Keep Your Ego In Check

Part of me suspects that I’m a loser, and the other part of me thinks I’m God Almighty.” ~ John Lennon

I guess it’s pretty obvious to anyone following My Consciousness Project that I have been having some difficulty sticking with my weekly posting schedule. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where I’m lucky if I get a post out every year, let alone every week. And even though I think about what I want to write ALL the time, I just can’t seem to get back into the rhythm I had when I first began.

So I thought that it might help to go back and re-read my first post, Here I Go, to remind myself about why I had started this project to begin with. And I have to say, the words I wrote back then really did help me to remember that My Consciousness Project was born from a deep-rooted need in my soul to step out of my comfort zone and try some things that might help me become a better me.

I was also reminded that there was a real purpose to my project, and that I was actually trying to prove something by doing it. Back then I wrote:

“…when I came across a quote from Daisaku Ikeda, a Buddhist philosopher, I knew that I had found the basis for my would-be project. Ikeda asserts that:

‘A great inner revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of an entire society and, further, will cause a change in the destiny of humankind.’

Could it be possible that I, an ordinary, everyday person, could somehow change the destiny of humankind by sparking my own inner revolution? And could I spark that revolution by trying to raise my consciousness?”

Reading those words was definitely re-inspiring, yet sadly, at the same time, reminded me that I had not been doing a very good job at sticking with the original timetable. What had started out to be a 9-month project was well into its 31st month! That’s almost 2 years behind schedule and I’m not even half-way through my Official List. Yuck.

And since I’ve developed enough self-awareness over the past couple of years to realize that I don’t always finish things that I start, I feel even worse. I mean, how can I possibly influence change in the world if I can’t even influence change in myself?

So it’s kind of ironic that the topic I’m stuck on right now is ‘Keep Your Ego In Check’, because I’m pretty sure that my ego is the culprit here. What I’m not so sure about, though, is whether I need to keep it in check because it’s too big, and thinks I can actually make a difference in the world, or because it’s too small, and thinks that I can’t.

According to most of the spiritual authorities out there, our egos are what keep us separate from everything else, creating an illusion of fear that holds us back from reaching our higher goals. A Course In Miracles teaches that the ego “seeks to divide and separate”, that it “cannot survive without judgement” and “lives by comparison”. Eckhart Tolle, author of one of my favorite books The Power of Now, describes ego this way:

“One way to think about ego is as a protective heavy shell, such as the kind some animals have, like a big beetle. This protective shell works like armor to cut you off from other people and the outside world. What I mean by shell is a sense of separation: Here’s me and there’s the rest of the universe and other people. The ego likes to emphasize the “otherness” of others.

This sense of separation is an intrinsic part of the ego. The ego loves to strengthen itself by complaining—either in thoughts or words—about other people, the situation you find yourself in, something that is happening right now but ‘shouldn’t be’, and even about yourself.”

Interestingly enough, when I looked up the definition of ego on the internet, in addition to being defined as “an exaggerated sense of self; conceit”, it was also defined as “appropriate pride in oneself; self-esteem.” Which makes me kind of wonder why, if our egos can provide us with something as positive as self-esteem, so many of our spiritual leaders feel the ego is something we need to rid ourselves of.  Sure, an inflated ego can definitely stir things up in the wrong way, but on the other hand, a strong ego, a strong sense of self, can help us achieve things we may not otherwise achieve.

So maybe instead of trying to banish our egos, we should be trying harder to find the balance between having one that’s too big and one that’s too small.

But, unfortunately, finding that balance can be a little tricky, especially if you’re anything like me and aren’t too sure which way the balance is tilting.

I decided that the best way to figure this out would be to spend some time listening to the conversations I was having with myself whenever I thought about my project. Which, I have to say, turned out to be pretty enlightening and didn’t leave me with much doubt about what direction my ego has been taking me!

And at the risk of totally embarrassing myself, here’s an example of a fairly typical exchange:

Me: So I think I’m going to spend some time on my project today.

Ego: Really? You’re pretty behind schedule on it…what’s the point?

Me: Well, it’s pretty important to me…I like writing.

Ego: Sure, but it’s not like you’re getting paid for it. You should pay some of those bills on your desk, or clean out that closet.

Me: But maybe if I just write one or two sentences I’ll get the juices flowing again.

Ego: Well, you could try that, but it’s been so long since your last post does anyone even care?

