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– J

The Bucket List Accomplishment Week

I’ve heard it said that most people overestimate what they can do in a week and underestimate what they can do in a year.  I couldn’t agree more.

Zorbing? I just put “find out what Zorbing is” on my bucket list. Image from abackpackerstale.com

I like a new week, that’s how I roll.  I like Sunday night because I’ve clicked the odometer again.  There’s a good mile behind and a good mile yet to come.

If you’re the kind who keeps a bucket list, do you ever marvel at how overwhelming it looks?  Mine is still three pages long and in some places the handwriting is so tiny that only I could ever decipher it.  There are arrows pointing to items that are related to each other, point-form lists in margins, you name it.  It’s the same paper it was written on when I was in grade twelve, before they were even called “bucket lists”.  Even when I cross things off, I still have yet to toss the paper out because there are things on every page I have yet to do.

One thing that has helped tremendously is to view a year as nothing more than a sequence of weeks.  This sounds pretty obvious, but here’s the thing:

I tried breaking it down into smaller chunks, with a daily approach, but that didn’t fit the way I do things.  Nor did it help to view goals on a monthly basis.

A week is a small enough period of time to manage in your head, and not so far away that it’ll never get here.  If it’s Monday and you’re gearing up for something to happen on Thursday, it’s a lot easier to work it backwards and know what you have to do now in order to reach that stage.  I’ve noticed, however, that by the time I start thinking in terms of the month ahead, I lose focus.  And when it comes to a year, forget it.  I do have things planned out on a dry-erase calendar eight months from now such as “…by now we should have contract firmed up with Carib island” and here’s why:

There’s a huge difference between focus and action in the sense that your focus lies down the road, in the future, but you can only take action in the present.

When a year has gone by and you’re thinking about all the things you wanted to do over the past year but didn’t, I’ll guarantee that although your long-term focus may need to be adjusted, it’s your short-term action strategy that’s the problem.  If you’re overestimating what you can do in a week, you’re going to be that much more prone to give up when what you want doesn’t immediately appear.  You’ll get frustrated and quit, or worse, if you can’t do it in a week you won’t even bother trying.  You’ll still want what you wanted before, but your actions were miscalculated, and now it seems as though what you want is never going to come.

Don’t let this happen to you.

It’s great to plan your life out a year in advance.  Hell, don’t stop there.  Do you have a five-year plan?  That seems to make people feel good, a five-year plan.  Never mind that things have happened to you in the last five years that you never could have seen coming, and could have dealt with a lot better if you’d been thinking of your week instead of your year.

Here’s the thing:  If you put a dollar in a jar every year, at the end of the year you’d have $365, obviously.  Do it every day and it’s a habit, you don’t have to think about it.  Coming up with seven dollars a week requires only a tiny bit more thought – the perfect amount, in my view, because the thought it requires makes you stop and assess where you are versus where you want to be.  It takes a few minutes, then you continue on.  But at the end of the year, if you’ve done nothing, now you’re scrambling to find $365 and thinking to hell with it.  And another year down the tubes.

One year is going to come and go whether you like it or not.  One year of surprise job offers, breakups, new dates, all kinds of things you had everything from a huge hand to no hand in planning.  But one thing I can tell you is that it’s going to come at you one week at a time.  Learn how to manage a week, and do that fifty-two times, and suddenly your year has made a lot more sense.

Download The Right Question and you’ll never have this problem again.

 

What you want is irrelevant, and here’s why.

Let’s face it, we’ve all done the “what if” scenarios, as in, “what if you had unlimited time and money”.  Where would you go, what would you do, what would change, what would be the same?

As I cover in The Right Question, you don’t necessarily know that.  There are a lot of reasons for this, but the most important reason is that it simply isn’t real yet.  So there’s no reliable way to tell exactly what you’d do.  You probably think you know, and I’m sure you’ve thought about it, but you can’t know.  None of us really can.

