Today, You Could...

by David Mills

Copyright © 2006 David Mills All rights reserved. ISBN: 1-4196-5840-9 To order additional copies, please contact us. BookSurge, LLC 1-866-308-6235 Interior book formatting by Rend Graphics

To my dear friend Derek Boyle who taught me more than he ever realised.

Dear reader, Here is my promise to you, this book could change your life, it has that potential. Whether you turn that potential to your advantage or not is entirely up to you. Every day of the next twelve months, and you can start today, whatever the date, has a thought provoking idea, question or story. Each item is based on my twenty-five years of experience as a counselor, and each of them has already made a difference in somebody’s life. If you start taking the suggested actions right now, your life will take an immediate turn for the better. If you continue to take action, a year from now your life will have improved almost beyond recognition.. I wish you all the best for the year ahead.

David Mills


three changes you could make and would be sure to stick to. otherwise why are you looking at this book. so. 2 . Do you want your life to be different a year from now? I assume so. There is a definition of madness that goes ‘Madness is doing the same thing as you did last time and expecting a different result’. Whatever you choose write it down now. If all you did was repeat this exercise with new items every day for the next year you life would be transformed. put the list by the side of your bed and check you did what you agreed to do before you go to bed tonight. make some new choices and act on them Starts today with something simple and easy. Write down now three ways in which today could be different. If you don’t want to end up in twelve months time back where you are right now then the first thing you have to do is make some different choices. promising to make three other people laugh before you go to bed. They could be as simple as tidying up a room. making sure you laugh three times or better.January 1: Changing your life. don’t set yourself up for failure.

Your challenge today is to come up with a way that serves you better. But it would also leave you with a greater problem on your hands because of the energy you have wasted on it without being able to arrive at a solution. it could help you attract attention from other people. last week. Spend the next 24 hours without talking about your problems and see if this approach makes a difference. maybe. 3 . last month or even last year and ask yourself this question. Perhaps. but merely highlighted one? Or.January 2: Do you ever create problems to draw attention to yourself? Just look back over yesterday. you didn’t really create a problem as such. If you create a problem or make too much of one. you might want to spend time asking yourself whether this approach really serves your purpose. however. this doesn’t apply to you at all? If it does.

The three most recent winners of the Oscar for Best Actress. 4 . Now write down the names of the following: • • • The people who make a difference in your life are neither the wealthiest ones nor those with the greatest number of awards. The three most recent winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. those people who have made you feel good about yourself. Write down the names of the following: • • • The three richest people in the world. Three people who have made you feel special. Remember this when you have a chance to reach out to others today.January 3: An interesting quiz. Three friends who have helped you through a difficult time. Three people you know who have inspired you. Remember this when you are considering what is important in your life. They are individuals who have touched you.

slung it over his shoulder and headed to the market. 5 .January 4: Suffering and happiness. not at some unspecified later date. heavy bag. the tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon. They should aim at making you happy now. All your deferred gratification doesn’t enhance your happiness. When he tried to trade in his suffering. he bundled all his suffering into a large. he was told that no exchange rate existed between suffering and happiness. For there is no way to happiness. Plans are useful. Remember. it merely postpones it. happiness is the way. One day. but that we wait so long for it to begin. but they should be relevant to your present. There is a story of a man who resolutely endured suffering all his life so as to be able to buy a single moment of pure happiness. however. not just focused on the future.

whatever might have been the nature of the problems you faced. For those who are less self-critical. 6 . Now you might think “I don’t have any successes to record.” However traumatic your past may have been. Dig deep and you will find many such examples. you wouldn’t be reading this now if you hadn’t made it this far. the greater is your triumph in surviving it.” In which case. Keep this record for tough times. big or small. along with the obstacles you have overcome and the occasions on which you lent others a helping hand. It’s a good idea to maintain a record of your past successes. I would suggest that you make a list of some of the successes you have enjoyed in life.January 5: Keep a record of your victories. start with the following one: “I made it this far. when you need a reminder that life isn’t as hopeless as you’re imagining it to be. Indeed. Keep this record for the moments when you feel helpless and not in control and your confidence needs that extra boost. the more difficult your life has been in the past. You’ll discover that it does make a difference.

He also thought the body would contract in time to accommodate the increased wingspan. He noticed that a small opening had appeared in the cocoon so he sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body out. that it had a swollen body and small. There is a skill involved in knowing whether to intervene or not in a given situation and we develop that by being aware we have a choice and that it’s not always the best approach to reach out and help. its wings would expand to a size appropriate for supporting its body. Taking a pair of scissors. shrivelled wings. It’s so difficult to stand back and let those we love struggle to make it and sometimes it’s right to reach out and lend a helping hand. He noticed. however. expecting that at any moment. But sometimes the struggle is what is needed so the person concerned can grow to be truly themselves and we would be unwise to get involved. as if it had gone as far as it could and could go no further. At one point. Observing the butterfly’s plight. 7 .January 6: Letting people grow at their own pace. A man came upon a cocoon in which a caterpillar was slowly growing into a butterfly. The man continued to watch the butterfly. setting the butterfly free. the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around on the ground. Neither happened. On the contrary. The story illustrates a valuable lesson for us all. the man decided to help it on its way out. he snipped off what remained of the cocoon. it seemed not to be making any progress at all. it never was able to fly.

The one who had been slapped was deeply hurt by the other’s behaviour. When.” Walking on further. Right now you could even let go of something you have been holding on to and replace it with a memory of a past kindnesses. If you do.” His rescuer asked him. it’s your choice. along with the favours? Or do you. Here’s a story that holds a lesson for us all. had it not been for his friend who ran to save him. 8 . perhaps tend to do the reverse of what the friend in the story did. Instead. you could change this way of reacting both now and in the future. they got into an argument that ended with one friend slapping the other. we should record it in stone. he remained silent and traced the following words in the sand: “Today. perhaps. so it will never be erased either from its surface or from our memory. where they decided to take a bath. Now that I have saved you from drowning. “When someone hurts us. my friend slapped me in the face. you wrote in the sand. we should record it in sand so that it gets blown away easily and is soon forgotten. but refused to protest or retaliate. Two friends were walking through the desert.” How do you personally respond to such situations? Do you let go of the hurt and hold on to the memories of the favours people have done you? Do you give equal weight to the injustices done to you. they came to an oasis.January 7: Slapped and saved. The one who had been slapped got stuck in the mire and would have drowned. on the other hand. Having recovered from the experience. During the journey. you carve your message on a stone. the survivor carved the following words on a stone: “Today. “When I slapped you. Can you tell me why?” His friend replied. my friend saved my life. someone does us a favour.

Distrust: Those who say there is something wrong with you and they can fix it. 9 . when they are in agreement. Trust: Friends who are willing to give you their support more than their advice. Distrust: All “experts” and systems that claim either to be unique or the best. it’s a simple and effective test. thoughts for your consideration: But here are some Trust: Your heart and your mind. Distrust: Those who claims that whatever they believe will work for you as well. Trust: Whatever does work for you.January 8: Trust or distrust? This could be a book in itself.

then it’s probably linked to an event in your past.January 9: The unresolved past. Here’s a good test: If you find yourself overreacting to harmless situations and easily becoming angry. I’m not a great advocate of the habit of brooding on the past. 10 . Sometimes. that we each have a past and it can affect our present lives without us always being aware of it. mere awareness of the past association is enough to start the healing process. however. The fact remains. defensive or frustrated. There are many resources available today to help explore such problems and resolve them. however.

Good habits—as well as bad ones—need to be sustained in order to become a regular feature of your life. Positive thinking.January 10: Does the resolve to be positive last forever? There’s an easy answer to this question. 11 . But then neither do eating. sleeping or washing. That’s why we need to repeat these activities every day. motivation. determination and resolve don’t last forever.

feel free to come up with an alternative example)? 12 . what risk would you choose to take today (nudists. a challenge for you to consider: If the alternative was to walk naked down your local high street.” — Oliver Wendell Holmes So here’s a question.January 11: A mind that is stretched. “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.

“The grass is greener on the other side”. including some that are relevant for you today. often at the cost of what is already ours. it will flourish. The problem is that this truth applies to weeds as well as to grass and flowers. It means that we are attracted to what we don’t have. this quality will grow and resentments will wither and die. Here’s another way of looking at this question: “Where is the grass greener?” Answer: “Wherever you water it.January 12: Where is the grass greener? We are all familiar with the old saying. If you nurture your resentment.” What grows is what you care for. I’m sure you can come up with many more examples. If your mind concentrates on forgiveness. 13 . put your energy into and nurture.

I perfectly understand this might prompt many of you to answer my question with an honest and resounding “NO!” But do take a few minutes to ask yourself the following questions: • • What would you lose if you were to let go of your suffering? What would you have to face up to. If you have endured great suffering in your life.January 13: Could you be holding on to suffering simply because it is comfortably familiar? This question may well anger and upset you. it can seem callous and insensitive if someone suggests that you might be deliberately clinging to memories of difficult experiences. if you let go of your suffering? 14 .

It doesn’t mean letting people walk all over you. You can’t be angry and kind at the same time.January 14: Changing the world. Here are a couple of rules which can transform your life and the world as well. 2. 15 . It’s always possible to be kind to others. You can’t hold on to resentment and still be kind. Be kind to others whenever possible. Today you can decide to let go of your anger and resentment and respond to others from a heart full of kindness. Kindness is a state of mind that guides your choice of action. 1. Kindness is not to be confused with weakness.

you could try something new and change the direction of your life. Just take your first step in that direction. Today. You don’t have to do it all at once. but then. you could remind those you haven’t spoken to for a while that you love them.. isn’t it? Today. that’s what life is all about. It’s taking a risk of course. you could. it could even be something as simple as a new way of having fun. you could start letting go of an old hurt or pain that has festered within you and begin to feel free again. 16 .January 15: Today.. Today.

I’m not married.” the man replies. this is obviously more of a joke than a story. A man opens his lunch box every day and exclaims. 17 . a colleague asks him. “I make my own sandwiches. but then so is complaining about the circumstances in your life that you have created yourself. “Not peanut butter and jam sandwiches again! I just hate them!” At the end of a week of complaining. “Why don’t you ask your wife to make you different sandwiches next week”? “Oh. Yet most of the situations we find ourselves in are either of our own creation or because we are not prepared to pay the price required to release ourselves from them.” Now.January 16: Making sandwiches.

Once you know what you want in life. There are those of you who just want life to take them where it will and are happy to enjoy the journey.January 17: What do you want in life? Setting a goal and moving towards it is not a method that works for everyone. There are others who find it useful to have an idea of where they want to go before they set out. you can ask yourself the following question: Is the activity I’m now engaged in taking me towards my current goals or away from them? 18 .

• • • Life’s too short to do things that don’t make you feel good about yourself. Life’s too short to be with people whose company you don’t enjoy. it’s worth having a Life’s Too Short (LTS) list of things and people we can very well do without.January 18: Who or what is on your LTS list? Since our time in this world is limited. Here are some of the items you might want to put on your list. Life’s too short to be in places you don’t feel comfortable in. Why not use these ideas to draw up a list of things and people you really don’t have time for and act on it? 19 .

20 . Some events in our lives are so devastating that it seems heartless to suggest they have a purpose. no matter how catastrophic the event. I am convinced. Look out for some unusual lessons you can learn from your past bad times and from your experiences today. I don’t subscribe to the belief that there is a purpose in everything that happens to us. It doesn’t mean it has to be part of a larger plan. just that even the bad times can teach us something. however. that we can learn from everything that happens to us.January 19: The difference between purpose and learning.

January 20: Why be unhappy as well? “So your wife has left you. your business has gone bust and you think your children no longer love you. 21 . We do have some choice about how we feel and can choose to emphasise those feelings that work best for us. Why be unhappy as well?” — Lionel Fifield In addition to making you smile—I hope—this is a reminder that our feelings need not be entirely dictated by our circumstances.

“The last one.” I would ask my client. each push was necessary for the book to reach the edge of the table before falling off it. it depends on how you look at it. you will miss the pattern of events that led up to the situation in the first place. Sometimes.January 21: Moving the book. It’s worth looking back at them to get a complete picture. 2. “So. Here’s the lesson to be learnt from this: 1. Successful relationships as well as unsuccessful ones leave a trail of clues. The relation between cause and effect is not always a simple one. “what caused my diary to fall on the floor?” “You pushed it. I would repeat this movement a number of times until. the diary fell off the table and landed on the floor. inevitably. I would keep a diary on the table beside my chair. on the drama of the moment. as it were. The answer was usually. If an action is immediately followed by a change in the given situation. If you concentrate only on the immediate effect. During my counselling practice.” was the usual reply. 22 . there is a tendency to conclude that the action itself brought about the change. “Which push sent it down?” I would ask. 3. Yet. particularly when clients were talking about a row they had had. I would push my diary a few inches towards the edge of the table.” Well. That may not necessarily be the case. it might seem to a casual observer that the last push was responsible for sending the book to the floor. To my mind.

to constrain emotional violence. and rightly so. an unkind one that of a slap and a full-fledged argument might well become a no-holds-barred fist fight. How do you feel about your interactions with the people you came across? Might you have ended up breaking the law and being arrested? Are there changes you need to make or people you need to apologize to? 23 . business associate or distant acquaintance. parent. The law seeks. to protect us all. A kind comment might assume the form of gentle touch. View today in this light:1.January 22: Emotional and physical. both to ourselves and to others. particularly children. however. from physical abuse. Here’s an interesting challenge: Think about how you behave towards someone else. this kind of aggression can do just as much harm. Yet. 3. imagine if the words you use and the feelings behind them being turned into physical action. Society has devised all kinds of restrictions to curb physical aggression. Now. partner. a friend. There are few laws. 2.

to miss the mark. but to stand up and take another shot. I do wonder why we are not as kind and understanding when it comes to ourselves. The correct response to a sin. you don’t criticize it if it loses its balance and falls. In other words. would not be to ask for forgiveness or be self-critical. You don’t interpret its inability to walk as a failure. It means to miss the centre of the target. You know that its faltering steps are just a process by which the skill of walking will eventually be acquired. and encouragement yields more positive results than condemnation. is a term borrowed from archery. in this context.January 23: What is sin? The original word. 24 . When you watch a baby learning to walk. We are all still in the process of learning. “sin”.

