Tag Archives: journaling

Just the Essentials: What Do You Need to Be Content?

“The greatest wealth is to live content with little.” –Plato

Hello friend,

You know that feeling you get right before you leave for a trip? It’s a little rush of panic, with the urgent question, “Am I forgetting something?” Then, to calm yourself down, you run through a quick mental checklist of the most important items: keys, wallet, phone, etc.. And on and on checking off your list until the panic leaves you. Finally, you are free to head out the door and put your mind in vacation mode. Ahhh!!!

It is so obvious in those moments that if you forget one of these essentials, your trip won’t be anywhere near as enjoyable or as productive. And your memories won’t be the same.

This happened to me several years ago when I went to a family get-together at our lake cabin for the weekend and forgot my camera. I LOVED my camera! This was when my kids were really little—when “camera phones” were in their infancy and produced only blurs–and I was totally obsessed with photographing them with my fancy camera, especially capturing the once-in-a-lifetime moments with their little cousins and grandparents in a place that was very dear to me. After driving several hours to get there and unpacking the car, it was like a punch in the gut when I realized that my camera bag was still sitting in the hallway at home. I was devastated.

I kicked myself when I realized that I hadn’t had that panic moment before I left and thus never did the crucial checklist. So many times that weekend, I found myself wishing for my camera, hoping to capture a moment for posterity. I enjoyed myself, of course, but something was missing. There was an emptiness, a discontent. I was not operating with my vacation essentials taken care of, and I suffered the consequences with an anxious longing.

I was recently reminded of that unfulfilled weekend while talking to my niece, who is a professional photographer. I asked her about a recent family vacation to Africa—a photographer’s Paradise—and immediately sensed a sadness. She relayed that she had lugged her heavy photography bag all the way to Africa, only to find on arrival that the camera was not working and could not be fixed during her entire month on the continent. So, here was this photographic genius, whose eye naturally catches all of the amazing plays of light that yours and mine do not and then produces the images that blow us away, and she was left without this essential piece of what allows her to function happily in her world. For a month! That is rough.

With her story in mind, this week I have been pondering these “Essentials” in my ordinary life. I’m talking about the things I need to make me content on a daily basis.   “Things” in this case I am taking to mean things to do or to consume. Hobbies, foods, activities, places, habits. But NOT specific people! At least not for this list, as it makes it a little more complicated. Basically, I just want to nail down my daily physical requirements for contentment. And I want to do it without going too far into the weeds (because yes, I would go crazy without a toothbrush and deodorant, but I don’t think you want to know all of that). And in this case, let’s loosely define “contentment” as feeling comfortable in your skin, as though your needs are met and you are not arriving at the end of the day feeling the anxiety of leaving out something important.

So, what do I need to do in a day to not make myself crazy? I think it comes down to four things: journaling, exercise, ice cream, and fresh air. Let me explain.

I am not sure about including the ice cream, because I want to think that I can do without it (I am in an endless battle with my sugar demon). But I sure seem to find a way to include it into almost every one of my days. I also eat a banana and yogurt every morning without fail, but I don’t feel compelled by them. For most of my life, I also drank a large glass of chocolate milk at supper, but I have finally kicked that habit. It really is the cool, creamy goodness called ice cream that seems to be the one food that brings me back to myself when my body seems imbalanced after a meal. It soothes me. Every. Sweet. Day.

The fresh air is my thing, too, even though I neglect it too often in the colder months. When I am most in tune with my system, I can sense that I get irritable if it gets into the mid-afternoon and I have not been outside to breathe for a while. Like earlier this week, when it was wet and dark outside one morning, leaving me shut in to work in the basement. That was fine, but only for so long. Then I started looking for a reason to get out and imagining where I could find a dry spot to write. I get antsy. I long for the fresh air and the sounds of outside: the leaves rustling, the birds singing, the insects humming. I need to get out and take the deep breaths into my lungs, to close my eyes and feel quiet and whole and part of the scenery. To feel home.

Exercise is another given for me; I workout seven days a week. It is completely necessary for my mind. The body does the work, but it is the mind that reaps the benefits. Calm, satisfaction, relief, pride, exhilaration, confidence, engaged, cared for. I do it first thing in the morning because nothing in my system feels right until I have had a good sweat. And it’s not even that I am some super-fit guy who does intense workouts every day; no, I just do something. I would go mad if I was denied this ritual. Definitely essential.

And finally, I could not imagine living without my daily journal-writing. I have been at it for twenty straight years now, having only missed a small handful of days along the way. Without the journals, I would be so bottled-up, and yet so scattered. I would not know who I am nearly as well as I do, and I hate the thought of fumbling around blind in the world. Journaling gives me clarity, and that is something I am unwilling to do without. They are my solace and my most devoted companion.

When this topic of Essentials began to find shape in my mind, journaling was on the front of my brain before I could even formulate the question. The others became obvious when I pondered a bit, but the journaling took no consideration. It is my “that without which,” to be sure.

I suppose if there is a glue that holds my essentials together, though, it is Solitude. I like to sit quietly and enjoy my ice cream. I prefer to be alone for at least part of my time in the fresh air. When I workout, my headphones shut everyone else out of my mind. And of course, a little peace and quiet is the best way to find clarity in a journal entry.

I guess I am relieved that none of my Essential Four are electronic—Facebook, Netflix, or a video game—though my next selection would probably be my iPad, because that is how I do most of my reading. I might go off the rails without it, but I am not so sure.