I remember once when I got off the phone with a good friend who works in the film industry.  She occasionally rubs shoulders with some pretty big names, and always has a hilarious story to tell about how this big Hollywood star or that threw a hissy fit and stormed off the set.  It happens so reliably that it’s comical.  And the way she tells her stories are so engaging, so humorous, and so full of detail and life that it makes me want to run away and join the circus myself every time we talk.  On this one particular occasion I remember hanging up the phone and realizing that my very idea of who I was faced a challenge because of this.  I knew enough people in the film industry to get myself working; I taught acting, I’d worked with these people before in some capacity or another.  Involving myself in that world was a distinct possibility if I wanted to.

And there’s the issue – we can all do anything we want.  Any one of us can.  There’s nothing different or special about any one of us that makes one life easier or more achievable than another.  Whether we know it or not, the lives we’re living are our answer to the Question.  The ones who succeed are ones who’ve asked the Question, and that’s all there is to it.

Now here’s a guy who succeeded simply because he answered the Question. LIfelong dream? No. Wanted it furiously? No. Just asked the Question a few points along the way.

After that phone call, I knew that a few days would go by, and I’d find myself enjoying the life I already had.  Flying my airplane, lying on the beach, tending to my little house in the country, writing a song.  Connecting with people on the internet through sales of The Right Question.

Was that because I didn’t want to get into film?  I don’t know.  I remember it being fun, the times I did work with those people, but I also remember thinking that since I feel comfortable anywhere doing anything, it wasn’t really a pull to me one way or another.

It doesn’t matter what you want.  What you get in life will be the result of asking the Question.

I remember when all the things I do now frightened me.  I imagined myself getting my pilot’s license, but nothing could have prepared me for my first cross-country flight when I had passengers and the rain was coming down really hard.  The first time I stepped out on a stage to sing a song I’d written myself.  The first class I ever taught.  All these things have a quality about them that completely changes once they become real.  And the biggest thing about them that’s different is how we relate to those experiences based on who we actually are.

When we think about what we want in life, an excellent question to ask is this:  Am I thinking about what I really want, or just what I think I want?

I’ve said in The Right Question that in regards to what you’ll actually achieve in life, what you want is irrelevant.  It doesn’t matter what you want.  What you get in life will be the result of asking the Question.  Everything else is in the category of “nice to have” or “maybe someday”.  Wanting something is a fun mental exercise, and it can be an emotional exercise too if we get really good at projecting ourselves into that situation or that life and really feeling it, but the fact is that we’re only ever going to get what we discover and decide in advance by answering the Question.

Am I thinking about what I really want, or just what I think I want?

The point is this:  Instead of thinking about what’s possible, realize that the answer is “Anything”.  Instead of thinking about what you want, think about who you are.  Ask The Right Question, and you’ll never go wrong.

Does Your New Year’s Resolution Answer The Right Question?

Happy New Year, everyone!  Let’s take our joy seriously!

Soon 2014 will be a memory.  Most of it already is.  And for the month of January, the gyms will be crowded with people who are all pretty sure they’re going to get fit this year; thankfully most of them will be out of your way by February and it’ll be business as usual.

For the rest of us, who take our happiness seriously, it’s a time to approach life for a checkup.  So grab a glass of wine and spend the next few minutes with me as I humbly offer something that might clarify things for you.

By now you know I’ve been a self help student for decades.  Self help, as you know if you’ve read my blog much, is something I both enjoyed and resented through the years.  I enjoyed it because it gave me hope that things would get better during dark and impoverished times, but I also resented it because in retrospect I feel strongly that really, hope is the only thing it gave me.  I didn’t realize that all I had to do was ask myself The Right Question.

It wasn’t all bad, though.  Every single book offered me at least something I could use.  And in the middle of all the rah-rah coaches there are quite a few thoughtfully-written and useful books.  I’d like to share a couple of ideas I learned from what I consider to be the best and most comprehensive one about goalsetting, All About Goals & How to Achieve Them by Jack Ensign Addington.

I’ve included a couple of pictures of pages I found particularly relevant, one with my notes on it.  My whole self help library is like this, dog-eared and worn books with my notes and underlining.

Is setting New Years’ Resolutions a waste of time?