When I returned from the market and made my way to the room where the training course was being held. criss-cross markings on the back of his head and the build of a weight-lifter.January 24: The man in my local market. I was attending a training course at the time and had arrived too early for class. I went to explore the local market in my area. So. And I had the pleasure of spending the entire day with one of the gentlest. to kill time. of course. resembled the boxer. It prevents me from jumping to conclusions about a person’s nature simply from my perception of their appearance or from my first impression of them. kindest men I had ever met. sitting next to me. It read “Human Being” in the space people usually reserve for their job title. so that I can retrieve it the moment I have a hunch about someone. I like to think of myself as a person who is not particularly judgemental. When we parted. He was standing with his back to me. I thought. 25 . Understandably. I learnt a great deal from the encounter I am about to describe. Mike Tyson. He had a huge neck. I could feel an aura of physical force emanating from him that was intimidating. the same man was. but this encounter showed me how far I still had to go to be free of preconceived notions. Checking out the stalls. I carry the memory of that encounter with me wherever I go. he gave me his business card. I gave him a wide berth. I saw a man ahead of me who. Even while standing behind him.

the lost keys and the crashed computer. among other sources of irritation.January 25: The near collision. Swearing loudly at the pilot. As his boat rounded a bend in the river. He gave vent to his annoyance with a long blast on his horn and a wave of his hand. There was no change in direction as the other vessel moved relentlessly towards his own. He cursed the amateurs who rented boats on this stretch of the river. It seemed bent on causing a collision. Think about this story the next time you get mad at the bad weather. it just sometimes feels that way. the late train. he saw another boat moving steadily towards him. he’d been cursing a vessel that had slipped its moorings and was adrift on the river. he sounded his horn briefly to announce his presence. The other craft passed close by and he realized that there was no one at the helm. he wrenched his steering wheel in the opposite direction to avoid the other craft and turned to make what he felt was an appropriate gesture in the circumstances to the person who had narrowly missed causing both their boats to sink. Unable to see the pilot because of the glare of sunlight on the window. All this while. He steered his motorboat upstream with the sun glinting on the water ahead of him. but instead of swerving away from his boat. 26 . the bow of the other boat turned in his direction. Very rarely is there a personal motive behind these situations.

meaning. Most consequences can be dealt with. A life lived without running risks can become a life devoid of purpose. You don’t die by falling into the water. Very little in life is permanent. 27 . Remember. The greatest mistake you can make may well be living life in the constant fear of making one. Most decisions can be reversed.January 26: The greatest mistake. you drown by staying there. ultimately. challenge. progress and. few mistakes are life-threatening.

There are no such genuine investments in real life. Don’t borrow to fund daily expenditure. they may not be for you. There is a connection between risk and reward. Only money you have in your account and over which the tax man has no claim. But always shop around for the best interest rates. If you need to borrow money.January 27: Some useful ideas about finances. But do check them out first. Don’t spend money you’re expecting to receive. 28 . High returns = high risk. no sure-fire winners. Most days we get to learn from the media of financial crooks who have ripped off members of the public by offering high rewards on lowrisk terms. is truly yours. These suggestions may seem obvious. If so. They might also seem unsympathetic to your situation. 1. 2. Don’t spend your loan on daily requirements. 3. do so to buy capital items. Wait for the cheque to clear.

This way all the worlds experts can be at your command to guide and advise you. in your opinion. have been effective. conjure up the memory of someone whose wisdom. but they may well be of help in showing us how to be most effective in choosing and taking action. people who are long deceased and even characters from fiction as advisers and use their wisdom to guide us in our lives. Now. people we have read about. if he were in my shoes? If the response you get is not of much help. You can also choose to remember this is just a technique designed to bring out the best in you. ask yourself the following question: What would this person have done. 29 . try thinking of someone else whose way of dealing with the same situation could. It is true that they can’t act on our behalf. energy and determination you admire.January 28: What would X have done about this? We have a great ability to take the resources of people we know. If you find yourself at an impasse at some point in your life.

Then she returned. therefore. In return. less important. While it’s not healthy to have a permanent threat hanging over our lives. She moved swiftly towards the group of students gathered in the front of the room and it was only after she had got quite close to them that she stopped and switched off the chainsaw. 30 . she promised to take away the feeling for a while. I was part of the large group attending a weekend course. a lot of it stemming from a feeling of nervous relief. you might consider how a serious crisis could create a context in which you feel more empowered and. At one point. brandishing a chainsaw. issues in our lives get put to one side. more capable of handling the less significant problems you encounter in your daily life.January 29: The chainsaw therapy. Then she asked them. We heard the noise of what sounded like a small engine starting up. the course leader addressed the class and invited anyone who was feeling tired. After each of the people who had volunteered to speak up had finished recounting their problems. “Who is still bothered by the feelings they came up here to talk about?” There was much laughter. the course leader vanished behind a curtain. This incident set me thinking about how we tend to react when faced with what looks like imminent danger. The other. had a headache or whose mind was elsewhere to join her in the front portion of the room where she was standing and explain very briefly what was troubling them.

let them flow by and concentrate on your underlying feelings. therapy or spiritual discipline. meditation. prayer or just being still and quiet. To become more aware. blocking out external noise and just noticing the messages your inner thoughts and feelings communicate to you. be it through selfexamination. the first step in any direction has to do with increasing your level of awareness. the process is virtually the same in each case. Whatever the name by which you choose to identify it. 31 . Probe beyond the usual superficial stream of thought in your mind. Whatever path you choose to follow. They may well tell you of changes you need to make in your life and of the areas that need more attention as well as of those that need less.January 30: The first step to change. You can begin it here and now by sitting still. You can describe this as contemplation. it’s essential to take time out from whatever you’re engaged in and start observing what else is going on within you.

they’re working . “I’ll turn on the indicators and you look at them and tell me if they are working or not. The friend says.. is probably the most powerful one you can ever ask yourself. switches on the indicators and his friend calls out. they’re not working. “They’re working … they’re not working .January 31: An old joke.” as the lights flash on and off. The truth underlying this old joke is this: The question. It’s a much better question than “Do others approve of this?” or “Is this what I have been taught?” 32 ..” He gets into the car.. A man not famous for his intelligence is asked by a friend to help check his car indicators to see if they are working. “Is this working?”..

February .

the world might never be quite the same again. you could take a risk with something or someone. Today. you could talk to a stranger or give someone a gift. their life might never be quite the same again. 34 . Today. Who knows. Who knows. you could show compassion and consideration in all your encounters.February 1: Today. you could… Today. Who knows. your life might never be quite the same again.

35 . It may well apply to others. If other people keep irritating you. Here are some examples: If you keep feeling misunderstood. it’s probably about you. there’s a good chance that you don’t understand yourself or are not good at communicating with others. but it certainly applies to you. If you keep getting involved in unhealthy relationships. it’s most likely that you are easily irritated and might consider changing the situation by asking yourself why you react the way you do.February 2: If the same problem keeps turning up. you’re fooling yourself. If you think this just applies to other people. it probably means that you keep making poor choices about the people you spend time with.

February 3: There is no such thing as an insignificant contribution. 36 . for you will never know if it’s the big things or the little ones that have made the difference. a warm response can change the course of another person’s life for the better. In life too. the beating of a butterfly’s wings in Africa can result in a tornado in Florida. whereas a harsh word may well do just the opposite. Live today as if everything you do has a consequence. According to chaos theory.

be it the big things like love and beauty or the more mundane such as the quality of a cup of coffee. Important insights arise from this understanding: 1. 37 . Everything we experience we experience through our own unique set of filters.February 4: We do not see things as they are. Today. 2. Our communications are. at best. Others do not see the world as we do and never will. we see them as we are. Ideas about right and wrong are often matters of personal judgement. see in what way you can show more tolerance for the differences in others. approximate. for you are just as different as they are. 3.

If you don’t make the distinction the chances are your relationship won’t last. Emotions run high and you feel you’re vibrantly alive. Some people just love to be in love and who can blame them? It’s a great state. that there is a difference between loving the state of being in love and actually loving the person you are supposed to be in love with. though. 38 .February 5: Loving being in love. It’s worth remembering.

the comfort zone expands and the panic zone shrinks. So. so that you get accustomed to the idea and the activity. It’s not a place to visit very often or a place to linger too long in. therefore. you need longer runs to stretch yourself. Once you do so. your body adapts to the exercise and running a short distance becomes a comfortable activity for you. It’s fine to spend time in this zone. For example.February 6: Comfort. As time goes on. If you regularly spend time in the panic zone. grow as human beings. If. however. right now. As a result. This is where we learn and. stretch and panic zones. what can you commit yourself to do that will stretch you? 39 . if you want to enhance your fitness level. you can devote yourself to gently stretching yourself in that area through preparation and practice. you find public speaking a trial that plunges you straight into a state of panic. If you stay in the comfort zone. It’s useful to look at how much of your life you spend in the following zones:Your comfort zone: This is where we feel most secure. it tends to expand at the expense of the other two. Now. Your panic zone: This is where we know we have overdone it. your panic will at least reduce. the trouble is that some people never step out of it! Your stretch zone: Here we push ourselves to excel at what we do and explore beyond the known and the familiar. If you regularly spend time in the stretch zone. the stretch zone shrinks and the panic zone expands. what’s interesting is the way these zones interact with each other. you might find that a short run is a stretch. like most people.

Each of them had chosen a logo that matched their preference for the colours they wore. 40 . I thought it was heartening that they weren’t able to agree on the logo. Ask yourself what each person can teach you. you are wasting your time. conferring together about it and discussing it at length and yet had not reached an agreement. rejoice in the variety of human experience. Others wore outfits in earth colours. some of them simple. After all. Its members had been meeting for over a year. You will acquire more knowledge. Instead. They were the ones who were in favour of a brightly colour logo.February 7: Waiting for the world to agree with you. It’s never going to happen. vegetarian. However this also means that if you are waiting for the entire world to become exactly like you. they were individuals each with their own preferences. Some had chosen to wear clothes in bright colours. Muslim. football fan or whatever. others more flamboyant. I once watched a television program about the workings of a well-known commune. right-wing. A group had been formed to come to a decision about a logo to identify the centre. I noticed how differently they were all dressed. left-wing. gain keener insights and learn to be less rigid in your views and more understanding of others. And you won’t waste your life waiting for something that isn’t going to happen. Christian.

News broadcasters and writers have an important job in our society. 41 . They act on our behalf as they try and find out what is going on in the world and inform us about it. keeping yourself abreast of current events. will do you no harm and poses no problems for your well-being. Your being informed about the world’s problems at a time when you are struggling to deal with your own isn’t going to help either you or the world. If. if you are in a positive frame of mind and feel good about yourself and the world around you. life has dealt you a few knocks and you are not feeling emotionally up to par. take a break and switch off the TV when the news comes on. we should bear in mind that they are also ambitious individuals working for commercial organizations. however.February 8: A news fast. This is something the media itself rarely talks about. You owe it to yourself. even through mainly negative media reports. I would recommend you go on a news fast. It’s easy for us to overlook that all news media carries a certain bias. Now. for the simple reason that it is controlled by the ratings game. And there is no doubt that bad news sells. So. However.

you should take a small initial step? Or a giant leap? We all have far more potential than we actually fulfil. “Ships in harbour are safe… but that is not what ships were built for.” (John A Shedd) 42 .February 9: What would I try. Then look for the clues they hold to what else you might want to do in your life apart from your usual preoccupations. Perhaps. if I knew I could not fail? Write down three quick answers to the above question.

February 10: What would the child I once was think of the adult I have become? Take some time right now to review the opinions you had of yourself when you were a child. On the other hand. you even debated about the sort of a parent you might turn out to be. Perhaps. How does the reality compare? You may be pleasantly surprised at how far you have come. you may realize there are still some changes you need to make. you wondered about what sort of adult you might grow up to be. 43 . Perhaps.

Sometimes. suffer because we are so taken up with “urgent” trivia. instead. on something I consider important? Could I live with the consequences? 44 . important people in our lives. we end up spending more of our time dealing with things that are urgent and rarely get to attend to the things that are important.February 11: Is this important or is it just urgent? It’s very easy to confuse what is important with what is urgent. those close to us. An alternative question we could ask ourselves is the following: What would happen if I didn’t do this thing I regard as urgent and concentrated. As a result.

it’s very difficult to say “NO” to the requests others make of us. at least once. 45 . the negative can become a positive.February 12: What is the bigger YES? Sometimes. Driven by the desire to help. At such times it could be worth asking yourself the question “If I say “NO” to this request will that enable me to do something of greater value?” If there is something of greater value that you can do. the “NO” can become a bigger “YES”. Today you could put this into practice. we are likely to feel guilty about turning someone down. perhaps even just having time for yourself.

February 13: Let go of the past or the future. The same people have a talent for choosing items from their list to toss into situations when the moment is ripe for creating the maximum amount of damage. these are “other people” and you have never done anything like that. Amazingly. some people keep a mental list of the times they were let down by their friends or partners. It is a list of every slight they ever suffered. do remember that it’s your choice. But just in case you are tempted down this path. You either let go of the past or the future. 46 . Of course.

particularly. but love itself. if nurtured. The choice is yours. need never die. The state of being “in love” can and usually does settle down over the years. What can kill love is a diet of negativity. Perhaps. negative comments. today could be the time to give extra care and support for the love that is in your life? 47 . Communication either builds or destroys.February 14: Love never dies a natural death.

the more likely we are to prevent the flow and hold back the growth. there is a good chance that every rule you establish about how things should or should not be costs you many times more than that. Well. like life. 48 . such rules can damage and destroy your relationships as well. What’s more. It is said that every cigarette you smoke takes five minutes off your life.February 15: How can you ruin a relationship and grow old quickly? The answer: Lay down too many rules. And things that don’t flow not only don’t grow. need to flow in order to evolve. they also tend to decay. Today is the day you could choose to disregard one of your unnecessary rules and see how it feels when you go to bed tonight. The greater the number of blocks we put in the way. Relationships.

