At a recent workshop I was asked for tools for self-guidance and here are three I have used myself at different times.
WRITING IN A DIARY OR JOURNAL This tool works because you get your thoughts out so that you can review different aspects of your situation. It's effective in a similar way to a conversation as you get to express thoughts and feelings. Try to write without 'editing' to please an imaginary judgmental reader. You are the only reader and editing may be in the way of the truth. Start by clarifying what you are seeking guidance about. Ask yourself the questions you want answer. Then write answers as if you are a magazine 'agony aunt'. Or let your thoughts flow freely, ranging around until you find you are writing something helpful.
SLEEPING ON IT people say 'sleep on it' when someone voices their concerns but is not getting anywhere. It does work. Write down your issues and questions before you go to sleep, or sit with them in meditation or prayer. Let them go and go to sleep. Then notice what is there in your psyche as you wake up. It might be pictures, dream fragments or fully formed thoughts. There may be new insights or a fresh way of looking at things available to you with the new day.
FINDING ANSWERS IN NATURE Nature offers so much as a source of inspiration and wisdom and this is something to do wherever you are. Taking your current life question with you, go out into a park, a garden or on a country walk. Keep an eye out for something that attracts you that you can take home easily, perhaps a stone, a leaf or a fallen twig. Don't look for anything in particular in this exercise, just for what catches your eye. Take it home and sit comfortably. Talk to yourself about the object, noticing everything about it. Then form sentences starting with 'What this...(the natural object) Tells me about... (the life question) is... and see what answers come to you.
All the best with using these tools for self-guidance. I'd love to know what happens when you try them. Please do write and tell me.
You've decided to start an exercise program and that's great. Unfortunately, more than half of all people who begin an exercise regimen quit within the first six months. It's not easy to develop a successful exercise program that you will stick with for the rest of your life. However, there are steps we can take to boost our enthusiasm and to facilitate long-term program adherence. Specifically, these 15 behaviors will help you stick with an exercise program for years to come:
1. Set realistic goals. Make sure your expectations regarding your exercise program are reasonable.
2. Write your goals and post them in a visible area. This provides you with a constant reminder of why you are exercising.
3. Share your goals with others. This allows your friends and family members to encourage you.
4. Consistently monitor your progress. Steady improvement is a tremendous motivator.
5. Choose a convenient time and place for your workouts. You are much more likely to stick with your exercise program if it is convenient for you.
6. Start easy and slowly build your effort. Simply stated, don't overdo it!
7. Keep your exercise sessions brief. 30 minutes is enough in most instances.
8. Choose a variety of exercises and activities to avoid boredom. Boredom is a common reason for quitting an exercise program.
9. Combine family and exercise time. For example, walking, hiking, skating and bike riding all offer an opportunity to combine exercise with family time.
10. Learn how to do your exercises safely. Injury and soreness are common reasons for quitting an exercise program.
11. Work out at the same time every day. This will allow you to get in the habit of exercising at a particular time of day.
12. Keep an exercise journal. This provides you with a picture of your progress, which can be a great motivator.
13. Schedule activities around your exercise sessions. Once you have identified the days and times you will exercise each week, schedule your other activities around these times. This demonstrates the importance of your exercise program in your life.
14. Don't stress out if you miss a workout. Missing an occasional workout is not a problem. In fact, it's to be expected. Just get back to work the next day.
15. Make sure you have fun. No one sticks with exercise unless they enjoy it. You can make sure you have fun by selecting activities you really enjoy and by working out with others.
At the end of 2009, I purchased a small journal from Target. This little notebook serves the purpose of collecting random ideas that hit me at random times. It fits neatly in my purse so it goes with me everywhere. Assuming I actually have a pen in my purse (and not only eyeliner or lipstick to write with, which has happened on more than one occasion), it's a nifty little tool to have.
I was waiting for an appointment last week, and began thinking of topics to blog about and I kept writing the word "envy."
Envy is an odd duck.
Since having a book (and now almost two books) release, I have had a few people mention they were envious of my life. And by "my life," they confessed they were envious of what they perceived about "my life" because of my blog, or my books. A few days ago, a wonderful author named Rachel vulnerably shared about how she resented me (it's a very lovely and honest post).
When these conversations pop up, even as seldom as they do, they confuse me.
Why? Because my life is well - just life. It's nothing to be jealous of and find it interesting while people are wishing they may "be me" in some ways...
...I'm wishing I was someone else.
Don't get me wrong: I feel incredibly lucky that during this season I can write books for a modest living and travel a bit to share a little hope here and there. I have also eaten enough humble pie to know this has little to do with me, if anything at all. As much as writing and speaking is not a "normal job" it's still work. It's still frustrating. There are things I hate about my work sometimes. It's easy to get lonely and lazy. Questions of "am I good enough?" or "am I as good as..." or even "am I better than..." cycle in my mind day in and day out.
And truth be told, envy plays a large part in that cycle.