Basically, you could make me a satisfied customer if you gave me a good outdoor workout followed by fat bowl of ice cream to savor as I write in my journal in my hammock. Day after day after day.

How about you? What core practices do you need to do to be content? Open up your journal and consider the rituals of your everyday life. Which things are essential to your contentment? What comes immediately to your mind? What category does it fit into: food, spiritual practice, toy, electronic, ritual, physical practice, location, social connection, or something else? How long has this essential thing been in your life? Has it always been essential, or did it grow on you over time? What exactly does the essential thing do for you? Is it time-consuming? Is it convenient to fit into your life, or does it require a lot of effort, sacrifice, and awkward explanations? How frequently are you forced to choose your thing over something else that is also appealing to you? For each item on your list, are they things that you actually fit into every single day, or are they things you would like to do daily but just don’t quite get to it? Do you feel the anxiety and discontentment when you leave them out of a day? How long can you go without them before there are lasting consequences to your overall happiness? Is there anything that you wish was not on your list—ice cream for me, but I can imagine other addictions and practices, too—or that you are embarrassed about how big of an effect it has on your state of mind? Is there something else you would like to add to your list, confident that a daily dose of it would be a great benefit and something that you would soon hate to do without (meditation is mine)? What is stopping you? Is your list long or short? Does the length say something about you? What do the items themselves say about you? Leave me a reply and let me know: What makes you a satisfied customer?

Be you,

William

P.S. If this resonated with you today, please pass it on. Knowing what makes you tick is a shortcut to happiness. Happiness is good.

A Message to Late Bloomers: Why You Should Never Give Up

DSC_0598“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” –George Eliot

Hello friend,

POTENTIAL. What a wistful, fantastic, cursing, disappointing, and utterly pregnant word!

I have spent much of my life pondering this loaded concept. Many times have I thought or written, “The thing that saddens me most is wasted potential.” It has always broken my heart to see people settle or “underachieve” what I believed their potential to be (as though I had any right to be the judge of such things). I have, no doubt, written many times about it in my journal.

Here is one such instance, a small piece of a long entry I wrote one rainy night in Spain way back in 1997. I had been carrying on about how sometimes goals don’t push me but rather serve as limits to my growth, and I made the link as follows:

“It is all about what is possible. It leads to, or perhaps is the same as, the discussion of potential. In fact it is the same. There is that saying that God’s gift to you is your talent or potential, and your gift back to God is what you do with it. The saddest thing in the world is wasted potential (a.k.a. wasted gifts, wasted talent). I speak of this at every level, from mathematics to the ability to love to being the one to lead the big change in the world towards salvation. We must never settle! Never! That is the greatest tragedy. It pains my soul to see it. I see a girl like Marty in Beautiful Girls or Leah, and I just want to grab ahold of them and shake them, and simply say, “Never settle. There is so much inside of you. Do not be less than you can be.” It is everywhere, but I can see it in the girls of North Dakota, never seeing past the high school boyfriend, never giving themselves a chance. The tragedy. I hate to conjure that look of dead eyes in a woman that once had such a propensity for life. We must never settle!”

I have been pretty passionate about this idea over the years. I think that is what drew me to Life Coaching. You see, people don’t come to a Life Coach to be healed or fixed or made whole again. They don’t need all of their problems solved. No, they arrive whole and say, in essence, “I want to be my best. Let’s partner up to get me there!”  That makes my heart jump.

 Of course, the person on whom I have spent by far the most time and energy pondering, assessing, diagnosing, prescribing, monitoring, consoling, encouraging, and journaling about is myself. Like most people, I am probably my harshest critic. But, I am also the person I look to—usually via my journal—as the last one to believe in me and my potential when it feels like everyone else has forgotten or lost interest.

I have always believed that I have tremendous potential. I have daydreamed the biggest dreams of all for myself, things like truly saving the world with my ideas and actions. I have believed, at least once upon a time, that that power was in me.

Well, the bigger they are, the harder they fall! As I said, with great gifts come great responsibilities. Because I believed I had such magnificent gifts, my disappointment in myself—not to mention the guilt and shame—in not having made much of an impact on the world has been quite profound. I cannot believe, sometimes, how far off-track I have gone from where I once seemed to be heading. It is, when I take the time to fully consider it, quite disheartening. I have failed to honor my gifts by not using them to their fullest good. I have—shame of all shames—not lived up to my potential.

If you are at all like me and are wishing you would have done better, I have something to tell us both today:

It’s not over, friend! It isn’t. It is just starting, actually. Right now. In this beautiful moment. You have the amazing opportunity to start fresh and be better. No, not just better. You can be the person you have always—or even just once upon a time—imagined yourself to be. Look, I am not saying you are going to fly to the moon or play in the NBA; some dreams are time-specific, and you can actually miss your window. That stinks, I get it. But you are not too late for most things. Not even the DOING things. Want to learn the guitar (I do!)? Want to learn to speak Italian? Want to be better at your job? Want to get trained for a new job? Almost anything you can think of, you can still do. I wanted to have written several books by now. I haven’t. That’s disappointing, sure. But it’s not a death sentence. I still want to write them. So, I am using my failure up to this point to motivate me to be more focused going forward. Einstein said, “You never fail until you stop trying.” So get up, acknowledge that you haven’t hit every shot so far, and get focused on what you are going to be starting NOW. Notice I said “be.” Like I said, you can still DO most anything, too. You can start today, and things will still take lots of time and persistence. And there is value in the striving, of course. But the thing that is definitely yours for the taking in this very moment is your BEING. No matter how you have been so far in your life—selfish, impatient, unforgiving, greedy, unfocused, undisciplined, mean, weak, timid, insecure, afraid—you can choose to BE better and achieve it instantly. It is not as easy as it sounds—you have to KEEP choosing it over and over and over—but it is that simple. JUST CHOOSE TO BE HOW YOU WANT TO BE, AND KEEP CHOOSING IT. That is self-improvement. The DOING stuff will follow; I guarantee it. Imagine how choosing to be BRAVE would translate in your life. How would FORGIVING look on you? Picture yourself KIND. Try on AUTHENTIC (I love that one!). You can be what you see! Choose to be. This itself is an act of courage. But it is the greatest gift you will ever give yourself. So do it. Be courageous. Stand up for the greatness that you KNOW is inside you. Stop playing small. Sure, own your shortcomings. But don’t let them own you. Own your past. Just don’t live there. The old stuff doesn’t define you. YOU get to do that, starting now. And with every NOW that shows up, you get to redefine. So, make sure you define yourself as amazingly as you really are. Name it and claim it. It is time to play a bigger game. And the game starts NOW!!!

