Monday, June 19, 2017

Book Review --- Sort Of

I recently tried reading a book titled The Laws of Simplicity by Jon Maeda. I slogged through the first two or three chapters, then skimmed ahead to see if there was going to be anything I could glean for myself from this very technical book. There wasn't.

Don't get me wrong, it is a well written book with some very good insights for today's technological age and business climate. I think business owners could gain a great deal from it, especially if you have a product to produce and sell, or need some insights in marketing your product or services. But it was a hard read (my impatience rears its ugly head here), and because there was no clear cut value obvious for personal growth, I gave up on it (and it is a rare occasion that I don't read a book cover to cover...I always feel I should give the author every opportunity to touch me).

My thinking is there are literally thousands of self help and personal growth books out there. I would probably not be able to read all of them in a lifetime, so I can discard one that is not immediately helpful or is obviously out of my league, like this one.

I am currently reading one book and alternately listening to another one on audiobook. I'll be able to review both of those soon. In the meantime, I'll keep working on my baby steps.....falling down....laboriously pulling myself up again.....never giving up.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Another Finished Project --- This Time Finished By ME

This is a quick update to show an item on my "unfinished business" list that I actually completed (instead of my son doing it for me). I've had this photograph for several years of my brother-in-law, which I thought to do a black and white wash of. I love this photo, so it's been in my head for quite some time. I may still try a grayscale watercolor of it, but because I was just trying to get myself to do something, ANYTHING, I did a pencil drawing of it instead. I did put some time in on it, probably 4-5 hours (I'm really not sure, because I started it back in February and just made myself get back to it last week), but to perfect it would have taken at least another 2-3 hours, and I wasn't looking for perfection, just doing the work.

Just so you know, I'm like any other artist that ever lived; I don't like sharing my work unless I'm really happy with it, but I do partly to acknowledge to myself that I completed something and not to belittle that in my head, and partly to encourage others to chase their dreams. If I can make myself work in spite of all my fears, others can too. So here it is....perhaps I'll title it, "Man in Suit and Hat".


Monday, May 29, 2017

Annie --- Part LIX

I had my 58th birthday yesterday, and I must say it didn't feel too bad. My family spoiled me just like they know I love for them to do, I got something I've been asking for, and a couple of nice surprises too. AND I received well wishes from many friends and family, at church, at work, and across the nation. I feel loved. What more can you ask?

But besides all the brouhaha (that I absolutely love, don't get me wrong), it felt good for another reason. There have been many birthdays, especially since #40, where I have been like, "AAAAAACK! Another year! I've wasted ANOTHER YEAR! I need to get busy!!!" Yes, I scream and panic in my head just like that. But not this year. This milestone's arrival felt just fine, because I know in my head and heart that I'm trying. I'm trying to grow spiritually, mentally, artistically, physically, financially, lovingly, faithfully, and all the other positive "-ly's" that you can think of. I'm working hard to become the person that I really want to finish my life being (and I constantly stop myself when I start feeling guilty and regretful for so much wasted time and mental energy, avoiding being better....it's so pointless....today is my gift, I intend to use it like I'm grateful for it).

As I've already mentioned, It's tough, this "becoming." But as all the books and articles I've read so far keep reiterating, it's the journey not just the destination. Enjoy the journey. I'm really trying to learn to enjoy the journey, embrace the work, and NOT FEAR the failures, the defeats, the temporary setbacks that come with all growth. I want to appreciate those challenges. I'm not perfect, I'll never be perfect. But the Lord says I can be complete, equipped for all good works. That's the target. That's where I'm aiming. Will I know it when I get there? Ha! Probably not, knowing me. But that's okay too. The journey will keep me very busy and satisfied.

Today I feel satisfied with my life.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Change Is So Hard

"I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden." Anybody out there remember this song by Lynn Anderson, 1970? Sometimes when I get whiny with myself (this happens far more often than I would like to admit), I think of that song.

Change is hard. Yes, surprise surprise! Aspiring to reach goals, trying to do something with myself, replacing bad habits with good ones, these things are amazingly difficult. And yet, sometimes amazingly simple. IF you keep your focus on them, keep your "eye on the ball" as I've been hearing a lot since it's baseball season.

I let my focus waver the last couple of days, after having a very good first week of May. You think you're going along nicely, and then BAM! All of a sudden it's been two or three days and you've let slide those great habits you're trying so hard to ingrain.

