December 31, 2009

Choosing a New Year’s Resolution

Today is a day when some people are worrying about making the right new year’s resolution. My suggestion is to pick a new year’s resolution that points to the kind of action that you can take every day and the kind of result that will make a lasting change in your life. I would also suggest that the way you make a new year’s resolution is important. Give it serious thought. Make it consistent with the way you’re living your life and where you’re going.

When you choose a new year’s resolution thoughtfully, you get an advantage that most people who make resolutions don’t have. You get the power of decision. Most resolutions, and most of the decisions people make, are really just spontaneous emotional reactions. There may be some emotional power behind these resolutions, but it fades away as soon as your emotions change. That’s the reason most new year’s resolutions fail. But if you think carefully about something and make a decision, there is a much better chance it will lead to something. In fact, people who make thoughtful decisions more often tend to be more successful in life. If you’re trying to pick a new year’s resolution, use that situation as an opportunity to make a real decision. Just by approaching it that way, regardless of the specific resolution you choose, you’re practicing the pattern of decision-making that will tend to make your life a success.

December 20, 2009

Snow Day

It’s probably the biggest snowstorm of the winter here, with 10 to 15 inches recorded in the local area. I was snowed in yesterday as the snow fell, and I am staying home again today, with no special reason to brave the roads, many still covered with packed snow.

Two snow days in a row gives me a chance to get some things done. But does this mean I can catch up on everything that has been piling up? Not likely!

The snow day, of course, is just another version of the rainy day I write about in Fear of Nothing. We save things to do as if we will have a chance to do them on a rainy day, but usually, all this really means is that we will not be doing them. We are so connected to the world today that free time is surprisingly scarce.

November 12, 2009

Clearing the Dining Room

dining room

The dining room, after clearing most of the stuff away

Many houses have a room that serves as a clutter magnet. The room’s original purpose, whatever it was, has been buried under all the stuff that no one knows what to do with. Whatever people have, if they don’t know where to put it, this room is where it is most likely to end up. Most often, the room in question is the dining room.

And that’s what it was in my house. From the day I moved in, the dining room was just a place to plop things down. I did not even own a dining table, so the idea of using the dining room for dining seemed remote. Still, I didn’t like the idea of a room just filled with miscellaneous stuff. I was sure I would want to use the room for something, so I decided to clear it all out.

November 06, 2009

“I Don’t Know What I’m Going to Do Today”

In my last post, I suggested that when you get to the point of saying, “I finally got caught up!” you use the extra leverage of that situation to get caught up in other areas of your life. If you take that approach, you may soon get to the point where you wonder whether there is anything more for you to do — where you look at your schedule and say, “I don’t know what I’m going to do today.”

It is not that there is nothing to do, but the few things on your list look like they might take you only a few hours to complete. What do you do then?

October 23, 2009

“I Finally Got Caught Up!”

I finally got caught up.

I’m talking about my online media list. There used to be a long list of magazines, newsletters, movies, and podcasts for me to look at and listen to on the Internet. As of late this morning, I got through them all. I also caught up on my e-mail — at least, I read every message that has come in.

But the fact that it took me so long to get to this point tells me something is off.

October 14, 2009

Bob Doyle Video on Limiting Beliefs

A difficulty many people have in breaking free of their to-do lists and clutter is the seeming conflict between that challenge and the law of attraction. The law of attraction seems to say, “Don’t pay any attention to your to-do list or your clutter, because if you do, it will just expand on you.” Yet that strategy does not work either. People try to pretend that the clutter and to-do list do not exist, and what happens? The clutter still gets deeper, and the to-do list continues to get longer.

September 01, 2009

“I Lost All My Files!”

It was a day like today when my computer went kablooey.

Around this time last year, the power went out, and the computer whirred to a stop. The next time I tried to start up the computer, it destroyed my user account. The computer literally wouldn’t boot up until the user account, which contained all my personal files, was removed. I had to save my files, but how? It took more than a day of trial and error before I managed to create a new account and save all but five of the files from the old account.

That was lucky. Those episodes don’t always turn out so well. On other occasions, I’ve lost days of work and months of e-mail messages. And there is always a chance of losing everything that’s on a computer or any other device where you have files. At least five times a year, I hear from someone who says, “I lost all my files! What can I do?” It seems to happen to everyone eventually: a broken hard drive, a misplaced CD, a stolen laptop, or a phone that won’t turn on. And then an important file that could so easily have been copied and secured the day before is gone forever. Or, in the worst case, all the files are gone.

August 20, 2009

“I Don’t Know What to Do”

“I don’t know what to do.”

This is the biggest thing keeping people from improving their lives. They don’t know what to do because they don’t know what they really want to do. Often people just muddle along until things get so bad that they know they have to change something — and more importantly, then they have a pretty good idea of what kind of change they want to make.

But you don’t have to sit around waiting for something to happen to give you that kind of clarity. The next time you feel bored with life, instead of checking to see what’s on television, check to see what’s on . . .

August 10, 2009

How Long Does It Take to Create Lasting Change?

“Hey, let’s build a garage this weekend.”

I don’t know if that’s quite the way it started, but people driving to work this morning might notice a new garage in town, one that wasn’t there on Friday. On Friday after work, I saw two people working with a pile of lumber. On Saturday, you could hear a lot of cutting and pounding, and by the end of the day, the new garage had taken shape. Now that it has been built, it is likely to still be there 120 years from now.