Okay, I admit that it feels much better to think about my life that way than it does when I lose myself in disappointment and regret for all I haven’t been and done. It is probably time to take my own advice. After all, despite my disappointment in my past, I truly have never stopped believing there is greatness in me. I think it is time that I rise to it. Better late than never!

How about you? How have you done so far in relation to your potential? Open up your journal and start with a little report card of your life to this point compared to the expectations you had for it. Have you done the things you believed you could or should do? Have you been the kind of person you believed you would be? What things have you lived up to? Where have you fallen short? Of what are you most disappointed in yourself? Did you feel like you were one of the people I addressed my message to? Can you let the past go? Now, change gears. Write about your potential. What kinds of things do you see yourself doing? If your best self showed itself, what characteristics would you have? How different would that feel to you? Try them on! Imagine the feelings. How is it? Do you feel elevated? Happier? Do you believe that you have the power to choose those characteristics in this moment? Are you ready to make that choice? How much better do you choose to be? How excited are you about all of this? Leave me a reply and let me know: Are you ready to bloom?

Own your magnificence,

William

P.S. If today’s message resonated with you, I am so glad! Please pass it on. Let’s bloom together!!!

What Will You Regret?

DSC_0963“I regret that it takes a life to learn how to live.” –Jonathan Safran Foer

Hello friend,

Almost 20 years ago, my soul was on fire. I was in the midst of a spiritual revolution, and out of it came so many passionate ideas and opinions about how I could save the world. My heart and mind literally felt like they were bubbling over—sometimes even exploding—every day. I was a force! Thankfully, this surge of idealistic passion came at the very same time I became a daily journal writer.

I had owned a journal for a few years, but entries came only very sporadically, sometimes with many months in between. Finally, though, it became obvious to me how much the journaling helped me to process all of the mind-blowing shifts that were happening inside of me. So, I made it a part of my daily routine. It wasn’t long before it became the most important part.

The journal was essential to me, because it acted as a depository for all of these new fantasies I had about making the world a drastically better place. I wanted to show everyone how to see their lives and their Universe with a new set of eyes. I knew that if I could just get them to see what I saw, to feel the way I felt, then everything—everything—would change in an instant. I was absolutely sure of it. All I needed was the means to share my vision. That is also where my discovery of the journal became crucial to my plan.

In my continuous flow of passion, I was filling up pages and pages in my journal every day, so much so that I needed a new blank book every handful of weeks. I was, as I said, totally on fire. The unexpected result of all of this writing was that it gave me the first notion, the first glimpse of belief, that I had a book inside of me that needed to be written. All of the journaling was also giving me a little boost of confidence that perhaps I could string a thought together with words and that I might be able to put enough words together to make a real book. I was mostly a science guy in school—never English or the arts–so getting myself to even consider the idea of writing a book was the result of quite an internal revolution.

Despite my initial shock at the presence of these new thoughts, I could not deny how exciting the prospect of being a world-changer was. The thought of sharing my ideas with the people of the world and opening their minds to the beauty and grace of our Universe absolutely thrilled me. I was giddy about it. Looking back through all of my old journals from those years, I see not only those impassioned ideas but also the occasional fantasies about writing books. Although I still really wasn’t clear about “what I was doing with my life” at that point, from this perspective all these years later, it seems obvious that I was headed toward becoming a writer. Still, I never came out and said to myself, “I am a writer. Period. Now let’s write that first book!”

 No, despite being aware of my desire to get this message out and start changing the world, I held back. Sure, some of that stemmed from my lack of complete belief that I was a real writer, but I think my hesitation had much more to do with my belief that I needed to learn more about what I wanted to say before I could say it with enough conviction that people would take it to heart. I wanted to be legitimate before embarking on my authorial debut. My entries from that period are littered with mentions of me needing to read this book or that book on a certain topic so I could gain more expertise. My required reading list was hundreds of books long, and though I was cruising through them at a torrid pace, each one always seemed to suggest even more books that I should read to become completely prepared. The translation in my head was basically this: “I’m not ready yet. Just a little while longer.”

 But during all of that waiting and preparing, LIFE happened. I started back with some more formal education, which helped my preparation in some ways but ended up distracting me from the passion and purpose that had been my True North for so long. I was not reading and writing for myself any more, but rather for professors. Then, into the mix came the woman of my dreams (read: MORE DISTRACTION). Before I knew it, the window of time that had been strictly designated for my personal improvement—my beloved “Season of Enrichment”—had closed entirely and left me with the ordinary life of everyone else I knew: the job, the relationship, the complacency.

