DO This: Rid your vocabulary of Weasel Words

Weasel words.svg

Weasel Words:  “words or statements that are intentionally ambiguous or misleading”

Being the political season, the air is full of ambiguous statements that dodge the real question, or slant the facts in favor of the speaker.  Who can forget:

Bill Clinton: “I did not have sex with that woman.”  (he didn’t consider “oral” to be “sex”, or “that woman” could be another woman other than the one we all thought he was speaking about.)

Trump: “The polls say I’m winning.”  Yea, your own polls, or a few outlier polls, but the Real Clear Politics average of all leading polls says something else completely.

Hillary Clinton:  About Benghazi “Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet.”  Sure, “some people” say that, but you told your family it was a terrorist attack.

Weasel Words also came up recently when I was going through the 40 Years of Zen program (review post coming).   Dave Asprey has written about them here.  Then this morning while talking to the Purpose Goddesses Tay and Val, weasel words came up again.  The Universe obviously wants to hear my thought on this subject, so here I go.

Becoming more aware of my own use of weasel words has been an important part of my waking up and becoming more conscious.  When I find myself using some of the worst offenders, I endeavor to observe rather than indulge the judgemental thoughts (I just had to rewrite that from “try not to be judgemental”).  The words are neither good nor bad in and of themselves.  The issue is in the context and the intention behind their use as opposed to other words that could be used.  In the political sphere, a person is usually trying to dodge a direct question purposefully with misdirection.  We have all seen that.  On a personal basis and between people, weasel words can be serving some very valid goals including:

  • Avoidance of pain to self or others.  The ego doesn’t like to fail. So it says things like “I will try.”   Success is then the trying not the doing.  Lowering the bar.  This is basically a natural defense mechanism.  So it is when we beat around the bush with bad news to a friend.  We are “trying” to spare them pain.  But many times the pain just gets elongated, delayed, or suppressed.
  • Avoidance of responsibility.  Again, ego doesn’t like to fail or be responsible for anything that it could fail at.  So it shirks responsibility at every chance.  “I” will do something is hard, “we” will do something shares the responsibility around and gets off my shoulders alone.  So do politicians. They want to please as many voters of different stripes as possible so saying platitudes keeps them out of hot water.  We are so used to this behavior from politicians that in many ways an in your face guy like Trump is a refreshing alternative to many people.
  • Motivation from narrowing of alternatives.  The ego also doesn’t like the paradox of choice.  Too many choices means hard work will be required to decide between the alternatives.  Not only could you choose incorrectly leading to pain and failure (see above), but the work to make the decision is difficult in an of itself.  So we say we “can’t” or “Have to” or “Need to” do something. That means it is an imperative with no other alternatives.  The only way.  The narrow path can seem attractive versus the hard brain work of sifting through alternatives.

Recognition that the ego is just doing its job to protect me from pain and increase the chances of success has enabled me to be much less judgemental of my own use of these words.  When encountering my own use of a weasel word I ask myself

  1. Is this word phrasing serving me (or just my ego)?
  2. Is there an underlying issue which my ego is trying to avoid here?
  3. Is there a way to reframe the sentence which is more in line with my authentic purpose?

Often times lately I have reframed weasel words, sometimes they get through even an attentive filter like mine.  My personal reason for becoming aware of these words and working to get them out of my vocabulary is because they typically are impediments to action, destroy motivation, debilitate and discourage me from moving forward in life.  I have decided that brain energy spent on them is generally wasted and I would rather spend that energy on actually accomplishing something rather than the avoidance.

Here are my personal top 5 offenders:

Try

To “try” lowers the bar so that success doesn’t require any actual accomplishment.  Try pre-supposes failure.  “Try” also doesn’t have any time table attached to it so the scale is open ended.  I can be “trying” for a very long time, years even.  Try doesn’t have a logical end point.  The name of the major category of this post used to be “Try This:”.  I thought “try” would be a less judgemental or declarative word that wouldn’t scare people as much as “do”. People would be more willing to “try” something that to be told to “do” something.  And that is probably true on the surface.  But here at DGC we are about waking up and taking the Red Pill.  The Red Pill says “There is no Try, Only Do.”  Ok, Yoda and the Maharishi said it before me, but even with my antennae on high alert, I still create a category with the word “try” in it.

Reframe:  “I will.”  “I will do everything I can.”

Should

Saying I “should” do something is the same as saying nothing. It is stating the obvious.  These statements are usually complete wastes of time, often procrastination of the actual work.  There is also an easy way out.  Stuff you “should” do is not very important, you “should” do it, but there are not obvious harsh consequences for not doing it.  I have often found myself saying I “should” do something 10-20 times before actually doing it.  “I should take out the trash.”  Taking no responsibility for actually doing the thing I “should” do.  It is a statement of desire not action.  Replace with action words.  What would your brain do with all that wasted energy?  You could have taken out the trash in a fraction of all the time your brain was saying you “should” take out the trash.