But something good IS happening. My brain is starting to change, just a little at a time. Since it's been thinking in a different way, firing on cylinders that had grown somewhat rusty, the habits are starting to change. Take last night for example. Even though I've only been trying to use my time differently for about 10 days, and I haven't tried to completely cut wasting a little of that time on games out of my life, when I had the chance to play on my tablet last night before bed I wasn't really interested. Now, there's another little voice in my head telling me, "You could work an interesting puzzle instead or send a nice email to a friend." OR "You haven't read your 10 pages today, why don't you do that?" And yesterday on my lunch hour at work, I did play one of my favorite games on Facebook, but afterward I definitely felt unsatisfied. I could have been enjoying a good book.

These little daily disciplines are already starting to pay off. Yes, I'm kind of amazed. But again, it is SO easy to get distracted by....well.....almost anything. I do think I understand the extreme importance of reading my goals written in my own hand every day, to keep a journal chronicling my efforts (even if it's just for ten minutes a day), to think about the good things I want to accomplish for myself and my loved ones, to pray about it and tell the Lord my thoughts and feelings and ask Him to direct me, and to talk about it to people who are rooting for me and willing to listen to my rants and crows.

Nobody ever said change was easy. Nobody with sustained personal success of any kind will tell you that it happened overnight. Change is hard, and finding fulfillment in your life takes time. Lots and lots of time. Patience is one of those virtues with which I have not been "naturally" blessed. I have always battled my impatient nature (and today's fast-paced-give-it-to-me-NOW society doesn't help!). The fight to patiently work and wait for my personal success is worth it.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Amazing Book Here

I finished another self improvement book, and I must say, it's a great book. I think I would give it 4.5 out of 5 stars (and the only reason I don't give it a 5 is a quibble really....it was not as "enjoyable" a read as some of the others I've read). But this book can change your life if you absorb it and let it work for you.

It's called The Slight Edge, by Jeff Olson. I'll bet there are a million people who have read this book, and I'll also bet that the top 5% of people who are very successful have ALL read it. It's a really good book. It really can change your life for the better.

But there is a catch. This book won't make you successful. It can help YOU make you successful, whatever "successful" means to you. It gives you the tools needed to feel happier, more connected to your life...more in charge of your own life, more productive, more satisfied with the direction your life is going.

It's not a "magic bullet". Making changes in life is a tough business, and there's no magic about it. It takes time....lots of time....to be the person you want to be, the person God wants you to be. But anybody can get there! That's the beauty of it.

And here's the big question Mr. Olson wants you to ask yourself, that really had an impact on me. "How do you want to feel about your life at the end of it?" He says that 95% of people die unfulfilled, frustrated, and dissatisfied with the way their life has played out. Only 5% of people, at the end of their lives, feel happy and satisfied with their life. Now, I have no way of knowing if that statistic is accurate, but I'm guessing that's probably pretty close to accurate. We all know lots of grumpy, dissatisfied people, who's lives are not going the way they want or were expecting it to go. Nobody PLANS on having a crummy life.

My feelings about my past are mixed, as I assume the majority of people feel. Would I change the choice to spend my life serving the Lord, trying to be closer to Him, trying to make it to heaven? Absolutely NOT!!! Would I change my choice of spouse or whether to have children (even after going through plenty of hard times?) NO WAY! But...would I make some different choices in my life knowing now what I didn't know then? Of course I would. Wouldn't we all? I especially would change the choices I have made concerning how I have spent my time.....I have WASTED so much time in my life, spent lots of time actually "escaping" into useless endeavors, and that is my biggest regret.

Here's the great news. I can stop looking at my past, fix my habits, and look POSITIVELY toward my future, any time I want....like right now! I can become so much happier with myself and the direction of my life immediately. And I did....by reading The Slight Edge and applying it in my life.

I've said this with each book so far, and I'll keep repeating it. Nothing can replace the Bible for learning what God wants for me, and teaching me HIS wisdom. But you know what? This book even helped me re-commit myself to that, on a daily basis! I decide my life's philosophy, and my attitudes toward everything. I decide how to spend my precious time and personal resources. The slight edge just gives me a place to start, and tools to help me head toward my goals, with little baby steps one day at a time.

There are lots of good books out there that will help a person make better choices, have a more postitive outlook, and do great things with his/her life. And I plan to keep reading more (10 pages a day at a time). This book is a great place to start.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Switch!