I don’t advocate spending a lot of time on goalsetting.  Don’t confuse setting goals with “sharpening the axe” or practicing. I mean sitting down and thinking about what the next phase of your life is going to be like.  I don’t advocate it simply because if you already know who you are, you’ll be automatically moving toward things that motivate and delight you anyway.  When it comes to making a New Years resolution, let me remind you that talk is cheap.  Anyone can tell you they’re going to accomplish this or that this coming year.  So here’s what I’d rather do:

At the end of the year, tell people what your resolutions were.  Don’t bother telling them what you’re going to do, tell them what you did that you had resolved to do.

I’m a huge fan of what the French call a fait accompli, basically a short way of saying what’s done is done, and it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.

I’m not saying that setting goals is irrelevant.  I do it myself.  In fact, the last phrase in the Question is designed partly to get you thinking about your goal, whether in a specific situation or in an overarching life design session.  What I am saying is that you end up achieving things you never even knew should have been a goal in the first place as long as you’re aligned properly with who you are and what you feel is best for you in life.  I’m saying, spend enough time on it and move on.

From Addington, to me, to you

I made my book available with one caveat – that readers never divulge what the Question is.  I think if they pay me good money for the book, they have the right to have that investment protected (and so should I).  But I freely share thoughts in the book that aren’t the Question itself, and here’s one of them:  “In order to live the life of your dreams, you must become the person who could have that life.”

Jack Ensign Addington's book "All About Goals" presents some good ideas
Jack Ensign Addington’s book “All About Goals” presents some good ideas

In part, that was inspired by the passage in Addington’s book, and the phrase that helped me form that idea is here.  He says, “…when we identify with our goal and mentally live in the atmosphere of the attained goal, we are well on the way of achieving that goal.”

What he’s saying is that if you live your life as though you’re the person in that reality, already having attained that goal, it’s much more likely to be realized.  When you slide behind the wheel of your dream car you’ll drive it like it’s yours, not like you’re borrowing it from a nasty ogre.  When you take the vacation you’ve been working so hard for, you’ll give it your all and therefore get the most from it.  The most relaxation, and also the most fun.  You’ll probably meet the most interesting people too.

I also discuss this phenomenon in The Lottery Winners (see Succeed at Anything), but basically, it comes down to this – lottery winners end up bankrupt and hospitalized for stress and depression more often than those who don’t win.  And that’s because the way the rich handle money versus the poor is very, very different.  Winning a lottery doesn’t make you rich, it only gives you a lot of money.  In the sense I mean it here, there’s a big difference.

The Secret Referent

The second phrase seems unrelated, but I think a lot of people need help with it.  It refers to what Addington calls the “secret referent”.

The secret referent is the person whose permission you feel you need before you really start living your life the way you want to.  We consider people brave when they act in the face of criticism from their referent.  Think of Romeo and Juliet, the unfortunate offspring of Shakespeare-era Hatfields and McCoys, from families sworn to destroy each other and therefore incurring wrath not only from their own families for fraternizing with the enemy but from their beloved’s families as well.

The idea of the "Secret Referent" from Addington's "All About Goals"
The idea of the “Secret Referent” from Addington’s “All About Goals”

The passage I underlined reads, “Many emotionally immature people never get past the secret referent stage.”  He asks, “Are we choosing (goals) for ourselves or to please someone else?”, and I made a note underneath that which reads, “OR steering away from a treasured goal because its completion will not please the referent?”

It should be obvious what is meant by this, but I’ll state it in a different way.  If you really want a goal, you need to be sure that this goal has been chosen for your own benefit and not for the benefit of others.  These are questions such as, Are you taking over the family business because you want to, or because you feel it’s expected of you, or conversely, Are you blazing your own trail because you secretly want to take over the family business but you feel that this way you earn more respect?  Either way it’s all about the referent, not the goalsetter (you).

It’s also just as unlikely that any of the traditional self help methods are going to get you closer to what you truly want if you allow the disapproval of your referent to steer you away from a treasured goal.

However, I must caution you against Damage to Desire or a misunderstanding of the Law of Attraction.  What I mean is that many times our dreams come true and we don’t even know it because we don’t understand that there’s always something changed in translation between our desires and our reality.

Make sure you understand this.  I explain it fully in The Right Question.

Goodbye 2014, and thanks for everything

As we say goodbye to 2014 and open our arms to welcome the New Year, it’s a good time to think about the course we chose to steer this year.  To use the lawnmowing analogy in TRQ, we all hit some rocks buried in the tall grass along the way.  Some of them dented and dulled our blades; we needed to stop for a while, sharpen them, take a break and steel ourselves before pushing on.