Reframe:  Want.  Choose to.  Going to.  Get to.

Need/Have to

The near cousin of “should” but with an absolutist set of blinders on.  Much more declarative.  “Need” ratchets up “should” with the implication of dire consequences if you don’t do it.  “Have to” leaves all alternatives off the table, there are no alternatives, I “have to.”  Ratcheting up the pressure like that the ego wants to force you to get that thing done. “I need to get the new Apple Iphone.”  “I Have to get tickets to the play offs.”  The existential stress goes up accordingly. So ask yourself the question, is this story I am telling myself about “need” or “have to” really an existential question?  Are there truly dire consequences of not doing this?  Does your rational mind agree with the upleveling of this desire to the “need” category that your ego has done?  Stop and ask the question.

Reframe:  Ratchet down the consequences.  Change to “want” or “get to”

Can’t

For me, the worst kind of weasel words are those that cut off all options.  That put up walls to progress of any sort.  “Can’t” does that but shutting down discussion.  There is no way, I “can’t”.  No explanation, to alternatives, no deliberation.  Just a clean line in the sand.  I heard Seth Godin talking one time about writers block and deconstructing the claim “I can’t write.”.  “Really?  you forgot how to use a pen?  Your fingers are broken?”  The point is that the story “I can’t write” is not true. You can, technically.  The real underlying issue is that your ego is afraid that what you write might suck.  Or that the writing will cause the brain to heat up and hurt.  Or that there will be editing and re-writing.  “Can’t” just killed your motivation.  Cut off any forward motion.  Until you break that story, no progress will be made.  Specifically around writing that is why I love the Morning pages exercise.  Write for fifteen minutes a day without judgement, without critique.  Just fucking write.  You can do it.  Break the block.  Rewrite the story in your head. You CAN write.  Now go on and write something good.

Reframe: Can.  or if you are honest about not doing something, say “I won’t”.

Pride

In an era of participation trophies this one is a killer on our kids.  This word is WAY over used.  This one should be very parsimoniously given out.  Save it for the big things.  “I am so proud of you for getting that trophy!”  Dude, it a participation trophy.  This is the Near cousin of Try.  You are “proud” that your kid “tried”.  Talk about a low bar.  Be proud of actual achievements.  Or complement effort.  My daughter was recently in the regional championship meet for her high school swim team.  She is a middle of the pack swimmer so didn’t have any expectations of winning or medaling and I didn’t want her to be focused on those things anyway.  In the meet she achieved a personal PR in her 50 meter and 100 meter swim!  I didn’t say I was “proud” of her.  I complimented her on finishing the season with a bang.  Finishing with the best effort she had had all year, a Personal Record.  Congratulations.  A PR is an actual achievement.  A measurable accomplishment.  Take note of that.

Reframe:  Your effort was very impressive.  Save “pride” for your country.

 

My personal goal is to reduce the use of these five words by 50% next year over this year.  As with “Do This” posts, your personal mileage may vary.  Your goals may vary.  Everyone though can benefit from a little more consciousness in relation to our vocabulary and how it reflects the stories in our heads.  Be aware.  Be precise.  Be awake.

DO THIS: Stop Multitasking (Pro Tip: there is no such thing)

multitask-image

My instant gratification monkey is great at telling me stories that make me feel good about doing shit that he wants to do, while my rational mind knows that shit stinks.  The best tool I have found to overcoming these feel good stories that support unwanted habits or behavior is the bright shiny sunlight of AWARENESS, DATA AND FACTS.  One such exercise is 15 Minutes of Honesty.  Today I have the mythbuster which destroys the “I am good at Multitasking” story, one of my monkey’s favorites:

1 Minute Proof that I suck at Multitasking.

For most of us, the rational mind has convinced the monkey that texting and driving sucks, but we continue to believe the monkey at work, with friends and around the house.  The monkey mind LOVES multitasking.  Jumping around between things feels like engagement.  Feels like a lot is getting done.  Many people and things need my attention. So many that I have to spread myself thin.  It makes me feel important, needed, worthwhile.  Multitasking implies that we are working on multiple tasks simultaneously and in total getting more done (says the monkey).  But the human brain isn’t able to focus on more than one thing at a time, so what are actually doing is RAPID TASK SWITCHING and the research shows a significant switching cost overhead associated with this process.  In some cases it can be 100% overhead meaning it takes TWICE as long to complete two tasks done with rapid switching instead of in serial (one at a time).

Okay, okay says my monkey, sure I hear you, but I don’t really believe you.   Those university studies are done on drugged up grad students (not smart monkeys like me), I am WAY more productive than them!  I am great at multitasking!

Okay Monkey, let’s put that to the test.