Me: People are still going to the website every day, even though it’s been so long.

Ego: Yeah, but you need thousands of visitors a day to be a successful blogger.

Me: But I don’t really care about that. I’m really only doing this for me…I just want to get through the list.

Ego: Well good luck with that. At the rate you’re going you’ll be old and gray by the time you’re ever finished.

Anyway, I could go on, but it seems pretty clear from this conversation why it’s important to ‘Keep Your Ego In Check’. If I keep listening to what this one is saying I might never write another word again!

But I definitely want to keep writing, so I tried to think about why my ego might be trying to stop me. Maybe it feels threatened by the things that I’m writing about, and is somehow trying to protect me from sharing too much of myself. Or maybe it just feels more in control when I am safe in my comfort zone, doing the things that I’ve always done.

Or maybe I’ve just been lazy and have let this negative ego get the upper hand.

Which means it’s time for some re-balancing. It’s time for me to up my game a bit and give my other ego, the one that helped me start this project in the first place, a fighting chance.

So the next time I am tempted to clean out the closet rather than write, I am going to choose to write. When I start worrying that no one is paying attention and I’m wasting my time, I am going to take a deep breath and choose to write. And when I’m old and gray and fretting because I still haven’t gotten through my Official List, I will remember how important it is to ‘Keep Your Ego In Check’ and choose to write.

Because maybe, for me, the ‘great inner revolution’ that Daisaku Ikeda is talking about is finding the strength, or maybe the courage, to keep tilting the balance back toward the part of me that believes I can make a difference, and just keep writing.

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WEEK 27: Gain Wisdom From Others

“Our best thoughts come from others” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Gathering of the Minds.jpg
The way I have felt about this week’s topic is the same way I felt after the first day of Philosophy 101 my freshman year in college…totally paralyzed by the enormity of what I was being asked to consider. I can remember trying to do my homework that first night of class and simply not being able to wrap my head around the concept of infinity. There was just no safe place for my thoughts to go – and the harder I tried to figure it out, the more the answers seemed to elude me.
 
It was definitelty not my favorite class.
 
And even though I know it seems a little absurd to compare this week’s topic to ‘Gain Wisdom From Others’ with a concept as big as infinity, I have had the same kind of trouble finding a safe path for my thoughts on this subject to go. There are so many different directions I could take that I’ve found myself going in circles trying to decide which way would be best.
 
And needless to say, since it’s been 8 (yikes!) months since I started to think about this, I’ve been going around in circles for a while.
 
I think the main problem I’ve had is that really, when you think about it, the only way we really ever learn anything is from other people, right? I mean, the knowledge that each of us has, individually, didn’t just come out of nowhere…it had to come from something, or someone, outside of us. Otherwise we would have been born knowing everything we need to know.
 
But that’s just not the case. We are born pretty much an empty slate, and as we interact with others, we gain knowledge from them. Just as they gained knowledge from the people they interacted with. And the people before them. It’s a never-ending spiral of knowledge that gets passed from generation to generation, person to person.
 
The thing that really gets my mind going in circles, though, is when I start wondering about the very first idea. There must have been one. There must have been a kind of ‘aha’ moment when one of our earliest ancestors realized he (or she) had knowledge to share.
 
In her movie, The Story, Barbara Marx Hubbard refers to these early ancestors as ‘the ones who know they know’. Somehow they became consciously aware enough to understand that by sharing and collaborating with each other, their ability to survive became stronger. It is the movie’s premise that this ability to share and collaborate could be what allowed Homo-Sapiens to continue to evolve, while others, such as Homo-Neanderthal, died out.
 
Which is probably why ‘Gain Wisdom From Others’ is on the list of ways to raise one’s consciousness. Because in order for us to keep evolving, we need to keep learning. And in order for us to keep learning, we need to keep sharing, otherwise the whole system breaks down.
 
Somehow, though, it seems humanity has moved away from this sharing philosophy in the last few years. Individuals (and corporations) seem to be more concerned with getting themselves ahead, than getting humanity ahead. Copyright infringement, CISPA, SOPA…I can’t help but believe that this ‘me me me’ culture is going to lead us down the same path as Homo-Neanderthal.
 
