Month: August 2007

RSS Readers – The New Newspaper?

An RSS reader, once set up, is much like a newspaper targeted specifically at your interests.  It’s nice, in the morning, to sit down and read a bit about a few different topics, find out what’s going on in your areas of interest, and maybe learn something new.  It’s even nicer when you don’t have to weed through other things which don’t even slightly interest you in order to find those bits that do.

That’s what an RSS reader does… it provides you with updates to “feeds” of information that interest you, without any extra “junk” (one man’s junk is another man’s treasure) to waste your time.  It allows you to efficiently remain up to date in your chosen areas without having to visit dozens of websites to see if they’ve updated their content.

Of course, you can “subscribe”, or request updates be sent to your reader of choice, to general news feeds, and get the same sort of articles that would be in a standard newspaper, although without an editor deciding which ones deserve the front page.  But if you’re only interested in one section of the paper, say sports, you can subscribe to feeds that only pass along sports news.  Or if sports aren’t your style, you can subscribe to financial news, tech news, or any other kind of news.

But where RSS readers have an advantage over newspapers is the fact that you can also subscribe to feeds offering articles on self development (a little plug for my own niche… hope you don’t mind), gardening, bird watching, or any other subject of interest shared with too few people to make it into a newspaper on a regular basis.  You can, essentially, build your own daily newspaper.

Newspapers do have an advantage over RSS in one area, though.  Any given newspaper is likely to be read by far more people than a given set of RSS feeds.  That means there is more of a social aspect… you can discuss the articles in the paper with others who have read them.

This advantage of newspapers is only fleeting, however, because while the “set” of articles is shared among readers, any individual RSS feed (and the articles it contains) can have anywhere from a handful to hundreds of thousands of subscribers… and they are all interested in the same topic.  That’s quite an advantage for socializing… anyone else that you find, through whatever means, that reads that same feed shares at least one interest with you.

And the even stronger advantage for social interaction is that you can generally click on any given article to go to that website, and on that website there is a very good chance that they have the ability to leave comments, thus giving you a way to communicate with those other people who share this one (at least) interest with you.

So… articles only on subjects that interest you, which interests you can change at any time (unsubscribe from a feed and/or subscribe to a new one), the ability to get articles on a vastly more wide array of subjects, and the ability to interact with others who you KNOW share at least one interest with you… RSS readers seem likely to, at some point, replace physical newspapers (you can always subscribe to your local paper’s RSS feed) as a means to keep current on whatever your topics of interest.

And once someone invents (or popularizes) some way of sharing your entire set of feeds, that takes away the one social advantage that newspapers have left… that people have a good idea which other articles someone might have read.


Why It’s Hard To Have Peace Without Quiet

If someone asked you what the first word that comes to mind when you hear the word “peace” is, would your response be “quiet”?  If it is, and you were asked to come up with a mental “image” of that, what would you come up with?  For me, the picture above almost perfectly captures the mental feeling that the phrase “peace and quiet” conjures up.

When you think of peace and quiet, the quiet you are thinking of is probably a low volume of sound around you.  There’s a far more important kind of quiet if you are seeking peace, however: an internal quiet.

The clarity of your thoughts is determined by the signal to noise ratio.  Signal, in this case, is thoughts related to whatever it is you are trying to focus upon.  Noise is unrelated thoughts and distractions.  When you have 100% signal, your thoughts are crystal clear and you can be extremely effective.  When the noise goes up, and the ratio drops, your effectiveness declines.  If you want to operate at peak efficiency, then, you must get rid of the noise.

“Internal quiet” is when when the signal to noise ratio is high, when you let go of all the noise, all of the mental distractions and conflicts.  It is when the crazy whirl of thoughts that we live in slows down, making any one thought clearer and more focused.

Internal quiet is directly influenced by external quiet.  We have instincts, passed down from our cave man ancestors, that cause our subconscious to interrupt whatever our conscious mind is doing to alert us to any new, different, or unusual sound.  This comes from the fact that sound was one of the cave man’s primary means of detecting predators, and thereby avoid getting eaten.

We have similar instincts in regards to vision, the cave man’s other primary means of detecting predators, but those instincts are easy to shut off:  close your eyes.  If you close your eyes, you can’t actually SEE any new, different, or unusual things (other than mental images, which are part of the “distractions” mentioned above).

It’s much harder to close your ears, however.  There are noise-cancelling headphones, but these are usually quite expensive, and the feeling of having them on can be quite distracting itself.  That means that if you want external quiet, in order to facilitate internal quiet, you are probably going to have to find some place where you can be alone.

Once you are alone, and all is quiet, you can start working on internal quiet.  Actually, to be more accurate, you can STOP working in order to achieve internal quiet.  Internal quiet can only be attained through letting go of working, seeking, or any other active pursuit.  It is ironic, but internal peace cannot be achieved by seeking it… it can only be achieved by ceasing to seek.

Once you reach internal quiet, you begin to release physical and mental tension.  You let go of emotions that you had been clinging to, and let your muscles relax.  Both of these actions promote healing… you can’t heal a wound that you won’t stop digging at.  Letting go also releases the energy that you had been pouring into your grip, so that it can be devoted to healing instead.

Sometimes, when you achieve internal quiet, you may find yourself overwhelmed by emotion.  This is normal… you can’t let go of emotions until you stop suppressing them and feel them.  Once you go through the emotion and come out on the other side, however, you’ll feel like a weight has been lifted.