Grab a piece of blank paper, a pen and a stopwatch.  Your task is to draw two lines and write a sentence on one line and a series of numbers on the second line.  On the first line write “I am great at multitasking.”  On the second line write the numbers 1-20 in series.  The goal is to end up with one line with the sentence and one line with the number series.  But we are going to perform the tasks two different ways and time ourselves doing each method.

Method 1: Separate Task in Series:  First, do the tasks in Series, one after each other, focusing only on the immediate task at hand each time.  Draw the first line, write the sentence “I am great at multitasking”.  Draw the second line, write the numbers 1-20 in order.  Start the stopwatch when you begin and stop when finished.  Write down the time.

Method 2: Multitasking/Rapid task switching:  Switch between tasks as you are doing them.  Draw the first line.  Write “I”.  Draw the Second line.  Write “1”.  Go up to the first line, make a space, then write the letter “a”.  Down to the second line, write the number “2”.  Now back up to the first line, write the “m” of “am”.  Down to the second line for “3”… And so on until you have the two lines done.  Write down that time.

Here is my piece of paper from this morning.

Multi tasking exercise
Multi tasking exercise

Serial :24 seconds, Multi :50 seconds.  Oh, the monkey doesn’t like that.  The tasks are the same.  The time to compete 2X!  “I can do better” my monkey says.  So I do it 10 more times.  Trying every trick I can think of to improve the multitask scenario.  After 10 iterations, average time to complete:  Serial :22 seconds, Multi :50 seconds.  So I actually got better at doing the tasks in serial (practice), but the switching costs of multitasking kept my performance stuck.

Being a nerd, I dug a bit deeper.  What exactly is going on that causes 100% overhead during multitasking?  A few things I observed in this particular exercise include:

  1.  Physical movement between task space.  In serial, I write the sentence from left to right all at once, one letter next to the other.  In multi, I have to move the pen between the lines, find the correct place to put the letter or number, and start.  This movement time, while small, is probably about 80% of the time to even write one letter or number.  While the impact of physical movement in this particular exercise may be outsized versus other multitasking scenarios, the effect can still be significant.  Even moving the mouse to switch between applications, or navigate around your phone. In this exercise I estimate that Physical movement explains about 80% of the variance.
  2. Mental reset (reconfiguring your control settings).  Writing numbers and letters are different. Each time you switch you have to try to remember your place in the task, figure out what to do next, then do it.  That mental framing, “getting into the task” takes time.  For a simple task like this it was small, maybe 10% of the variance in this exercise, but in some tasks like writing a novel, it can be very large.
  3. Cognitive stress.  While the mind can’t focus on more than one thing at a time, having more than one thing pressing on you can cause the stress of the impending task to weigh on the current task.  I found this often in the exercise, writing a number and already thinking ahead to what letter I had to write next.  Thinking of task 1 during task 2 made task 2 take longer to complete.  In this exercise I estimate cognitive stress explains about 5% of the variance.
  4. Task volume explosion.  When doing the tasks in Series, you have basically four sub-tasks.  1. Draw a line.  2. Write a sentence.  3. Draw a line.  4. Write a series of numbers.  When done Multitasking, there are 44 sub-tasks (10x!).  Draw line (x2), Write Letter (x22), Write number (x20).  It takes more mental energy to check off 44 things than it does to check off 4 things.  In this exercise I estimate that Task Volume Explosion explains about 5% of the variance.

Ok, so exercise done, variance explained, Monkey convinced right?  Well I hope so, but this is one that keeps coming back like a bad penny.  Today I am aware, but then I get busy and the Monkey comes back with extra Trumpesk confidence “I am great at multitasking”.   So bookmark this post.  Whenever you hear the monkey’s story, redo the exercise.  Spend time on the analysis.  Let it sink in.  Eventually you may change the Monkey’s story.

Footnote:

Like how I used the Monkey’s own story to prove the absurdity of the story? Change the story, change yourself.  Remember the Monkey believes stories it believes/feels to be true.  The stories are in his(your) head due to some kind of confirmation or learning in the past.  At one time, the story may have even been correct or have served a valuable purpose.   Or it may have been implanted there falsely (say by a large conglomerate (Apple, Microsoft, Google, et al) trying to sell you productivity tools/technology) by advertising or media.

Here at DGC we like to practice contemplation and give you practical tools to analyze where you are in life and if it is all going the best it can for you.  A key tactic in this journey is to Know your Stories (the monkey’s and everyone else’s) and then ASK IF THOSE STORIES ARE STILL SERVING YOU on a regular basis.  Compare the Stories against the facts.  In the case of the “I am great at multitasking” story, a fairly simple one minute exercise lays bare the truth.  Many times it only takes changing one word in the story.  Repeat that story enough and it will become the Monkey’s story.  My truth about multitasking?  Say it with me:  “I suck at multitasking!”  Convince your monkey of this and productivity will skyrocket!

