Ingratitude is sooner or later fatal to its author

The language of morality, character and virtue is back!

And gratitude is one of the most popular concepts to be given wholehearted support by Martin Seligman and positive psychologists.

Write a gratitude diary daily (or at least weekly), we feel a positive mood more often, we detect more easily positive events in the noise of negativity, and we fell more energetic and hopeful.

Tipping our hat to the positive, not matter how bad the negative, is fun and gives us the energy to cope with whatever the world throws at us.

But this is motherhood and apple pie, as Americans would say.  What of the opposite?

The test of morality is the desirability of immorality

Positive psychologists don’t like talking about the opposite of morality, character and virtue because many of them are clinical psychologists, and they are, well, sick of that stuff.

But what will the absence of gratitude, or ingratitude, do to you?

Here is a Twi proverb, courtesy of @africanproverbs.

Ingratitude is sooner or later fatal to its author.

Maths of chaos theory

Chaos theory will predict just so.  Initial conditions predict final conditions.  In mathematical language, x at time 2 is equal to x at time 1 plus/minus or times/divide something.

When we start out ungrateful, we will continue ungrateful until something changes.  We may simply make our lives so unpleasant that we decide to mend our fences and start to say thank you.

Phase states

Sadly, chaos theory also predicts that when we are in a sufficiently sour mood, we change states from one where we can recover, and will recover, to one where we move into a narrow space that is hard to get out of.   Ultimately we might reach a third state which is a dark cell of solitary confinement of our own design.

Simply put, we cannot expect ourselves to be infinitely resilient.  Shit happens, but sufficient shit overpowers our ability to cope.  The moral of this observation is not to make life harder for ourselves.  It is hard enough already.

Kindness is not self-indulgence

There is no point in beating ourselves up, though, for being ungrateful.  Sometimes we are. We know we shouldn’t be careless or resentful but when we are irritated for some reason, we may find our generous spirit has left us.

Then the gratitude diary comes into play again. It is quite surprising what good things are happening around us while we are taken up with inconvenient, churlish and distasteful aspects of our lives.

And sadly, when a gratitude diary is not a discipline that we do whether we feel like it or not, we might go days without writing it, our mood lowering and the rubbish in our lives slowly displacing the good.

When we have got it bad, then, as poet David Whyte says, “The truth is found in a walk around the lake.”  It is time to gain perspective and we do that from getting back in touch with nature and the good in our lives.

The discipline to respect the positive in the world is an important discipline.  We cannot, and do not function without it.

Mandelbrot

And apparently off the point but not, TED has posted Mandelbrot talking about his career.  Gratitude is in the same class of phenomena as cauliflowers (yes it is!).  To get an inkling of the maths, watch the video.  To get a sense of what mathematicians do for a living, watch the video.  To get a sense of enormous gratitude and humility in a career that could have been frustrating other than for attitude, watch the video!

And then watch the second on African fractals!  Mandelbrot worked on fractals and they are seen all over Africa in design of buildings, artwork and . . . democracy.  Go on . . . watch it!

Ron Eglash

Why do we stop using a gratitude diary when we are happy?

Oahu's North Shore by ttrygve via FlickerHow often do you use a gratitude diary?

Do you use a gratitude diary? Some people recommend using one weekly.  I have used one daily but I’ve found that when I’ve had a particularly bad day or when things are going particularly well, I don’t use it.

Why leads us to skip our gratitude diary routine?

I pondered the latter, particularly.  At first, I thought that when I already feel positive,  I spontaneously avoid becoming more positive.  After all, after positive comes irrational optimism and I like to keep my feet on the ground.

My one-off test

Then I disciplined myself to jot down some notes on a lazy Saturday morning and I decided that the opposite is true.  It strikes me that we veer away using a gratitude diary when life is going well because it reminds us of our underlying anxieties.

It’s reasonable to avoid spoiling the party but anxieties are anxieties because there are serious matters in our lives that might not work out well.  Acknowledging anxieties does not have to be mood-dampening.  Cleaning dust out of a corner doesn’t make us think our house is permanently dirty (though we might marvel at how much collects).