Letting go brings peace.  That peace leads to healing.  Healing one injury leads to less resources (or energy) being used on that wound, enabling you to let go of more.  That, in turn leads to more peace.  It’s the opposite of a vicious cycle… it’s a virtuous cycle.

When you have too much noise, it is hard to let go, let alone start to heal.  That is why peace needs quiet… it doesn’t necessarily have to be external quiet, though that helps too, but without internal quiet, peace is simply out of reach.

7 Ways To Give Writer’s Block A Severe Beating

If you write creatively much, you’ve come across the thing known as writer’s block.  You may be sitting there looking at a blank document (I’m a blogger… I write using my computer, not paper), or you may get “blocked” in the middle of your writing.  I, personally, actually experience the second more than the first.

You may have a deadline, or you may just want to get it done and out, even though there is no real deadline.  But you’re stuck… you don’t know how to get out in words the concepts that are hiding in your mind.  The longer you sit there unable to write, the more frustrated you get, making it even harder to find the words you want.

Don’t panic.  There are things you can do to free the words from your mind, free them to flow out onto your chosen writing medium.  Here are seven of the techniques that seem to work fairly consistently for me:

  1. Talk To Someone About The Subject

    This virtually always works for me, but is limited by the fact that you need to find someone who will actually listen.  Depending on what you are writing about, that can be easier said than done.  Given that you have someone, however, this works because it forces your mind to come at the subject from a different angle.  Your mind simply uses different pathways when having a conversation with another individual than it does when writing for an audience.

  2. Free Association

    This concept is well known in psychology, but is great for writing, as well, especially since you already have the tools right there:  your mind and a means to write.  The technique is simple… just write down whatever comes to mind, whether it seems relevant or not.  This method has the advantage of working at the block from two directions.  One, it may give you different angles of seeing the subject, and two, it can clear some distractions from your mind (writing them down seems to address them sufficiently to make them go away, much of the time).  In other words, it combines some of the advantages of #1 and #3.

  3. Clear Your Mind

    Distractions can make it hard to focus your thoughts.  Many times the distractions are as much in our minds as in the world around us, so it can be useful to clear your mind.  There are many techniques for doing this, too many to list.  My favorite, however, is to take quiet time.

  4. Take A Walk

    Sometimes the best way to break through writer’s block is to step away from the writing.  Stretch your legs, go for a walk, get some sunlight (if it’s available).  A few moments away from the writing, accompanied by a little physical activity, can bring you fresh insight on your subject.

  5. Write About A Related Subject

    This technique is really about tricking your mind.  It consists of stopping writing on your main subject, and going and writing a small amount, such as a few paragraphs, about a related subject.  If you’re writing about blogging, for example, you could write a little bit about SEO.  If you’re writing about relationships, you could do a little bit about communication.  This often shifts your thinking enough that you go around the writer’s block instead of trying to punch through it.

  6. Imagine Someone Asking You About The Subject

    This is similar to #1, but doesn’t require an actual other person.  It does, however, require that you give a few details to your imaginary person, or that you picture explaining it to a specific person you know.  In order to get your mind to shift over to “conversation mode”, the person you’re thinking about has to have enough detail to make it real enough to your subconscious.  They don’t necessarily have to have a name, for example (though imagining specific people that you know is often the most effective form of this), but you do need a rough mental picture like relative age (child, young, old, etc.), sex, level of knowledge in the field, etc.  As mentioned in #1, conversation mode is a different way of thinking, and the switch from mode to the other is often enough to break your block.

  7. Talk To Someone About A Different Subject

    This is really my last resort.  Basically, I put my writing on the back burner, giving it time to stew and my subconscious time to kick in something to get me over the hump, so to speak.  Having a conversation with someone about a different subject requires enough of your attention (or should… if it doesn’t, you’re not doing it right) to get you to mentally drop what you were writing about, giving yourself some mental space to look at the subject with fresh(er) eyes when you come back to it.  The danger with this one is that you may entirely lose the thread of what you were writing, and have to start over, or at least back somewhat.  Of course, that could actually be a good thing, too… sometimes when I lose the thread and start over, the end product is much better than the original.

You can use any one, or any combination, of the ways listed above to try to break past the block.  Some of them are more effective for me than others… #6, for example, is usually a last resort, while #1 almost always works, if I can find someone interested enough in whatever I’m writing about to actually have a conversation.

What else do you do when you hit writer’s block?  How do you get the words out when they’re stuck?  If you have a technique not listed above, I humbly request that you share it in the comments, to help me the next time I can’t get the words to flow like they normally do.

The Most Essential Ingredient Of Success

There are an incredible number of books, articles, videos, and any other kind of media you can imagine selling you “the secret of success”.  Most of these methods are questionable… after all, if it were easy, then everyone would be successful, and that’s clearly not the case.  There is one thing, however, that IS critical to success… success in ANY field.

That one thing is awareness.  There are many kinds of awareness, but there is one kind that has greater impact on your path to success in anything you attempt.  That kind is awareness of self… awareness of how you make choices, how you change your subconscious tendencies, and how that determines how you see the world.

We all face an uncountable number of choices each day.  With each choice that comes, you have two levels at which it can be made:  subconscious or conscious.  The default is subconscious, as you can plainly see if you think about it.  You don’t consciously choose when (or whether) to breathe, at least not normally.  You don’t, generally speaking, choose which letters to read in which order.  Your subconscious handles all of these types of decisions…. EXCEPT when you become consciously aware of it.