DO This: 15 Minutes of Honesty re: goals/action alignment

 

 

keep calm and achieve your goals

 

We all tell stories about ourselves.  One of mine is “my actions are very aligned with my goals and values.”  A smile and a burst of confidence appear every time this story passes through my neurons.  Sometimes, though, the red pill (reality) can slap that stupid grin right off my face.    This morning reality slapped me.  Hard.  Usually I just shrug it off and keep going.  Today I decided to learn something.

So, being a data nerd, I developed a quick honesty exercise which produces ONE actionable item with high probability of getting your goals/values/actions back into alignment.  Kind of like a Chiropractor for your brain.   Similar to the Recover Your Grit exercise, but this one is bite sized exercise and can be done in 15 minutes.

Backround:

My morning routine of work-out, meditation, morning pages, etc. usually takes about an hour and a half.  This morning it took 3 hours.  Yea, that is right, 50% dilly dallying.  Now I am not one of those “got to be productive 100% of the day” guys, but 50% waste is excessive by any measure.  Usually I tell myself I am too busy to do the analysis, the job is too big, not that much time was wasted, etc.  But do I really have a more important thing to do than figure out where 50% of my time went and how to get that time back (if I want to)?  So here is what I did:

The 15 minutes of Honesty in Actions Exercise:

When the red pill of reality slaps you in the face (“Oh shit, I think I just wasted a bunch of time!”), do this exercise immediately.  It works best if the period of time is less than a day.  Say a couple of hours, or even a whole work day.  But not more.  If the time interval is too large, you won’t remember enough details to be helpful.  Also you must do it immediately or your memory will start to re-write the facts and the analysis will be less truthful.

Take out a pad of paper.  Yes paper and pen.  Turn your phone off.  Walk away from the computer to a quiet place with a desk and a chair.  No technology to distract during the exercise.   Remember you only need 15 minutes then you can go back to being so busy you can’t take time to get less busy.:)

At the top of the first page, write the date and time period you want to analyze that just felt like it got hijacked.  For me a recent one was a three hour period from 6-9 am Monday Sept 26, 2016 at my house in Seattle Washington.  Name the primary activity that was supposed to be going on then.  For me, recently, it was my morning routine.  It could be a project you were supposed to be working on, time with the family, etc.  Underneath this heading, draw a horizontal line across the page and a line down the middle to separate the page into two columns.  On the top of the left column write “On Point Actions”, on the right write “Not On Point Actions”.  If you are feeling spunky (as I was) you can add to the right column “distractions/shiny objects” or any other colorful characterization of the things that tend to take you off task.

Now rewind your mind back to the beginning of the time period you are analyzing and roll forward minute by minute remembering everything you did.  Those things that were on point write in the left column and put the number of minutes you did each of them.  Those things that were off point write them in the right column with minutes associated with each of those.  Add up the minutes on the left and the right. They must total the interval you are analysing (in my case 3 hours).  If they don’t you are missing something, go back and add more actions or time to the actions you already have.  When I did this exercise, I need a second page for the shiny objects/distractions because there were so many of them.  Here are the pages from a recent exercise I did.

15 minutes of honesty page one
15 minutes of honesty page one

15 minutes of honesty page two
15 minutes of honesty page two
Often when writing down an action that I was doing, I realized that starting one action actually lead to other actions.  So for these items, I put an indentation below listing the follow on actions that happened because I started the primary action.  For example “read email” turned into “buy electric pulse exercise suit from Indiegogo for $1,450”, register for a conference, download some pictures, and unsubscribe from three newsletters.  While we all know that email can be a rathole, the depth and breadth of that rathole can be hidden until we actually do an exercise like this which catalogues exactly what happened in email. This exercise is very good to highlight how actions are linked together and which “master actions” like “email” and “check facebook” and “check stocks” and “check Instagram” can lead to much greater time diversions than your brain originally planned.

When you are finished and the minutes match on each column to the total time you are analysing, then summarize at the bottom of the page what happened.  Calculate the ratio of on point and off point time.  Add in any other consequences of the off point actions (like in my case money spent buying things that were not originally on my list at the beginning of the time).  My recent results were 1:35/1:25 and $1,550 unplanned spending.  47% not on point.  Now at the bottom of the page of the right column, make a list of the top 5 things that got you off point with the most number of minutes.  For me these were: check email, check facebook, check stocks, text people, mess around with apps on phone and daydream.  Now see if there is a common root cause, or enabling event/technology between any of these actions.   For me, 5 of the six were related to the iPhone.  So I grouped these and wrote “iPhone” next to that group.