Thankfully, though, I don’t think it’s too late for us. There are a lot of people and organizations out there who understand the importance of sharing and collaborating. There’s TED (Ideas Worth Sharing), Creative Commons (Share Your Knowledge and Creativity With The World), Wikipedia (The Free Encyclopedia), Linux (Free and Open Source Software Collaboration) and Minds.com (Free and Open Souce Everything), to name just a few.
 
There is definitely a shift taking place toward a world where sharing and collaboration are the norm, rather than the alternative.
 
There’s an ancient African word called Ubuntu, which loosely translated means, ‘humanity to others’. In the Xhosa culture it means “I am because we are’. Gregg Braden, one of my favorite spiritual teachers, shared the following story on Facebook, and it really struck a chord with me:
 
“An anthropologist proposed a game to the kids in an African tribe. He put a basket full of fruit near a tree and told the kids that who ever got there first won the sweet fruits. When he told them to run, they all took each others hands and ran together, then sat together enjoying their treats. When he asked them why they had run like that, as one could have had all the fruits for himself, they said: ”UBUNTU, how can one of us be happy if all the other ones are sad?”

It is my greatest hope that one day we will all join hands together and share the fruit.

P.S. I am in the process of moving My Consciousness Project over to Minds.com, a new open source social media site. Please consider joining Minds and subscribing to the My Consciousness Project channel. Thanks!

WEEK 26: Face Your Deepest Fears

“Expose yourself to your deepest fear, after that fear has no power.” ~ Jim Morrison

A few years ago when I was in Sedona, Arizona, I went on a hike to the area’s famous energy vortexes, led by a rather intimidating ‘shaman’. I will never forget standing among those beautiful red rocks, on an equally beautiful June day, and having this complete stranger yell at me: “You are so scared, you don’t even know what you’re scared of!”

I was completely taken aback by the vehemence of his words, so I can’t remember now if I even responded. But I do remember thinking he had no idea what he was talking about because, having just finished 5 weeks of radiation treatment for early stage breast cancer, I was pretty sure that I actually did know what I was scared of back then.

And even today, though, luckily, cancer is no longer at the top of the list, I think I still have a pretty good handle on what my deepest fears are.

For instance, I’m scared of being the center of attention. And of being judged by others. I have a deep, inexplicable fear of anything having to do with vampires. I am also becoming a little worried that I won’t get through all 100 topics on my Official List by the December 21st deadline, which I guess points to a certain fear of failure.

Anyway, as I started to think about this week’s topic to ‘Face Your Deepest Fears’, I was reminded of that crazy shaman’s words, and it occurred to me that maybe he wasn’t as crazy as I’d thought. In fact, maybe he had just been trying to get me to do what this week’s assignment was forcing me to do.

Because it turns out that it’s one thing to know what I’m scared of, but to actually do something about it is an entirely different matter. Not to mention, a whole lot harder.

Ok, so for my assignment this week, I decided to face one of my bigger fears (i.e. being judged by others) by trying to do something I’d been putting off for a while. Ever since last summer, I’d been tossing an idea around with a couple of my like-minded friends about getting a group together to talk about spiritual stuff. Kind of like a book group, but without the book. I kept putting off doing anything about it, though, because (and this is pretty embarrassing to admit) I was a little worried about what my other, less like-minded friends would think of me if they found out.

And, unfortunately, the longer I put it off, the worse I started to feel, because I knew that, deep down, I was really just being a total chicken. I kept hearing this little voice in my head telling me that I better be careful. That if I started this group people may talk. About me. Behind my back. Yuck.

But because it was ‘Face Your Deepest Fears’ week, I made myself take a deep breath, shush the little voice in my head as best I could, and figure out what I needed to do to get this group going. And so I picked a date, made a list of people who I thought might be interested, and sent out an email inviting them to come to my first ever Consciousness Group.

Pushing the ‘send’ button on that email may have been one of the scariest things I’d ever done. That is, until I had to stand up in front of all the people who had, happily, all come to the meeting, because that was even scarier.

But the way I felt after it was over was definitely worth every moment of terror that led up to it.  I imagine it’s the same way someone might feel after they’ve gone skydiving: elation that they’d found the courage to actually jump out of an airplane into thin air, and relief that the parachute had opened so they didn’t plummet to their death. And though I realize that starting a spiritual group is a very far cry from jumping out of a plane, that is exactly how I felt.

I had stepped out of my comfort zone and survived. I was so happy.