Sometimes we get so stuck in our circumstances that we must come to a halt before we can change direction to correct our course. Is today a time for minor adjustments? Or do you need to pause before going in for a bigger change? 49 . In the town where I grew up.February 16: Tram tracks. Sometimes when we feel we are heading in the wrong direction we can make a course correction to get where we want to be. When our wheels sometimes got stuck in the track. I’ve thought a lot about that as a life metaphor as I’ve got older. we couldn’t steer and had to stop to lift our bikes off the track before setting off for wherever we were headed in the first place. there were tram tracks we loved following as we rode our bicycles alongside just for the fun of it.

the time starts again and you keep going until you have completed your three days. If you fail to do so. Try to go for three days without entertaining a negative thought for more than five seconds. either let it go or replace it with something positive. And the best could be a permanent change in your focus. 50 .February 17: A mental challenge. The worst that can happen is that you become more keenly aware of your thought processes. If one comes along.

Areas of your life that were not fully explored or expressed and realize that you can do something about them. Bottled-up feelings that have. Who knows what may turn up? There is only one way to find out. 3.February 18: Who would you be without your history? Go back to early childhood and imagine the way your life would have been had the circumstances been different. 51 . in turn. You may discover: 1. 2. How the difficult times shaped the person you are today and that you don’t wish to change them. trapped the real you and which you could now choose to release.

It’s wise to remember when someone tries to put you down that this kind of behaviour says far more about the person indulging in it. There’s a difference between being put down and feeling put down.February 19: Who can put you down? Well. People who have poor opinions of themselves often try to boost their fragile egos by trying to put others down.” 52 . than about you. As Eleanor Roosevelt said. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. It’s the hazard of being human. almost anyone actually.

The same is true of a relationship. the church. Unfortunately for her. so undermining its value. She had wanted one building she could visit so that she could say she had been there. because she had not seen “The University”.February 20: Take me to “The University” This was the request a visitor made to her taxi driver when she was being driven around a historic town. skirted the playing fields and ended up back at the railway station. Above all. a specific feeling or a particular event. The passenger argued over the fare. that’s not what a university is. It is based on all these things and more. a relationship is an experience and your attempts to define or contain it will merely hinder all that you would have gained from it. A genuine relationship can’t be confined to a single location. The driver took a route past various colleges. Ask yourself: “What preconceived notions about my relationship do I need to let go of in order to allow it to flourish in the weeks ahead?” 53 .

accepting his offer. but this one illustrates such a vital truth that it deserves inclusion. whose contribution to your life you need to acknowledge and appreciate. he offered the girl a ride home. The man returned to the flower shop.” The man smiled and said. where she placed the rose on a freshly dug grave.” she replied. Then act on it. cancelled the order for the flowers to be delivered. I’ll buy you a rose.February 21: A “manipulative” story. I try to avoid stories that manipulate our emotions and milk them for all they are worth. picked up a bouquet and drove the hundred miles to his mother’s house. A man stopped at a florist’s to order some flowers to be delivered to his mother who lived far away. Draw your own conclusions from this story about who you need to get in touch with. please!” she said.” She directed him to a cemetery.” He bought the little girl her rose and ordered the flowers he wanted to be sent to his mother. “You can take me to my mother. 54 . He asked her what was wrong. As he got out of his car. As they were leaving. “I wanted to buy a red rose for my mother. “Yes. he noticed a young girl sitting on the curb and sobbing. “Come on in with me. “but I only have seventy-five cents and a rose costs two dollars.

the famous tailor. He puts the suit on and discovers that one sleeve is shorter than the other. his body has to be adjusted to compensate for it and this goes on. he returns for the fitting.February 22: The fitted suit.” How much of your life do you live in a way that distorts your real identity in order to fit the image life has made for you and which the rest of the world thinks fits you perfectly? Write down the three biggest changes you want to bring about in your life and the action you can take today to help you move in that direction. turns up the collar. the tailor advises him to tilt his head to one side. So. A man goes to “George”. however. So. George suggests he shorten his arm by raising his shoulder. The change of posture. After selecting the fabric and being measured for the suit. to have a suit made. he is stopped by a passer-by who says. This will make the sleeve fit better. So. 55 . When the man finally leaves the shop wearing the suit. This creates a problem with the other shoulder. “I know only George could have made a suit that would so perfectly fit a cripple like you.

especially when there is resistance from the receiver. If you’re not sure. ask someone close to you for their views. you resist accepting what they are keen to offer? Phrases such as “It’s easier if I do it myself” or “Others don’t do things the way I like them to” could serve as clues to discovering if this applies to you. How easy do you find it to accept what others offer? Could it be possible that even as you’re resenting the fact that people don’t do anything for you. Today. you could try accepting what people want to offer you.February 23: Why are you being so nice to me? In the film. People are sometimes embarrassed about accepting anything from others. Just pause to think how difficult the act of giving can be. The first girl asks the second. 56 . beholden. “Why are you being so nice to me?” And the simple answer is “Because you’re letting me”. The Breakfast Club. It could be a fulfilling experience for both parties. there is a scene where a girl from the wrong side of the tracks is being given a makeover by an upper-class girl she is sharing a Saturday detention with. Now. It makes them feel obligated. ask yourself how good a receiver you are. even vulnerable. The process of giving is rarely simple.

Okay. Be receptive to the message it conveys to you and you alone. but beyond the immediate context. 57 . so that the two of you can go out together. If you are waiting either to start a job. what are the many things you are expecting to happen and for which you have put your life on hold? Now ask yourself the following question: Is there an alternative to waiting? Even if something important is supposed to happen tomorrow. don’t ignore the opportunities the period of waiting offers you.February 24: What are you waiting for? Allow yourself to focus on this question for a while. don’t you? Why waste the whole of today simply in anticipation of what is due to take place tomorrow? If you find yourself waiting for the “right” person or people to turn up in your life. you might be waiting either for a TV program to begin or for someone’s arrival. you might want to check out whether you are enjoying the company of those who are already there. you still have the chance to enjoy today to the full. As a minimum your wait will be all the more pleasant for it. go on holiday or merely for the sun to rise.

Repeated analysis of the difficult times you have lived through runs the risk of becoming a self-defeating exercise. If you are committed to improving your situation. However.February 25: You don’t find the light by studying the dark. You should examine your past only to the extent that it helps you to release its grip on your present. If trying to resolve a certain problem on your own or with the help of friends isn’t getting you the desired results. Counselling and therapy have their uses and have been of great benefit to many. your main focus should be on how you want things to be rather than on how they were before. 58 . these are options you might want to give serious thought to. the purpose of such work must be geared to resolve your issues as quickly as possible.

59 . are never identical. Reassure yourself with the thought that whatever you are facing is no different from what many others have faced before you. Why can’t I? This is the moment for you to remind yourself of your uniqueness as an individual. The triumphs of others can also become the stick we beat ourselves with as we ask ourselves repeatedly: They managed to do it. Rather. don’t be harsh on yourself because of your inability to handle problems in quite the same way as others have before you. allow the way in which they have dealt with their issues to become an inspiration for you. however.February 26: Others may travel along the same path but you are unique. Just as your own fingerprints cannot match those of others. Always remember: They are not you. you are not them. The situation has its flip side. Be as kind to yourself as you would be with others. the problems faced by others while similar to your own. So. Most of them have survived the experience and even matured through it. Their experience and the manner in which they have come through it can be uplifting and inspirational for you.

Get enough sleep. but the state of the person dealing with it. they will seem less acute and the solutions you find for them will be more creative. insane to start conducting an orchestra without learning to read music and stupid to dive into the deep end of a pool without learning to swim. 60 . before you spend time on your problems. the more resources you will have when you attend to your problems. 2. Enlist the support of others. Yet. Devote time to yourself and your needs. Here are three pointers: 1. Few things need to be faced alone and most people love to be of help. 3. Almost everything seems worse than it actually is when you are tired.February 27: It’s not the size of problem that’s important. As a result. we think nothing of trying to deal with major problems in our lives when we are least fit to do so and are surprised when things don’t work out. The better you feel physically and emotionally. even if it’s for a short while. I’m sure you will agree that it would be silly to try and run a marathon without being in peak condition. Check you are in a positive frame of mind. How you approach a problem determines how difficult it will be to solve.

you could even look at the item for the 29th February today. will say. Yet.February 28: Who could help me with this? (1) People are often reluctant to ask others for help and use phrases like “I don’t want to take up their time” or “They already have enough to do without having to do this for me as well” to justify their stand.” Why not treat yourself with as much consideration as you would treat others? Why not ask for help today? If it’s not a leap year. the same people. if asked to help someone else. 61 . “I’m so glad they asked me to do this for them” or “Pleased I could be of assistance.

Why not ask for and accept help today? 62 . acknowledge them as your own and follow the direction in which they lead. who would that person be and what kind of help would he or she offer? Pay careful attention to the new insights the memory of that person brings you.February 29: Who could help me with this? (2) If you could conjure up the image of anyone—living or dead. real or fictional—to help you.

March .

. You could always deal with the detail tomorrow. Today. you could ignore all outside distractions and move towards the important goals in your life.. you could use your past mistakes for new learning and deeper understanding. you could.March 1: Today. but it could make them useful. you could expect the best of yourself and end up exceeding your expectations. 64 . you will have taken a significant step forward. Today. This won’t make those mistakes disappear. Today. At worst.

“You can’t change others. but that won’t make any difference to the way things are. 3. there are no other options. Split up. you can only change yourself. That’s it. And to quote the oldest idea in therapy. So. your only option is change. Stay as you are. if you can’t bear the way it is and you don’t want to give up on the relationship.” If you can’t both agree on change. There are only three possibilities for the future of any relationship: 1.March 2: Possibilities in a relationship. Change how you are. then the onus is on you. Yes. that may seem unfair. How will this change your approach to your relationship today? 65 . 2. You may be in the right.

I don’t believe such returns are possible with financial investments. unless you are prepared to take unacceptable risks. Think about an unpleasant experience in your life. Instead of brooding about how it has hurt or damaged you ask yourself the following question: What have I gained from this experience? It won’t make the experience any different from what it was when it happened.March 3: How to get a 200 per cent return? This. but we can help ourselves to move on by gaining positive insights from difficult situations. It’s not about sport either. But there is a way of getting a 200 per cent return: By turning a negative into a positive. 66 . Our hard times help us to mature. as in ‘He gave 200 per cent effort. but it may help you have a more balanced perspective on it. There may not be a purpose to our negative experiences. has nothing to do with finance. by the way.

If the thoughts that usually fill your mind were transformed into food and constituted your daily diet. 67 ...March 4: If your thoughts were food. If positive thoughts were the equivalent of fresh fruit and vegetables… …how would your body be feeling today? You might think this is just a metaphor. but in practice. in reality. what we put into our minds can affect us and have as important a bearing on our well-being as what we put into our bodies. a hurried meal gulped down. how would you be feeling right now? If negative thoughts about the past became food that was past its sell-by date… If angry thoughts were transformed into unbearably hot and spicy food… If hasty decisions were.

And she carries on with her cleaning spree until she has covered the entire house. A lonely. Make one change for the better and other things start to change as well. 68 . for the first time that year. she spends the evening cleaning it. 3. This is an old children’s tale. she doubts whether it will have much effect on her life. despondent woman receives a gift from a friend. so that they won’t look out of place. but her feelings too have undergone a significant change. Later in the day. 2. Although the lady admits it’s a lovely flower. In a week’s time. it spreads to other areas. she decides to clean the chairs that go with the newly scrubbed table. This is a wonderful story. When you let love to enter one area of your life.March 5: The magic rose geranium. The next morning. So. she notices how the flower is making her table look old and shabby. The latter tells her that the magic rose geranium she has given her is a special flower that will transform her life. Giving appropriate gifts to others and to ourselves can change lives. but what lesson does it hold for us? Take your pick: 1. not only has the house in which she has been living been transformed.

will be over and done with in a year’s time. yes. If they are the same ones that caused you worry this time last year you need to seriously consider taking steps either to solve them or to minimize the impact of the consequences they are likely to have on your life. What caused you worries as far as relationships. which of these are still issues for you today? Chances are that most of the problems that troubled you a year ago do not cause you concern now or. start with the assumption that the next twelve months will bring you similar results.March 6: Will this matter a year from now? This is a great question and one way to approach it is to try and remember what was on your mind a year ago. work. finances and politics were concerned? Now. But you probably either have plans in place for dealing with them or will do so by the time you go to bed tonight. at least. stop to consider whether you should allow them to bother you quite as much as they do right now. Most of the things that trouble you as you read this. health. So. there might be certain problems you suspect will linger until this time next year. Of course. therefore. family. friends. cause you far less concern today. And. You might. 69 . some of them may still be issues for you.

leaving space for something new to come along. If you are waiting for the moment when all your problems will be over. Here’s the good news: Whatever troubles you now will almost certainly pass. Here’s the bad news: New problems and issues will continue to crop up and preoccupy your thoughts in much the same way as the old ones did. either completely or to the extent that you will be able to deal with it more effectively. a point may come in the time ahead. when you’ll have become so good at dealing with life’s problems you’ll be able to meet them with a smile of recognition and the knowledge that it’s only a matter of time before you put them behind you. Problems are a sign that you are alive.March 7: Good news versus bad news. because the moment you are looking forward to won’t arrive before you die. However. you had better start drawing up the guest list for your funeral. 70 . Today you could start to feel that way.

“I want to go to bed tonight feeling my day has been worthwhile” is a lot better. 1. 2. 71 . here are a few questions that might help you to understand whether it applies to you or not. you can. I want to write a book” is not as good as “I will complete the first chapter a month from now”. The clearer you are about what it is the more likely you will be to get what you want. “Someday. Have you established a time frame for achieving what you want? For instance. 3. you need to know what it is. 4. Are your goals stated in a positive way? For instance. “I will be more loving”. “I want to earn a specific” sum is better than “I want to have more money”. So.March 8: To have what you want. “I want my partner to be more loving than they are” you can’t control. This seems like a very obvious statement. Is what you want within your area of control? For example. “I want to stop feeling so despondent” isn’t specific enough. Can what you want be measured? For example.