Acknowledging anxieties keeps us in touch with rich tapestry of life and makes life fuller and more enjoyable.  At least, that’s my current thesis.  Time to get back to using a diary, I think.

What do you predict? ‘Events’ notwithstanding, will I be better off for cleaning out the subconscious anxieties that I  would be quite content to ignore if I thought I could?

Let the world look at you. I assure you, the world will like what it sees.

Gratitude or selfishness?

When I first encountered the idea of a gratitude diary, I was discountenanced by feeling grateful for things like . . .  well, my coffee.  I suspected greed, not gratitude.

Once I started using a diary, then I realised that I was often thankful for the meals I had had that day.  I am grateful for a homemade soup, for example. but am I grateful just because I could have been out all day and been subjected to junk food?  Partly.  Yet  when I feel grateful for soup, I never simultaneously think of the disgusting fare served up as food up-and-down the arterial transport spokes.  I am think of much I appreciate a well made home made soup.  I experience pleasure not gluttony.

In short, I experience me.

This still seems selfish, doesn’t it?  But it is my job to see me.  It is my job to appreciate who I am.

The funny thing is that we cannot see who we are, or appreciate who we, are except in the eyes of the world.  It is when I reach out to some thing I value and treasure, when I recognize what is good in the world, that I recognize the good in me.

Khalil Gibran talks of adventuring a path and meeting the soul.  Not a soul.  The soul.

David Whyte talks of the universe taking its ball home too, when we get up and take our ball home. He points out that universe is not punishing us.  It is just that without “the faculties of attention, there is nothing to be found.”

We are what we are grateful for

We are what we are grateful for.  It’s a simple as that.  When we remind ourselves of what we truly appreciate, we remind ourselves of ourselves.  We are validated.  We belong.

But because we are simple folk and all these word feel like mental contortions, we can listen rather to the words of Mr Chips’ fellow teacher.

“I found that when I stopped judging myself harshly, the world became kinder to me. Remember I told you once, go out, and look around the world. Do that now. Only this time, let the world look at you. And the difference, I assure you, the world will like what it sees.”

No light at the end of the financial crisis tunnel?

Where is the end of the tunnel?

At odd times in our lives, someone wise captures our dilemma in a single sentence.  I hope he won’t mind, but almost a decade ago in Zimbabwe, at a time when other people were saying, “It is darkest before the dawn”, the UN Representative said to me, “You feel right now that you are in dark tunnel and you cannot see the light at the end.  But you will see it eventually.”

I think many people in western countries feel this way.  Yet they won’t vocalize their thoughts.  I think keeping nervous thoughts looked away is a mistake.  Our stress levels and we come no closer to a solution.

Getting our thoughts in order

Speaking up, though, often feels negative.  Worse, in competitive masculine societies, which  describes most English-speaking societies, when you describe what is not working for you, you look like a loser.  And losers definitely come last.  People don’t want to hang out with you in case losing rubs off.

Psychologically, though, it is important to express your fears.  If we don’t, they will build up until they govern our lives.  Then we start to make very unwise decisions.  We will find yourself bandying together with people whose only goal is to complain.  Losing does become a way of life.

When we express our fears, we also have an opportunity to list what goes well.  Our objective is not to ignore what goes badly  It is to take stock of what tools we have in our tool kit so we get some leverage on the problem.

My bad day

Let me give you an example. Yesterday, I got pins and needles working at my desk.  To get some circulation going, I went downstairs.   Despite moving very carefully, I put my numb foot down carelessly, fortunately on the last stair, and twisted it badly.  I put out my other arm spontaneously to steady myself and resprained an already sprained-shoulder.  The combined pain made my head spin.  I thought I might faint.

Effectively, my day was finished. I got back to my desk and with visions of a black-and-blue ankle, looked up how to treat a sprain: RICE.  Rest, ice, compression, elevation.  And do it straight away.

Fortunately I had a pack of frozen peas in the freezer.   My day then became a day of trying to keep ice on my foot (I never did figure out how to combine ice, pressure and height), canceling appointments, and trying to work on my lap.

To make matters worse, my project for the day was design.  If there was ever a task that I find fiddly and annoying, its graphics.  It beats tax returns and hoovering by a long margin.  There, even writing that makes me feel better.