But mowing the lawn is what gets the lawn mowed.  Not wanting it, not trying to figure out “why”, not setting it as a goal, not sitting on a mat wishing for it to get mowed.  Only cutting the grass stimulates it to grow more lush, rich, green and healthy.  Anything else qualifies as glorified wishing.

In the same way, self help made me feel great about the fact that my lawn was overgrown and full of weeds, but it shouldn’t have.  There should have been somebody writing The Right Question long before I did.

But better late than never.

I’m a Self-Help Traitor (pt. III)

“TAKE MASSIVE ACTION!” says the guy at the front of the room.  “BABY STEPS ARE FOR SISSIES!”

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard or read a self-help guru tell me that I need to take massive action to realize my goals, I’d have even more nickels than I do now.  A lot more.

Now, because I’ve made a lot of nickels ignoring most self help authors’ advice, I thought other people might like to hear about a different way of approaching their lives.

Here’s the thing:  As I said in my previous post, when it comes to taking action, the advice that you should take massive action is not only hard to define, it’s meaningless.

Let’s say you’re driving an older car.  It needs a little lovin’.  Lately your lights have been flickering, and a website you’ve read suggests that your alternator isn’t as healthy as it used to be.

Now if finally one day it gives out as you’re cruising down the interstate, do you need to take massive action to fix it?  What would that look like, anyway?  Would it mean that you immediately charter a helicopter to whisk you to your destination as a dealership replaces the entire car?

Obviously this isn’t practical.  And to be fair, I also understand that this isn’t what self-help gurus are talking about.  But the problem is, neither are they clear on what they do mean.  Well, I am.  And here’s what I’d do:

Take appropriate action.

If you don’t have much money, you assess what resources you do have.  Maybe you’re not much of a mechanic either.  But now you have a problem that can’t be solved by hiring someone to come and help you, because you can’t afford it.  Use the tools that you’ve got.  You immediately put the Law of Attraction into effect by visualizing a positive outcome to the situation, whatever might be best for you in the long term (not the short term).  You find out where you can get a replacement alternator for as cheap as possible.  If you don’t have internet access you go to a library if you need to, to learn how to replace it.  You scrounge whatever tools you have or can borrow, and you change the alternator.  This whole process is going to take some time.

Massive action?  To some people, maybe it is.  I’d say it’s appropriate, though.

One criteria I would advise you to always use is to make sure your philosophies are scalable.  What I mean is, if it’s good for situation A, then use it on situation B.  Don’t let your ethics and motivation be dictated by the mood you’re in.  If “massive action” means “appropriate action”, meaning that it’s appropriate to the problem in order to get it solved, then great.  Otherwise, don’t confuse the two.

It’s tempting to get all fired up and assume you’re going to be a millionaire overnight if you “take massive action”.  But you need to figure out what that means, because otherwise it’s too easy to assume that the action you really are taking just isn’t massive enough.  This tripped me up for years because I didn’t understand it properly.  I’d take what I thought was “massive action”, and I didn’t understand that you have to just climb the steps as they come.  I’d sit down to take appropriate action on a project and get discouraged because a little voice inside me would insist that my actions weren’t massive enough.  But an airplane on its way up to 30,000 feet has to pass through every single foot of air before that to get there.

You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps, so don’t be afraid to take a big step where you have to.  But keep it in perspective.

The most effective approach is to discover and decide in advance how successful you’re going to be by examining your answer to The Right Question, and you can’t go wrong.

Destination: Unknown

The first time I moved to the tropics, it was thanks to a job offer that had come out of the blue.  It wasn’t something I planned.  I’d love to say that the first time was the result of hard work and financial success, but it wasn’t.  In fact it was more or less desperation that drove me to accept the offer.  But it taught me incredibly valuable lessons about what I was going to do when I really did make that move on purpose, for my own reasons, with my own money that I’d invested and worked for.  I’m going to share some of the points I think you’ll find most useful if you’re thinking of ditching away and rising up somewhere you might find more agreeable to the human spirit than the cold climate I came from.