So what is the #1 thing I can do to re-align my actions during the morning routine with my goals and make that time as much on-point as possible?  Turn off the damn iPhone during that time.  Nothing I normally do in the morning routine requires the phone (by design).  Now when you do the exercise you may have another action or enabling technology that distracts you.  Maybe the TV,  or other chores around the house, or children, or going shopping.  Whatever takes you off task.  The point here, is to sit down and make the list in excruciating detail.  Add up the minutes. Account for every one.  Note the other unintended actions ( money spent, etc.) Honesty and authenticity is the goal of this little red pill.  You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken.

Until I did this exercise, I had let my monkey mind convince me that having a phone always near by was productive and ultimately allowing me to get more done in the day.  But this exercise in honesty and drilling down to every minute laid bare the reality that much time was wasted chasing shiny things and doing non critical things.  Some of them I maybe would have done anyway, but the point is that I could always choose to do them later.  Allowing the monkey mind to indulge the shiny objects in the middle of other time which my goals say should be dedicated to another activity just made that activity longer and less productive.  In the end multitasking has often left me with a longer list of unfinished projects.  This exercise documents this in detail so that your monkey mind can not ignore the data any longer. You have the paper.  Your hand wrote the lists.  You have re-lived the diversions and productive time in detail. You truly understand the difference. Next time you conscious mind will have a reference point to make a more informed decision of whether to indulge the monkey mind or not.  You also have One concrete intervention (which you can use or not, up to you) which has a high probability of keeping the monkey mind at bay during time you want dedicated to on-point actions in support of goals.

Frequency:

I do this exercise whenever I have a flash of realization that I am off track with actions and goals.  I have done it three times in the last month.  Each time a different proximate cause and intervention has surfaced.

Science:

I created this exercise myself, so this specific technique has not been studied (as far as I know), but this is part of the quantified self, although most of that literature is around sensor data. Part of the “know thyself” world.  The more you are honest and authentic with yourself, the better able you are to get where you want to be in life.  This exercise is similar to some the work in Cognitive Behavior Therapy to discover automatic thoughts.  Much of that scholarly work is hoarded by the information bandits who hold our mental health hostage behind research grants funded by taxpayers, so we are left to figure out our own exercises.

This is a small, manageable way to get some insight.  And it is free from me to you.  There is no downside.

DO This: Morning Pages 

Have-Good-Handwriting-Step-14

Morning Pages is a tool promoted by Julie Cameron in her Artist Way book as a daily practice for anyone interested in creativity, not just writers.  This guy also describes the practice very well.  Basically first thing in the morning, right after waking up, before you get going with the day, while you are still in that in-between mind state, write for 15 minutes in stream of consciousness style.  Just whatever comes out.  Cameron recommends using pen and paper in a journal.  I did the hand journal for about a month and a half, then moved the practice over at 750words.com since I can do it on my smart phone in bed and get some interesting analytics (data nerd alert).  I am going back to pen and paper to slow it down again and get away from the distractions inherent in working on a screen.

I have been doing Morning Pages for about three months now.   Concrete results from doing morning pages:

1. I produce 3x the writing as before. Basically I believe doing the 15 minutes of work right in the morning in the alpha brain wave stage sets up a creative foundation for the day. I find later when I sit down to write a blog post or something else it comes easier and more clear. Even if the topics are completely different.

2. Greater understanding of the dream world in relation to the real world. Since mp are done in that waking up phase while your dreams are still somewhat present, I have noticed that more of my dreams are making it onto the pages. That brings their content into the conscious. Without mp the dreams were forgotten. There was no mechanism to connect the two worlds. There is a lot of understanding going on in the dream world. Good to get it up to the surface.

3. I have built confidence overall. Basically it is about 15 minute job each day. I can find 15 minutes. If I can find 15 minutes for mp i can find 15 minutes for something else.

4.  More creativity in general. Even if you are not a writer, or trying to write, mp is a creative exercise.  Often times, solutions to issues reveal themselves in morning pages spontaneously.  A motorcycle maintenance solution popped in the other day.  As did a stream of good names for a new web site.  And a landscaping solution.  Creative solutions in diverse areas of my life, nothing to do with writing.

5. More clarity to the day:  Doing a brain dump first thing in the morning is kind of like a clean sweep.  You can get all the monkey mind thoughts and inner critic out on the page and start new.

Other Observations:

Long Hand VS on a device:  I did both.  Started out long hand, three pages in a note book.  It was hard to use my hands that way after such a long time on the keyboard.  It felt very slow and I had the desire to want to use some of the writing later, or do analytics on it.  So after awhile I moved the practice to 750Words.com.  Very good interface, good device support, challenges to keep you on task, merit badges, and some interesting analytics.  While I gained the ability to write on more devices, to share the work, and the analytics my nerd desired, I lost some of the soul of the exercise.  Writing long hand is slower and that is good.  You have to actually slow down your brain to your hand speed. You also don’t have a web browser or other apps there to quickly engage with in diversions that come up during the writing. When I write long hand with the phone and computer off, I begin and end the exercise without distractions 99% of the time within 20 minutes.  750words has a handy analytic of start, stop times and words written over time.  Using 750words I have completed the words in less than 20 minutes less than 40 percent of the time.    Due to the ease of indulging distractions on a device, my productivity goes way down.