I persevered, despite my aches and pains, until close to midnight with triumph, I produced something that was not disgusting but that needs redoing because the proportions are long.

See how long this story of woe is?  I really ended my Wednesday feeling life was dull and unpleasant.  I made myself exercise while I ran a clean up on my computer.  Then at midnight, I made myself fill out a gratitude diary.  What was good to say? Yup, I had stopped my ankle swelling. It ached and it was slightly swollen but it was not a black-and-blue mess.  I had made progress on a task I find very hard.  I had stopped at home and had salads for lunch and supper.

I surprised myself reevaluating my relatively ’empty’ day as better than I thought. But I resisted calling it positive.  That is the point, isn’t it?  I resisted noticing the positive because I was so shocked by the negative.  Sometimes we want to sulk.

Learning from countries in trouble

Getting a grip, I used some magic Anti-Flamme, available only in New Zealand, on both my ankle and shoulder, curled up in a ball which I hoped would tax neither foot nor shoulder.  Then I put on BBC World Service to listen to The Last Resort, a novel about happenings in my birth country, and surprisingly good, though close to the bone.

The author of The Last Resort, is taking the view that it is darkest before the dawn, and for once, a book about Africa is not whincingly sanctimonious.

Listening to the lives of people who are in a very dark place but who go on anyway, reaching out, and trying to be decent in ways they understand,  we should know that sometimes we will not be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  But we are still better calling out to others who are there with us, and taking an inventory of what we have for our emotional and physical sustenance.  We don’t know there is a way out.  But if we worry about that instead of coping with the present, we will not get out.  Our salvation is what is around us.

As for Westerners who are burying their fears.  Don’t.  I know a fair bit about national economics.  I make it my business to follow the pundits.  We are up shit-creek.  No doubt about it.  But we also have

  • The buffer of a lot of fat
  • Deep confidence
  • High aspirations

The nuclear deal crafted by Obama is important.  We are working together to make the world safer.  Scientists are making fundamental discoveries almost daily.  We have a new generation coming through.   The internet works so well that it is unremarkable now to interact with people world wide on a daily basis.

In our unspoken discomfort with a financial crisis of our own making, we fall into three traps

  • We leave our own heads in a mess
  • We “diss” the people who are taking the brunt of the crisis – the unemployed, the poor and the dispossessed
  • We miss the opportunities we should be working on

How to survive the dark tunnel of the financial crisis

If you are surrounded by people talking nonsense about darkness and tunnels, then I say accept the reality.  We are in a dark place and we cannot see the end.

And keep a daily gratitude diary to keep your emotional state in balance with reality, to honor who and what bring value to your life, and to remind yourself of what does work.

I can walk on my foot today.  Blast, though, another day of graphics.

When fear and desire are in residence, we are self-exiled from our immortality

Happiness is a choice

With apologies to Joseph Campbell:

When you are in a place

Defined by fear or desire

Then you are self-exiled from your own immortality.

Entertain fear or ambition, and you have exiled yourself from your own immortality.

Is it possible to escape fear and desire?

If you were brought up in the west, you probably think my assertion is absurd.  So I’ll break it down logically.   The statement seems to have 3 logical parts.

  • We do this to ourselves
  • There is something called our own immortality
  • Fear and ambition have the same effect

Our own immortality

Let’s define immortality simply.  When you are exiled from your own immortality, you feel a sense of not belonging and being uncomfortable “in your own skin” and “in this world”.    You feel restless, dissatisfied and disrespected.   Of course, that does not mean there is anything called your own immortality, but that is enough for now.  You would simply prefer not to feel restless, dissatisfied and disrespected!

We do this to ourselves

Yup, fear is real.  Desire is quite fun when we don’t over do it.  Ambition is cool.  We can imagine relinquishing ambition, but relinquishing desire and fear?  The big test is to prove to you that fear is a choice.

Fear and desire have the same effect.

I need to show you that they both have the same effect.  Let’s see if I can!

#1  Fear and desire are both about what is not rather than what is

With fear, we fear not being in some way. We don’t fear being.  We fear not being.  Isn’t ambition exactly the same?  We want to be what we are not? Desire is similar.  We want what is not.