The thing is, in the long run, I’m not sure it actually matters how I stepped out of my comfort zone, just that I did. Because whether it’s starting a group, fighting cancer, or jumping out of a plane, the important thing is to find a way to quiet the voice that’s telling me I can’t, so that I can hear the other voice that’s telling me I can.

Because, as Eleanor Roosevelt once said:

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

And I think that in order to do the things that I’m not sure I can, I have to listen for the voice that’s going to remind me to be brave, rather than careful. The one that’s going to urge me forward, rather than hold me back.

And, most importantly, the voice that will remind me to be who I really am, rather than who I think everyone else wants me to be.

I just have to remember to be brave.

P.S.  I realized as I was crossing ‘Face Your Deepest Fears’ off my Official List just now, that I can actually cross off a few other topics as well. Because in order to do this week’s assignment, I really, really had to ‘Muster Up Some Courage’ (#54) to ‘Form A Mastermind Group’ (#80) so I could ‘Be A Leader’ (#83) to ‘Share Unique Insight and Wisdom’ (#38) and ‘Guide Others in Raising Their Consciousness’ (#77).

At this rate, I might make my December 21st deadline after all. Yeah!

WEEK 24: Have Sex With Your Partner

“Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another.” ~ Thomas Merton

OK, so I don’t think this will come as much of a surprise to anyone, but there’s been a little bit of concern from certain members of my family about how I was going to handle this week’s topic. And I actually can’t say that I blame them…I’ve been wondering quite a bit about it myself!

Fortunately, I remembered my Project Guidelines, specifically #5 to ‘Be Flexible’, so I decided that it was okay to let myself (and everyone else!) off the hook by keeping my experience with this particular ‘assignment’ to myself.

Hmmm – I think I can actually hear the collective sigh of relief from my entire family…my own being the loudest!

Anyway, as the week went along, every time I tried to think of what I was going to write about, the phrase ‘Make Love, Not War’ would pop into my head. And the more it popped into my head, the more I started to wonder who the first person was to actually say it. John Lennon? Some other 1960’s pacifist?

Well, when I searched the internet I was pretty surprised to find out that it didn’t come from anyone in the 1960’s at all!

According to Wikipedia, the phrase originated in 411 BC, when a Greek comic playwright, Aristophanes, wrote an antiwar comedy called ‘Lysistrata’.  The play was about a woman, Lysistrata (meaning ‘releaser of war’), who tried to rally the females of Greece to withhold sex from their husbands and lovers so that the men would stop killing each other in the violent Peloponnesian War they were all fighting in.

And the idea actually worked…the play ends with the men literally choosing to ‘make love, not war’. Wow!

Unfortunately, such a strategy is pretty much the opposite of what this week’s topic is suggesting. And I’m not totally sure that it’s ever that good of an idea to use sex as a bargaining chip anyway…even when it’s for something as important as peace.

But what I am sure of is that love, above everything else, is the best way to a more conscious and peaceful world…no matter how we choose to demonstrate it.

So whether you’re a 5th century woman trying to keep your husband alive, a 1960’s pacifist refusing to fight a war you don’t believe in, or simply someone like me,  a 54-year-old woman trying to raise her consciousness, the important thing is not how we demonstrate love, just that we do. Any way that we can. As often as we can.

Because clearly the world could use a little more love these days.

And even though John Lennon didn’t actually come up with the phrase himself, I still think he said it best when he wrote:

“Make love, not war. I know, you’ve heard it before…Love is the answer. And you know that it’s true.”

 

So maybe, hopefully, after centuries of trying to make it happen, 2012 will finally be the year that we all choose, both individually and collectively, to actually make love, and not war.

Because I truly believe that each one of us knows, deep down in our hearts, that love really is the answer.

WEEK 23: Think Positive, Act Positive, Be Positive

“If you realized how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought.” ~ Peace Pilgrim

I really didn’t expect that I would have much trouble with this week’s topic because ever since my first health scare a few years ago, I have been a true believer in the power of positive thinking. Since it had worked pretty well for me during those difficult times, it seemed that it wouldn’t be too hard keeping my thoughts positive when things were actually going relatively smoothly.

As it turned out, the week for this ‘assignment’ was the same week that I was going to be down in Florida with my mom and sisters, celebrating my mom’s 84th birthday. I had been the one to organize all of the logistics for the trip – choosing the hotel, renting the car, and coordinating our flights so that we would all get there about the same time. The thing is, as those who know me will attest, I can be a bit of a worrier, especially when I’m the one in charge of something.