It’s not a matter of who’s right or who’s wrong. because compatibility in a relationship makes life a lot easier. identical in the way they think or feel. an element of difference is what makes our relationships exciting and stimulating and a stimulating relationship. So.March 9: Are we compatible? This is a question couples and friends often ask each other. particularly when emotions are not running high. Have respect for each other’s differences. you will agree. however. At some level you are likely to discover that you want the same things in life. They do exist. just as important is the manner in which you deal with your differences. 2. and seek out points of agreement on how such differences can be dealt with in a positive way. it’s usually a matter of perception. It’s an important one. is almost always better than a boring one. 72 . and it’s a healthy sign if you can discuss them with each other and have strategies in place to deal with them whenever they come up. while a crucial test of a relationship is how compatible you are. Here are some thoughts that might help: 1. Keep aside some time to discuss areas of difference. In fact. The most compatible people aren’t. even in the best of relationships. 3. Look for areas of agreement that transcend your differences.

Start to enjoying both the process and the current moment. you will never be free of “things that need to be done”. however hard you work and however much you achieve. accept the fact that your “in” basket will never be empty for long and don’t put your life on hold until everything gets done. To imagine that it’s possible is about as sensible as thinking there is one perfect meal and that if you prepare it.March 10: When you die. you need never eat again. right now. Life is a process of development rather than a string of events to be completed. your “to do” list won’t be complete. So. However far you go. Ask yourself: What could I decide. that would make my experience of today a better one? 73 .

No one decides what questions you should ask yourself. Examine the hour that has gone by. 74 . the questions you ask yourself.March 11: Do my internal thoughts and question support me? The thoughts you entertain. How empowering have your thoughts been during this period? How helpful were the questions you silently asked yourself? See what changes you can make in the hours ahead. You deserve to treat yourself as well as possible. If that is the case. it’s reasonable to ask if you are making the kind of choices that work for you. are almost always the outcome of the choices you make. No one tells you what to think.

And how about you?” His brother replies.” replies the other sibling. it only seemed right that I should work in a drugrehabilitation centre and that’s where I’m calling you from. “Well with both our parents being drug addicts. times when the decisions you make will determine its future course.March 12: The brothers’ choices. one gets in touch with the other and wants to know how he is. Two brothers grow up in difficult circumstances and drift apart.” Whether this is a true story or not is irrelevant. it’s not surprising. “Well I’ve been on drugs and in and out of clinics for most of the last ten years. “I guess with both our parents being drug addicts. it doesn’t mean that you can’t make better ones today. 75 . Later. What it does illustrate is the degree to which the life you lead depends on the kind of choices you make. Those are the moments when you need to assume full responsibility for yourself and your future. There are turning points in your life. The good news is that even if you have made some poor decisions in the past.

manuscripts. There are several billion people in this world. as you would gain from being with them. it rarely feels that way. participate in the activities of your community. designs and so on. Anything that is liable to be rejected also has alternative sources of acceptance. certainly. if you see it as a personal slight or failure. And it’s true that while rejection is usually more about the person who is responsible for it than about the one at the receiving end.March 13: The one-word answer to rejection. So. you are going to have plenty of opportunities to experience rejection. the one-word answer to rejection is: Next! 76 . have family. The same principle applies to jobs. allow relationships into your life. If you live fully. It hurts to face rejection. And there are certainly a few hundred thousand who would benefit from being with you. You also live in a world of amazing opportunities. are employed or run a business.

because while you can’t alter what happened a year ago.March 14: Changing the “future past” Most people look back with regret at something they have done or failed to do. in twelve months’ time. because it makes no difference to what happened or did not happen. So. you will be able to look back with pride and pleasure at the outcome? 77 . here’s a challenge: How do you propose to live today so that this time. However. if unproductive human trait. It’s a natural. you can change what I call your “future past”. today will have receded a year into the past and you can certainly change what you choose to do today. next year.

you could see it as a privilege to experience everything that comes your way. All you need to do is change your focus.March 15: Today. you could look at the blessings that come from just being alive. Today. Even the difficult times can become a source of inner strength. you could open your heart to the love and joy that surrounds you.. when you consider the alternative. you could. Today.. Today. Particularly. 78 .

79 . it’s your own direction that counts. You are also your potential. Today. what makes the difference? If it’s not where you have come from that determines the course your life will take. We all know that’s not what happens. From now on. So. Your past is a given. it’s where you are going that counts. And that’s something over which you have a choice. the promise you have within you. Whatever problems. but the events themselves are over. failures or difficulties you have experienced before are behind you. The past most certainly does not equal the future. If history determined the direction of our lives. it must be where you are going that decides it.March 16: It’s not where you come from. You can’t change it. everyone with a similar history would end up in the same place. You may still be dealing with their consequences. You are more than the sum of your past experiences. you can realize your possibilities instead of repeating your history.

March 17: A lifted weight. 80 . It could be a small thing that has been allowed to build up because it has been put off for so long. It could be a decision that you need to be communicated to other people or simply one you need to make in your own mind. the answer may not involve a major decision or gesture. Today just hold onto the idea of a weight being lifted off your shoulders and aim for the feeling to be realised by the end of your day. Consider the question: What can you do today that would result in your going to bed tonight feeling a weight had been lifted off your shoulders? Interestingly.

Breaking the cluster down into individual issues can make the situation far easier to deal with. Dealing with weight gain is a series of small problems. 81 . Write down three problems you are facing right now and ask yourself which category each one falls into. It will help you to decide how to deal with the issues confronting you.March 18: Is this one big problem or a series of little ones? Many so-called big problems can be seen as a series of small issues clubbed together. here are some leads: 1. Loss of a loved one is almost certainly a big problem. 2. A health issue could fall into either category. So. Some people have trouble making distinctions between major and minor issues. 3.

you can look at life in four quadrants: 1. using the categories developed by Stephen Covey. Not urgent and not important: Trivia. Important. 3 and 4. You could choose to spend significant time today in this important area. timewasting pursuits. crisis issues. The most important distinction you can make here is between what is important and what is urgent. we become fire-fighters rather than planners and apply first aid to symptoms instead of taking steps to deal with the causes. but we often seem to treat it as such. Then. Important and urgent: Usually. pressing details. 82 . 3. 2.March 19: Life isn’t an emergency. but not important: Interruptions. Preparation. As a result. Life isn’t an emergency. which is where most people end up spending their time. not urgent: prevention and planning. The quality of your life can improve by increasing the time you spend in area 2 rather than in areas 1. Urgent. 4.

We are just working things out in a different way.March 20: Do people really change? There is no bigger question in the world of therapy and this isn’t going to be a definitive answer. But we remain who we always were. A timid person. so define our character that it will not change fundamentally. but its expression changes. These changes are less likely to take place as we grow older. while undergoing occasional changes as our lives progress. 83 . An individual who is reticent about expressing his love for another might learn to do so. it might seem as if we had undergone a more fundamental change. From the point of view of an observer. They are the personality equivalents of say. our height or the colour of our eyes. but the possibility of them occurring is always there. We all have some characteristics that. But it might well be a useful one and a good stance to adopt in viewing yourself and other people in your life. What is more likely is that we learn to express our characteristics in more positive ways. Our personality remains the same. There are also aspects of our personality that can evolve substantially. can become a confident one. for example.

Next. Oh. start taking action to make your goal come closer—today. take a piece of paper and write down three things that you have wanted to do or even wanted to stop doing. and one more suggestion. but they don’t necessarily have to be. but have yet to see this process through to the end. They are likely to be important things in your life. Look for patterns: What do each of these reasons for the lack of progress have in common? Now. 84 . write down the main reasons why you have not made more progress on each item. examine these reasons to decide what changes you need to bring about in your life.March 21: What holds you back from doing what you want to do? Before you do anything else.

however. This thought isn’t meant to be a definitive truth. in situations where a great deal of pain. betrayed or injured. 85 . but a useful way of looking at the world. it can help to bring peace and understanding to a fractious and divided world. that it would be a good idea to probe beyond the accepted concept of good and bad and explore what underlies our notion of evil. if you have been hurt. Now. even if its expression is abhorrent to us.March 22: Behind every action is a positive intention. lingers. It challenges the conventional ways of looking at the world to such an extent that it could take a while for its implications to be clearly and fully grasped. it would be an unwise approach. But for those not directly affected by the trauma or in cases where its devastating impact has lessened over time. It’s not intended to suggest that people shouldn’t be held responsible for their actions. so that we can identify an intention we all recognize within ourselves. it would be a real ordeal to ask yourself what the positive intention could possibly have been behind the deed. emotional or physical. In fact. You might want to spend some time thinking this one over. It does indicate.

in the here and now. your apprehensions about future events. nothing else exists for you at that moment. past experiences and future concerns cease to be a part of your consciousness so completely that they don’t seem to exist at all.March 23: What happens to your negative thoughts when your house catches fire? Indeed. positive or negative. So. because you are forced by circumstances to live in the present. what happens to any thoughts at all. your fatigue. when a catastrophe befalls you? When you are focused on saving your life and that of your loved ones. 86 . if you want to put past and future issues aside. to your headache. just start living entirely in the moment. along with your precious possessions. don’t set fire to your house. In the present.

devote yourself to the requisite practice and audition for jobs available in the field. to tell yourself that this is who you are. buy the appropriate gear and so on. Then sign up for training sessions. the difference between the two ways doesn’t even seem all that important to you. The second way is to decide that you are a ballet dancer. And observe. The first is to sign up for lessons. whether this approach has made any difference to your life. when you go to bed. Perhaps. buy the appropriate gear. Spend today the way you would if you were already the person you wanted to be. 87 . Assume that you have already brought about the change you were hoping for in your life.March 24: How to be a ballet dancer. There are two ways to become a ballet dancer.

88 . If the answer is no. ask yourself if you need to value your time and friendship more than you do. take some time to rejoice in the friendships you forged in your life. Now. write down the names of three family members you feel or have felt closest to. write down the names of three people outside your immediate family that you regularly spend time with. Now ask yourself this question: Would I be happy to have the three people I love associate with the three people I regularly spend time with? If your answer is yes.March 25: Who do you spend your time with? Before you read any further. They could also be parents who are no longer alive.

The person with the highest self-assessed score was invited to the city to meet the mayor. 89 . but sometimes.” she replied. I draw a bull’s eye. Then I point it very. perhaps. it would be a good idea to give yourself top marks.” When was the last time you were satisfied with something you had tried your best in? I’m not advocating lowering of standards. “How could you have achieved such a high level of accuracy at your age?” they asked her. to draw your bull’s eye wherever your arrow lands. very straight and release it. “Well. “I take my arrow and draw it back very tight in the bow.March 26: A bull’s-eye every time. Wherever it lands. having claimed a score of 100 per cent. today. This is a lovely little story about a national archery competition in which contestants were asked to send in a record of how many times they had scored a bull’s-eye. Everyone was surprised when this eight-year-old girl turned up.

“If you fail to plan. you plan to fail. 90 . at least. Ask yourself: Is my current way of approaching life working for me? Is it getting me close to where I want to be? Am I enjoying the journey? If you can give a positive answer to those questions without a formal or written-down plan to back it up. but not for everyone.” but I’m not so sure. ignore the idea of setting a goal for yourself.March 27: Do you need a plan? Do you need a plan to get where you want to go? Selfimprovement books seem to repeat the mantra. If what you are doing now isn’t effective in getting you closer to your objective. It’s certainly true for some people. would probably be a smart move. a better plan than the one you have already devised. then having a plan or.

Some people seem to thrive on forging their own path. to my mind. The wheel already exists. Here. But there’s nothing wrong either in following the course chosen by other people. I’d like to think about the well-travelled road that is. There’s a famous book called The Road Less Travelled. a path different from that undertaken by others. based on a poem by Robert Frost.March 28: The road well travelled. When others have trodden the path to a positive goal. There’s nothing to be gained from being different just for the sake of it. 91 . you don’t have to go to the bother of reinventing it. and it works for them. and worth following. do you? When you have a problem you need to deal with. it’s useful to see who has been down the same road before and find out what worked for them. of equal importance. it might well be the right one for you too.

March 29: When do you feel most connected? When do you feel least connected? Spend a few minutes right now writing down three situations or experiences or even the names of three people that have contributed more than others to making you feel most alive. Spend a little time studying the two lists you have just made and ask yourself if your life is well balanced and geared for your general well-being. experiences or name three people that have been responsible for creating feelings in you that are quite the reverse of those. mightn’t some adjustment be called for to correct the balance? 92 . Are you spending the overwhelming majority of your time on things and people that make you feel connected and the minimum possible time in situations that make you feel quite the opposite? If not. Perhaps. fulfilled and connected to the world. Now write down three situations. they have made you feel ill at ease or even made you feel alienated.

that you are in a relationship where you. If. for example. of course. am I deliberately avoiding a reality that is unpleasant or unacceptable to me? 93 . There is. The question you should then ask yourself is this: In regarding the glass as half-full. This very familiar metaphor is supposed to reveal whether people have a positive disposition or a negative one. you concentrate exclusively on the negative elements that is what you will end up experiencing. Suppose.March 30: A half-full glass or a half-empty one. Here are some points you might want to ponder over: To some extent. If you focus on its positive aspects. They remain oblivious to the negative possibilities in a situation. are incapable of recognizing the negative elements in a situation. the very real danger of overly optimistic people failing to see the glass as anything other than completely full. It’s certainly a good starting point. on the other hand. You may well leave your partner with no option but to express or highlight only those elements to the exclusion of all else. the optimistic half of the couple. you will be able to enjoy them. a reality check is essential and should include a willingness to acknowledge the negative aspects in a given context. In such cases. how you see the glass—and life— involves a choice.

promotion at work or a more peaceful world.. Perhaps. improved health. “I will feel better because. suppose you had control over how you feel. Now. Somewhere in your answer will be the phrase. 94 . Now. more money. you’ve attached a condition to the circumstances that you think is necessary for you to have this feeling. Then you could create the desired feeling without relying on external circumstances over which you had no influence.. that is. right? And in all probability. you’re looking forward to a better relationship.” and it is likely to be followed by something event or change that lies outside your immediate sphere of influence and control. ask yourself: Is it possible to feel the way I want to feel without achieving the targets I have listed? If you can give a positive answer to this question you may find your life easier and more fulfilling. ask yourself what all this will give you when you achieve it.. weight loss.March 31: What do you really want? You probably have many answers to this question. What you really want is to feel differently. Now. better than you are feeling at present.

April .