When you read the paragraph above, you may have suddenly become aware of your breathing, and made a choice to hold your breath, or breathe more deeply.  If you did decide to do one of those things, then your conscious mind made the decision to take over that choice temporarily from your subconscious.  It will shortly pass the choices back to the subconscious as your awareness of your breathing fades.

When you become aware of a choice your conscious mind has the chance to pick the option that best aligns with your conscious goals, rather than your subconscious goals.  That means that you have a much better chance of achieving success in the area where you are aware.  Your conscious mind has the ability to prioritize goals much better than your subconscious… for instance, your subconscious will seldom, if ever, decide that something is more important than taking care of hunger.  Your conscious mind, on the other hand, can see that going to an interview during your lunch break, and thus missing lunch, will satisfy higher priorities, like getting a better job.

Your subconscious mind makes choices based on the history of how your conscious mind has chosen in situations similar to current circumstances.  Any time it doesn’t have enough related decisions, it passes the choice on to your conscious mind by bringing it to your awareness.  It also brings things to your awareness that your conscious mind has taught it are important.

You teach your subconscious about what is important to you by giving it your conscious attention.  Whenever you think about something, you are giving it importance “points” in your subconscious.  That is, if you think about something in passing one time, it will barely register as important, and your subconscious will only bring things to your awareness concerning it if they are huge, and if it’s shortly after the thought.  If you are constantly thinking about something, however, your subconscious will interpret that as you telling it that that something is very important, and it will pop even minor things relating to it into your awareness.

Your subconscious is not terribly smart… it’s more like a computer.  It does what you tell it to do, but can’t make intelligent decisions on its own.   What that ends up meaning is that it takes not only the content of your thoughts when determining what’s important to you, but also the “polarity”.  That is, if you think about something in a negative way, it will bring things that relate to that thing in a negative way to your attention.  If you think about it in a positive way, it will bring things that relate to that thing in a positive way to your attention.

One example of this is finances.  When you think about how little money you have, what things you don’t have, and how you don’t seem to be getting anywhere, that’s what you’re telling your subconscious is important.  That means that it will make you aware of things that relate to (and reflect) how little money you have, what things you don’t have, etc.  If, on the other hand, what you think about when it comes to your finances is how you can invest time or money to bring added benefit, that is what your subconscious mind will bring into your awareness.

For instance, let’s take a situation and look at it from each perspective.  Let’s say a coworker tells you about his new fishing boat.  Someone who looks at what they don’t have feels bad, or jealous/envious, that the other guy can afford to buy a boat when they can’t.  Someone who looks for opportunities, on the other hand, might see it as a chance to make a friend and go fishing with them, or from a more financial side, might offer to buy the fish the coworker catches for a set rate, knowing that he can sell them for more than that.

That’s the same situation, the coworker with the new boat, and two completely different ways of seeing it.  The same thing happens in other areas, too, like relationships.  If you think more about what’s wrong with your relationship (or what’s wrong with the other person), your subconscious is going to bring more of that to your attention.  If, on the other hand, you think about the positive aspects of the relationship, or positive attributes of the other person, your subconscious will make you aware of things related to that.  It’s pretty obvious what a difference that can make in a relationship.

The good news is that you can intentionally choose to think (or not think) about a specific thing, or in a specific way.  That is, you can consciously choose to look at your relationship from a positive perspective, and start teaching your subconscious that THAT is what you want brought to your attention.  You can turn your thoughts away from what you lack any time they head that direction, and that will make that of less importance, thus bringing less of your lack to your attention.

By doing this, you are choosing what to be aware of.  That means that you make choices in that area consciously, thus also setting “the history of how your conscious mind has chosen in situations similar to current circumstances”, and changing how your subconscious handles similar situations in the future when your conscious mind is too busy to deal with it.

You can set the patterns of success consciously, and then your subconscious will automatically reinforce those patterns.  You can also set the patterns of failure, and your subconscious will automatically reinforce THOSE patterns.  The difference between the two is awareness… when you become aware, you can set the pattern of your choice.   That just leaves choosing what success means to you… and focusing your thoughts and awareness on that meaning.


17 Ways To Commit Relationship Suicide

It is very common for people who are in a failing relationship, or who have left a failing relationship, to blame it on “growing apart”.  They say this as if it were some unavoidable fate, something they had no control over.  It’s fairly likely that they even believe it to be that way.

Growing apart doesn’t just happen.  It is the cumulative effect of actions, and choices, over time.  That is why I call it relationship suicide… you are killing your own relationship.  Relationship suicide is more a build-up of small things than it is big things, because big things tend to be more (to use a similar analogy) relationship murder, being caused by someone else (your partner).

If your relationship is on the downward slope, but not yet dead, you can often turn it around by becoming aware of what it is that is killing it.  Once you start trying to be aware, you’re likely to find that it is easy to see what actions are causing the most problems in the relationship.  That gives you a good place to start.

It is good to read this list with your partner, but if you read it separately be aware that if you tell your partner what it says you should do there can be an instant defensive reaction to being told that they are doing something that is killing their relationship.  The reaction is to deny it, and to semi-consciously KEEP doing those things, as sort of a “You can’t tell me what to do!” response.  That can actually be more harmful to the relationship than continuing the way you were, because at that point they know what they are doing, and are doing it consciously, and may feel either resentful to you for pointing out where they were failing, or guilty for doing it.

If you are in a good relationship, or looking to start one, use this list to educate yourself about what to avoid… the things on the list are small things that add up over time and eventually result in  relationship suicide.

* Note:  These are from my personal observations, and even previous personal experience, but they ARE NOT from my relationship with my wife.