I see other bloggers and authors and speakers who seem to float from one puffy white cloud of God's blessed goodness to another, whose marriages are picture perfect and friendships are solid and complete. They never seem to fight loneliness, or writers block, or carbs, or bad hair days. They don't say "um" forty-seven times in a thirty minute talk and their words flow seamlessly from one noun to one verb. They are never "too passionate" and write thoughtfully instead of from a place of raw, immature emotion. They're wise. Stable. And go to great parties or dinners and tweet about it and it seems like everyone else is there but, well, me. They'll get credit for something and I won't. They'll get more money than I'll get. Someone will review or endorse their book that won't return my emails.
And I get envious. (Obviously. And very whiny, too).
It's scary to admit that perhaps I've even allowed myself to become so envious that my heart is becoming bitter. I've forgotten to celebrate the good things others do and to mourn (and not silently rejoice) their falls.
(Please tell me I'm not the only one who does this little mental happy dance when someone perfect makes a mistake...)
Envy eats away at my heart, slowly, and quietly, and daily.
And is it tragically ironic that I hate it when people perceive me in certain ways, and yet I do the exact same thing and place those exact same perceptions on others?
Comparison. Perception. Assumption. Envy.
This life thing can be messy and ugly sometimes.
I'm so glad there's grace. Aren't you?
Gratitude is an amazing thing. It does something inside of us, that very few things can do. Many times, parents wish their children would be more grateful.
Ask yourself: Is it about not giving your children everything? Is it about making them work for what they want? What about making sure they see what others do not have? Or, teaching them to share? These are some of the strategies I have seen parents use in order to teach gratitude.
As I was giving this some thought, the answer, in my opinion, became quite simple: the experience of feeling grateful is what creates gratitude.
Gratitude is about having a true and authentic experience of being grateful.
Here are three ideas that you can use with your children to nurture gratitude:
#1: In the morning, start your day with sharing what you are grateful for. It could be a good night sleep, sunshine, rain, friends we get to see, a favorite cartoon, our favorite teacher, the home we live in, food to eat, health, family, a pet, a game, a book, the weekend, sleeping in, etc. Each person can share 1-3 things to start creating the habit of looking for things to feel grateful for.
#2: At dinner, have everyone share what their gratitudes or appreciations are for the day. We do that every night in our home, and it is a great way to see what is important to your children, as well as to nurture gratitude in their hearts. They also get to see what happens in your day, and what is important to you as well. Again, it is about getting into the habit of looking for, and expressing, gratitude. What we focus on expands.
#3: At bedtime, invite your children to share three things they were grateful for today. You share too. If your children enjoy writing, offer for them to keep a gratitude journal. Writing things down (especially what you are grateful for) is very powerful.
Pick one of these activities and just make it fun. You also want to make it informal. Do not press your children for gratitudes; it defeats the whole purpose. And, feel free to give them ideas if they are struggling to think of something. New habits take practice. The habit of gratitude, when nurtured daily, grows pretty quickly. You are planting seeds and fertilizing the soil with consistency and love.
Enjoy creating a grateful family.
Where do you find the motivation to write a daily journal entry? Good question. Life is busy enough so why sit down and write in your journal? Read these three motivators to maintain daily journaling success.
Perhaps you know some of the benefits of journaling but haven't been motivated to make it a daily habit. Journaling is the most important action you can take today to increase your success rate, stay focused and maintain a positive mental attitude. If those aren't reasons enough, then keep on reading.
1. Getting and Staying Organized
Well, journaling is the best time and place to combine some very important daily habits: getting organized in your mind and your daily action plans, visualizing a better life and to reconnect with your inner-self and what is really important to you. Taking time each morning to mentally prepare how you want your day to unfold will set the wheels of focused energy in motion. It will be easier for you to recall your to-do list and top priorities when you're in the midst of a hectic day if you actually took pen to paper (or typed it on in a word processing document).
2. Mindful Meditating
Daily journaling is a form of mindful meditations. You learn to relax and let go of stressful thoughts when you learn to journal. Whether you write about your diet habits, your feelings toward your annoying boss or how you'd like to build your own on-line business, journaling daily will help you focus on what you really want and discard the thoughts that keep you from attaining those desires.
3. Treasured Personal Time
When you journal daily, you'll start to reconnect with your inner voice. This quiet voice tends to get overlooked in the harried lifestyles we live. Being disconnected from it will leave you with a sense of unfulfillment. As kids and young adults, we had more time and those quiet times lead to listening to this inner voice. Regain that insight by sitting down daily with pen, paper, you and your thoughts. You'll come to cherish these moments alone.
Start motivating yourself today to write daily in your journal. Get up and journal in the morning with your morning cup of coffee or tea and discover that this quiet time will be your most treasured. You'll find your day flowing more smoothly with these daily mindful visualizations, a deeper sense of purpose and organization. What more motivation could you need?