Fear, ambition and desire are essentially about nothing.  They are about absence.  We are focusing all our attention on what is not.

#2  We do this to ourselves

Why are we thinking about nothing?  Why not think about who we are and what is?

#3  Can we think about who we are when we are frighten or driven?

Yes, we can.  Indeed it is the only way to stop thinking about what we are not. Forsake fear, ambition and desire and we have time for ourselves. (TG for our small minds; we think of one thing at a time.)

Being present

It’s an odd idea, or so it seems to us in the west.  But it is a long standing idea in east.  We can call it mindfulness.  Pay attention to what is here, now.   Other religions call it giving up attachments.

In the secular world, we help ourselves move from agitation to calm thinking by making checklists and keeping gratitude diaries.  Other people meditate.  Take your pick!  If you pray or balk at prayer, try a gratitude diary on for size.

Is being present selfish and irresponsible?

The curious thing about stopping and focusing on what is closely around us is that there is an immediate effect of connecting us more fully to the world.

Paulo Coelho suggests a simple exercise of stopping to listen.  Close your eyes and listen for the furthest sound.  You thought your fear and ambition came from paying attention to the world.  Now you feel your horizon of attention recede a little and the world seems more alive, more interesting.   There is more space for you.  You come back from your self-imposed exile.  You can breathe.  Try it. It is amazing!

Yes, it seems as if our fear and restlessness came from shutting the world out, rather than letting it in. We are scared and dissatisfied because we are not paying attention.  Or rather we were attending to what is not there rather than to what is.  We drove ourselves into exile by worrying about what is not.  Nuts.

Interestingly, you can call back the fear and ambition any time you want it.  But why replace the exciting world around you with nothing?

Management theory is reconsidering is philosophical rots

Offer your problems to God, and they may open opportunities that you never imagined.

I am not religious, and if they haven’t clicked away already, my friends who are ‘evangelical atheists’ will think I’ve taken leave of my senses

Management theory is reconsidering its philosophical rots

[Yes, I did mean roots but the typo is apt.]

I heard the idea of presenting one’s problems to God from a Rabbi on Radio 4 today and it is an idea that has been forgotten by management theorists for a long, long time.  It is being actively and vigorously revived though, and if you want to be involved in modern management education, “opening yourself to the imagination of the universe” is an idea that you have to get you head around.

Old school management sucked the life juices out of us

“Old school” management is goal-oriented, and fundamentally arrogant and negative.  It goes like this. “I define the goal and until you have completed it, you are not up to scratch.”

We might even say that old school management is evil. It is even evil even when we are setting our goals for ourselves and not others.  It’s  arrogant to believe that we know what is right, not only for today, but for tomorrow whose shape we barely know.  It is very arrogant to believe that we know and the other does not.  It is evil to undermine the worth of other people and to daily put ourselves and others in situations where we are not up to scratch.

But how do we open ourselves to the imagination of the universe?

For all my exploration of modern management theory, I am still a psychologist and I want to know “what am I going to DO?

“offering a problem to God”, as I understand it, does not mean letting go.  It means beginning where we are, with our sense that the present does not meet our sense of what is right and wrong.   We begin by accepting our negative evaluation, our arrogant assertion that on this matter we believe we are right,  and our overbearing willingness to judge others.  We accept that this is ground we stand on at this moment.  This is our reality at the minut.

Then, we put this evaluation on the table, probably privately, it is offensive after all.  And at last,  we listen to what the universe has to say.    What does the universe have to say about this problem?

We’ve raised the flag.  We’ve said we will hear.   Now we listen!

But are we predisposed to listen?

The difficulty is though, that in this mood, when we feel the world is wrong, and we are right and that we are allowed to tell others they are wrong, in this mood, listening to anyone is far from our minds.

Positive psychology, an overlapping school of positive organizational scholarship, kicks in now and has a lot to say on how to reach a point that we can listen and hear.

We begin by reminding ourselves that it is quite natural, housed in a human body, to feel alarmed when we notice something is wrong.   Our biology is programmed that way.  It is natural .  .  .  well .  .  . to exaggerate.  When times are rough, and we reel from trauma to trauma, or just from hassle to hassle, it is not long before we begin to shut down and focus solely on what threatens us, or simply annoys us.