  1. Discuss Your Partner’s Faults Regularly

    Discussing your partner’s faults is a double-edged sword, and both sides cut at your relationship.  I’m quite certain you can see how continuously discussing your partner’s faults with your partner could lead to a nasty confrontation.  Doing so with someone else has negative consequences on multiple levels, as well… you lower the other person’s opinion of your partner and word may get back to your partner, hitting several defensive reactions.  And ANY time you start going off about your partner’s faults, you are reminding yourself of them, paying them more attention, focusing more on them, and various other things that all lead to them weighing more heavily in your mind… if you ONLY talk about what is wrong with your partner, and never what is good about them, your relationship suicide may not even be all that slow.

  2. Verbally “Snipe” At Each Other

    Verbal sniping refers to the little things that people who have been together for a while say to each other with the intention of getting under the other person’s skin.  It may be a comment about their driving, or the way they do (or don’t do) something around the house, or anything else, as long as it’s just intended to irritate them a little bit, not provoke an upfront confrontation.  I have seen quite a few different couples do this, and it really takes a toll, especially on emotional intimacy.  And you might be surprised how much emotional intimacy has to do with sexual intimacy.

  3. Let Your Partner Slide Down Your Priority List

    This is one of the easiest things on this list to do without noticing.  You get busy with some project or other, and so you push your partner slightly aside in your mind.  When you’re done with that project, or even before you are done with it, another project comes up.  This time, you don’t have to push your partner aside, they’re already there.  When the next one comes up, you end up needing to push your partner just a LITTLE more to the side.  Once you’re to this point, your partner is no longer at the top of your priority list, and takes less to move them from #2 to #3 than from #1 to #2, and it’s a downhill slope from there.  The worst part is that this particular thing is a lot of the time, probably even most of the time, subconscious… you don’t consciously choose to push them to the side, your subconscious does it for something you are focused on right then.  That makes it hard to fix, too, because first you have to become aware of it, and then you actually have to admit that you did it (most people don’t like to admit it, even to themselves, because they feel guilty for it…. to which I might respond “There’s a reason why you feel guilty about it.”).

  4. Neglect Quality One On One Time

    One on one time is important… but quantity is not the same as quality.  It doesn’t matter if you spend twenty-three and a half hours together each day, if only fifteen minutes of it is quality time your relationship is going to suffer.  In fact, one on one time in quantity without quality is probably even worse than not having the time in the first place because quantity without quality can leave you sick of it.

  5. Stop Showing Appreciation

    This is one of a few items on this list that all fit into the subheading of “Taking Your Partner For Granted”… but they are different enough to merit more depth than that.  When you stop showing appreciation for the things that your partner does, even the small things, they lose much of the incentive to do those very things.  That might not seem like that big of a deal on the surface, but what happens when you stop showing appreciation for, and they stop doing, things like washing the dishes, giving massages, saying I love you, taking you out on a date… you get the idea.  It’s the small things that bind you together in the spaces between the big things.

  6. Stop Being Impressed

    Like the one above, this item fits into “Taking Your Partner For Granted”, but in a different way.  It is easy to become accustomed to your partner, and stop noticing when they do things that are above average.  For instance, if your partner is a good cook, it becomes easy to take for granted the good meals they cook.  You forget to be impressed by how much better than normal they are.  If you stop noticing the things about them that stand out above the crowd, then you start thinking about them less highly, which is a mighty fine way to start “growing apart”, and eventually achieve relationship suicide.

  7. Stop Having Deep Conversations

    Communication is important.  You know that, you’ve heard it a million times.  What the people telling you that often fail to mention, however, is that it isn’t just about quantity, it’s about quality (like the one on one time above).  The depth, and therefor strength, of your relationship is directly related to how deeply you know each other.  Since people are constantly changing, that means that you need deep conversations on a regular basis, so that you can learn what things have changed, and make sure that you still know who they ARE, not just who they were.

  8. Start Focusing On Other People

    This ties into letting your partner slip down you list of priorities, but it’s not the same.  If you and your partner are around other people, and you focus on those others to the point of even partial exclusion of your partner, it communicates to your partner that they are less important than the other people.  This is even more so if it’s someone that your partner sees themselves as competing with, such as another woman (if you’re a man), or someone else who is a rival in some field that your partner considers themselves good at, such as your partner being a chef, and you focus on another chef.

  9. Compare Your Partner To Others

    This is a bad idea when your partner comes out worse in the comparison, and often bad even if your partner comse out ahead.  That is because any comparison communicates to your partner that you are considering their value relative to that of someone else, and indicating that the person you are comparing them to is a rival for them in whatever area you are comparing.  This is made far worse if the person you are comparing them to is someone that you spend a lot of time around, and even worse than that if you compare them to an ex-partner.

  10. Blame Your Partner For Things You Don’t Like About Yourself

    This is a well-known thing in psychology, where they refer to it as projecting.  Projecting is when you “project” the way you feel about something onto someone else, acting like they feel that way, even when there is no evidence, sometimes even when there is contradictory evidence.  Blaming your partner for things that have changed about you since you’ve been together, even when they had nothing to do with that change, also falls into this category.

  11. Try To Control Your Partner

    Attempting to control your partner is a bad idea.  Period.  Making your child check in with you every hour or two when they’re out is okay.  Making your adult partner do so is not.  The same thing applies to spending small amounts of money… it is fine to require your child to check with you before spending $5, but the same is not true of your partner.  Again, requiring your child to get prior approval of anyone they want to spend time with is fine, but trying to do the same with your partner is not.

