for me whether the listeners do or not. 

I am one of those people that hear from others, "You should write a book!"  So I'm writing my memoir.  It has turned out to be ever so much more trouble than I thought.  I've started over three times because it just didn't seem right to me. 

The effort of looking back over my story has shown me that my life is a terrific example of how a force for good in the universe has been taking care and guiding me even when I was a dedicated atheist!  Amazing!!!

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