So to think, act and be positive this particular week was actually going to be a little more challenging than I thought.

I remembered a trick I’d been taught back when I was sick, which was to imagine a stop sign in my mind every time I caught myself thinking negatively about my situation. Somehow the image of the stop sign really helped to remind me to switch the direction of my thoughts before I ended up at the worst-case scenario.

So I decided my ‘assignment’ for the week would be to look for the stop sign whenever I started to worry that the hotel wouldn’t be nice enough, or someone’s flight would be delayed, or the weather would be bad. And, hopefully, when I saw it, I would remember to switch the direction of my thoughts before my worrying became a reality.

Happily, the trip started out incredibly smoothly. Our flights all got in on time – in fact, some were even early. And although it was pretty cloudy, the sun peaked out just as I was landing, which I took to be a really good sign. The drive to the hotel was very easy.

But when we pulled into the hotel driveway and it started to rain, it was as though every single negative thought I had kept at bay the past few days had materialized right in front of me. Everywhere I looked I noticed something wrong. The hotel was old…and small. The parking was impossible. The pool was tiny. By the time we got up to our suite I was a wreck…and even though my mom and sisters were nice about it, I felt terrible.

And what’s even worse is that I never once saw a stop sign. As soon as we drove in the driveway, the negative thoughts started piling up so fast that I don’t think I would have noticed one even if I had crashed into it.  Really, I’m not exaggerating…just ask my mom and sisters!

It wasn’t until we were having dinner a little later that I even remembered it was ‘Think Positive, Act Positive, Be Positive’ week, and I honestly started to laugh out loud. How in the world had I let myself get so caught up in what was wrong that I missed everything that was right?

Because, actually, a lot of things were right. For one thing, our suite had gorgeous ocean views from every window. It was really spacious. It was clean. There was a beautiful print that reminded me of my grandparents’ house. And most important of all, I was sitting around a table with my mom and sisters, which just doesn’t happen that often.

So why couldn’t I have seen all those positive things sooner? Why was it so much easier to let myself get sucked into such a negative vortex?

Well, as it turns out, there actually is a reason. Scientists call it a ‘negativity bias’ which, according to Wikipedia, is a ‘psychological phenomenon by which human beings pay more attention to the negative things in their life than the positive’. Studies have proven that the brain actually shows more neural activity when it is reacting to negative input than positive!

Dr. Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist, explains that ‘the mind is like Velcro for the negative, and Teflon for the positive.’ For instance, if someone were to give me ten compliments and one criticism for a job that I did, it would be the criticism that would stick with me, not the compliments. It seems our ancestors, in order to survive, had to be much more aware of the things that could go wrong, than the things that could go right.

I had no idea! No wonder I have to work so hard to stay positive!

But what I think I have to try to remember, and this is definitely easier said than done, is that even though I might have this ‘negativity bias’, I also have within me the incredible power to choose the way I think about something. So when I find myself spiraling out of control in a negative ‘this is the worst hotel ever’ vortex, I can reverse that spiral anytime I want. And whether it’s by putting up an imaginary stop sign, or making a shift in the way I’m looking at something, what’s important is my conscious awareness that a change is necessary.

I recently watched a video called ‘Celebrate What’s Right With The World’ about a National Geographic photographer, Dewitt Jones, who uses the lens of his camera to show how the seemingly ordinary subjects he’s had to photograph can be transformed into things of beauty simply by asking himself, “What’s right here?” Sometimes the answer doesn’t come immediately, so he has to be patient. And sometimes he might even have to shift the angle of his lens in order to see it. But his incredible photographs are definite proof that there is always something ‘right’ to be found…it’s just a matter of choosing to see it.

So from now on I am going to choose to look for what’s right in the world, too. Because, as Dr. Wayne Dyer has always said:

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.”

WEEK 19: Choose Empowering Beliefs

“Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is.” ~ Bhagavad Gita

For some reason this week’s topic to ‘Choose Empowering Beliefs’ has really thrown me for a loop. I just haven’t been able to figure out what direction to take, and so every time I sit down to write, I find myself going around in circles.

I can’t really put my finger on what is making this one so difficult either. Maybe it’s because I didn’t really like my ‘assignment’ that much. Or it could be that I’ve read so many different things about beliefs that it’s hard to pick one area to focus on.