Positive psychologists help us stay out of this zone of despair, cynicism and negativity.  We look to them to keep us in that positive space where we can notice that something is wrong (or a least not to our taste) and listen to the universe.  It is a tough balancing act.

Positive psychologists are not our only resource, though. Most world religions have rituals to manage this emotional housekeeping.   Balancing our ‘alarm systems’ and listening to others is such an important skill that all cultures have ways of explaining the challenge.    What is saying a brief prayer before a meal but a momentary regaining of balance where we take stock in an appreciative not panicky way?

In our secular world, we explain every thing more wordily but we are not necessarily wrong.  Just ploddy.   Two other very important factors in maintaining ’emotional tone’ are exercise and friends.

The contribution of positive psychologists

Positive psychologists advocate a simple ritual of a gratitude diary.  A few brief notes at the end of each day makes the difference between believing that we have to solve every problem ourselves and “hearing” what the universe has to offer.

Offer your problems to the universe and allow yourself to be delighted by opportunities you never imagined.

And to my evangelical atheist friends, if you are such an objective scientist, try it before you knock it.

Happiness is managed like clean hands – regular washing?

Happiness, big media and blocked comment

Today, Hamish McRae wrote an article in the Independent on happiness and what national survey of happiness tell us about the role of government in our live.

I wrote a comment only to find comments partly blocked off.  So here it is.

Economist should find the maths of happiness easy

Basically, I suggested that Mr McRae might like to to look up the more sophisticated models of happiness.  Economist should find them easier to follow than most and might take the lead in an informed debate on happiness.

Then I followed through trying to explain the implications of using Lorenz equations to understand happiness by likening happiness to clean hands.

Lorenz equations and Losada’s model of happiness

You might like to Google Losada’s work on happiness and review the mathematical model underlying his thinking.  Happiness surveys presume that happiness is a linear phenomenon where happiness is more-or-less and can be measured as a fixed point with an error score.

More sophisticated views of happiness see it as a phase state (fractal type) defined by a handful of variables linked recursively to each other.  In this model, a fixed point (the measure of happiness above) would indicate severe mental illness.  In other words, someone who is resolutely cheerful despite the circumstances is ill.

Managing happinesss (and unhappiness)

As one commentator said, you are possibly writing about unhappiness.   We know how to create that.  Simply have people reeling from petty difficulties all day long with little respite and they will sink into misery.

Hence the buffering techniques such as gratitude diaries and appropriate ways to deal with distress (funerals, grieving etc.)

Just as hands get dirty and must be washed, our lives have misfortune which must be dealt with.   But misfortune isn’t dealt with by ignoring it just as dirty hands aren’t dealt with ignoring it.

A gratitude diary works like the washing of hands putting dirt where it belongs and reminding us of the pleasure of clean hands.  We know our hands will get dirty again but that is the cyclical process of much of life.

Getting involved in the national debate on happiness

Anyway, economists should grasp the Lorenz equations  easily and might add to a more informed public discussion of happiness.

The rest of us can experience the management of happiness in simple ways: mourning and grieving for what has past, keeping a gratitude diary, focusing on what goes well and not what goes badly.   These alone stop us sinking into misery and spreading it around.

Pondering gratitude diaries with a Sufi poem

Pondering gratitude diaries

Possibly, reading the words of Sufi poet, Rumi., will help us understand a “gratitude diary.”   We could interpret “the wonders that exist in me” as something to brag about, or proclaim, in self-congratulation.  We could also interpret “wonders that exist in me” as the good things in the universe that are “in me and my life.”

To be or not to be

Is not my dilemma.

To break away from both worlds is not bravery.

To be unaware of the wonders

That exist in me,

That

Is real madness!

Rumi


When we are adolescents, we are obsessed with recognition.  Our unsatisfied need to be taken seriously is often translated as a search for ‘self’.  For people obsessed with ‘self, ‘ME’ would scream off the page.  But adolescents want RECOGNITION.  They want to understand their relationship with the universe.

Possibly, that’s how gratitude diaries work.  We catalog our relationship with the universe.

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What happened to that “everything is waiting for me” feeling?