Today is the day you could treat everyone you meet with warmth and kindness. even the longest journey starts with the first step. Then notice how these feelings often come back to you. Today could be filled with the most amazing possibilities. Remember.April 1: Today. 96 .. All you need to do is change your focus so that you are aware of them.. Today you could start living the life you have always dreamed of. you could.

Here are a couple of typical disempowering beliefs:Life’s a pain and then you die.April 2: Do your beliefs support you? If there was such a thing as truth we would all agree on it and since we don’t all agree what is true for you may not be true for others. Other people will let you down. What beliefs do you want to adopt and live by today? 97 . We need to treat such differences with respect but since you have chosen your beliefs you can ask if they are supporting your progress through life. Here are a couple of better ones:Problems are a sign of life. and if they are not. chose different ones. Most people are doing their best.

you will look at some issues about relationships that you need to resolve. just to see what kind of thoughts it throws up. to your bed tonight. you will consider dealing with something you have been putting off. safely. Perhaps. it’s worth making a note of and considering what action you can take today. Whatever does come up. you will have thoughts about taking time off for yourself. 98 .April 3: If you knew you were going to die today. Perhaps. Perhaps. 1. 3. 2. It would be good to reflect on the progress you have made when you go. But it is worth five minutes of your time. what changes would you make in your life? This is a very tough question and it would be unhealthy to spend too much time thinking about your early death.

did not seem to share his attitude. he expressed his concern over his offspring’s attitude to money. His children. He felt he had grown up respecting the value of money and had never squandered it on trifles. “You can never give your children the benefit of a financially impoverished childhood.April 4: The benefits of an impoverished childhood. 99 . Write down three problems you have faced and overcome in your life and ask yourself how you have benefited from having dealt with them. so that after he and his wife died their his children would bear a reduced tax burden. The businessman was discussing with his tax consultant how best to arrange his financial affairs. In the course of the conversation.” The anecdote illustrates that it’s the difficult times we go through that contribute to our growth and maturity and the challenges we face and overcome are usually our greatest source of learning. on the other hand. The consultant smiled at him and remarked.

” said the farmer “is that I share my corn with my neighbours. “the wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and scatters it over field after field.” said the farmer.April 5: The farmer and the corn. This is a story about a farmer who was being interviewed by a journalist because he had grown award-winning corn.” “How can you afford to share your best seed?” the reporter asked him.” Those who choose to be at peace must help their neighbours to be at peace too. If I am to grow good corn. Those who choose to live well must also help others to live well. “Well. The good in each one of us is bound up in the good of us all. The value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. “The secret. 100 . I must help my neighbours to grow it too. cross-pollination would steadily degrade the quality of my corn. Those who choose to be happy must help others to find happiness as well. If my neighbours grew inferior corn.

not every problem can be solved. to discover that all the urgent things they needed to do have either already been done by someone else. sometimes. once in a while. to say to yourself. no longer need attention or have turned out to be not so very urgent after all. Certain things just have to be tolerated or lived with. be a viable option. You don’t really need to wait for an emergency to bring about a similar situation in your own life. “Don’t just do something. It would be interesting today to take something that’s been on your mind. people who have been rushed to hospital because of a medical emergency. sit there.” Often. decide just to let it be and observe what happens. come out days or even weeks later. Not every problem needs to be solved. while others are best left alone.April 6: What would happen if you did nothing? A decision to do nothing is still a decision and in a world obsessed with activity not taking action can. It can be the best thing. The skill lies in learning to distinguish between those situations where action is appropriate and those where it’s best not to try and change things. 101 . Indeed.

The sum involved may well be familiar. The balance is wiped clean. 102 .April 7: The bank.440 were deposited in your bank account every day on the condition that you spent it all by the end of the day. it’s the number of minutes in each day and the truth is what you fail to spend to your benefit day does not get carried forward. Each day is a new account. failing which the balance would revert to zero? My guess is that you would try and spend the money each day in a manner guaranteed to ensure that it would be of maximum benefit to you on that particular day. you can’t save. What would you do if an amount of £1. it’s the only time you’re going to experience it. Make the most of today. you can’t borrow.

April 8: Keeping a journal. By all means. “If your life’s worth living. jot down your aims in life.” Maintaining a journal is much more than simply recording your life.” said Anthony Robbins. It can act as your adviser and be a source of inspiration and guidance for you. Perhaps. hold yourself to the high standards you have set yourself and explore any past issues that are currently affecting you. “it’s worth recording. It’s a place where you can record your best and deepest thoughts. I know of no better or more important tool for becoming the person you want to be. plot its future course. write down the events and incidents that make up your life. you could start a lifetime habit today by maintaining a journal? 103 . A journal can help you to know yourself as you would an intimate friend. but the opportunities presented by a journal are far wider than that.

I’m referring to the kind of remarks made when socalled friends get together to talk about mutual acquaintances behind their back. I’m sure you must have noticed how often the information exchanged during these sessions is negative and damaging. but I’m far from sure it’s true. I don’t mean the kind of talk targeting celebrities who often wash their dirty linen in public and open their personal lives to scrutiny and comment. though I concede they have feelings like everyone else.April 9: Gossip. “There’s only one thing worse than being talked about. particularly. when I observe the harm caused by malicious gossip. and that’s not being talked about. Here are some questions you might want to ask yourself: How would this person feel if he or she were in the room with you? How would you feel if similarly comments were being made about you? What’s your responsibility.” — Oscar Wilde That might be sound very witty. even if you are just listening to others? 104 .

but you can nurture a relationship.April 10: You can’t possess another person. But grasping at something instead of nurturing it is a short-term strategy unlikely to yield long-lasting dividends. it may give you some pleasure for a few days. it will give you pleasure for many seasons. water it and nurture it. 105 . If you leave it in its own soil. If you see a beautiful flower in a garden and pluck it to take home with you. is a natural human instinct. but will eventually die. Wanting security. particularly in a relationship.

April 11: The knight and the wolf. Realization dawned at last that his dog had killed the wolf in order to save the baby’s life and that he had killed the very animal that had saved his son. A knight returned home from battle and went directly to the nursery to see his infant son. however. he noticed a dead wolf lying on top of his infant son. When he entered the nursery. assuming that it had fatally mauled his baby. On closer inspection. Overcome with grief and anger. he found blood everywhere and the family dog lying in the corner. he discovered that the baby was alive. he took out his sword and slew the dog. Just spend a few moments thinking of an unfair judgement you might have recently made about the words or actions of another person. When he lifted the carcass of the animal off his son’s body. Could you have been partly or even completely wrong in your assessment? 106 .

April 12: Now that you know better, do better!
Understanding that is not translated into action is futile; indeed, one might say it isn’t any kind of understanding at all. Unless what we have learnt is grounded in what we do, that knowledge is of little benefit to ourselves and of no use at all to those around us. It’s worth taking a few minutes off from your usual activities today to check if what you now know is being expressed in what you do.


April 13: What would you do, if no one knew who you were?
Imagine a situation in which you suddenly find yourself living in another country. Everyone speaks your language, but no one knows your history. And while you were being transported to this new place, you also lost, along with your luggage, all your former convictions and preferences. So, you are safe and secure, but unknown. What would you choose to do for a living? What sort of people would you seek out as your friends? What would you prefer to believe? What would you do for fun and entertainment? Now, check your answers to these questions and see whether they differ from the life you are actually leading right now. Then ask yourself one last question: Do I need to start making changes in my life?


April 14: You are more powerful than you imagine.
Mark was walking home from school, when he saw the boy ahead of him trip and drop a big pile of books he was carrying. Mark knelt down and helped him pick up the scattered books. Since they were going the same way, he helped carry part of the load. As they walked along together, Mark discovered that the boy’s name was Bill and that he loved video games, baseball and history. He came to know, however, that Bill had a lot of trouble with other subjects and that he had just broken up with his girlfriend. They continued to see each other around school and became good friends. Six years later, after high-school graduation, when they were going to college in different towns, Bill asked Mark, “Did you ever wonder why I was carrying so many things the day we first met? You see, I had just cleaned out my locker, because I did not want to leave a mess for anyone else. I had saved some sleeping pills from my mother’s stock and was going to commit suicide. But after we spent some time together, talking and laughing, I realized that if I had killed myself, I would have missed those happy moments with you and so many others that might follow. When you helped me, you did not only pick up my books. You saved my life.” Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture, you could change a person’s life, for better or for worse.


April 15: Today, you could...
Today, you could try and respond with new energy and determination to the challenge of life. You could keep pushing, until the door opens for you. Today, you could be just one step away from a real breakthrough. And the only way to find out if, indeed, you are, is to take that step. Today, you could suspend your judgement of others and look at them with new eyes. You might be pleasantly surprised at the discoveries you make or feel the need to protect yourself more.


April 16: Three things that went well.
This is a well-researched approach to creating, improving and maintaining a positive mindset. Each day, write down in your journal three things that have gone well for you. Add your views on what you believe are the reasons for this. The original experiment that was carried out along these lines suggested keeping up this practice for a week. The results in terms of a mood change for the better and an increasingly positive approach were very impressive. It was also clear that the longer the participants continued with the exercise, the more marked were the results. Why not start this exercise right now? Review the last few days and write down the first three things that have gone well for you.


April 17: Aeroplanes are rarely on course.
Ask any pilot and they will confirm this. Although they know their destination and plan their route in advance, they must spend a large part of the journey making corrections as external factors force them to move off course. Sometimes, they have to make major adjustments to avoid storms and turbulence. On other occasions, minor ones are necessary to allow for wind changes. But they still arrive safely at their chosen destination. It’s interesting, how some people feel they should be able to go straight to their objectives without encountering a single hindrance, sometimes even giving up if they are blown off course. What’s important is the following: You should know where you are going and also be aware if adjustments need to be made along the way. Don’t give up on your dreams. Just be prepared for the occasional detour.


April 18: If you want something, try asking for it.
It sounds very simple. But a great deal of research has shown that people are reluctant to actually ask for what they want either out of a misplaced sense of courtesy or fear of rejection or of social embarrassment. There are also people who make this request in so tactless manner that it doesn’t encourage a positive response. Here are some useful guidelines to help you ask for what you want so that your request is heeded: Approach someone who you know can supply what you need; otherwise, there’s little point in making the request. Be specific; make it clear what you want and when you want it. Ensure that your request is expressed with courtesy. Don’t demand, threaten or plead. Be prepared for the eventuality of a refusal. Sounds easy? Why not find out? Experiment by asking for something you want today.


consider the following: Have you ever brooded over something and ended up feeling upset as a result? Have your thoughts ever lingered on a past slight and caused you to become tense and unhappy? Have you ever recalled a bad time you’ve been through and experienced the pain all over again? Remember: Your thoughts are not created by events. would you be upset to receive it? I guess this sounds like a silly question. They are created by you alone. 114 . why would reading it upset you? But then. If you already know what you wrote. And they are the letters you write to yourself.April 19: If you wrote yourself a letter. They aren’t created by other people either.

115 . It could be kicking leaves as you strolled along a street. write down things you think you would have enjoyed had you been given the opportunity. Being hugged: Hugging someone. Now. It’s amazing how many fond childhood experiences are still available to us as adults. write down a related experience you could enjoy here and now as an adult. being read to or whatever is relevant for you. If you can’t come up with five such experiences.April 20: What did you enjoy as a child that you would enjoy doing now? A simple question and worth a few minutes of your time today. Just write down five things you enjoyed when you were young. next to each one of these items. it’s still fun. Here are some examples: Being read to: Listening to books on a cd or your MP3 player. Then try out a few to see how they feel. Kicking leaves: Kicking leaves..

but it does not decide where you will go. whether it’s in the long term or the short term. the person could change direction or even set off to cover a different terrain. All you can actually tell is where the person who made the footprints came from and where he has been. change direction and go somewhere new. not the future. 116 . Your past does not equal your future. It might be a burden you have to carry for a while. The footprints are a record of the past. even those who know you well. at any moment. thereby surprising people. Others may think they know the direction in which you are heading. but you can. But you might well be mistaken in your assumption. you might think you know in which direction the person making them is headed.April 21: Footprints in the snow. Your history does not direct your path. At any time. This can be a metaphor for you life if you want to make it so. If you look at a trail of footprints in the snow. Only you can do that.

You may well gain some new insights into their character. 117 . we need to take things at face value. Despite that being true the offender also finds it hard to forgive.April 22: It’s difficult to forgive people we have harmed. perhaps. when you yourself were at fault. it’s worth asking the same questions about them. So. Conversely. if we have harmed someone. rightly or wrongly. you have ended up feeling guilty. 2. This. Ask yourself whether you haven’t sometimes reacted with anger. it’s they who should be doing the forgiving. there are occasions when we have a negative attitude to people simply because they are not very nice to be with. Look back to situations where. because it’s counter-intuitive. when your reaction to someone is negative. Sometimes. sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Have I wronged this person in some way? Does he have a trait or habit that reminds me of something in me I don’t like? Of course. it’s worth asking yourself a couple of questions: 1. when someone is unreasonably angry with you. But it’s always worth exploring such situations to find out the root cause of our reactions. Logically speaking. needs to be read a few times before its real meaning can sink in. particularly.

April 23: Is it ever too late to have a happy childhood? Despite the obvious appeal of this piece of bumper-sticker philosophy. the fact of growing older seems to offer more opportunities for doing so. perhaps. that a time will come when you must decide to move forward instead of looking back. 3. 1. 2. 118 . I regret to say that the answer is: Yes. Indeed. I don’t mean either that you can’t take the initiative. it is. I don’t mean it’s too late to introduce some childlike fun into your adult life. to deal with and resolve some negative aspects of your past life. It might well prepare and empower you to deal with the issues you find so difficult. however difficult it might have been. with the help of others. and that all the support and solace in the world won’t change what happened to you. What I do mean is that at some point in your life. But the fact remains. you have to come to terms with your past. Therapy which does not focus on the objective of looking at the present and the future instead of obsessing about the past is unlikely to offer a solution that will be both realistic and sustainable. And I don’t mean that you can’t acquire a more positive perspective on difficult memories.

complaining about their poor sex life. Try defining some issues over which you disagree by using say. Often. what seems like a wide gap can be considerably narrowed down.April 24: The precision of numbers. If nothing else. 119 . Annie Hall.” she declares. a 1-10 scale. “He wants it all the time. where a split screen shows the two of them in therapy. The viewer realizes that three times a week might not be a bad average for both of them. at best two or three times a week. There’s a beautifully poignant episode in the Woody Allen-Diane Keaton film. “She never seems to want it. three or four times a week. if it is seen in terms of numbers. The difference of opinion that separates you might be a lot less than you think. the process lends a given situation greater clarity and paves the way for a compromise.” is his grouse.

you risk ending up losing yourself. The same word or deed may be appreciated by one person and criticized by another. not everyone is going to like you or approve of what you say or do. Almost everybody likes to be liked. It’s just not worth the effort. It’s far better to concentrate your energies on overcoming your eagerness to please. It’s also a mark of maturity to be able to accept that people being so different from one another. It’s nice to be pleasant. 120 . But pleasing others is dependent on their reactions and beyond your immediate sphere of influence. The price you end up paying for your efforts to achieve the impossible is that you lose touch with who you are by trying to be a different person to win the approval of each person you meet. That’s something you can control. By trying to adapt yourself to how they react.April 25: It’s difficult to be yourself when you’re trying to please others. Pleasing everyone is just not a practical proposition. it’s a normal human instinct.