In my last post, I promised a review of a self-help book. Hmmm, well, I've made an executive decision to review a different book. The one I started, Split Second Choice, I haven't finished yet. The applications in it are mostly in business settings, which just didn't "speak" to me personally. I will probably finish that book at some point, because it is one of my compulsions. I hate leaving a book unfinished even if I don't like it; I keep thinking there might be something for me somewhere in it, and I am over halfway finished with that one.

At the moment, I have about six self improvement books from the library to read and review (and use for my own improvement of course, which is the whole point of this exercise). I will interject here that, as a Christian, I firmly believe everyone should make an effort to read the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes in the Bible at least once a year for practical wisdom on living life as a human trying to be godly (or at least a good and wise person, which most people want to be, even if they don't believe in an all-powerful Creator they are striving to please). Anyway, back to my review...

I have devoured a book in the last week, which DID speak to me in a profound way, Switch (How To Change Things When Change Is Hard), by Chip Heath & Dan Heath (brothers). Not only did I find the book very informative in understanding why (my) change is hard, and how to overcome problems and resistance, but the (true life) research examples were fascinating, and the writing was well done (which can be such a distraction for me if I'm constantly correcting things in my mind). I read all the way through first, planning to go back and outline and take notes for myself, but (hey! what do you know!) at the end was a nifty little page with an outline of all the stuff to remember AND a section on typical problems and resistance to changes and how to overcome them. So helpful! This is definitely one of those books I would gladly read more than once to glean all I can from the teaching.

A brief synopsis of the book is that each of us has an emotional side and a rational side in our brains. Their metaphor is an Elephant (emotional side --- great analogy, since our emotions are HUGE and hard to control!) and a Rider (rational side --- the thinker and planner). Both sides have strengths and weaknesses, and to make a change you have to learn how to direct the Rider and motivate the Elephant. The third piece to the change puzzle is the Path (environment and situation). You also have to shape the Path to make the change easier for the Rider and the Elephant.

The Heath brothers have given so much clear direction on these three components, with specific examples for each, that it's almost impossible to misunderstand or be fuzzy about how to achieve lasting change. The hard part, of course, is applying the principles to your own specific situation, but they try hard to make it as easy for you as possible, whether it be in a business setting, or your community (or nation!), or in a relationship, or the very personal habit you're trying to achieve (or break!).

Yes, I highly recommend this book to anyone who is struggling to make a change in their life. I'll update another time whether I am able to make application and succeed in developing my own better habits.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

I Think I'm Beginning to "Get It"

In my search for productivity, self-fulfillment, joy and all that other good stuff I want to develop in my life, I have been setting goals. And I felt like they were good goals, and they are...as far as they go. But I'm starting to realize that my goal-setting skills themselves have been inadequate. They are specific goals in five distinct categories, but geared only toward the end of the year...end game. I haven't broken each goal down at all, so that I have something to strive for quarterly, monthly, weekly, daily. No wonder I've been floundering in the execution of these goals. (I would normally do some self-flagellation here, but I'm trying to stop that....I won't call myself an idiot, I'll just be happy that I figured out something new so early in the year and have lots of time to improve!) I have been waaaaay vague in my expectations, so I've been getting almost NOTHING accomplished. Time to change that!

Take, for example, my painting/drawing. This is my YEAR OF UNFINISHED BUSINESS, which I thought of because of all the started or at least thought-of projects that have been just hanging around on a list, and in my head, for a couple of years (well that, and the weight I planned on losing for seven years). So I was thinking about that the other day and decided to break that goal down into projects with projected timelines. Excluding the two or three things on the list that I no longer even want to pursue at the moment (hey, I can do that, it's my list), and separating the writing projects into their own category (because I want to try working on "art" and writing projects simultaneously, so to speak, that leaves 9 creative projects. And what do you know, 9 months in which to work through the list! I know that some projects will take much more time devoted to them than others (e.g. a drawing that I've already started that should reasonably take less than two weeks if I work on it a little daily and a children's book that I want to write that would have at least a dozen watercolors in it, each one taking at least a week to complete). You get the idea.

Anyway, I won't bore you with all the planning out that must be done, but I wanted to share my excitement at figuring out how to make some concrete and realistic goals (thanks, in part, to my friend and fellow "self-improver" Debbie, who graciously shared her Passion Planner with me...we may have to have several more of these discussions!). Now, to keep reading Split Second Choice so I can keep my excitement phase going!