For any lasting change, you can trace it back to the one day it got started. We tend to think of big changes as taking a long time to happen, but that’s not always the case. It only took a weekend to put together a garage, and I can think of similar examples from my own life.

July 19, 2009

Takin’ Care of Business

One of the most enviable qualities you can have in tough economic times is the ability to find comfort in your work. If just doing the work you do can make you feel better, that sure beats sitting around worrying about the economy or wishing you could go shopping the way you used to.

Finding comfort in your work is a difficult idea to explain when most people experience work as one big hassle. Just getting to work is an exasperating process for most of us, so how can work bring you back to a feeling of relaxation, comfort, and confidence?

June 18, 2009

Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work

Why don’t to-do lists work? I know this is a question people are thinking about, because I saw it in a news headline this week. But the story didn’t have the answer.

People try to make this a complicated subject, but it really isn’t so complicated. No system, no mechanism, no way of thinking will allow you to do more things than you have time to do. A to-do list is just a list of ideas you had. What do you expect it to do?

June 08, 2009

Your Backyard Paradise Is Closer Than You Think

backyard paradise

I borrowed the title and picture from the cover of Home & Decor Magazine, which arrived in the mail today, to try to put a different slant on the point I made in my previous post. The magazine cover picture does look almost like a vacation spot — compare it, for example, to the Fear of Nothing cover painting. And I know people who have spent their vacation money on something like this to make their back yard look like a vacation. And after doing that, they went away on a vacation anyway. Because the back yard, however nice it looked, was still no substitute for a vacation.

May 29, 2009

Connecting a Home to Its Surroundings

Did you pick a home for the pleasant scenery surrounding it, only to be too busy with what you’re doing inside the house to notice or appreciate the surrounding landscape? Does it sometimes seem as if there is nothing to connect the inside and outside when the door is closed? The energy of the world around you naturally tends to connect to the inside of your house unless you do something to block it, and usually when this happens, it is because:

April 09, 2009

Find New Meaning in Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning is a time to clean everything you own. It’s something that is traditionally done in spring so you can clean with the windows open and not breathe quite so much dust and fumes as you go along. But spring cleaning can mean much more than this.

Cleaning is work, but that’s not what makes some of us dread spring cleaning. It’s the idea of “everything you own” that makes spring cleaning difficult. You can’t clean everything you own without looking at everything you own — and that brings up a whole range of questions. Probably for most of the things you have, the last time you saw them was the last time you cleaned them, so why do you have them — do you have them just to clean them? Or, why do you have so little time to do the things you ought to be doing with them? How did it happen and what does it mean that you have so many things and so little time? Time is so short that few of us honestly clean everything we have every spring. If we do not have time to clean our things, what are the chances that we will ever find time to use them? Just thinking of questions such as these, you might well ask, “Can’t I just put it all off till next spring?” After all, life is busy enough without have to clean everything too.

April 03, 2009

The No Rainy Days List

Today I am introducing the new No Rainy Days List. It is a list for anyone who agrees with the idea that life can’t wait for a rainy day — that it has to happen today. As a short way of saying this, I like to say that there are “no rainy days.” The following excerpt from the very beginning of Fear of Nothing explains more about what this means.

April 01, 2009

Get Your Whole Life Organized in 10 Minutes!

It’s the first day of a new month, and time to finally get organized. And not by the same old techniques like making lists or spring cleaning that have never worked in the past, either. With these quick tips from Michele Connolly of, you can get your whole life organized in just ten minutes!

March 16, 2009

The Clothing Swap

You want to breathe some new life into your wardrobe, but you can’t spend much money and you have too much clothing already: that’s exactly the situation that calls for a clothing swap.

February 02, 2009

The Groundhog Day Effect

The movie Groundhog Day depicts a man forced to live the same day over and over again. Life seems like that sometimes, when today does not seem much like a new day, just the day after yesterday. The feeling that every day is just another version of the same thing is what I call the Groundhog Day effect. It’s a problem because when you start to expect more of the same, it becomes hard to find or create anything new.

In reality, every day is different, with different actions and different situations. You cannot escape the Groundhog Day effect by trying very hard to do something different, because you’re already doing something new and different every day. It just doesn’t feel like it. The way to escape the Groundhog Day effect is to put more of your energy into the things that make every day different.

January 18, 2009

Not Missing Out on Inauguration Day

The United States will inaugurate a new president in two days, and at least one in 50 people in the country is personally involved in the event, going to Washington to be part of it, going to an observance elsewhere, or helping the rest of us keep up with the events. It is a ritual built up around an oath of office that, in a pinch, could be done by four people in less than a minute, yet millions of people will be spending most of the day on it. And others worry that they may be missing out.

January 07, 2009

A Good Time to Throw Things Away

You throw things away every day, but this month and perhaps this entire year are an especially good time to throw things away.

One reason is low fuel prices. Fuel prices are half of what they were recently and near their lowest levels in five years. They may not stay at these low levels for long, so it’s good to take advantage of the current low prices. Fuel is the main material cost of throwing things away — imagine how much fuel it takes to drive one of those big garbage trucks full of garbage. Throw things away now, and they can get hauled away at the current low fuel prices. It won’t cost any less to throw things away in the future, so if you have things to throw away, you may as well throw them away now.