And he played with the kind of passion. pick up the crutches. By now. one step at a time. Perlman smiled. undoes the clasps of the braces on his legs. closed his eyes. places his crutches on the floor. To watch him make his slow and painful way across the stage. rise from his chair and limp his way off-stage—to either find another violin or else another string for this one. asking for silence. positions it under his chin. When the performance drew to a close. they sit quietly. he waited a moment. I know that and so do you. but in a quiet. Of course. was stricken with polio as a child. There is a certain majesty in his laborious progress towards his chair. but that night. In the middle of the performance. nods to the conductor and proceeds to play. while he makes his way across the stage to his chair. not boastfully. the audience is used to this ritual. Itzhak Perlman. is not an experience one can easily forget. They wait patiently until he is ready to play. There was no mistaking what that sound meant. tucks one foot back and extends the other foot forward.April 26: What music can you make? The violinist. everyone knows that it is impossible to play a symphonic work with just three strings. You could hear the sound like a gunfire shot across the room. Then he sits down slowly. But on one occasion. For every performance of his. one of the strings on his violin snapped. wiped the sweat from this brow and raised his bow. And then people rose and cheered. Then he said. there was an awesome silence in the room. pensive. He wears braces on both legs and walks with the help of a pair of crutches. People who were there that night thought to themselves: “We figured that he would have to put on the clasps again. almost reverential tone. sometimes.” But Perlman didn’t.” Some stories need no further comment. it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left. The orchestra began and the violinist played from where he had left off. Perlman refused to acknowledge it. he picks up the violin. power and purity they had never heard before. then signalled the conductor to begin again. They remain reverently silent as he undoes the clasps of the braces on his legs. Bending down. something went wrong. 121 . “You know. Instead.

decide and then move forward in a direction you can own as yours and with a plan you have created. This moment will not return. After all your planning and all your thinking. that’s rarely an effective use of this limited resource. all your wishes and all your anxieties. reflect. you. it just goes on passing. 122 . That doesn’t mean you should be in a rush.April 27: What is the best use of my time right now? There is no more effective question to ask yourself on a daily or even hourly basis. What this question does is ask you to stop. like everyone else in the world only have here and only have now in which you can take action. time doesn’t care if you spend it well or badly.

take a few minutes to read this list before you look for solutions to any problems you might be facing. we risk losing our perspective on life and lend our problems greater magnitude than they rightfully deserve. so that a week from now. Celebration is a habit to be cultivated. while the difficult issues tend to engage more of our attention.April 28: The more you celebrate in life. So. you will have ten such reasons on your list. As a result. Add another one to your list tomorrow and carry on in this manner until next week. areas of our life that work well can pass unnoticed. It won’t change the nature of the problem. but it will certainly put you in a better state to deal with it. 123 . Keep the list with you and read it every day. to celebrate. Often. adding to it as and when other such reasons come to mind. Next time you are passing through a difficult phase in your life. the more there is in life to celebrate. write down today three reasons to give thanks.

Close you eyes or just look downwards.April 29: Meditation. If you don’t feel any difference even after a month of practice. and build up to fifteen minutes. Will it work for you? Here’s how to find out: Sit in an upright position. Rarely has such a simple subject been made so complicated by various belief systems. Carry on until you reach 10. It’s always simple. in fact. Then start counting again. 124 . but doesn’t automatically have to be. Do this for a month and if it makes you feel more relaxed about your life. is universally applicable to all and sundry. Nothing. That’s it. gurus and adherents. Count 1 as you inhale and 2 as you exhale. Concentrate on your breathing. meditation is probably not for you. either on a chair or on the floor. you might want to explore more sophisticated techniques which are nothing but more refined versions of what I have just described. Meditation is not necessarily a support to everyone. but can often be difficult as well. experts. preferably at the same time every day. Meditation can be a spiritual practice. Practice for five minutes.

at least. 125 . it’s worth finding out whether our choice can stand on its own without the prop or influence of a particular person who might currently be a determining factor in our calculations. be making a better-informed one. education. location and so on. be it in relation to a job. but this is the favourite quote of a dear friend and intended as a warning against putting too much faith in an individual in a position of power or influence. I remembered it when we chose a school for our son. but you would. would I be?” It might not change you decision.April 30: “Another King rose over Egypt who did not know Joseph” I’m not normally one to quote religious texts. In any decision involving others. It’s worth asking yourself the following question: “If they weren’t there. based on a charismatic speech by the head teacher who laid out in detail the exciting plans he had in mind—then left at the end of the term.


May .

May 1: Today.. And this time next month. Today. you will find that the difference between where you had expected to arrive and where you have. in fact. you could cherish your dreams. arrived. will be significant. Don’t wait till you get to your destination to experience the pleasure.. Today. you could enjoy every step of the journey that is life. you could make a small adjustment in the direction you have chosen. 128 . they represent something important about you. However unrealistic they may seem now. you could. Today.

that seems to me an unrealistic position to take. how would they be different? I’m not suggesting that all our feelings are completely within our control.May 2: What if your feelings were just decisions you made? Would you choose to have the feelings you are experiencing right now? If not. take a risk. So. But we can exercise our influence over most of our feelings to some degree. if the discrepancy in your life between how you feel and how you want to feel is fairly wide. It might not do away with the gap altogether. Start behaving as if you could just decide to feel differently about things. it is worth making the effort. For that alone. but it may well minimize it. 129 .

there are people in this world who believe they would be happy if they had what you have. However. It seems to suggest that the suffering of others should. make you feel better. might make you pause to consider how many of your concerns and worries arise from how you have chosen to think about them. You could spend today appreciating how lucky you are. somehow. 130 . the idea that other people actually believe they would be happy if they had what you have.May 3: Right now. I’ve never taken much comfort from the there’s-alwayssomeone-worse-off-than-me approach to life.

131 . whether by doing so. clinging onto them or even allowing them to build up. however. you may need to modify your approach. you are relinquishing your negative feelings about the past. You need to ask yourself. are your negative feelings subsiding. As you talk about them. even stop sharing your experiences with others. staying the same or increasing? If the process of talking does not reduce your feelings. The clue to the answer lies in examining the effect the process has on you. perhaps.May 4: Do you tell your story to let go of it or to hang on to it? It can be therapeutic to tell your story to others. to explain the difficulties you have experienced.

If you do not appreciate the moment before you. Where you do have a choice is in the manner in which you decide to spend the present. it will have spent itself and be gone. today. 132 . This might include planning a holiday or learning a skill. but to find ways of enjoying the process here and now.May 5: You can’t save time. among other things. Time spent either brooding over the past or speculating about the future is definitely not an intelligent use of the limited resource that is the present. Of course. The trick is not to regard the anticipated benefit as just in the future. and fail to use it to your best advantage. never to return. you can only spend it—wisely or foolishly. including this one. it makes sense to invest some time now in an activity that will yield benefits in the future. You have no choice at all as to whether you should spend it or not. All you have at your disposal is the present.

be they parents. But the result is that they are the ones in charge of your life. it is best to act as if you were in charge. unions or government. you increase your chances of getting what you want. 133 . big business. partners. However powerless you may feel at times. By doing so.May 6: Who’s in charge if you’re not? It’s so easy to blame others.

allowing you to live in comfort for life. To have a secure income. 2. Which of the above would you choose and what does the choice say about you as an individual? 134 . but without any personal credit. To have an extra seven years of additional healthy living. To have invented something significant. 3.May 7: What if you won first prize in a competition? And were allowed to choose one—but only one—of the following: 1.

write down one action—not necessarily a major one—that you can take in the next forty-eight hours to overcome it. give concrete shape to. When you’ve done that. thereby. we can deal with. Next. you have already taken the first and. What we name and. Well. What is important here is to recognize what you fear and identify it by giving it a name. “You have nothing to fear but fear itself”. 135 . write down three of your greatest fears. it certainly contains elements of truth. against each of the fears you have listed. possibly. So. right now. If you take this action and repeat the process over the next thirty days. you will notice that a month from now. What remains formless and unarticulated grows to assume unmanageable proportions. though it rarely feels like it.May 8: What do you fear most and how are you working to overcome it? You’ve probably heard the expression. the biggest step forward in trying to conquer your fear. your fears are going to be significantly less.

For example. 136 .May 9: Choice is not the same as freedom. True freedom involves stepping beyond all frameworks and creating a world entirely of our own making. but we can claim it as entirely our own. It may still resemble the one we are already living in. Choice usually operates within a framework. we have a choice of careers to pick from or a choice of films to see.

Try and reach double-digit figures. Today. options and choices. because you won’t make it without smiling yourself. you could observe children..May 10: Today. on TV. you will discover. Today. you could undertake a mission to make people smile. then add one.. Keep score. you could acknowledge that there are no ordinary moments in life. has extraordinary potential. Ordinary life. Every one of them is full of possibilities. 137 . playing in the park etc. Today. Remember you used to be one yourself sometime ago. A child has this unique ability to enjoy himself thoroughly. you could.

confine ourselves to what we are good at. 138 . We tend to rely on and. pondering over a problem for so long. that when they are eventually ready to take a decision. We need to venture into other areas too. Yet.May 11: If you are good with a hammer. There are many firstrate business people. Many profound thinkers are unable to cope with situations where speedy decisions are imperative. who find that their business skills earn little appreciation from their family. your best skill is not the most appropriate one for a particular situation. you are likely to treat everything as if it were a nail. for instance. Sometimes. sometimes. that is not the best approach to a situation. where we might be less competent. It would be a good idea to examine this issue today. therefore. Many a good dinner-party host has lost a great deal of money when trying to run a restaurant. it is too late.

Since the only thing you can hope to exercise control over is your own response to a situation (and some of us have great difficulty even doing that). its worth testing this out for a day or two to see if it makes a real difference. 139 .May 12: Acting as if… An interesting experiment and a possible way to bring about change in yourself and in others is to act as if life were already just the way you wanted it to be.

140 . Though it can be a satisfying process. with space for things that serve you better.May 13: What could you throw away? When you spring-clean your home. you sort through old clothes you don’t need and possessions you have no use for anymore and either give them away or throw them out. You will end up. You may have to do this kind of internal spring-cleaning more than once. as in the external world of material possessions. How about doing the same in other areas of your life? What grudges or resentments could you let go of? Which ideas no longer serve you? Are there any thought-patterns you have no use for now? Try throwing them away as well. it’s surprisingly difficult to let go of what we know we don’t need. because old grudges and resentments. But it’s worth the effort. along with behaviour patterns that are of little benefit to you have a habit of returning.

Always remember that neither will events change nor others behave differently to accommodate your views about them. that’s the choice you have to deal with. should change to suit your convenience. as of your convictions about life in general. over which you have no control. If you are forever trapped by your demand that external factors. your feelings about an injustice that was supposedly done to you. or do you recognize that life is a process and that your beliefs can be as subject to change as everything else? If you hold on to your views just to prove that you’re right. Sometimes. for instance. 141 . This can be as true of minor opinions that may involve. Work towards bringing about a change in yourself. you may end up being enslaved by them. long after they have ceased to be of use to you. you cannot describe yourself or your situation as free.May 14: You can be right or you can be free. Do you cling to your past beliefs.

you could spend a few minutes asking yourself what that purpose. Write down three times: “What I bring to this relationship that is unhelpful is” and complete the sentence with three different answers. could be for you. Even if that’s not how you see the world. if there was one.May 15: Is the music still in you? It’s a fascinating idea that we are all born with a purpose. This statement then becomes a very important one: Don’t die with the music still in you. that we have been sent to this world to attain a particular goal. Then decide if you are willing to make changes to improve the situation. 142 . May 16: What do you bring to your relationship that is unhelpful? People are usually capable of drawing up a long list in answer to this question. for their partners. but the question here is about you.

your waiting for someone else to turn up might just waste your life. If no one saved Mozart from his sad fate. ignored and penniless. As a child. today would be an appropriate time to start working towards being your own rescuer. he was surrounded by admirers.May 17: Who rescued Mozart? Mozart was a great composer. and in the opinion of many people. The world lay at his feet. the greatest there ever was. He died virtually alone. he wrote music that was the envy of adults. 143 . At one point in his life. The music that flowed through him seemed to be a God-given gift. who do you expect will rescue you? Perhaps.

you might assume that the wake itself was driving the boat. You can start the engine and choose the speed at which you want to progress and the direction you prefer to move in. Your history is the trail you leave behind. you are the driver sitting at the controls. Our past does not control or propel our life. Or you can choose to do otherwise. You are aware that the boat has an engine and a set of controls operated by a driver. 144 .May 18: The wake does not drive the boat. you will notice the wake spreading out like a fan behind it. But you do know better. You can follow a path that is based on your history. Substitute your life history for the boat’s wake to complete the metaphor. The wake is just the trail left behind by the boat as it moves forward. If you didn’t know better. As far as your life is concerned. If you stand on the top of a cliff and look down at the sea where a fast boat is cutting across the waters. it only seems that way sometimes.

here’s a question to ask when someone or something pushes your buttons: If I assume it’s not about me. So.May 19: What assumptions am I making about a given situation? We usually need to make a lot of assumptions in order to feel upset about something. But it’s certainly not the best guide to clue us into a given situation. had we chosen to behave in the same way. the reasons for their conduct are the same as those that would have motivated us. Perhaps. 145 . It seems as if a part of human nature is programmed to take everything personally. We often assume that when other people behave in a certain manner. the most important thing to remember when challenging the assumptions on which our response to a given situation is based is the following: It’s hardly ever about you personally. then what could it be about? The answer could spare you a lot of suffering.

you could be firm in your resolve.May 20: Today.. It doesn’t matter what. You can come up with unusual options to ensure that life is closer to the way you wanted it. you could. Just decide something specific that will be better by the time you go to bed. 146 . You could decide on something. Today.. ensure that you remain focused about it and keep going in the direction of your goal. you could be creative. Today. Today. you could make up your mind to improve something.

that is the only choice you have. What could you give up today to enhance your relationships? 147 .May 21: It is better to experience love than to be in the right. both in giving and receiving it. Facts rarely change the nature of a relationship. So. Sometimes. forget who is right and concentrate on being loving. Being in the right rarely changes feelings. if you want to experience more love.

we have to let our guard down and allow ourselves to be vulnerable. on your own terms. To be fully understood. So. we want to avoid feeling vulnerable. If you remain aloof and allow no one to get close to you.May 22: The secret areas in your life you keep hidden from others. You don’t have to disclose all at once. then decide to what extent you are prepared to open yourself to those close to you. first answer this question. At the same time. but it would be useful for you to understand what that “all” is. you are unlikely to be understood either. There’s a conflict here. 148 . The following is one of my favourite counselling questions and I invite you to ask it of yourself and write down the answer: “What would someone have to know about me to understand me in a way most people don’t?” We all want to be understood. and make a start.