Years later, here I am, trying to dig back into my dreams. My purpose seems clear again, which is amazing, but carving out the time to make it happen is increasingly difficult around the obligations that have become essential components of my journey. The specifics of my world-saving passions that would have filled a few books in my twenties have morphed into new and different ideas at this age.

My philosophy of action has changed, too. At that age and with perfectionist tendencies, I kept telling myself I needed to learn more before I was prepared to write for others. I needed to be sure I was ready. You can see where that got me! Today, I remind myself often: “Start before you are ready!” Journal of You was started long before I was ready. I thought the posts would be just old journal entries of mine, fodder for you to realize how simple it is to get in the journaling habit. I was wrong, and I am glad I was wrong. But if I had waited until I was sure about the format, confident in my writing ability, and certain that I had enough hours and energy to write this frequently, I would still be waiting today and you would not be reading these words.

I regret not writing a book when my soul was on fire.

Regret it horribly, I mean. No, I don’t allow myself much time linger on the topic—I have too many things to do today to worry about yesterday—and I don’t let the regret consume me, as I know it has the power to do. But if you force me think about, if you make me answer the question, “What will you regret?” you can bet those impassioned days in my twenties and the absence of a book to show for them will come instantly to my mind. I believe I delayed my calling by two decades because of it—which I find personally tragic–and denied the world of an important piece of work that could have done a lot of good. Frankly, this really stinks to think about.

On the other hand, my regret can be even more motivation to seize the day—this day–to do the things that stir my soul when I think about them. I never seem to regret the things that I do, the risks that I take, even when I fail. No, I regret the things I don’t do, the chances I haven’t taken, the moments I have not seized, and the Truth I have not told. I have regretted waiting until I am ready. And I have regretted not being exactly who I know myself to be.

But that is what TODAY is for. TODAY I get to start over. TODAY I get to choose again. TODAY I get to honor my purpose and my vision for my life, no matter what I chose before. I will never get my yesterdays back—though I really would love to read that book by the 26-year-old me—and I know that tomorrow is never guaranteed. But I get TODAY. That is all, and that is enough. I am going to seize it this time!

How about you? When you look back on your life, what do you wish you had done differently? Open up your journal and your soul. You might have to open up some old scabs and scars for this one, too, but there are lessons to learn from each. Do you have a flood of different regrets, or mainly just one big one? Is it an entire period (e.g. a few months or years) that you wish you could have back, or was it a single moment? What is it about that moment or period that makes you want to do it differently? Is it regrettable only because of what followed, or would you do it differently no matter what was to come? If someone had pulled you aside in the midst of that moment or period and said, “What would your bravest, best self do right now?” do you think that would have changed your decision? What else might have changed your decision? Imagine how differently your life would have gone had you acted differently in that moment. Write out a new autobiography for yourself, starting in that moment and going forward to now, based on how you wish you would have acted in that situation (my vision involves lots of writing, speaking to large crowds, and changing lives for the better—it’s a beautiful thought). Does your vision for the way your life has gone differ widely from your actual history? Is the change more in your outer circumstances, or is it more about who you are as a person and how you feel about yourself? Do you dwell in your regret, allowing it to eat at you, or do you leave it all behind? Is there anything you can do today to “fix” your old regret in any way (e.g. an apology, a reconciliation, etc.)? Is regret a good motivator for you? What is one thing in your life right now that you know you need to do but that scares you, but, if you don’t do it, you know you will regret later? Have you fully committed to doing it? I dare you! Leave me a reply and let me know: What will you regret?

No day but today,

William

P.S. If you are so moved, I would greatly appreciate you sharing this letter with friends and family. We could all stand to be our best today. Cheers!

A Lifelong Love Letter

DSC_0880 2“Say what you want to say, And let the words fall out honestly.  I want to see you be brave”             –Sara Bareilles, Brave

Hello friend,

There is something so nostalgic and heart-tugging for me about reading a letter. Not a text or an email, but a real letter on actual paper. It is somehow more romantic if written in ink rather than typed, but as long as the signature is hand-written, it has my heart. I love to dig through old piles of random life stuff and come across a letter from long ago. It doesn’t matter who it is from—childhood friend, sibling, lost love–it suddenly takes on enormous emotional power. Maybe it is because I love to write, maybe because I really want to share my Truth with those I love, and maybe just because I often have a tough time saying just what I want to say in person. But whatever the reason, I have always been captivated by letters.

I don’t write them often enough. It always seems like such a great idea in theory, yet I never seem to make the time (I am beginning to think this is the story of my life—ugh!). So the people who have meant so much to me have not always been aware of their impact and my gratitude. I have a lot of regret about that. I have, however, developed one redeeming habit that I hope to never break. Ever since my daughter turned one—she will be six this week—I have written my children a letter on their birthdays. I just spill out what they have been up to and how I feel about them. At some undetermined point in the future—maybe when they turn 20 or 25 or when they get married or have their own child—I will give them the letters. It may sound small and silly, but gosh, what I wouldn’t give to read something like this from my own parents! I am a nostalgic guy and a natural chronicler of events. If my kids are anything like me, maybe they will appreciate what their old man was thinking about them as they moved along their journey through this wonderland called Life. So, here is what I wrote to my son last week on his big day:

30 July 2014

To my Isaiah on his 4th Birthday,

Happy Birthday, Best Man! My Prince is four years old! I suppose I am supposed to say, “Where did the time go?” But it really feels like you have been with me forever, so thinking of my baby as a 4-year-old doesn’t make the old parent in me feel sad or like I am losing time. I think what makes that the case is that you and I squeeze the most out of every day together. And we spend SO MUCH TIME TOGETHER. We are pretty much stuck together like glue—you and I—and that suits me just fine. I cherish every moment with you.