But whatever it is, the time has come to stop fretting about it and just get started. Hopefully, I’ll figure out the best direction to take as I go along.

Anyway, a couple of years ago I saw this YouTube video of a little girl standing on her bathroom sink, loudly affirming how much she loves everything in her life:

And when I was thinking about how to ‘Choose Empowering Beliefs’ this week, I thought it might be fun to try something similar by giving myself a little pep talk every morning. Simple enough, I thought, and a good reminder about all the things I have to be grateful for.

So I found a list of empowering beliefs on the internet, and picked one that I thought would help me start my day off in the most positive way:

“Anyone can do anything and anything can happen.”

Well, I was a little surprised, at first, to discover that talking to myself in the mirror is not as easy as it looks! When I stood staring at my reflection on the first morning, I was actually a little embarrassed to say anything at all, let alone with the enthusiastic abandon of the little girl in the video. And even though it got somewhat easier as the week went along, I have to admit that I was never really very comfortable.

Which started me wondering whether I was uncomfortable because I was talking to myself in a mirror, or because I just didn’t really believe, deep down inside, that what I was saying was true. Which kind of confused me, because I had pretty much thought that I already believed it! I mean, I love hearing stories about someone who’s done the seemingly impossible…the underdog who’s succeeded against all odds. I’ve probably watched the movie ‘Rudy’ a hundred times and have absolutely never gotten tired of it!

But no matter how loudly or often I would say this affirmation, I couldn’t ignore the little voice in the back of my mind telling me it just wasn’t true. That people do have limits, and so it’s not really possible that anyone can do anything.

What I couldn’t figure out, though, was where this belief had come from. I really have no honest recollection of anyone ever telling me such a thing, so I guess that somewhere along the line I must have done something, or witnessed something, that made me believe it was true. And the fact that I didn’t even know it was there is a little bit worrisome…I wonder if there are other limiting beliefs lurking in my subconscious?

In any case, I started thinking that maybe this is true for a lot of us – that because we don’t always consciously choose some of the beliefs we have, we’re not even really aware that we have them! We grow up with parents who have certain beliefs they pass along to us, which have been passed along to them, and even though we might question them as we get older, it’s probably pretty hard to get rid of them altogether.

And the same way this can happen with families, it can probably happen just as easily with our different cultures and religions. I imagine generations have come and gone with no one ever really questioning the beliefs that have been passed along, because it’s just the way it’s always been.

And, according to Neale Donald Walsch in his book, The New Revelations – A Conversation With God, this is exactly why our world is in such trouble today. Because many of us are really reluctant, whether consciously or unconsciously, to challenge some of those beliefs that have been passed down through the generations. And so we keep making the same mistakes, because we’re unwilling, or maybe just scared, to question the wisdom of our ancestors:

“Your world is facing enormous problems right now, and you must solve the problems at the level of belief. You cannot solve the problems at the level of behavior. Seek to change beliefs, not behaviors…You can take whatever action you want to take to alter someone else’s behavior or to stop it, but unless you alter the beliefs that produced such behavior, you will alter nothing and stop nothing.”

Unfortunately, it seems that we humans have a pretty hard time when it comes to altering our beliefs, even when there’s solid evidence that those beliefs are completely false. For instance, Walsch reminds us, we used to believe that the earth was the center of the universe. When Copernicus, and then Galileo, both offered proof that this assertion was false, they were called blasphemers and heretics. No one believed them. It wasn’t until 300 years later that Galileo was finally pardoned by the Catholic Church and the world accepted this new belief.

It’s amazing how stubborn and fearful we can be when we’re faced with a new way of thinking.

Take what’s going on today with the Occupy Movement. The protestors are being criticized for not having a cohesive message, but I think the message is actually crystal clear. Something is wrong. The world is just not in a good place right now. And whether you’re in the 1% or the 99%, there is just no getting around the fact that our system isn’t working.

And maybe it’s not working because some of our most basic beliefs have become outdated. Economic and political policies that may have worked at one point in history may just not work today. Not necessarily because they’re  wrong, but because the world is changing. And people are changing. And the climate is changing. Everything is changing.

It just makes sense, then, that some of our beliefs about how the world works may have to change too, so that we can adapt to what’s happening and be able to move forward.