First off, plan for some confusion.  It’s a lot to think about, knowing that you’re going to Leave. Everything. Behind.

I remember being bewildered at what I was going to do with my house and all the belongings in it.  Didn’t I need all those pictures, books, DVDs, trinkets, and so on?  What about all my collectibles, antiques, memorabilia?  Wasn’t I going to need, well, everything?

The first thing you should understand is that if you were to take a serious look at what you actually use throughout a day, you’d realize it’s only the barest minimum percentage of what you’ve no doubt accumulated.  I talk about managing the Front End and the Back End in The Right Question, but for now let me just assure you that you’ve got way too much stuff and moving away from it might really be the only way to get rid of it.

About a month after I landed at my new job, I was talking on the phone with a friend back home.  I mentioned that I’d been too busy and having too much fun to miss any of my stuff.  I’d bought clothing more agreeable to the new climate and was surrounding myself with my new life.  In that instant as I spoke I realized that I’d never needed any of it anyway.  And I resolved that when I returned to my house, as I knew I would, I would instantly go through it and get rid of half of it.  Fifty percent.

So that’s what I did.  When the job came to an end several months later and I returned home, I spent about a week seriously contemplating who I was.  It was odd, coming home to a house lived in by somebody I no longer recognized – in other words, the old me.

I’d kept boxes of things never unpacked in the basement.  I went through each of them carefully (by the way, there are some wonderfully helpful books about organizing.  One of them I have no hesitation in recommending is Julie Morgenstern’s Organizing from the Inside Out) and decided whether it went in the Keep, Discard, or Donate piles.  The rule was that the Keep pile could be no larger than the other two combined.  I knew I’d be moving back to the tropics before too long, and although I’d miss some of the people I knew, I’d have enough money to come back and visit whenever I wanted.  The amount of face time I had with many of these people didn’t amount to much, so in that sense electronic communication would keep me in contact with the people who were most important to me anyway.  Those friendships that faded away were obviously not strong enough, or simply not meant, to stand the test.  I accepted that and knew I’d make new friends where I was headed, if I wanted to.

As an aside, it’s a very different world you are in when you’re a local as opposed to a tourist.  When the expatriates see you for longer than a couple of weeks, you become one of them to a certain extent, and now you’re privy to inside information about who does what, what the rumours are about how so-and-so made their money, who’s dating whom, and so on.  In every city you visit, this is the same.  It’s amusing and comforting all at once.

I want to come back to the issue of emotional confusion before I go any further, because whether you’ve admitted it or not, it’s probably the biggest obstacle you have to living the life of your dreams.  Fear, whether masquerading as confusion or manifesting as physical symptoms such as headaches or nausea, can keep you from ever really living to the fullest.  In my case, the first time I took a job in the tropics I was scared to go because I had no idea about anything there.  I didn’t know anything about how I was going to get around, go shopping in a different language, all the things that travelers have to face.  Yet even by then I’d traveled around the world already.  The reason this was different was because I couldn’t just dismiss it as being the rookie mistakes of a tourist – if I was going to live there, I was going to have to learn how.

Believe me, take every opportunity you can to make those mistakes.  Most of them you’ll only make once, and people will forget about them.  They’ve got their own lives to live and can’t be bothered remembering your first stumbles.

It doesn’t take long to become a local.  If you’re wondering about acceptance on the part of people who already live where you’re headed, think about immigrants in your own corner of the world.  They’re the same as anyone else.  Some are helpful, some aren’t.  Some are cheerful and friendly, some aren’t.  Some make an effort to learn your language, some don’t.  My advice is to respect the fact that there are free countries in the world who will welcome you with open arms, and to repay that courtesy when you go there by being friendly, helpful, and not trying to make them do things your way.  Act wisely and you’ll learn from them.