Someone once asked me if I could name the characteristic that really stands out in your personality. I told her, “He is the funniest and most fun-loving person I have ever met.” That is totally true. Once you get past your crusty-crabby state right when you wake up in the morning—you are no fun at that hour—you are the most fun-seeking, fun-having person in the world, always trying to find something to amuse yourself and anyone else who is around. That gets you into just about everything, of course. It is tough to get mad at you even when you are causing trouble, though, as I know your underlying intention is good (just sometimes misdirected!). And when I am giving you the angry Daddy look for being a little rascal, neither one of us can keep a straight face for long, because you shoot me that little glance that says, “Yeah, I am just playing the little menace role right now, but I am really just messing with you, Dad!” Then we both giggle and move on, as neither of us wants to miss the fun stuff in the next moment.

And what fun we have! One of your favorite games is “Shoot the Ball at Somebody!!!” which involves you and I getting out all of our million balls in the playroom and then throwing them at each other over and over(and, of course, laughing all the way). You also love “Dino-Fighting” which is basically just you and I pretending to be dinosaurs and wrestling each other in the yard. I may be bigger than you, but you make up for that by never getting tired. You also love to have bike races up and down the street (and yes, you beat me in that every time, too). Almost every time we go out to ride, you are totally unwilling to go back inside until you have taken at least one ride to the end of the street and back in each of your favorite vehicles: bike, Big Wheel, balance bike, and scooter. The neighbors all know to drive slowly, because you drive amazingly fast but don’t always look where you are going! It is so fun to do all this stuff with you.

You were busy away from the house this year, too. You love playing with your cousins, at Minot for Christmas but especially at Pelican Lake in the Summer. You all play together so well and have the best time in the lake and on the trampoline. Those are my favorite times of the year, when I get to bring you to a place that has always been special to me and see you love it as much as I always did when I was a kid. When you are not terrorizing your sister, you are glued to her and think she is the coolest thing ever. The zoo is another one of your favorite spots, as you are a great explorer. This Winter, you got into your first class ever: Swimming! After spending the entire first class period being held by the teacher while screaming for me—one of my toughest half-hours ever–you were a champion the rest of the way. It is such a treat to watch you enjoy the water. Just last week, you and I were the only ones in the outdoor pool at the gym right when it opened, the only two foolish enough to be out there on a gray, 65-degree morning. We had a blast, though, as always! Just a couple of weeks ago, you also got to start Soccer. And while you haven’t gotten into a Tennis class yet, you and I have spent a lot of time on the court together (most days you don’t want to hit anything but overhead smashes, which is how I know you are my kid!). It is such a treat to be your best buddy for all this.

The one hobby that I wish you did less of—but that totally mesmerizes you—is watching television and movies (your big favorites this year have been “Monsters Inc.,” “Tangled,” “Frozen,” and “The Incredibles, to name just a few). What amazes me always is how perfectly you memorize all of the scenes. And because you are a born actor, you entertain us nonstop with performances of the scenes the rest of the day, or you just throw movie lines into your regular conversation. It is genius and completely hilarious. Since just before your last birthday, you have been into superheroes. You were Superman for Halloween last year and are already trying to decide who to be this year. Superheroes, balls, dinosaurs, cars & trucks, wrestling—yeah, you kind of seem like a stereotypical boy in a lot of ways.

But you are also so unique and extraordinary. You are amazingly intelligent and so sweet, and somehow you manage to balance all of that with your superhuman energy and joy of life. I am in awe of how you can contain all of this in one little four-year-old body. It is a testament to the power of your spirit. You are surely destined for magnificent things. I can’t wait to cheer you on every step of the way. I am so, so proud of you and so wildly grateful that I get to be your Dad. I couldn’t imagine a better son, and I thank you for sharing your magic with me every single day. These are the best of times. Happy 4th Birthday! I love you more than you can possibly imagine.

Always, Dad

What about you? Is there anyone you want to write a letter to? What do you want to say? If you feel a little weird about it–or scared or whatever–sometimes the best place to start is in your journal. Open it up and just start writing to the person from your heart. Don’t judge it; just say what you want to say. If you think they don’t know how you really feel about them—most people don’t, precisely because we don’t tell them—then really lay it out there. Say what you have always wanted to say, what you have always really wished they would know about you and what they mean to you. Who in your life do you need to deliver this letter to? A parent? Sibling? Childhood friend? Teacher? Hero? The one that got away? The one who doesn’t know they are the one? How about someone right under your roof who you have been unable to get on track with for awhile, e.g. a child or spouse? Maybe the letter you need to write is to someone no longer living, someone you never got to say all you wanted to say to. That is a wonderful letter, a healing letter. What about my habit of the annual letter to someone, whether you save it for later or deliver it each year? Is there someone you might get in that habit with?

In the end, it makes me feel better about myself—more honest and more fully who I am—when my Truth is out there and my loved ones know where they stand with me. I can feel how it deepens the relationship. Actually, that is how journaling has made me feel about me. I am authentic because of it. I know myself, warts and all. Telling on yourself—whether to yourself or to others—is the best way to rob shame of its power. Then you can just be you. Authentic, beautiful you. So, write to someone! Expose yourself and experience how liberating that is. And please, write in your journal. Give yourself the gift of a lifelong love letter. 