    Your partner is not a child, and especially not YOUR child.  Don’t treat them as if they were.

  12. Try To Force Your Partner To Change

    This is a mistake that a LOT of people make.  You cannot, under any circumstances, force someone to change.  It is simply not even possible.  You can put in place incentives to do so, and negative consequences for not doing so, but you cannot force them to do it.

    Add to this the fact that people respond extremely negatively to feeling like their power of choice is being taken away (or even infringed upon), and you have a recipe for disaster.

  13. Try To Manipulate Your Partner

    Manipulating your partner, or even attempting to do so, is bad.  It causes the same defensive reactions as trying to force them to change, for the same reason.  You are trying to take away their power of choice, or limit it, and people resent that.  If you succeed, it also causes your regard for them to drop, because you begin to see them as something that you can control, not an individual capable of going their own way and making their own choices.  That’s an almost certain path to losing your respect for them, as well, and at that point, your relationship is effectively dead.

  14. Tell Your Partner White Lies

    You know you shouldn’t lie.  That’s not a disputed issue.  But some people, at a middle depth, think small lies are okay if they don’t get caught.  When I say at a middle depth, I mean that if you ask them they will almost always say lying is wrong under any circumstances.  They also probably believe, at their core, the same thing… which is why even white lies eat at you a little bit over time.  This type of lie even comes out without conscious thought at times, especially if you feel like you’re under pressure, or even worse, like you’re being attacked.  The lie simply pops out before you are even aware you are thinking about it.

    Once you have lied, one of two things is going ot happen:  either you are going to get caught, or you are going to think at least slightly lower of your partner.  Either one of these things will bring your relationship suicide closer to success.

  15. Complain Regularly

    Being around someone who complains all the time is draining.  Having that person be your partner makes it worse, because you feel guilty if you tune them out and, of course, you spend more time around your partner than most others.  Listening to someone complain all the time causes you to be more aware of the negative things, thus bringing you, the listener, to a lower mental state, as well as the complainer.

    Try not to complain, and if you DO complain, try to think of two good things to sayfor each negative thing you catch yourself complaining about.

  16. Complain (Regularly) About What Your Relationship Is Lacking

    Combining a couple of the items above, complaining about what your relationship is lacking is a very easy way to put a serious hurt on said relationship.  It is pointing out to your partner what they are doing wrong, saying that you think what they are doing isn’t good enough, discussing their faults, complaining, at least somewhat manipulative (you are trying to get them to do or not do something, whatever is lacking), and many other negative things.

    Discussing where your relationship could improve is a good thing… but not all the time.  And when you DO discuss it, make sure you do it from a positive perspective, as in “We could be closer if we did such and such” rather than “You never do so and so”.

  17. Drop An Emotional Bomb Before Reaffirming Your Love

    Want to make your partner feel pressured, overwhelmed, and attacked, all the same time?  If so, try dropping an emotional bombshell on them first thing after being apart, before showing them that you love them.  This includes first thing in the morning (sleeping counts as being apart), right when they come home from work or a trip, or anything else that involves being apart.  Give them a chance to feel like they are at home, and, if you can, show them that you love them by doing something nice right off the bat.  That something nice can be complimenting them, hugging them, kssing them, all of the above, or something else altogether that you know they appreciate.

    And don’t just do something positive, and then immediately hit them with the bomb either… give them at least a few minutes to shift from “out” mode to “home” mode.

So if you want to commit relationship suicide, start going down the list above.  The death of the relationship will be directly affected both by the number of the above-listed things that you do, and by the vigor with which you do them.

If, on the other hand, you would like to start a new relationship off right, keep your current relationship strong, or turn around a relationship that has been falling apart, use the list above as a test.  Give yourself an honest evaluation as to which of the things you do, and work on stopping them.  Try to stop the behaviors that build on each other first, or the ones that you do particularly badly.  You may even find out that your relationship soars to new heights!

Blogja Vu

We all know what deja vu is… when you feel like you’ve experienced whatever it is you’re going through before.  Blogja vu is my made up word (phrase?) for when you write about something, and then it comes up in a conversation with someone outside of the online world.

It makes you feel odd, like you’re echoing yourself, or quoting something you’ve read.  You can have seventeen conversations with different people about one subject, all offline, and it doesn’t feel weird.  But as soon as you write about it, even (or maybe especially) if the article was inspired by talking about that subject with that very same person, it feels different.

It’s not necessarily a bad feeling… just odd.  It can feel a little awkward, too, like the example above, quoting something you’ve read.  It just doesn’t feel like it belongs in the natural flow of a conversation, more like it belongs in a prepared speech.

So what can you do about it?  Not much, as far as I can tell… I haven’t been blogging THAT long, and it may be more prevalent in my specific niche of self-development (I’m not sure how often that feeling would come up for someone who blogs about, say, digital photography).  Hopefully, with more time and exposure to the feeling, the awkwardness will fade.

Four Steps To Boosting Your Creativity (And Confidence!)

Some people, it seems, are born so full of creativity that it comes out of their ears.  Others feel dull and lifeless.  What is the difference between the two?  Is creativity something you can learn?

The answer is both yes and no.  The truth is that everyone has creativity in their soul and that you cannot actually teach creativity.  What can be taught, however, is how to awaken the creativity that is already inside you.

First of all, let’s consider what creativity is.  Some people are creative with regards to formal art, like painting.  Some are creative when it comes to writing.  Still others are creative when it comes to music.  And, of course, some people are creative in other ways.