Blogging has been around for years now and a good percentage of netizens have already tried their hand at blogging. Others have grown out of it, while others have invested time and energy that their blogs have become a source of income. If you have never tried blogging, you might want to consider the benefits of the sport of online literature that is blogging.
Blogging is typically used for publishing an online diary. Composing a journal entry and publishing it online for everyone to see can be rewarding especially when you know that there is someone out there who is interested in your life, and is going through something similar in their life. It is also a form of networking with other bloggers, and if you join a blogosphere (blogging community), you will receive comments from people who enjoy blogging or reading blogs. It is a great way to make new friends online.
Although journal writing is what most people do with blogs online, its purpose is certainly not limited to that only. Over the years, companies have added a blog section to their websites where they can update their customers with the latest news from their end. This is very useful and informative, as customers are able to be informed at their own will. Companies don't have to spam their clients with newsletters, as blogs are equally useful but less invasive.
Blogs are used by scholars who enjoy publishing the latest information about their chosen specialty. Blogs are generally set up in a way that they can be socially bookmarked if the particular post is a recommended read. Visitors can also comment on every post. Blog layouts are also very simple to browse, so it is not limited to the computer literate population.
A fun way to blog is to fill up a site with collaborative content. Friends can all have user accounts, and everyone can blog whenever they want to. The contents are made public to each author's circle of friends, and everyone can contribute either a post or a comment.
Although many blog for fun alone, a handful of bloggers out there provide content to the public to earn an income. They earn an income through advertising on the blog space. They have to provide a good number of posts every week and have to keep the content fresh for regular visitors. It takes a lot of time and thought to post such entries but it can truly be worth it in the end.
What you do with your journal depends on many things.
You may be using the materials for personal development - to understand yourself better through the objective recording of your story. Or you may use it as a unique resource for your fiction writing, recording stories drawn from life - your own and other people's. You may write down conversations overheard on public transport, or in the pub, or at the doctor's surgery. And you can turn all this into a story without end - writing this in daily or weekly installments until it grows into a volume of anecdotes with its own themes and enhanced with images, cartoons and objects whether discarded tablet packets or sea-shells.
From either of these kinds of journal you have ideas and notes which will make your fiction and your autobiographical non-fiction authentic. And this will mark out your writing's unique selling point - its individual 'voice'.
When you come to review your materials, of course, other issues become significant.
OK. So you've had an interesting life; your journals are waiting to be mined for information; your family and friends are clamoring for 'the book'. What next?
Autobiography is now an industry and - as with any other kind of writing - certain rules underpin success. Even if you are thinking of self-publication, consideration of these can make all the difference between a book people want to read and a book that stands neglected on the shelf.
Your reader - the audience - is as ever in pole position. Who are you telling your story to? This will dictate what words and expressions you employ. Would you, for example, want your mother to read what you write for your friends?
And then, there's the thorny issue of what you include and what you leave out.
The trick lies in the vexed issue of goal-setting. A recent visit to a writers' group left me convinced that not one among the seven people who read their 'stuff' out had the least idea about goal-setting, either for their literary career or for their individual project. Planning for this group was anathema and so was review. People wrote what came into their heads with no idea of where to go with it. The resulting prose excerpts were shapeless, unstructured and cliché-ridden. Their material was raw beyond belief - although not irretrievable. And their goal, if any, was to enjoy their writing. So - in that sense - they had achieved one goal. And yet - in spite of all this - they still hoped that publication would happen.
We have so much to be thankful for in our lives. It's very easy to overlook everything that we have, which is why you should be writing in your gratitude journal each day.
What's a gratitude journal? It's like any other diary or journal, but in a gratitude journal you're only allowed to write positive things. There's no negativity allowed.
If you don't already have a gratitude journal, you can start one day and write down 5 things that you are grateful for in your life.
The whole point is to look at the positive things in your life that you are thankful for.
Maybe you are having the worst day in your life, but if you change your thinking and write down 5 things that you are grateful for, it can really change your entire mindset. Maybe the day turned out to be not so bad, after all.
When we go through the bad days, that's when a gratitude journal can really shine - it will make you think of the positive things in your life and that's when we really need the journal. If you continue to write in it, you can go back and see everything in your life that you are grateful for.
Don't you think that would change your mindset - from focusing on the negative and what's bad in life, to what is positive and good in our lives? It can be a real life-saver when we tend to be pessimistic people who only focus on the bad things in life.
Everyone can think of 5 things they are grateful for.
Are you grateful that you have a roof over your head? Write that down.
Are you thankful that you ate today? Write that down. There are people in this world who have had nothing to eat today and have no home to go to.
It doesn't have to be the big things in life - each person is grateful for different things in their lives.
This is not just an exercise in positive thinking. You can become really creative when you are writing down in your gratitude journal. The point is to be conscious of what is positive in your life and be grateful.
Come up with at least 5 things to write down in your gratitude journal each day. You can do this at night or first thing in the morning.