You are worth it,

William

What Step Can You Take Today?

DSC_0248If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” –Henry David Thoreau

Hello friend,

Everyone has big rocks. Goals. Things you want to accomplish. Habits you want to begin. Things that are out there in the shadows of your mind, ready to be illuminated simply by looking at them and admitting their importance. These rocks are different for everyone. Lose weight. Learn how to paint. Finally remodel the bathroom. Start your own business. Write a daily journal (yes!). Reconnect with your life partner. Trace your ancestry. Travel to Rome. Daily meditation. Go back to school. Get in shape.

Two months ago, I started this “Journal of You” blog. For the year-and-a-half leading up to that, the focus of all of my non-children time—my biggest rock–was working on what I call TJP, or The Journal Project. I read through and took notes on every one of my daily journal entries from the nearly 50 volumes I have filled in all of my years of journaling (basically my entire adult life). For most of that year-and-a-half, the long-term goal of the project was to make some sort of a book out of the entries. I wanted my daily habit to become an example for others, an inspiration to get to know themselves through journaling. When I finally finished reading and taking notes, I realized that, at the pace I was moving and the time I had, it might take a few more years to actually produce that book.

The feeling began to gnaw at me that I couldn’t wait that long to get my voice–my message–out into the Universe. I was impatient to, if not be done with my rock, perhaps bust it up a little. I asked myself, “What can I do right now—what step can I take today—to advance my agenda, to move my rock?” The answer, of course, was to start “Journal of You”. I started writing to you twice a week in an attempt to coax you into starting your journal to discover yourself and ultimately become a happier, more grateful person. It was more of a giant leap for me than a small step, but that is kind of how I roll. Even though the blog has taken up a lot of time–that I didn’t have in the first place–I love doing it, and it has become part of my schedule. It means a lot to me, too, because it symbolizes to me that I have put myself out there, not just to you but to the Universe, so the gods know I am DOING something about my dreams, not just talking about them or writing about them in a journal.

But what now?  The blog has settled into my schedule. Even though some days I feel like it is all I can do to keep up writing and coming up with new ideas for the next one, I also feel like I need to go beyond that. I have other rocks, after all, and though in my most lucid moments I am aware that I cannot do everything at once, I don’t want to get lazy, don’t want to be irresponsible with my gifts and my dreams. I keep reminding myself, “This is not a dress rehearsal!”

So, what are my big rocks at the moment that need to be addressed? I definitely have to return to The Journal Project and start the next phase, which is typing everything up.   That could take years—literally years—to finish, but it must start sometime? I made it through the first (reading & note-taking) phase, which was a year-and-a-half, so I know I have it in me. I also have to get on my plan for life coach certification. That has always seemed like this giant, vague, amorphous shadow that is somewhere “out there”, that I have yet to come to know. It retains an air of mystery because of that, but, much more powerfully, it is frightening to me. For one, I know it is going to involve a large investment of both time and money for me. Those are things I do not part with easily. Second, jumping into the training means I am really going to do it. That means shaking up my whole world, potentially changing careers entirely and starting fresh. Sure, that is exciting, but it’s scary as hell, too. It is in my DNA to have a million more rocks to move, too—daily meditation, get back in shape, learn the guitar, paint my bedroom, and on and on—but The Journal Project and life coaching are the rocks that feel heaviest to me today.

Though these rocks are almost so big and scary that they resemble the monster in the closet that is more comfortable to ignore than to face, face them I must. I am compelled to do something to chip away at them. Anything! But what? What can I do today—even this week—to shine a light on the monster, to make the boulder a little smaller, to “endeavor to live the life which I have imagined”? Here is what I have decided. For The Journal Project, I am going to give myself both daily and weekly goals and minimum quotas, and I am going to schedule the time to achieve those goals. I am slowly learning the wisdom of scheduling my priorities, that if something is not on my schedule, it is not really a priority and will not get done. For the life-coaching monster, I am going to finally give it a face. I am going to get on the Internet and research the different options for training and certification. I am going to learn—in clear and certain terms—how long the training is going to take and how much it is going to cost. That will allow me to frame it more clearly when I try to come up with some sort of a 5-Year Plan. Right now, I just want to know what I am looking at. Understanding the time and money commitment will do that for me.

Those are my action items: make my goals and schedule the typing time, and do the Internet research to get clarity on the scope of the training. Whew!!! It feels like a relief already. The big rocks don’t seem so big and scary—so monstrous—anymore. I feel so much more free to “advance confidently in the direction of my dreams.” I didn’t need to clear the entire road ahead of me, just the next step. On I go!

So, how about you? Get out your journal, and let’s get specific. What are your rocks? Are they lifelong challenges, or have you discovered them more recently? Are they related to your dreams and following your Bliss, or are they more tasky things, like home projects? Are they one-time deals or more about habit-building? How much stress do they give you? Sometimes the mere idea of achieving a goal—or even working towards it—can relieve that stress dramatically. Once you identify your rocks, what can you do—TODAY—to move them? How can you make them more manageable? Give yourself an action item. Then, leave me a reply. I want to know: what step can you take today?

Walk like you mean it,

William

I Can See Clearly Now

DSC_0528“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” –Flannery O’Conner 

Hello friend,

A funny thing happened on the way to the blog post!  When I sat down to write my usual daily journal entry today, I had not yet decided on my next blog topic.  I figured I would do some brainstorming later in the day.  So, I started to write a pretty basic, humdrum journal entry.  But by the time I finished, I had found a subject that puzzled me enough that I needed to write myself through it until I had a clear idea of how I felt about it.