The first thing to understand when you are seeking to ignite the creative fire inside of you is that creativity is NOT limited to what are traditionally considered creative activities.  While some may be creative in music, art, or writing, others may be creative in seeing new uses for existing tools, in seeing what would make a good photograph, or coming up with new dishes.

If you want to see an example of someone who took their creative urge in a direction that is not generally considered a “respectable” form of creative expression, look at the art ofJulian Beever.  He took sidewalk chalk to a level that most people would never even imagine, and is famous worldwide for it.  So don’t worry that your particular form of choice is one that isn’t generally associated with creativity.

There is one thing that all creative people have in common.  They are all passionate about what they are creating, about the very act of creating.  That passion is one of the very things that scares off people who don’t feel they are creative.  When you are uncertain of your talent, you may be hesitant, and that hesitancy can make you kill your own creative impulses.

So you’ve made the decision that you want to light the fire of creativity within you, that you want it to burn bright and high.  Here are four steps to lead you in that direction.

  1. Find Your Creative Calling

    If you want to awaken the creativity within you, you have to find something that you enjoy, something you resonate with, something where you have the kernel of a flame of passion.  This doesn’t have to be an “approved” form of creative expression, it can be anything.  There are even creative criminals, though I would advise against that path.

  2. Make Small Changes

    The second step is to start pushing your creativity in the area you have chosen.  Take a step off the beaten path, and do something differently.  Do it differently than you have done it before.  Do it differently than the official “prescribed” way.  Change it and make it your own.  It doesn’t have to be anything big, even small steps will help build up your courage for bigger steps later.

  3. Build On Those Changes

    The third step is to take encouragement from your small experiments and take a bigger step.  Change a major component of something, whether it’s the process for doing something, or changing the actual end product.  You can’t grow without change, so if you want to grow in creativity, if you want to light that fire inside you, you have to feed it, and it runs on pieces of old routine and “safe” ways of doing things.

  4. Evaluate What You’ve Built

    The fourth step, and the last one that I can guide you toward, is to look back and evaluate the changes you have made.  Did things improve?  Did they grow worse?  How did it make you feel to make those changes… did it make you feel uncertain but more alive?  Look back and learn… learn which changes were beneficial and which ones weren’t, but most of all, learn that change is the only path for growth.

Some people are blessed with creativity burning bright from the time they are small children.  Some people are not… some even have those flames of creativity intentionally doused by parents or teachers who think they are being “realistic”.  Even those who are born with the fire inside, however, sometimes find that the fire has burned low, and they need to re-ignite it.

Whether you are building the fire of creativity for the first time, or simply trying to build it back up to where it used to be, always remember what that fire burns as fuel:  routine, “safe” places (where you are not mentally or emotionally challenged), and fear of failure.  So break pieces of those things off and feed them to the fire!  You’ll be happier, more creative, and more confident in no time.

9 Methods To Start Your Morning Alert And Focused

Some people wake up instantly alert, focused, and ready to get to work on a new day.  Others set their alarm an hour or more before they actually have to get up because they drag it out so much, and even once they are up, it takes them another half-hour or more to really be with it.  If you fall into the first category, you probably don’t need this list (although you may find a few helpful techniques to start off even better).  If you’re in the second category, and want to move closer to the first, this list is for you!

Welcome to a new feature of A Miracle A Day, Tips Tuesday.  Once a week (at least), I will take a break from the normal in-depth coverage of one piece of one topic, and provide an article filled with easy to read, easy to use tips, methods, techniques, or something like that.  Today’s topic is, as you may have guessed, “How To Start Your Morning Alert And Focused”.

  1. Start The Night Before

    The things you do before you go to bed the night before can make a huge difference to how you feel in the morning.  You’ve probably read a list of things to avoid late at night, like caffeine and exercise (and no, that doesn’t mean avoid exercise altogether).  There are also positive things to do, rather than avoid… here’s a way to sleep better and avoid bad dreams.

  2. Give Your Subconscious A Wake-Up Time

    Just before you go to sleep, choose the time you want to wake up.  Form a clear mental image of your clock showing that time.  Repeat it, mentally at least:  “I am going to wake up at 5:00 AM”.  Picture yourself seeing your clock showing that time, and yourself getting up.  This primes your subconscious to send you an alert when it hits that time, and your subconscious has a very good time sense, even if your conscious mind has no access to it.

  3. Get Up When You Wake Up

    One of the biggest mistakes you can make if you want to get up easily and be alert without needing to wait is to hit the snooze button.  Your body has an instant response to waking up of being completely awake and alert.  That response generally lasts less than a minute.  If you get up during this time, however, you will remain awake and alert.  You even get the same benefit, to a lesser extent, if you just start thinking about a complex topic… it’s much more effective if you actually at least sit up, though.

  4. Don’t Snuggle Your Wife/Girlfriend

    This is sort of an extension of the last one, but taken farther (and the one I have the most trouble with).  If my wife wakes up with me (I wake up at 5:00 AM, so it doesn’t happen all the time), and rolls over to snuggle me… it just kills pretty much any chance of my getting up before my body settles back down to being drowsy.

  5. Get Moving Early

    Physical movement gets the blood pumping stronger, and that includes to your brain.  If you have a chance, an early morning walk or work out can work wonders for your alertness and focus.  Physical activity also helps clear mental fog, and any stress left over from the day before or any bad dreams (though you don’t need to have bad dreams).

  6. Take A Shower

    This one is especially important if you implement number 5, above.  A nice cool shower after working up a sweat is very refreshing, and gives your mind a little down time to deal with whatever issues have been clouding your mind lately.  A shower is usually “safe” time, meaning you’re unlikely to be interrupted or required to do anything, so your mind can let go of the barriers it holds up the rest of the time, at least a little bit.

