Feel More Peaceful & Love What You Do

April 24, 2008

In my own personal journey to feel more peaceful and love what I do, I’ve learned a few things that may help you in yours:

First, there is an inner wisdom in each of us that we can easily lose touch with. The culture we live in values celebrity over service, popularity over love and respect, and dollars over abundance. With this culture shouting in your face, it’s no mystery why you can’t hear the soft-spoken truth from your soul.

Second, there is no magic bullet. No one technique or tool will address every challenge you face. What is required is a willingness to stop and listen. Invite your soul to speak to you. Don’t require it to. Simply create space in your awareness for wisdom to show up.

Third, consistency trumps strategy every day of the week. A mediocre plan executed consistently will always beat the perfect plan never begun.

There are structures that can support your inner inquiry. If you have the willingness to ask questions and listen for answers, I recommend the eBook, Feel More Peaceful & Love What You Do.


The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves

October 2, 2006

In order to be successful in today’s demanding, interpersonal world, you must have a high level of emotional intelligence. Without it, your actions and reactions become emotional compulsions instead of rational choices, and your interactions become frustrating antagonisms instead of powerful synergies.

Emotional intelligence consists of four skills:
1. Self-awareness
2. Self-management
3. Social awareness
4. Relationship management

In The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book, Bradberry and Greaves do a good job making the case for increasing one’s emotional intelligence and they contribute some useful suggestions for doing so. My one complaint is that the book is a little light, in my opinion. I would have preferred more real-world advice and more detailed information—more content, to be blunt.

But I think The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book makes an excellent introduction to the subject. Note: If you want to take advantage of the included online assessment, you must buy the book new. Each book comes with a unique access code.

Think and Grow Rich! by Napoleon Hill

May 2, 2006

Napoleon Hill’s classic Think and Grow Rich! continues to be a top-seller in the field of personal development ever since it’s publication in 1937. As you read it, it’s impossible not to notice its indelible stamp on the work of all of today’s top coaches, sales consultants, and inspirational speakers: Anthony Robbins, Stephen Covey, Brian Tracy, Wayne Dyer, etc.

At the urging of Andrew Carnegie, Hill spent 20 years interviewing 500 of the most successful people of his time–including Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, John D. Rockefeller, and Charles M. Schwab–incorporating what he learned from them into a comprehensive philosophy of personal achievement. And that 13-step philosophy is what he presents in this book.

As the title of the book implies, the philosophy’s main focus is money-making. But this step-by-step success formula can just as easily be applied to any goal, from changing careers to losing weight to finding a romantic relationship. Any goal you dare to dream can be made real using the principles Hill describes, as evidenced by the many people like you who’ve already done it.

There are some public domain versions of Think and Grow Rich! available on the Internet, but I recommend purchasing a copy. This is a book you will want to study and revisit again and again.

So I challenge you–read the author’s preface here, and see if you aren’t hooked.

Save time and go to the source of all modern personal development literature. Get your hands on this book ASAP.

Coach Anyone about Anything: How to Help People Succeed in Business and Life by Germaine Porche and Jed Niederer

December 2, 2005

Why would I review a book that seems geared toward coaches on a website that is not geared toward coaches? Yes, Coach Anyone about Anything by Germaine Porche and Jed Niederer offers some great advice and guidance for the professional coach, but it’s also a valuable source of coaching tools that you can use to coach yourself, your family, even your employees.

You’ll learn the difference between leadership, management, and coaching; and when each is appropriate. You’ll learn how to focus on results-producing actions instead of busy-work activities. You’ll learn the four attributes necessary to accomplish your goals, which ones are holding you back, and how to improve them. You’ll learn how to listen and ask evocative questions. You’ll learn a technique for fast and effective process mapping. And you’ll learn a powerful model for auditing the positive and negative forces that shape your life and your destiny.

There are sections that will have interest and value only to the professional coach, and the prose is clumsy at times, but there is enough of universal value here for me to recommend this book as an effective personal growth resource. And if you’re working with a coach, you’ll love the chapter on how to become more coachable so that you can get even more out of your coaching sessions.

Coach Anyone about Anything illustrates very clearly that no matter who we are, we all are in a position to coach someone. As they say in the first sentence of the Introduction, “Everyone can be a coach to help others.”

First Things First: To Live, to Love, to Learn, to Leave a Legacy by Stephen R. Covey

October 2, 2005

If you’re struggling to manage your time and balance your life, then read First Things First. In this book, Stephen Covey shows us that time management is not about time and it’s not about management. It is about choice and leadership.

The answer is not greater efficiency. The answer is not better multi-tasking and streamlining. The answer is not better scheduling. The answer is a dramatic paradigm shift from the what to the why—from activity to results.