What to write about.  Some people structure their writing.  Two pages on this, one on that, etc.  I have done it with and without structure. What I find is that without structure many times the stream can get stuck and I end up filling up space with mumbo jumbo words.  That is especially true on 750words where the word count at the bottom of the screen is menacing you the whole time.  If you are sitting there staring at the page, just start writing about staring at the page.  And why the exercise is so hard.  Then write your to-do list.  If you run out of inner critic stuff, or lingering to-do items, start writing about what you are going to do today,.  Meetings, people, events, etc.  If I get stalled (rarely), I just ask “Today would be so awesome if….” and start again.  Never fails.

There are many twists on how to do Morning Pages.  Here is exactly how I do it.

I get up (without an alarm so it is a natural time to awake), take a cold shower, dress, make a cup of coffee, then sit down at a desk to write morning pages.  Leave your phone in another room.  Do NOT sit in the same room as a computer or any electronic device connected to the internet.  I write morning pages at a desk because writing by hand in my lap gets uncomfortable after 10 minutes.  I write before meditating as I have found the clearing out of MP helps deepen the meditation.  I write the pages longhand (not on computer anymore see above) in a notebook that I put aside and never open again.  I try to make my only distraction picking up the coffee cup or stretching my fingers.

  • Pro tip for the to-do list addicted among us:  Put a small sticky note on the desk next to your journal.  When something comes up that you want to add to your to-do list, write it down there.  DO NOT allow your device with the to-do list app to be there, that rathole enabler will distract you.  At the end of the session, transcribe the valuable things from the post it notes to your regular to do system, or simply get them done.  This one upgrade has alleviated the major objection my monkey mind had to not having a device within hands reach – all those amazing inspirational to-do items that came up during morning pages.  There will be a lot.  But this post-it note system ensures they don’t become a rathole of wasted time.

FREQUENCY:

Do every day for 30 days.  Contemplate the effect on your life.  Continue if positive.  Overall, Morning Pages has earned a place in my morning routine due to the clear benefits I have noticed in my life.  It is the second best ROI on 20 minutes I have during the day (#1 being meditation).

SCIENCE:

Normally on Try This exercises, I reference any science I can find behind the exercise.  I can’t find any scientific studies on MP.  But there are hundreds of positive reviews and testimonials on-line.  While I have a proclivity for evidence based solutions, when the evidence is my own experience, I honor that.

DO This: 10 minutes of REAL conversation

This exercise is a combination of active listening and free flow creativity that has popped up in a couple of quite diverse events recently, including the Search Inside Yourself newsletter, a mediation retreat and a Catholic mens group.  Every time I do this exercise I learn something new and grow the relationship with the other person.

Grab a friend, lover, acquaintance, or even a random stranger (I did this once at a coffee shop and it was an AMAZING thing), and take 10 minutes to do the following:

Be in a place where you can hear each other clearly and there will not be interruptions and you will not be self-conscious.  Flip a coin to see who starts.  Set a timer for three minutes.  Each person 3 minutes to talk, while the other listens mindfully without comment.  The initial talking should be done stream of consciousness style – without editing or overthinking.  Talk about anything, the weather, what you are doing in the day, how stupid the exercise is, the silly looking person across the room, whatever, the key is to just keep talking non-stop for 3 minutes.  As you speak, simply notice what emotions arise, what you say and how you say it.  The key is to listen mindfully without interrupting and to share without self-critique or editing.  After both have spoken, spend the last 3 minutes in normal conversation together debriefing and reflecting on the exercise.

When I have done this, it is amazing how long talking for three minutes feels like.  It is also interesting to note all the feelings that come up while trying to fill 3 minutes.  When listening, I find myself striving to jump in and encourage someone having a hard time filling the time, or wanting to comment on something. It takes focused effort to allow the speaker to speak.  When speaking and having someone paying full attention for 3 minutes, it is an amazing gift.  Likely those 3 minutes are the most time during that day that you will be consciously aware you have another beings FULL AND UNDIVIDED ATTENTION.  That is an amazing blessing and reminds me to give that level of attention to others more often.

 

DO this: Trade your expectations for appreciation.

Want a formula for instant wealth?

Trade your expectations for appreciation.

Your entire life will change in that instant.  In my experience, lack of appreciation is the only thing that will make you truly poor.  I personally define “wealth” as “having enough.”  When you have enough of anything, you are wealthy in that thing.  Only you can decide when you have “enough.”  Unfortunately many of us let others (society, family, friends, work) decide what “enough” is.