  7. Visualize Your Goals Being Accomplished

    This one really can’t be beaten for being alert and focused.  What better motivation is there than vividly imagining your goals already accomplished?  It gives you a reason to dig in and get moving on whatever project it is that you’re working on.

  8. Posture

    It’s amazing how much impact your physical posture has on your mental state.  If you become aware of your posture, and which aspects of it reflect which moods, you can actually choose your mood by adopting the posture that reflects that mood.  It’s not instant, but it is rapid.  Try it some time… put yourself in a confident posture, and remain mentally aware of it so that you don’t slip out of that posture.  Stay that way for a few minutes and you’ll see the change in your mood.

  9. Visualize Explaining Your Favorite Topic

    This is another great way to get the mental juices flowing.  Just picture yourself explaining all about your favorite topic to someone new to it, someone who is fascinated by it.  This is like taking motivation and alertness, distilling them to a serum, and injecting that straight into your brain.

    Just as a warning, though, this one loses its power if you use it TOO much… though ACTUALLY doing it, not just visualizing it, takes a lot to get to that point.

There you have it.  Follow these techniques, especially number 3, and you’ll be alert, aware, and focused every morning.  You may even be so alert that you annoy other people who aren’t.  If so, direct them to this page to annoy them even more!

4 Steps To Truly Forgiving

Forgiveness… it is espoused by very nearly any program for personal growth or healing, whether scientific, religious, or new age.  The reason behind the effectiveness of forgiveness is not mystical, however.  The reason that forgiveness is so essential is simple:  True forgiveness involves releasing your hold on grudges that are constantly draining your mental energy.`

When you hold on to grudges, you are devoting mental energy to maintaining them and the emotions that you associate with them.  Since we’re talking about grudges here, this also means that emotions you are devoting your energy to holding on to are negative .  Think about it… you are intentionally causing yourself to feel bad feelings.  That doesn’t make sense, but if you allow your subconscious mind control, things don’t have to make sense.

  1. Understand What Forgiveness Is

    True forgiveness begins with acknowledging and accepting responsibility for any emotions that you attach to an act.  “They” didn’t make you angry.  “They” did something, and you became angry.  The difference between the two is critical.  The first one assigns blame for the feeling, and responsibility to change that feeling, to the person who committed the act.  The second one brings it back to where it belongs: you.

    Forgiveness always comes from within, never from outside.  That is because outsiders have no control over the emotions, the feelings, inside of you.  The best they can do is inspire you to decide to change yourself.

  2. Understand What Forgiveness Is Not

    Forgiveness is not justifying or forgetting.  It is not pretending like nothing happened, or letting actions go without consequence merely for the sake of “forgiveness”.

    Many people confuse forgiving an act with justifying the act.  When you justify an act, you search for reasons to show that the act was never bad, right from the beginning.  But that doesn’t fool your subconscious… it knows what you really feel, what you really believe, and so it will continue to hold negative emotions, though your consciousness may disguise them as feeling guilty either for having provoked the action, or for not having truly “forgiven” it.  Your consciousness is not fooled by false justification… and if you REALLY believe the act was completely, 100% justified, then you’ll have no forgiveness to grant.

    Forgetting and pretending nothing happened are actually the same thing… because you’re highly unlikely to ever truly forget.  Once you feel like an act has harmed you, your subconscious stores it away in patterns having to do with getting hurt, so that it can recognize similar situations in the future and act to avoid that hurt.  Thus, both of these things are false fronts, and do not contribute in positive ways to either you or the person who you want to forgive.

    Letting actions go without consequence is VERY commonly mistaken for forgiveness.  In reality, it’s one of the worst choices you can make.  If actions have no consequences attached, then the person committing those actions doesn’t learn anything from them.  If someone does something that hurts you, and there are NO bad consequences, they will do so again in the future in the same situation.  Now keep in mind, knowing that they hurt you may be a bad consequence for some people, but even then, that still requires that you let them know that they hurt you.  That means that without consequences for the action, not only did you get hurt, but the person who did it won’t even learn that they did something wrong.

  3. Understand Why Forgiveness Is Important

    Negative emotions have a natural tendency to become entangled.  That means that when you attach negative emotions to an act, those emotions become entangled with any OTHER negative emotions you have tied to another act.  They become one interconnected mass, the total size of which grows with each new act to which you attach negative emotions.  The fact that they are entangled also means that as you add more to this mass, already existing emotions become harder to release, and new ones are more likely to stick.

    This entangled mass is what causes situations where one annoying but inconsequential act snowballs into massive amounts of negative emotions.  Basically, it catches onto the existing entanglement of negatives and rips the whole thing into your conscious awareness, but WITHOUT THE REASONS BEHIND THE WHOLE THING.  That is, all of your negative emotions that you have piled up get focused on this one, inconsequential thing, and so you completely overreact, out of all proportion to the “cause”.  Often, you won’t know, even later, WHY you did that… so you’ll come up with some sort of reason that half fits.

    All that energy that you are dumping into holding onto this entanglement of negatives is energy that could be spent to improve your current life, work for the future, deepen relationships, or any number of other things.  Because of inertia, though, you continue to spend that energy on anger, frustration, pain, and other bad things from past events.  If you were to consciously choose which thing to spend your energy on, what would you choose:  positive things in the present and future, or negative things from the past?