If you’re moving to a climate that’s very unlike the one you’re in now, your entire lifestyle will be different.  Your wardrobe will reflect this, your house will too.  You might be surprised to find how many houses around areas like the Caribbean have exactly the same kind of architecture as those in Vermont or Russia.  At first this disappointed me tremendously.  Where were the open verandas, the tiered decks, the open floor plans and so on?  Well, I discovered where when I looked at buying a property – they’re in wealthy enclaves.  Most people can’t afford that kind of thing.  The days when everyone had more than enough are long gone, in the sense that the same amount of work now in countries like the US nets you a lot less disposable income as it did in the ‘70s.  Having said that, however, there is more than enough money for everyone if you know where to look and what to do.  It truly is an abundant world, but you have to look in places you wouldn’t have looked twenty years ago.  And I believe this is how it should be.  The world is a fluid, changing, dynamic place, and rolling with it is the only way to love it unconditionally.

Anyway, back to Your Stuff.  That’s what prompted me to write this in the first place.  I’m looking around my house at the things I ended up bringing with me.  Some of it is in boxes and I don’t use it or look at it often – this includes sentimentally valuable things such as photographs, as well as items that are hellaciously expensive to purchase locally because of freight costs such as tools and so on (I enjoy tinkering with my cars).  I brought most of my books, because I love to read, but they’re heavy and expensive to ship and I don’t really recommend bringing them with you now that the internet has made them all available in a virtually invisible format.  I did because I have the financial wherewithal thanks to years of asking the Right Question, (yes that’s a shameless plug), but I wouldn’t advise it as a general rule.  Same with furniture.

I kept my house back home simply because I do go back to visit now and then.  But I’ll tell you something – it feels strange every time I go there.  I remember moving in many years ago, talking with the contractor unknowingly provided me with the last phrase of the Question, sharing time with a girl I thought I was going to marry, and filling it with the memories that make up an ordinary life.  I go out to the garage and put the battery in the Viper, turn the crankshaft a few times with a wrench to lube the cylinders before I fire it up and cruise for a while down highways that used to take me to dead-end jobs.

Every time I come back it’s as though I’m renting somebody else’s house, not returning to my own.  It’s gotten so strange that I’m going to put it up for sale and just buy a condo at a mountain resort and leave it behind me.

None of this would ever have happened unless I’d taken that first step and accepted that job.  Even though I was confused about how to proceed and afraid of what I’d find at my new destination, it was what to do with all my belongings that weighed on me the heaviest.  And in retrospect, it was the easiest thing to handle.

If you’re contemplating a move, don’t make it into a Big Huge Scary Thing.  It isn’t.  You accumulated your belongings to serve a purpose at the time, but that may have changed and you might not have even noticed.  Take a serious look at what you’re surrounded by.  I’ll guarantee you could get rid of half of it and never even notice.  I’m not talking about hoarders, I’m talking about everybody from the average Jane and Joe to backpackers.  The difference is that backpackers are mostly aware of this, whereas houses are usually pretty silent about how inconvenient it is to be crammed full of Stuff.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure it’s you doing the deciding, not your fear of the unknown.  If we all allowed our fears to make our decisions none of us would ever leave the house after watching ten minutes of the evening news.  I don’t recommend you read the news anyway, personally, since almost none of it affects you directly and most of it exists in order to coerce you into thinking a certain way.  If the news was presented as facts, without mentioning anyone’s skin color or using any adjectives, everyone would have to think for themselves and interpret those facts themselves, and in general education has been a failure at that in every corner of the globe.  The only thing you should make sure to bring with you is a toothbrush, your passport for those times you aren’t going to sneak across a border, and an open mind with a loving attitude.

It’s Video Day!

Hi everyone!  My team has been hard at work compiling and editing a video for you!

Ultimately it’s all about getting you to read and use the Question to improve your life, so although video is fun and all, at the end of the day you need to be able to go to bed knowing you’ve moved at least a little closer to your dreams.

Not only is it video day, it’s TGIMyLife day!  My old site, youguru.org, was looking pretty dated.  Also, I felt that the use of the word “guru” wasn’t something I wanted to be associated with.  I’ve always been suspicious of those who claim to know everything about something, especially after my 25 years of research into the gurus who were supposedly helping me succeed all this time!  Even though the emphasis was on making you the guru when it comes to your own life, the word felt wrong to me.  TGIMyLife is a fun name, and when you say it you’re reminded of exactly why you’re working towards something better in life – it’s your life, no one else’s, and as I’ve said many times…

The life of your dreams is going to happen to you, if it happens at all.

Find out how by downloading the Right Question now!