I know what you are thinking.  Webster defines “wealth” as “a large amount of money and possessions.”  Yes, but further on it says “abundant supply”.  Now that leaves room for judgement of what “abundant” is as well as supply of what?  When your life has an abundant supply of expectations, goals, precursors to fulfillment, it is VERY hard to feel wealthy.  You never admit to yourself that you have “enough.”

Appreciation on the other hand works exactly the opposite way.  When you have an “abundant supply” of appreciation, it is VERY hard to NOT feel wealthy.  You see the value in everything you have and do not pine after more.  You have “enough.”

So try it for a day.  Whenever you find yourself feeling the pull of expectations, stop and replace it with appreciation.  For example, you see a guy in a Ferrari and the expectation that you want one too grabs your brain.  Stop, look around your own car.  Is it better than the car you had 10 years ago?  Appreciate it.  Thank the car you have for being there for you.  Bam!  You are wealthy.

You cannot change the world, but you can change how you react to it.

DO This: Your Character Strengths Revealed!

DO This: 5 step Life Purpose Statement Generator!

I just created this one myself.  Super fun brain teaser!

 

DO This: Recover your Grit

Someone recently asked me : “How do I recover the grit and will to succeed in life I had a long time ago, but I lost over time?”

As someone who has had a +/- net worth swing of over $500M in the last 15 years, this question, unfortunately, I know something about.  Rediscovery of yourself is also a happy side effect of taking the Red Pill.

Grit is the magic combination of perseverance and passion. Put that on top of above average intelligence, some money and your social network and BINGO : success in life. See where you are on the GRIT scale today by taking the assessment. Personally, Grit is not something I can keep applying over the long term (say 10 + years) without burn out. Grit takes ALOT of energy. It is easy to loose without quite a bit of resilience.   The good news is most everyone has the CAPACITY for GRIT for certain things. If you feel you once “had grit” and have “lost grit”, I suggest you do the following:

1. Go back to the time you “had grit”. What were you doing? Why were you doing it? With whom? What about that time/activity gave you the extra passion to put in the extra effort? The purpose here is not to re-create the same conditions in the past, rather to become aware of what they were.

2. In remembering and reliving the time you “had grit”, write down as many specific feelings that come up about those times. I find it helpful to use a detailed feeling list like this one. (who knew there were more feelings than “happy” and “angry”?)

3. Now roll forward to today and take an assessment of how your current life is going by doing some self assessment tests like these. Pay most attention to the values exercises and strengths/weaknesses.

4.   Next, create a list of all activities you are doing today within a week that take more than one hour of your time. Here is one I did way back in 2005 as an excel spreadsheet.  My typical week Jan 2005.  List work, family commitments, raising children, volunteering, sleep, workout, etc. Next to each activity, put the number of hours a week you do that activity. The total must be 168 hours. Add to this list three activities off your “if only i had the time” list. The things you believe you would love to do, or would be good at if you only had time to get around to them.

5. Take the top five positive feelings you felt way back when you had grit (from step 2) and write them down on the left side of a piece of paper. On the right side list all the activities from step 4, including the “if only” items, from the greatest time suck to the least. Now draw lines from each feeling word to each activity that also produces that feeling.  Write the number of feeling connections made next to each activity.  Here is one of mine from today:

mgt feeling activity matrix june 2016

 

6. What activities on the right are related to the most number of positive feelings from the previous “success state”? Those are the activities to peruse to regain a feeling of success.  In my recent exercise, the top 5 positive “success” feelings were, flowing, appreciative, curious, helpful and balanced.  The top three activities which created those feelings were “teaching my kids a life lesson, helping them”, “sharing my life lessons with friends/others”, and surf/harley/take a month off every six months.

It is important to remember that “success” and the “feeling of success” may be different things. What you are capable of generating grit for may not result in “success” as defined eternally. It is important to note that what feels like success may not pay the bills of life.  If that is your situation, you need to then decide how much of the bills you are willing to give up in order to live more in line with your feelings of success.  What you choose to apply grit to very definitely feeds your soul in a successful way. I define success today at 52 much differently than when I was 30. I am not trying to recreate the “success” of my 30s, rather define success into my 50s and beyond.

DO This:  My favorite quotes on living well

MY OWN THOUGHTS:

“Be decisive.  Right or wrong, make a decision.  The road of life is paved with flat squirrels who couldn’t make a decision.”  Martin Tobias

“When I can buy anything I want and decide to buy nothing, that is something.”  Martin Tobias

“The grass isn’t greener on the other side. The grass is greener where you water it.”  Martin Tobias

“Have a budget for all the fucks you give.”  Martin Tobias

“Not making a decision IS a decision.”  Martin Tobias

 

FROM OTHERS:

“Distraction destroys Destiny” . Sachen Patel

“Sometimes it’s a little better to travel than to arrive”. Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values.

“A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time”, Mark Twain.

“The thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die.”  Soren Kierkegaard.