Lost: can’t see the opportunity

When I was young, I loved career choices.  The world was my oyster.  Choices were everywhere, and I was in command.

Some people aren’t so lucky.  They don’t feel like that.  Our somehow they’ve gone through a bad patch and they feel lost. As I have got older, that has happened to me a few times.

What can we do about that?  How can we get back that omnipotent feeling that “everything is waiting for you”?

There seem to be three key things to remember.

1. Look after your emotional health

Negative feelings feed on themselves.  When we are feeling down, lost or confused, we like to wallow.  This doesn’t make us bad or inadequate.  It is quite normal to want to wallow.  Physiologically, we are primed to focus on threat, and our worry captures 100% of our attention.

The corporate poet, David Whyte, talks of arriving at a ravine in Nepal and being scared witless by the sight of a rickety bridge.  Many decisions in life are just like this.  We arrive at a ravine.  We can see clearly that we want to be on the other side.  We are least wise enough not rush onto the bridge, but we are paralyzed with fear.  All our attention goes onto the ravine and onto the rickety bridge, instead of working out our options.

The funny thing is that we hang on to bad feelings, as if they are the bridge itself.  Yet this is the time to get a grip.  At the side of the ravine, we check our pockets and rucksack -knife (check), water (check), food (check), etc. etc.

In ordinary life we have to take the time out to exercise, clean the house, and think about what is going exactly as we want it to.  We must, we must, we must (!) sit down each night, write a short summary of the day, and then answer this question:

Why did I do so well?

I can assure you that you won’t want to do this.  You will want to worry and tell me how badly everything is going.  Just do it! and you will surprise yourself by what has gone well.

It is also more.  It takes our attention off the equivalent of the ravine and the long drop down. It focuses our mind on

  • What we can do
  • What we can do well
  • What delights us and
  • what the world finds delightful about us!

2. Start before you are ready

When we feel lost, we often feel very tired too. The idea of starting anything feels too much.  And anyway, if we haven’t sorted out our emotional health (#1), then we are enjoying our panic attack far too much to give it up.

But if you don’t intend to spend the rest of your life weeping and wailing and gnashing you teeth, you will have to begin to move out of the anxiety, before your are ready.

The way we do this is to focus in what we have at hand.  At the edge of the ravine, that is your water, your food, your map, your radio, etc.

In ordinary life, I look for what you love.  What brings the light to your eyes?  I can give you a magazine and ask you to flick through and point to a picture which represent what you want out of life. You’ll have done it in 1-2 minutes.

Or, I can ask you about when you have experienced flow – that feeling of total engagement where characteristically you don’t notice time, but you do notice being growled at when you were late for your next appointment!  That’s flow.  When do you feel flow?  When do you feel totally engaged doing something you just love to do?

Then we deal with the next thought that pops into your head which is  “I can’t”.  I have kids and a mortgage.  I can’t be an artist – I owe it to my parents to make a good living.  I have a student loan to pay off.  I don’t have the skills.  You are looking at the ravine again!  Hold the image of what you want to be, that makes your heart speed up slightly, that makes your eyes light up (you can’t see them can you, but I can). Hold that image.  Don’t let it go.

Now we aren’t going to do anything reckless.  We are simply going to look around our immediate circumstances for things relevant to getting to the other side.  So we take stock.  As we took stock of our map, our compass, etc. at the side of the ravine.  And we do sensible things.  If we were at the side of a ravine and had a radio, we would call in and say where we are.  If we are tired out, we’d work out if it is feasible to eat and sleep.  We secure everything we need to go to where we want to be.  At worst, we may retreat.

But we keep our eyes on what brings us alive?

3. Marshall resources and support

And now for the humdinger, are you the only person in the world who wants you to be on the other side?  Are you Rambo all of a sudden?

As soon as you have yourself secure and have established the all important “time out”, ask yourself who else benefits from you being on the other side of the ravine.  Who else will benefit?  Who else will be delighted?  Who else will enjoy getting you across (however you are going to do it – we’ll leave that bridge alone!).  These questions might make you feel anxious again.  That’s OK. That’s only because this project is something you really want to do and you are about to make it happen.