I have always said that one of the best things journaling has done for me is to give me clarity about how I feel and who I am.  That is exactly what today’s entry did for me; it took a topic that I had kind of a vague notion about and brought it into sharp focus.  So, I think that instead of my usual post to you that gets several re-reads and edits before I send it out, I will share with you directly from my own journal.  I do this not because it is very well-written—indeed, I hope you are able to follow my mind, which I really allow just to go wherever it wants as I write—but because I think this entry is a good example of how clarity can come from the process of journaling.  So, I hope what I am giving you today is a double-whammy: a plug for journaling and also a topic to consider writing about.

I will spare you the more humdrum stuff at the beginning of the entry.  I wrote about my eagerness for Spring and Summer, and about my kids’ first day back at swimming lessons.  Then, as I was thinking about all of the big stuff up ahead with the kids, I started this stream of consciousness:

It is so challenging and fun to be a Dad.  I would have missed out on so much had I chosen to stay single and childless.  I would certainly have gained in other areas and had a great time, but oh, these children provide a totally unique experience that is simply priceless.  I think about Jon and his new relationship with a 51-year-old.  He would be such a great father, but, if this relationship sticks, fatherhood goes out the window as an option.  That saddens me.  This is an awkward thought process, because it seems narrow-minded and judgmental to put a “should” onto someone.  I mean well with it, but I am sure the sentiment wouldn’t be received well.  Where is the line?  Is it that I wouldn’t push the idea on him but would answer honestly if asked.  Hmmm…..  This is starting to sound like a good blog post idea.  Hopefully we are in the era where, no matter what your racial or sexual identity or preference is, you can choose to have a child, whether that is out of your own body, via a surrogate, or through adoption.  So, when someone chooses to not have a child, even if you don’t judge them for it, is it okay to feel bad for them, to believe they are missing out?  Because I am a little sad about Jon probably missing out on this amazing ride called parenthood.  I see how great he is with India and Isaiah and think, “Man, any kid would be LUCKY to have a guy like that for a Dad!”  I guess it comes down to this: I don’t think less of him; I just feel bad for him.  And even though I know that sentiment totally comes from a place of love and good will, I still wonder if it is not being self-righteous to think that.  I suppose it has parallels in terms of religious people who feel bad for anyone who does not believe as they do.  If you feel your religious doctrine is the one true path to happiness and ultimate glory, you would be justified in feeling bad for the people who don’t believe as you do.  I think where the line would get crossed is when you judged them and denigrated them for their beliefs.  Maybe this is more a question about being evangelical about it.  I am not totally sure I am using that word right, but what I mean is that it is probably okay to feel bad for Jon or the nonbelievers, but it would get offensive/inappropriate if I tried to sell them on my belief.  I suppose the question for any type of crusader is: “If I really think my way is the best, don’t I have an obligation to others to sell them on it?  After all, I am only looking out for their best interest.”  I can see how this becomes a slippery slope toward intolerance.  What a fascinating topic!  I suppose to find the middle way here, you need to go on the assumption that everyone has all of the information.  Jon has plenty of examples in front of him, and I have studied all of the religions.  To get in either of our faces with a hard sell would be insulting to both our liberty and our intelligence.  Once you know someone has all of the information, it is to live and let live.  Bless them.  Feel bad if you must, but wish them well and love them.  That is how to be a good human on this earth.  I can see it more clearly now.  I am so grateful for journaling.  It reminds me of the quote that Jen sent me the other day that reminded her of me: “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” –Flannery O’Conner.  Today is a perfect example.  I love the process and am so grateful for it.  It reminds me why I am so glad I started “Journal of You”: so that others can be blessed by the process in the same ways that I have.  I am a lucky man.  Life is truly beautiful.

There you have it!  That is how my crazy mind works as I write.  As I said, I offer that to you as an example of how you can find clarity in your beliefs—indeed, really learn who you are–through the process of journaling.  It works for me, and I trust that if you give it a chance, it will work for you.

So, won’t you give it a shot?  Pick up your pen and spill some ink.  Let your thoughts run.  Does my feeling bad for my friend cross the line from wishing him only the best to being self-righteous or condescending?  Which of your beliefs or lifestyle choices do you think other people are missing out on?  Is it your religion?  Your political views?  Ideal number of children, if any?  How willing are you to engage others in conversation or debate about your stance?  Is it easier to discuss with or attempt to persuade someone who is close to you (e.g. a family member) or a stranger?  On a scale of 1 to 10, how open-minded are you?  If I asked your closest friends the same question about you, do you think they would say the same thing?  Do some digging.  Be honest.  Lay yourself bare.  Then, leave me a reply.  Tell me about your process, and let me know if you learned anything from mine.  I want to know: can you see yourself clearly?

Happy looking,

William

The Year That Changed Everything

DSC_0896Hello friend,

Your wedding day.  The day you got fired.  The birth of your first child.  The moment you fell in love.  The day someone special died.  Your big promotion.  Crossing the finish line of your first marathon.  Seeing your favorite band live in concert.  Signing the papers to buy your first house or your own business.  Signing your divorce papers.

These are defining moments in our lives, the ones that come with such extreme emotions attached that they are forever carved in the rock of our memories.  When someone mentions that day or that moment, you can conjure up the visual—and often the feeling—in an instant.  They leave a marker on you, like a GPS homing signal that is easily returned to.