“Work is about the search, too, for daily meanings well as daily bread, for recognition as well as for cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.”  Studs Terkel, Working.

“One swallow does not a summer make, nor one fine day; similarly one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy.”  Aristotle

“When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.”  Seneca.

“It is no exaggeration to say that every human being is hypnotized to some extent either by ideas he has uncritically accepted from others or ideas he has repeated to himself or convinced himself are true. These negative ideas have exactly the same effect upon our behavior as the negative ideas implanted into the mind of a hypnotized subject by a professional hypnotist.”
Maxwell Maltz, Psycho-Cybernetics, A New Way to Get More Living Out of Life

“In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.

On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.”
Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

“Always pass on what you have learned.”  Yoda

“Do. Or do not.  There is no try.”  Yoda

“You will find only what you bring in.”  Yoda

“Just keep swimming.”, Dori, Finding Nemo

“The happy man is not he who seems thus to others, but who seems thus to himself.”  Publilius Syrus.

“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you’re not going to stay where you are.”  John Pierpont “J.P.” Morgan

“The man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder.”  Thomas Carlyle

Steve Jobs vision of innovation and the world on You Tube.

“The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent, but if we can come to terms with this indifference, then our existence as a species can have genuine meaning.  However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.”   Stanley Kubrick.

“A thought is harmless unless we believe it. It’s not our thoughts, but our attachment to our thoughts, that causes suffering. Attaching to a thought means believing that it’s true, without inquiring. A belief is a thought that we’ve been attaching to, often for years.”
Byron Katie, Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life

“Don’t believe everything you think.”
Byron Katie

“Placing the blame or judgment on someone else leaves you powerless to change your experience; taking responsibility for your beliefs and judgments gives you the power to change them”
Byron Katie

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop and look fear in the face.  You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”  Eleanor Roosevelt.

“We have two lives.  The first life and the second life after you realize you only have one life.”  unattributed.

“There are only two tragedies in life:  One is not getting what one wants; and the other is getting it.”  Oscar Wilde.

“Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful”  Warren Buffet.

“Objective judgment, now at this very moment.
Unselfish action, now at this very moment.
Willing acceptance – now at this very moment – of all external events.
That’s all you need.”
Marcus Aurelius

“Our actions may be impeded … but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions.  Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle of our acting.

The impediment to action advances action.
What stands in the way becomes the way.”
Marcus Aurelius

“The things you think about determine the quality of your mind.  Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts.”  Marcus Aurelius

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” -Thoreau

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” -Richard Feynman

Epictetus asked the question: “How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself?”

“You shouldn’t give circumstances the power to rouse anger, for they don’t care at all.”  – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 7.38

“You are not your body and hair style, but your capacity for choosing well.  If your choices are beautiful, so too will you be.”  Epictetus discourses 3.1.39b-40a

“We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them.”  Epictetus.

Alan Watts: “To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim, you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do, you will sink and drown. Instead, you relax and float.”

“If you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right.”  Henry Ford.

“For such a small price, I buy tranquillity,” Epictetus’s line about ignoring small slights.

Philosophy,” Juvenal wrote, “by degrees, peels off most of our follies and vices, first shows us what’s right.”

“It is not that life is short, it is that we waste alot of it.”  Seneca

“Certainty is created within YOU not by your environment.”  Tony Robbins

“Beating the competition is relatively easy.  Beating yourself is a never ending commitment.”  No finish line.  Nike ad

“The duty of a man is to be useful to his fellow men; if possible to be useful to many of them; failing this, to be useful to a few; failing this, to be useful to his neighbors, and failing them, to himself; for when he helps others, he advances the general interests of mankind.”  Seneca

“A rock thrown in the air, it loses nothing by coming down, gained nothing by going up.”  Marcus Aurelius.

“Putting things off is the biggest waste of life:  it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising us the future.   The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today.  The whole future lies in uncertainty; live immediately.”  SENECA

From Kim-An Williams, wife of my friend Matt Williams who died young after a long battle with cancer.  “I did not like being sick, but I did realize some important things through that experience.  One especially important lesson I learned is NEVER TO ASSUME THAT YOU KNOW SOMEONE ELSE’S STORY.  Everyone has something that they struggle with in life.  Everyone understands what it means to miss someone that they love.  You will meet lots of different people in your life, and not all of them will share your experience of having a mom who died when they were young, but they might have a different experience that can help them to relate to how you feel.  You become a stronger person when you really understand what it means to be sad and what it means to be happy.  You will be able to help other people understand their own sadness and happiness too.”

“Knowledge can be conveyed, but not wisdom.  It can be found, it can be lived, it is possible to be carried by it, miracles can be per-formed with it, but it cannot be expressed in words and thoughts.”  Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse

“There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so” . Shakespeare

“In war, the moral is to the physical as three is to one.”  Napoleon