So, let’s marshal help and resources.  If we were at a ravine, it might be helicopter rescue (do it in style?).  It might be a long trek around. You might be able to walk down and through some shallow water and up. In the morning light, you might realize you can reinforce the bridge. Who knows?  Start bringing together what you need and a plan will emerge.

Once you start to methodically and systematically work on the problem, the universe will conspire to help you.

This can’t be true, I hear you say.  This must be nonsense.  Well not in my experience!  Read on!

Damn the universe, it makes life so easy!

When I first noticed the universe helping me, I did feel nuts.  I felt superstitious and I didn’t like the feeling.  How can this be?  But it happened.  The universe kept helping me.  When I knew what I wanted, and moved towards it, it came towards me.  This doesn’t work if I am dithering.  If I start one thing and I am still doodling or daydreaming about something else, I don’t get any help at all.  I must be totally confident about my priorities and have ‘left all other worlds behind’.

I would get moving on a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) and the phone would ring.  There it would be.  How could the other person know I wanted that?  It was freaky and just too easy!

Eventually I decided three things.

  • The world is a munificent place.  Stuff probably comes down my phone all day long, but I don’t notice when I don’t want it!
  • I have good judgement!  My sense of what is right or wrong is good.  I know which ravines are worth crossing and which ravines other people want to cross with me.

But sometimes I go through a bad patch when I am indecisive.  I dither.  Do I want to cross; do I not?  I am not ready to make a decision.    In part this is good judgment.  I don’t rush ahead before I know what I want.  But the reality is,  I am also frozen in fear.  Time to take “time-out” to de-clutter my emotional self and figure out what is going on. I know with a small investment, my head will clear.  I will keep my dreams clear, focus on what I have in hand, and be on my way again soon.

Everything is waiting for you

In poet, David Whyte’s words: everything is waiting for you, it really is (and would like you to hurry up!)

It is just that you have come to a ravine in your path.  You want to get to the other side.  You know you need to be there and you are rightly terrified by the rickety bridge and the long drop down.

The most important thing to do is to acknowledge your fear.  Don’t pretend you aren’t scared.  If you do you will either be paralyzed or you will be reckless.  Take yourself in hand, remember your goal  and focus your attention this minute on what you have in hand.

  • First, attend to your safety and the safety of everyone with your.  Take stock of my situation (maps, compass, radio, food, etc. if you were at a ravine), get yourself fed, watered and tell other people to where you are.  When your are physically able to think, focus your attention on what you want!
  • Then thoroughly enjoy exploring your options.  Bring in help if your need it and invite people to be part of the adventure if they want to be (which they probably do!)

Remember the three steps

1.  Keep yourself emotionally healthy: ask yourself daily – why did I do so well?

2.  Start before you are ready – tick off everything around you that is useful for pursuing your dream

3.  Welcome support – list everyone who will be enjoy watching and helping you pursue your quest

And do it for g…  sake.  It’s funny how the toughest of people are so bad at this.  Do it.  Whinging is annoying.

Do you have the courage NOT to be happy?

If you came here saying “Yes!”, you probably also sat up straighter, jutted out your jaw just a little, and felt more determined.

We need one defensive pessimist on every team

You are probably what psychologists call a ‘defensive pessimist’.  You are essential to business and family life.  You think ahead and make sure things get done!

But do you really dare not to be happy?

What if I told you that happiness lights up different parts of your brain?  And in your steely resolve, you are shutting down processing power that you need, badly?

In short, you are running, well limping, like a computer that needs to be cleaned out sooner rather than later.

An organized person finds time to be happy

If you really are as organized and determined as you say, then you WILL find 5 minutes at night for some quiet time to reflect on the day.  You will have time to tick off everything that went well and you will have time to ask yourself a simple question: Why did I do so well?

So often, you’ve done well because you think ahead, because you are reliable and because you are persistent.  Carry on doing that!

Be organized.  We need you.  And be happy too.

Ask “Why did I do so well?” and marvel at how much better you sleep, how much you begin to enjoy hearing the birds sing, how much your appetite levels off (not too big or too small), how much you don’t have to push so hard but you get things done anyway.

You don’t believe me?

I thought you were the thoughtful one!  You can’t tell me I am wrong until you have tried.