If we refer to something as “terrible”. I’m not suggesting you lie to yourself. You can examine your life and find your own examples. 149 . How we describe what happens to us creates some of our experience of it. or to others. but given a choice lighten your description and so lighten your experience.May 23: Description can create past experience. we will not feel the same about it as if we label it “inconvenient”.

things that are done or said to us by someone are not about us at all. they say more about the situation in which the other person finds themselves. Very often. To quote the title of a popular book: “What you think of me is none of my business. Stop and ask the question above. There is no right answer. but you could choose an interpretation that makes you feel more at ease with an event or a comment. Rather. We are often quick to lend a negative meaning to something and voicing our opinion of the “true” meaning gives it strength. when you are feeling upset over something.May 24: What else could this mean? A good question to ask.” 150 .

May 25: Who has the answer? The answer. more often than most of us think.” — Stuart Wilde “If you want the world to be kinder.” — Dan Millman 151 . you don’t have to catch it.” — Richard Carlson “Vote with your feet. It means that while you can benefit from the views and insights of others. Here are some thoughts from other people on this issue: “If someone throws you a ball. is the following: You do! We live in a world where “experts” are easily available to offer advice on almost every conceivable problem. it’s best to avoid people and situations you know drive you crazy. then be more kind. Much of what they have to offer is positive and of some use. Don’t give away your power to decide for yourself. You are unique. That doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you. the final decision about what works for you is yours.

they sometimes became so angry about it. but you can stop it from building a nest. But it is usually enough for us to restrict the space we give such thoughts in our daily lives. that they would infuse enough energy into that particular thought to stay around for quite a while. If action is needed. we can act. 152 . we can fill our minds with what is positive and life-enhancing. We have a choice not to dwell on negative things. Otherwise. There are disciplines that can help control the thoughts that spring up in our minds. I have had counselling clients who would get annoyed with themselves when a negative or adversely critical thought strayed into their mind.May 26: You can’t stop a bird from landing on your head. In fact.

153 . It will make a difference.May 27: Am I asking the right question? Asking questions can yield the answer to many issues. There’s a big difference between: How can this be solved? and How can this be lived with? Why did this happen to me? and What can I do about this? Does my life have a meaning? and What meaning can I give my life? Why do people hurt me? and How can I be less affected by others hurting me Try and see if you can come up with a question today that seeks to empower you instead of making you feel vulnerable and helpless. but they need to be the right questions.

implies the facile.May 28: The other side of simplicity. but involves a different experience altogether. Elliot poem that says it far better than I can: “And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time. It does not go deep. It usually doesn’t demand effort and is often not even grounded in experience. as opposed to complexity. bumper-sticker type of understanding that is easy to come by and just as easily lost. S.” 154 . In the conventional sense of the term. Here is part of a T. The other kind of simplicity may be identified by the same name. It’s often the outcome of enduring and dealing with hardships and indicates the position we arrive at after we have reflected and worked on our perspective on life and on ourselves. simplicity.

few people are going to remember what you did. Still fewer people will remember what you said. Everyone will remember how you made them feel. in fact. be sure to observe how people feel in your presence. 155 . That’s your real legacy. competitive education and financial and business achievements. in whatever world you inhabit. in a world of plans and objectives. So.May 29: What gets remembered? In the long term.

But it does seem to work. But does that make the relationship a 50:50 equation? The best way to make a relationship thrive is for both of you to take 100 per cent responsibility for it. The answer is: You both are. because you regard yourself as fully responsible for making it work. the answer is not: “You are”. It means that you can’t hold back. It may not even be fair. This isn’t good math. even if your partner is giving less to the relationship than you are.May 30: Who is responsible for this relationship? No. 156 . this is a relationship.

May 31: How would X deal with this? Our imagination is a wonderful gift and with it we can summon anyone we want to help us. Imagine being joined by the person from whom you want help and advice. 157 . It’s OK to have fun with this. They can be real or fictional. Tell them. family or famous. experts or friends. It takes a little practice to get fluent at this. Then sit still until your imagination lets them speak and listen to what they have to say. here is what to do:Sit quietly for a few minutes and then create a picture of yourself in a favourite location. what your situation is and ask for their thoughts. quietly in your mind.


June .

even if the world doesn’t laugh with you. 160 .it!” And come up with a word you are comfortable with to replace the blanks. Say the word with a big smile and an exaggerated shrug of the shoulders.June 1: Today. Today. ---. you could look for the funny things in your life. you could learn to say. perhaps anonymously. You could give to someone who can’t give back. See how you end up feeling Today. you will still have fun. And just start laughing.. Today.. you could give to someone. “Oh. you could.

June 2: Whose voice is that? It’s sadly common for adults to take on the negative voices of their childhood. If you’ve ever said to yourself. They are still challenging but positively so. Some people have had a more positive upbringing and it could be worthwhile using the messages they received when talking to yourself. You can do it if you try hard enough. 161 . That’s typical of me. You can do better than that. It’s bound to end in tears. “How could I be so silly?” it’s time to stop and ask whose voice that is? Here are some other phrases that might be familiar:I’m not good at this. You’ve got the talent. now use it.

Starvation diets rarely lead to consistent weight loss and those who edge towards marriage can find later they feel they never made a proper decision. learning a language. Sometimes a bit by bit approach can get you where you want to be. such as weight loss. Is there something you need to decide today? Is it a step by step decision or a leap of faith? 162 . It’s would be a fine life skill to be aware of which approach is most appropriate. resolving a broken relationship.June 3: You can’t cross a chasm in two small steps. Other times change requires a leap of faith. such as major career move. saving money.

Think about a situation where you might have become over-involved and ask yourself if those you care about would benefit from your letting them be for a while. It’s particularly difficult to maintain this hands-off approach with children when they seem troubled.June 4: The greatest love. This can be the most difficult thing to do when those we care about are involved. the best way to help people is simply by doing nothing. The greatest love you can show others may sometimes be to leave them alone. 163 . particularly when they are going through difficult times. Of course. But sometimes. it’s not always the right approach.

The fact is. We have all been told at one time or another. part of the challenge inherent in this question is to overcome the way you were conditioned in your childhood to respond to adverse criticism. the kind of things we head influences the way we think about ourselves as adults.” It is almost certainly not true. “This hurts me more than it hurts you. but true. So. And since we were all children once. the legacy of negativity that might have been handed down to you in childhood. that while growing up. that something was being done “for your own good”. 164 . The other part has to do with ensuring that you don’t pass on to your own children or those of others. Most of us have heard the phrase.June 5: What would you do if you couldn’t be criticized? It’s sad. You will all have your own examples of such situations. most children hear far more negative comments about themselves than positive ones. it usually wasn’t.

June 6: The feeling of joy at sudden disappointment. This is a fascinating idea. Now might be the time to look at situations where you know you tend to overreact and ask yourself what lessons you need to learn from them. If one of the purposes of our life is to resolve our inner conflicts so that our internal and external lives are properly aligned. an unexpected spurt of negative feeling can be welcomed as a sign that we need to work more on ourselves and on our perspective on life. But it is a constructive step towards self-awareness. For most of us. it is difficult to imagine ourselves feeling positive about a disappointment. 165 .

As the session was about to end. she remarked that she had pondered over what had been said at her performance evaluation and had introduced some modifications in her approach. I’ve found most of them to be tense and uptight and I’ve never managed to relax in their company.” she concluded. “So now.” This may well be an apocryphal tale. I have met many people who are intent on becoming perfect.June 7: I’ve dealt with that. She seemed incapable of tolerating failure. But the fact is. Meeting her boss a week later. her boss expressed concern that she tended to set unrealistic targets for herself. She’d had a very good year and almost every comment about her was positive. 166 . “I must be perfect. She said she would take this on board. A better goal to set yourself would probably involve a combination of growth and acceptance. It’s a version of the serenity prayer—accepting the things you cannot change and having the courage to change what you can. There’s an old story about an employee at her annual performance review.

there are certain changes you can’t prevent. Even though you create your own experience of the world. just as it would be easier to ride a horse in the direction in which it is going. When change is inevitable. It’s resistance to change that hurts the most.June 8: Change is not painful. What can you accept today that is going to happen anyway but so far you have been resisting? 167 . your children will grow older—and so will you. it might be better to come to terms with it. For example.

We don’t see them as being “us”. On the other hand. these are the ones we throw away. If the words do not fit the usual attitude of the other person then discard them. 168 . a video is likely to give a more accurate impression of who we are. keep the best. Usually.June 9: Snapshots and video.. the unintended insult and the harsh word later taken back? So throw these away along with the bad photos. Why then do people so often hang on to the snapshot of the careless comment from others. since it is a recording that covers a certain period of time. don’t keep the worst. We have all seen photographs of ourselves that fail to do us justice.

I received a lovely e-mail from a friend in the United States of America. smiling often and expressing her gratitude for a job well done. Given her state of mind. I have no idea if there is any truth to the second paragraph but there could be and that very possibility makes the whole watch-battery transaction still more worthwhile. I know what my friend wrote about was true. You will all have a chance to do the same today. she succeeded in brightening up the day for both of them. which is precisely what my friend did.June 10: The Mad Wal-Mart Experiment. Why the “MAD” Wal-Mart experiment? It stands for “Making A Difference”. My friend was determined to make the experience a pleasant one for both the assistant and herself. Now. tomorrow and for the rest of your life. By maintaining her pleasant manner. causing her to have an accident. 169 . Her house had been burgled the previous evening. the shop assistant had felt a lot better about her situation. After meeting my friend. remembered that she was insured for both events and went home to enjoy a light-hearted evening with her friends and family who also benefited from her cheerful company. She wrote about approaching a “rather ferocious back-combed. I happened to know the shop assistant and understood why she had looked a bit formidable that morning. her concentration had wavered while she was driving to work. blonde assistant” at Wal-Mart where she had gone to get a new watch battery fitted.

avert your face—they are all communications of one kind or another.. be neutral. betray prejudice.June 11: You cannot “not communicate” There is a big difference between talking and communicating. yourself. You can smile. not return a call. whether you want to or not. opt in. opt out. verbally or non-verbally. Since you are going to communicate anyway. You can certainly choose not to talk. Not communicating isn’t an option. frown. but that’s also a form of communication. why not take charge of the process and assume responsibility for all your communications? Express yourself today. 170 . to the best effect and do so in the best interests of everyone concerned. particularly.

right about how he feels. But it is a big step towards resolving differences.June 12: No matter how thin you slice it. there are always two sides. It’s a sound test of the depth of your understanding to try and explain the position of someone with whom you disagree and ask him to confirm whether you are. Try out the experiment today and ask the other person to coach you until you get it right. No matter how thin you slice it. Understanding is not the same as agreement. indeed. 171 .

“Everything in life should be as simple as possible …but not more simple. there is often a sense of something missing.” — Albert Einstein There is a certain elegance in true simplicity. How simple can you make today without omitting something vital? 172 . When things are simpler than they should be.June 13: Everything in life. be it a solution to a problem or the design of a building.

Notice what tends to make things better and do more of it. Simple advice but over time it can transform a relationship. If you have a problem in your relationship there is little point in doing more of what has not worked in the past. 173 . and a life. change creates change. A definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.June 14: Doing more of the same. Notice what tends to make things worse and do less of it. It’s time to try something different. More of the same action almost always produces more of the same result.

you could. Today. 174 . you could decide to set your own pace for the next twenty-four hours. Just be quiet and still for five minutes and see if it makes a difference. you could enjoy silence. It’s worthwhile to ask yourself if a belief contributes to your well-being. if it doesn’t. Then slow down or speed up to meet the day’s demands. you could challenge your beliefs. Today. and it’s fine to change your mind about it.June 15: Today... Today.

the actual weight remains the same. To a difficult childhood. If I hold it for a day. The lecturer replied. You either say goodbye to the past or you say goodbye to the future. In each case. the longer you carry it. It depends on how long I try and hold the glass.” So. If I hold it for a minute. “The actual weight doesn’t matter. it’s not a problem. you’ll have to call an ambulance. 4.June 16: How heavy is this glass of water? (1) A lecturer raised a glass of water in his hand. 3. 2. To a time in your life when you didn’t behave as well as you could have. The burden gets heavier. 175 .. To an unkind comment someone may have made about you once. To a disappointment you experienced when an expectation was not met. the heavier it becomes. where does this apply in life? 1. But the longer I hold the glass. If I hold it for an hour. a divorce. “How heavy is this?” The answers ranged from 300 gm to 500 gm. my arm will start aching. a job loss … you can fill in the rest. extended his arm and asked.