First Things First will help you distinguish the important from the urgent; clarify your values, roles, and goals; nurture and build effective and rewarding personal and professional relationships; plan and schedule daily actions within the context of the big picture; and define your personal mission statement. (There is an entire appendix devoted to helping you clarify and define your personal mission statement.)

This is not a book to read and forget. Many chapters include assignments to make sure you put the lessons into practice. Once you experience the power of these lessons, you will never go back to to-do lists and post-it notes. I’ve been applying these lessons consistently for the past 6 months, and I’ve been more productive and felt more fulfilled during that time than in the previous 3 years.

The solution to your time management problems does not come cheap. It requires you to pay a price that involves looking at your life and your choices much differently than you’ve been conditioned to. But, in my experience, those who do, are happy they did.

How to Want What You Have – Discovering the Magic and Grandeur of Ordinary Existence by Timothy Miller

September 2, 2005

I first read How to Want What You Have many years ago, and I remember being incredibly excited by it. Miller’s advice for practicing compassion, attention, and gratitude has stuck with me since. Upon re-reading it, however, I noticed a subtle dogmatic preference for Cognitive Therapy that turned me off just a little. Don’t get me wrong, I have loved and used Cognitive Therapy in my own life ever since I discovered it in David D. Burns’ Feeling Good. But I’ve also found other methodologies like Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Behavior Therapy, and Positive Psychology to be scientifically rigorous and just as effective. Whether a function of bias or simply the fact that a lot of progress has been made in these other areas in the 10 years since its publication, Miller’s book seems to rely too strongly on Cognitive Therapy–at the seeming exclusion of other strategies.

That said, How to Want What You Have is an excellent book, and very effective in helping this reader want what he has. The idea that the secret to happiness is to want what you have is not new and may seem a bit trite. Miller acknowledges right in the preface that “this idea, by itself, is useless.” The book is his attempt to make this idea of wanting what we have livable in our modern society.

The book is broken into three parts. The first part is an explanation of Miller’s basic premises: that it is our natural instinct to always want a little more wealth, status, and love; this insatiable desire for more is “the fundamental cause of needless suffering”; and the continuous practice of compassion, attention, and gratitude is the equivalent of wanting what you have. The second part of the book describes in detail exactly how use Cognitive Therapy to practice compassion, attention, and gratitude. This section requires desire and commitment from the reader. If you’ve never used Cognitive Therapy techniques before, you may be skeptical of their effectiveness given their apparent simplicity. Don’t be fooled. Make a genuine effort and you will see positive results very quickly. The third part of the book ties everything together, illustrating how the three practices of compassion, attention, and gratitude feed each other, and offering real world examples of how to apply these principles in difficult situations. Included is a section on reconciling ambition with the practice of wanting what you have, and a section addressing modern moral dilemmas and guidelines consistent with the principles of compassion, attention, and gratitude.

Unfortunately, How to Want What You Have is no longer in print. What does that say about our consumer-driven society, I wonder. Fortunately, the internet makes it relatively easy to find used copies for sale. I urge anyone who wants a greater feeling of fulfillment to read this book and practice the techniques within every day.

Getting in the Gap: Making Conscious Contact with God through Meditation by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

August 2, 2005

For those who are interested in meditation, but don’t know where to start or just haven’t found a method that works for you, I recommend Getting in the Gap by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer. The first few chapters discuss the benefits of meditation, but very quickly, he gets to the really good stuff—how to do it.

What Dr. Dyer refers to as “getting in the gap” is his technique for practicing Japa meditation, a centuries-old type of meditation that originated in India. The essence of this technique is to focus your attention on each word in a 10-word sentence, one word at a time. Beginning with the second word, you fall back into the empty space between it and the preceding word, repeating the sound of “ah” while you are in the gap. As you proceed through the sentence, you repeat this process of falling back into each gap.

And the book Getting in the Gap comes with a CD in which Dr. Dyer guides the listener through his Japa meditation technique. There is a 10-minute version for people with a busy schedule, and a 20-minute version for people who want to spend more time “in the gap.”

Although the technique itself is not religious, the choice of the sentence he uses is: “Our father who art in heaven hallowed by thy name.” This may turn off some people who could benefit from learning Japa meditation. If you haven’t found a meditation technique that works for you, I urge you to try this one whatever your feelings are about religion. In the words of Mother Meera (as quoted by Dr. Dyer), “All religions are rivers leading to the sea. Why not go to the sea directly?” Meditation can lead you to the sea directly.

Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell

July 2, 2005

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell is a riveting look at rapid cognition, or our natural ability to form snap judgments. Gladwell compiles an assortment of compelling examples of how we use our rapid cognition-sometimes for better, sometimes for worse-to make split decisions.

Meet a psychologist who can predict with 95% accuracy whether a couple will still be married 15 years later by observing them for only one hour. Find out how researchers can tell which doctors will get sued and which won’t after only observing 40 seconds of a conversation between doctor and patient. Meet the art historians and scholars who were able to spot an art forgery in seconds after science had “proven” it was authentic.

This ability to discern a great deal from a limited amount of information is known as thin-slicing.

As fascinating as the examples in the book are, what I found most interesting is what it teaches us about our snap judgments. Sometimes they go right (a firefighter who gets his men out of a building seconds before the floor collapses), and sometimes they go wrong (as in the case of the police officers who shot Amadou Diallo, an unarmed man). Why?

More experience, not more information, seems to be the key. Experience educates our snap judgments, and experience helps eliminate the snap judgments that are behind unconscious prejudice, what Gladwell calls “the dark side of rapid cognition.” Through experience we identify signatures that allow us to make accurate evaluations in a short time. Information, especially as we compile more and more of it, tends to obscure these signatures and leads to less accurate evaluations. In many cases, this seems to contradict common sense, but the evidence in Blink is undeniable.

Ultimately, the book’s message is to respect our powers of rapid cognition, to recognize the times thin-slicing serves us and the times it leads us astray. But more than that. Rapid cognition doesn’t need to be a mystery and we victims of it’s whim. We can educate our snap judgments, and thereby learn to control them.

Until Today! – Daily Devotions for Spiritual Growth and Peace of Mind by Iyanla Vanzant

June 2, 2005

Until Today! is a book of “Daily Devotions for Spiritual Growth and Peace of Mind,” as it’s subtitle reveals.

The book is broken into twelve sections—one for each month of the year—each centered on a different theme. For example, January is life, February is love, and March is awareness. What’s nice about this structure is that the power of the themed devotions builds as the reader proceeds day by day through the month. Like peeling an onion, you’ll find yourself going deeper and deeper in your daily reflections. Of course, that requires you use the book consistently, but even if you don’t, you’ll likely still enjoy it.

The devotions can be used as a personal development tool, too. At the end of each one, Vanzant offers a suggested action for the day. “Just for today…” The action could be a shift in perspective for the day, or a change in attitude, or a new belief. Often it is a suggestion to quiet your mind and experience your inner or outer world in some new way.

I use the book as a source of inspiration for meditations or journaling. It’s a spring board for thinking about my beliefs and attitudes about myself and the world. Some of the daily devotions are more effective than others—you can’t expect all of them to resonate with everyone—but when it works, it works well. I’ve learned quite a bit about myself as a result of reflections that began from one of Vanzant’s devotions.

To anyone who wants to begin or continue a practice of daily meditation or reflection, I recommend Until Today! by Iyanla Vanzant.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

May 2, 2005

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has been a bestseller in the field of personal development since its publication in 1989. A new fifteenth anniversary edition was recently published. I bought my copy in 1994 and it’s been one of my most referenced books ever since, second only to my dictionary, I think.

Unlike other self-help books, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has a timeless quality to it, as if it is addressing the core of what makes us human beings. It is not a quick-pick-me-up kind of book, and because of that, some may find it dryer and more difficult than the latest pop psychology best-seller. Covey does not speak down to the reader; he expects the reader to pay a reasonable price in time and energy for the knowledge he imparts. But his personality comes through in the sincerity and earnestness of his message, not to mention the numerous examples he uses from his own life (he and his wife have nine children, a sufficiently large enough data sample from which to draw plenty of examples that are both on-point and quite funny).

The individual habits are invaluable. They are explained clearly and compellingly, and by the end of each chapter, the value of each habit seems as fundamental as the value of oxygen. Exercises accompany each chapter so the reader can begin applying the lessons and building the habits.

But my favorite lesson comes from the overall structure of the seven habits. The first three habits are the habits of Private Victory, the habits of independence: Be Proactive; Begin with the End in Mind; Put First Things First. The second three habits are the habits of Public Victory, the habits of interdependence: Think Win/Win; Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood; Synergize. Covey shows us that there is a natural evolution from dependence to independence to interdependence. Independence will serve you up to a point. Then it is necessary to collaborate if you want to continue to grow. An interdependent relationship creates a synergy that is greater than the sum of its parts.

And the final habit is the habit of renewal, which Covey calls Sharpening the Saw, a metaphor so vivid it needs no further explanation.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is featured in the Turn On to Life! home-study course.