Such is the way with significant moments.  The memory of that moment remains, even if the event ultimately has very little impact on how you see the world and, consequently, how you live your life over the long haul.  While there are undoubtedly a rare few events that instantly shock your system into a whole new worldview—a near-death experience or even perhaps the birth of a child—typically major shifts in your mindsets and happiness levels take some time.  These periods may include defining moments—the months on both sides of my daughter’s birth were part of a bigger shift for me—but are seldom built on one moment alone.

I have spent the last year-and-a-half studying and taking notes on my daily journal entries covering the last 20 years, basically all of my adult life.  One of the questions I wanted an answer to was this: was there a year that changed it all?  Was there one stretch of time that saw my thinking, my attitude, my emotions—my worldview—change so drastically and permanently that my time on earth could be marked as a “Pre-“ and “Post-“ that time?  The answer was, in a word, “YES!”

My year that changed everything began in the late Spring of 1997.  I was 24 years old and had already experienced one pretty dramatic shift in my life a few years earlier when I bucked my (and everyone else’s) expectations and quit the life of a straight-A Pre-Med student to bounce around the country studying acting (NOTE: I ranked this as #3 in my worldview-changing years, with #2 being the mind-blowing period surrounding the birth of my first child—most of you parents out there can probably relate).  That change had liberated me to a great degree in terms of defining my own path, but I still held most of my same thought patterns from before.  I was subject to emotional highs and lows, feelings of disconnect from the world and the people in it, and a lack of clarity about my true nature.  It wasn’t a matter of a typical 20something not sure of his career path or wishing for the love of his life to come along; I was fine with those things.  I was a regular guy who dealt with the usual ups and downs, hopes and fears, as most adults do throughout their lives.

But then came my year.  I think the process began when I started reading books about spirituality and other topics that got my soul stirring.  I got into yoga for the first time.  I started to write in my journal more frequently.  All of these things helped me to greatly expand my view of myself and my connectedness to the Divine.  Then came a momentous decision to change from thinking of enlightenment and the expansion of my mind as a hobby to thinking of it as a way of life.  In that moment, it struck me that I had to leave my life in California and wander around Europe, something I had never before that moment considered.  Those last two months in California found me defining myself not as a starving actor but simply a happy person.  I left there and had no idea where I would live when I returned from Europe.  I jumped into uncertainty, following the subtle instructions of my inner voice.

The day I left for Europe was the day that my journal habit became a daily one.  The entries from that trip, and the months that followed it, show no more traces of unhappiness.  I was wandering alone for months, with not much food and even less money, yet I had never felt so sustained in my life.  There was never a bad mood or a bad day, despite all of the challenges that one encounters on such an adventure.  The entries describe one blissful day after another, each one increasing in self-knowledge and connectedness to God.  There were even a couple of moments of transcendence, when I felt myself actually leave my body in a state of Divine Peace.

On that trip and in the months that followed, I was truly undergoing a complete spiritual overhaul, and it was wonderfully liberating.   It made me understand and feel myself to be fully Divine and fully connected with everyone else, and I came to believe that since I am—indeed, we ALL are–part of the Divine Source, the end is not in doubt.  That is a pretty powerful belief!  There is not much to fight about or fret about after that.  It is, as I said, liberating.

With any spiritual overhaul, a psychological and emotional overhaul comes included in the package.  That is where the unbounded happiness enters the picture.  I went from a guy who went through the usual ups and downs that people go through, to a guy who was practically oozing Joy, Peace, and Love.  I was just so grateful for all of the wonderful gifts I had been granted.  And of course, that gratitude becomes exponentially greater when you come to view everything as a gift, when you encounter only angels and miracles, when you see God wherever you look.

During this period of late 1997 and early 1998, which at the time I dubbed “The Season of Enrichment”, I devoted “my time and energy to bettering myself in the hopes of bettering the world”, as I would describe it in a journal entry at that time.  I was reading like a madman, tons of spiritual, nonfiction, and fiction books that inspired me.  I fell in love with writing, and my journal entries were long and filled with passion and purpose.  I was becoming clear on so many things, and it seemed as though my foundation was unshakable.

It is this foundation idea that makes that year the one that—far and away—changed everything for me.  You see, the remarkable thing about not just the worldview I was coming to embody, but, more importantly, the deep, complete happiness and gratitude, is that they have sustained.  Life circumstances have changed—career, family, and financial stressors didn’t magically disappear—but my deep-seated Happiness and Peace carry on through it all.  The foundation has shown itself, indeed, unshakable.  It was a magical time in my life, that year, but its greatest trick was in making every year since then feel increasingly magical.  I certainly feel like the luckiest man alive, and I know exactly when I started feeling that way.  It was the year that changed everything.

So, what was your year that changed everything?  Get out your journal and start to write your thoughts.  Explore your life.  Can you pinpoint an era that shaped the way you view the world?  Who was involved?  Was it centered around one of those defining moments, like falling in love or having a child?  Did it make your worldview more positive or more negative?  Search your memory deeply on this one, and realize that you probably cannot name the year.  That’s right, it is quite common to maintain your general outlook and thought patterns from a very young age, so don’t feel ashamed or unenlightened if you cannot come up with a defining year.  Still, ask yourself, how do I see the world?  How happy am I?  How connected do I feel, both to the people around me and to something greater?

Who knows, the day you finally take me up on my offer and write your first journal entry just might be the first day of your Year That Changed Everything.  I dare you to find out!

Celebrate your life today,

William