  4. Take Action

    Letting the negative emotions attached to an act go is an intentional action.  You choose to stop devoting the energy to continue feeling the hurt.  You choose to untangle the negative emotions from the act you are forgiving from whatever other emotions onto which you are holding.  You acknowledge that the act hurt you, but that it is in the past, and that you’re only slowing yourself down by holding onto those emotions.

    Once you have let the emotions associated with an act go, you can make practical choices about how to respond to the action.  You can decide, in fact, if it’s worthy of a response other than to note it in passing.  Some acts may not be.  Others may require you to respond drastically.  With your sight cleared of all the negative filters from anger, pain, or whatever else, you can actually make these choices consciously and in an educated manner.  You will no longer feel the desire to simply strike out, to make someone else pay for your hurt.   That means that you can choose appropriate consequences, and actually let go of the attention you were giving to the act (this includes subconscious attention, which is actually the most dangerous kind, since it’s difficult to recognize as even being present, let alone the cause of stress and bad feelings).

Forgiveness can be a cascading event.  Forgiving one action removes some of the negative emotions from the entangled mass present in most of us.  As anyone who has untied a nasty knot can tell you, each thread you remove makes the rest easier to detangle.  You also learn the process, and become adjusted to it, making it even easier to do.  You may find that with a few conscious efforts at forgiving specific acts, it starts to become natural… though you will still find instances that require your conscious attention from time to time.

True forgiveness requires conscious acknowledgement of an event that hurt you and the negative emotions that you attach to it.  It requires that you acknowledge these feelings, and then let them go.  It requires you to take responsibility for the feelings that you associate with the act, because as long as you blame someone else for making you feel that way, you won’t be ABLE to let them go (how can you let feelings someone else controls go?).

But most importantly, true forgiveness opens up a huge amount of your life and energy that were closed off by those negative emotions.  It makes it FAR easier to be happy and at peace.  Those things you aren’t fogiving are anchors holding you back from the happiness, the joy, the life that you could be experiencing.

Get rid of your anchors.  Forgive someone today!

The Power Of The Spoken Word – Spoken Words Multiply

The power of words is multiplied as the spoken word multiplies… often having consequences far beyond what the speaker intended.

You’ve heard stories about, and maybe even been affected by, the power of gossip and rumors.  You probably have experience with someone letting something slip to someone they shouldn’t have, where it came back to bite you.  You’ve even heard of the power of “word of mouth” when it comes to advertising or gaining customers.  These are all some of the more obvious signs of the power of the spoken word.

The spoken word is of immense power.  Something you mention off-hand can completely alter the course of the life of someone who hears it… even someone who overhears it.  You might mention to your friend as you’re walking that you’re tired of having to deal with one of your vendors, and someone you’re passing by right at that moment may hear you and start a company to compete with that vendor, eventually becoming the biggest company in that industry… all because of your off-hand comment.

That is the power of the word with an individual.  But the REAL power of the spoken word is that it multiplies.  You tell one person something, and they pass on what they heard… which is NOT necessarily the same thing that you said.  This often happens whether you want it to or not.

What that means is that you really need to watch what you say.  People around you will remember what you say even after you’ve forgotten that you ever said it.  Not only that, but they will pass it on, either through actual words, or through the way their behavior is modified because your words altered their perceptions of whatever you were talking about.

Tying this back to a recent article of mine, 8 Ways To Show Your Husband You Love Him, one of the very common, very nasty examples of this is when one spouse goes into detail about the faults of the other with friends and family.  Many times, they even seem to enjoy getting as low as they can, reporting even things that are temporary or very private (ie “He’s insecure about his competency when it comes to his job”… that sort of thing is told with the expectation of privacy, and should not be passed along).  You can easily predict what this is going to do to the way the people hearing it view the object of the conversation.  This effect is, of course, even stronger when the words are repeated, first of all by the original speaker, and then afterward by those who hear it among themselves and others.

Every spoken word affects every person who hears it.  The amount it affects them is, to be honest, completely unpredictable to the speaker.  It might be something they dismiss immediately, which never even gets committed to long-term memory.  On the other hand, the smallest thing can trigger massive surges of thoughts and feelings in someone, for reasons the speaker may know nothing about.

It even affects the person doing the speaking.  Saying something makes you think about it, and makes you give a concept the extra attention necessary to break it into things that can be communicated in words.  That extra attention gives it more importance to your subconscious, as well as making you think about each of the individual components, not just the overall concept.  That can be either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what it is, and what your perception of that is.  In other words, if you are communicating your idea for a new business, and speaking about it causes you to break it down into components, which you then think about, that is probably a good thing… it clarifies your idea and makes it more concrete.  On the other hand, if what you are communicating is how your wife never does this or that, and you then break that down into details (even if it’s only in your mind, not communicated), then you are adding negative thoughts and emotions not only to your life in general at that point, but also to your overall perception of your wife, so that those thoughts and emotions weigh, however slightly, every time you think about your wife.

The moral of this story is to be very careful what you say.  Communication is a great thing, especially when it is both useful and effective.  Communicating negative things, however, unless it is a needed warning, usually has more of a net harm than benefit.  That is, warning someone of something negative that affects them is good.  Reporting something negative to someone who it doesn’t affect, however, generally causes more harm than good, as it makes you think more about those negative things yourself, thus emphasizing them in your perceptions, and possibly altering the listener’s perception of the object of your conversation in a negative, unnecessary, and quite possibly unjustified way.

As I said in the beginning, the power of words is multiplied as the spoken word multiplies… often having consequences far beyond what the speaker intended.