Albert Einstein put it this way:

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

Maybe if all of us, both individually and collectively, would consciously choose to consider some newer, more empowering beliefs, we’ll be able to see which of our old beliefs may be holding us back. And perhaps then, with that newfound awareness, we’ll find ourselves at a new level of consciousness where we can start solving some of our problems.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I definitely think it’s worth a try.

So I’m going to start by choosing a slightly different empowering belief to say to myself in the mirror every morning:

“Anyone can do anything, if they truly believe that they can.”

I think even the little voice in the back of my mind can believe that.

WEEK 18: Take Control of Your Lifestyle

“It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.” ~ Anthony Robbins

Is time speeding up, or is it just me? In the last few months it just seems as though I’m not getting the things done during the day that I want to. I get so distracted…even when I make a list to keep myself on track, I still find that I’m having trouble fitting everything in.

Maybe I feel this way because I have my project filling up a lot of the spare time that I used to have. Or maybe it’s my age, so instead of the years flying past now it’s whole days. Or maybe, in some crazy scientific way, time actually is speeding up! Whatever it is, though, I’d really like to get a handle on it, because being this unorganized goes completely against my Capricorn nature.

So as I was pondering the best way for me to ‘take control of my lifestyle’ this week, I remembered something I had read a couple of years ago in Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography. I guess it made a big impression on me because I was going through a bit of a lifestyle overhaul myself, at the time, and his idea seemed so, well, smart.

It was called a “Plan For Attaining Moral Perfection” and in it he listed 13 ‘virtues’ that he believed would set him on the path to success if he was able to incorporate them all into his daily life. They included: Temperance, Silence, Order, Resolution, Frugality, Industry, Sincerity, Justice, Moderation, Cleanliness, Tranquility, Chastity, and Humility. It was his hope that if he could adhere to these virtues every day (and he kept track in a little book he carried with him), then he would ultimately lead a very successful, not to mention morally sound, life. And, given what we know about Benjamin Franklin today, I guess it worked pretty well!

Anyway, my favorite part of his ‘Plan’ was the daily schedule he made for himself to help him keep ‘Order’ to his days:

Doesn’t it just make life seem so doable?  And such a perfect way to ‘take control of your lifestyle’? I decided to give it a try myself.

So I divided my days into 6 parts, just like above, and challenged myself to stick with it for the week. And I have to say, I think it really worked! I found that just by adding a little structure, if only in my mind, to how I thought my day should go, I was able to keep myself from drifting off track a lot more easily.

For instance, and this is a little embarrassing to admit, sometimes I can get so caught up on the computer in the mornings that I am still in my pajamas at 10:00am. And then I have to scramble to get myself dressed and the house in order, which somehow sets the tone for the whole rest of the dayBut, happily, what I found this week was that because I had allotted 7-9am as my ‘morning’ time, I was much more disciplined about being dressed and ready for the day by 9:00. And what a huge difference that made in how much I got done in the next time slot, and the next.

I also think it was really helpful to go over the day before it actually started…or as Franklin put it; “Contrive the days business”. I found that by spending a few moments in the morning picturing in my head how I wanted the day to go, I actually had more success in getting the things done that I’d hoped to.

I guess that, really, the main thing I realized this week is that it’s a lot easier to be in control of my lifestyle when I am consciously aware of what I’m doing, when I’m doing it. I think the problem I was having stemmed from the fact that I tend to switch into auto-pilot mode more often than maybe I should, and so when I  drift a bit off track during the day, I don’t really notice. And then I’m surprised, not to mention frustrated, when I don’t end up where I thought I was headed.

Of course, the trick now will be trying to stick with this new daily schedule, because otherwise I’m going to end up right back where I started…wondering where in the world the time is going. But I think it’s a lifestyle change that I won’t have too much trouble with because, really, it’s just a matter of paying a little more attention to what I’m doing during the day. Switching from chardonnay to pinot noir was way harder!

And if I do still find that I’m drifting off track every now and then, I will take comfort in the fact that even Benjamin Franklin had some trouble with this particular virtue. He admits in his autobiography:

“In truth, I found myself incorrigible with respect to Order; and now I am grown old, and my memory bad, I feel very sensibly the want of it. But, on the whole, tho’ I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was, by endeavor, a better and happier man than I otherwise should have been if I had not attempted it.”

The key, I think, to taking control of my lifestyle is, ironically, knowing when I don’t have control. Because it’s in that awareness, in that conscious realization that I’ve drifted off track, that I can try to make the right adjustments to get me back on course.

I just have to notice.