June 17: How heavy is this glass of water? (2)
A lecturer raised a glass of water in his hand, extended his arm and asked “How heavy is this?” The answers ranged from 300 gm to 500 gm. The lecturer then observed, “The actual weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I try and hold the glass. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, my arm will start aching. If I hold it for a day, you’ll have to call an ambulance. In each case, the actual weight remains the same. But the longer I hold the glass, the heavier it becomes. So, where does this apply in life? Same story; different commentary. This also contains a message about how to handle stress. It recommends taking time off while you put down the burdens you shoulder, so that you can gather the strength to pick them up and carry them again without collapsing. It’s amazing what human beings can deal with when they have to. We often hear stories of others who have handled their problems with courage and feel, “I doubt I could cope as well as they did.” Your ability to cope with stress, like your ability to hold a glass of water at arm’s length, is greatly increased, if you take regular time out. And as with the glass of water, it doesn’t have to be for long. Here are some examples: A five-minute period of quiet contemplation can transform a morning or even the whole day. Sitting in the car and leaving behind the day you have just spent can enhance the quality of your evening. A physical stretch lasting a few minutes can create a surge of positive energy. A couple of minutes spent writing down a list of the things you should be grateful for could improve your mood. A short run can help you cope more effectively with a long day. 176

June 18: Limit your relationships.
Limit your relationships to what you have in common. No relationship, however strong, can provide each person involved in it with all that they need. Most relationships require new inputs from outside experiences and these do not, necessarily, have to be shared. In stretching a relationship to include everything that is of interest to each partner individually, both of them end up doing things that either one or the other doesn’t enjoy. This can be the breeding ground for resentment, a major relationship killer. Examine your relationship today for what it can provide and determine what you should look for elsewhere.


June 19: Nelson Mandela.
Shortly after his release from imprisonment, Nelson Mandela received a phone call from then US President Bill Clinton who congratulated him on securing his freedom. In the course of the conversation, Clinton asked him, “Surely, after such an experience of incarceration, you must still feel some anger towards those who kept you in captivity?” Mandela replied, “No, I realized if I didn’t let go of my anger, those who imprisoned me would still be in control of a part of my life.” Holding on to negative feelings from the past implies that we have given away our power over our mental well-being. Such feelings curb our freedom by allowing external forces to control us. I’m sure there are good moral reasons to forgive our enemies, to let go of anger and hurt. Purely on the basis of self-interest, however, of keeping control of our lives and enhancing our sense of freedom, it’s an affirmative, if difficult step to take. What negativity can you let go of today to enhance your personal freedom?


June 20: Experience is not what happens to you.
It’s how you react to it. If it were not so, everyone would experience the same event in the same way. And we’re well aware that does not happen. So, do you have a choice in how you respond to events? All I can say is your life will work better, if you act as though you do have a choice.


June 21: The miracle question.
If you were to wake up tomorrow morning and find that your relationship was exactly the way you wanted it to be, what would be different? What would you be feeling? How would you act? How would others react to you? It’s useful to know what is tied up in our problems and one way of finding out is to imagine our life without them. Sometimes, our problems constrain us from leading our lives freely. Often, however, they protect us from going overboard and indulging in excesses. See where the answer to the miracle question takes you today.


June 22: The “scar face” experiment.
Participants in this experiment were fitted with a fake facial scar and informed that they were to be interviewed to find out how their deformity influenced the way they were treated. Just before the interview, the scars were put through last-minute touch-ups. In actual fact, however, and unbeknown to the participants, the scars were removed entirely. Right after the interview and in almost every case, the participants offered all kinds of examples of how their “deformity” had invited a negative response from the interviewer. Amazingly, in some cases, this conviction could not be shaken, even after they were shown on video that their scars had been removed before the interview. According to a familiar quote, “We don’t see the world as it is; we see the world as we are.” What this experiment proves is the power of our selfimage and the way we find evidence of how we are being treated, even where none exists. It’s a very good rule of thumb that when someone behaves badly towards you, it’s much more about them than it is about you. But if you’re convinced people are reacting badly to you because of some failing of yours, you will find the evidence to support your view, even if it’s not there.


June 23: Turning towards difficulty.
It’s a very human trait to turn away from our problems, to avoid facing tricky situations. For some people, confrontation is a real challenge; for others, trying not to regard everything in life as a confrontation can be a problem. What would your life be like, if you decided to face situations you found hard to deal with and even welcomed them as a learning experience? In the short term, your life might become more difficult. But in the long term, you could find your resources enriched and strengthened and your sense of freedom greatly heightened.


Try giving lectures and advice. especially. Say: “Why don’t you just try to. Best of all: Compare your relationship with that of another couple.June 24: How to have a bad relationship.. 183 . as in “Just see how you have made me feel!” Try: A sentence that starts with any of the following: “If you really loved me…” “After all I have done for you…” “Anyone with any sense…” Put: Your life on hold.?” Try: Loaded hints.. resentful silences. waiting for your partner to change. Use: Long. pleading and begging. to your partner to whom you justify them as being “for your own good”.

“That’s funny. During a television interview. And it’s certainly true that the context we create for the “facts” of our life largely dictates our experience. Take one area of your life that you have difficulty with and ask yourself this: If I interpreted this in a positive light. “What was it like growing up in your mother’s shadow?” He replied. 184 .” It’s said the Chinese use the same symbol for “problem” as they do for “opportunity”. the son of author Maya Angelou was asked.June 25: Not in a shadow. how would it change my daily experience? Observe the kind of answers that come up for you and see if you think it’s worth making the change. I always thought I was growing up in her light.

Letting go of dreams can be painful. so as to be able to concentrate on what has the potential to make a difference. 185 . you have to do so to enable other dreams to thrive. but sometimes.June 26: You can have anything you want. But not everything you want. there is no point in majoring in minor things. Your life involves choices. Since there is not enough time to do everything you desire in life. Today. it is crucial for you to let go of the trivial. there just isn’t enough time.

If you find yourself facing the same problem in a number of your relationships. While that history may not belong to the relationship. the problems that arise can get complicated.June 27: If you face a problem in your relationship. So. 186 . you can be fairly certain that the problem is you and not the relationship. When two histories meet each other head-on. it does not mean that your relationship is the problem. work on yourself and leave the relationship alone to sort itself out later. No one comes to a relationship without a history. it usually affects it.

187 . secure. in fact. A relationship also needs the stimulation of new experiences from outside sources to keep it alive. Ultimately.June 28: Relationships can’t provide you with everything. everything you require. in one warm. It must be fantastic to have a relationship that satisfies all your wants and needs. Or it will atrophy and decay. permanent liaison. It must be like having a home that gives you all you desire. so much so that you never need to leave it! Relationships can give us great joy and satisfaction. the responsibility for your happiness lies with you. not with your relationship. but they can’t fulfill all our needs.

And now.” The taxi driver replies. 188 . he and his wife had to bring up a severely disabled child whom he has been looking after. a brother. “If you pause to think about it. his wife has Alzheimer’s disease. a father and a husband. What I’ve been is a son. His story unfolds and he talks about his alcoholic mother and how he had to protect his younger brother from her rages. It reveals a dignity and a set of values we might be in danger of losing in our “blame and claim” society. you’ve been a carer all your life. An elderly taxi driver is seeing a therapist to help ease the stress of looking after his ailing wife. Some of the pain we experience can be eased. The therapist says. “‘Carer’ is a modern word.June 29: I’m not a carer. When he got married. Some of it has to be endured as best we can.” I find this a very moving statement indeed.

June 30: What you think of me is none of my business! It’s largely outside your control how people see you and react to you. Very few people will see you as you want to be seen. Your job is to be you and allow others to deal with being themselves. you are choosing to be trapped in a world made by others. The difference between the way you are and the way they see you reveals more about them than about you. If you are over-anxious about being liked. 189 . Your own response to them is a reliable measure of your personal freedom. which includes their opinions about you.


July .

they are dead. you could decide to be miserable. and if you had a choice.. to pick out the worst in everything.July 1: Today. Otherwise. Today. you could. if you don’t fancy that. you could recognize the truth about people without problems. You deserve better. you could choose to decide on the attitude you will adopt towards everything. Today. You can do it. you wouldn’t be reading this. Make up your mind to be down on yourself. you could do just the opposite. you wouldn’t want to swap places with them. The truth is. 192 .. Today. And. Stop allowing the world and other people to decide how you should live.

If you put a frog into hot water. that you haven’t noticed the process? If you suddenly arrived in the life you now live instead of growing into it gradually: What might be the situations you would welcome? What might be the ones you would shy away from? 193 . it will jump out at once.July 2: The frog in water. If you take a few minutes right now to look at some aspects of your life—your relationships. your health and your finances—would you find situations that have taken you over so gradually. the frog will stay in the container and be boiled to death. The reason given is that the frog cannot detect the slow change in the temperature (I’ve never tested this for myself). It is said that if you put a frog in cold water and gradually apply heat.

but how often do we act as though we do? Here are some other examples: Just because someone asks you to do something doesn’t mean you have to do it. Who will run your life today—you or the rest of the world? 194 . doesn’t mean you have to answer it. Just because someone asks you to contribute doesn’t mean you have to.July 3: Just because someone asks you a question. Just because someone wants to borrow from you doesn’t mean you have to lend. I guess we all know that is true.

because it’s great to be able to offer others help. the worst thing. It makes us feel good about ourselves when we have been supportive of those we love. Today you could choose to be aware of this distinction. Sometimes. the worst thing you can do for those you love is what they could or should do for themselves. This is only true sometimes. But it’s a thin line between being supportive and undermining others.July 4: Sometimes. however well-intentioned our efforts may be. 195 .

but which could best be described as very colourful. dressed in an outfit that was not unusual for that time. In the late 1960’s. You could say something to someone today that will turn out to be a positive memory for them forty years hence. Then recall an occasion when you were unfairly criticized and the effect that had on you.” My wife still remembers that compliment paid to her almost forty years ago. An old lady stopped her and said. This just demonstrates the kind of power our words can have. my wife was walking along Ladbroke Grove in Notting Hill.July 5: Making a difference. London. “My dear. Why not take the slight risk and do it? 196 . Think back to an early compliment you were paid and remember how you felt. you are brightening up the street. I just wanted to tell you how lovely you look.

. I wish I’d spent more time arguing with friends and family.July 6: No one on his deathbed ever said. Today.. because it’s useful to identify them while you still have time to make changes. ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office’. The usual quote is: “No one on his deathbed ever said. Here are some suggestions: No one on his deathbed ever said: I wish I’d spent more time watching television. try to add a few of those that are relevant to your life. I wish I’d spent more time worrying about things. We can each add our own ending to the sentence. 197 . using aspects of our lives to which we devote more time than they deserve.” And that’s certainly something many of us need to remember.

it leaves you nowhere to go next. 198 . There are two good reasons for this: 1. Make self-improvement a journey without a destination. 2. You will make those around you feel inadequate.July 7: Don’t try to be perfect. If you get there.

move onto something else. How is what works any different from what does not? Suppose nothing works? Try doing something different from the usual and notice if it improves matters or makes them worse.July 8: Notice what works best for you and do more of it. 199 . If you notice an improvement. if not. Take a few moments to review your relationship or your life and observe what works best for you. repeat it.

some of the villagers regard her and the new ideas she has brought back with suspicion. So. Her life. There are many ways of responding to this story and you should allow it to mean whatever feels right for you. pausing at the top of the path for one last look back at her home a place full of those she loves. A young woman decides to explore beyond the village in which she has spent all her childhood. She has many adventures during her journey and after some years. but some do encourage her in her quest. decides it is time to return to the village and share all she has learnt with its residents. Although she is welcomed back. Many wise people counsel her against this venture. As time goes by. she has to resist reverting to her old life in the village and to hold on with great determination to the insights she had gained while she was away.July 9: Leaving the village. I will ask just one question: If the whole world followed you. along with that of the whole village. would you be pleased with where you took it? 200 . But I think it’s time to change the gender of the main character. is enhanced by the new learning she has brought with her. she sets off along the mountain trail. This is a story that occupies a place in many cultures.

this can last for a lifetime. For others such intensity can become too dominating. It’s exciting. stimulating and for some people.July 10: Loving someone can be a decision you make. to make a decision to love someone as it is to be head over heels ‘in love’. today is the right day to reaffirm your decision to love someone. Perhaps. particularly later in a relationship. It’s just as valid. love can be a heady mixture of passion and desire. 201 . In the early years.

In the end. 202 . don’t survive without being nurtured. but the positive ones nourish us. “Whichever one I choose to feed. good or bad. you can make a choice about which feelings you wish to feed. the negative feelings tend to feed on us. It’s up to us which ones we feed when a conflict rages within us.July 11: The two wolves.” “Which one will win?” asked his son.” his father replied. Following the 9/11 attack. a man said to his son. “I feel like I have two wolves fighting inside me. The other is still determined to be gentle and loving. Feelings. Today. One is angry and simmering with feelings of revenge.

but refrain from telling them that we do. How we observe and describe things creates our experience. if we stop there. If we want to make a difference. but refuse to exercise. we stop too early. Our internal world is important. Yet. What area of your life can you take action on today? 203 . If we want to be fit. Action not only brings about change in the external world. If we love others. but don’t take action we sell ourselves short. the process remains incomplete. it also initiates change in our inner world.July 12: You can’t plough a field by turning it over in your mind. we will be no nearer our goal.

indeed. not hypothetically. If you could. only if you have the freedom to choose the alternative. have said no.July 13: You can only say “yes” if you can also say “no” It’s a choice in the true sense of the term. you didn’t. and ask yourself if you could have said no. you made a genuine choice. Just consider a situation where you have said yes. but in practice. If not. 204 .

205 . The same is true of jealousy and other such emotions. It’s by no means an easy task.July 14: Strike when the iron is cold. Yet. we don’t feel the need to deal with it either. but it’s less difficult than trying to deal with anger when you are angry. when we are actually in the grip of the same emotion. we have the least resources at our disposal to handle it effectively. Today. when we don’t experience a particular emotion. look at or discuss with someone how such difficulties might be dealt with if they arise in the future. The trouble is. When is the worst time to deal with anger? When you’re angry. To be able to return to problem areas when our most intense feelings have dissipated is a skill we should master.

. And forgive yourself for every mistake you have ever made. 206 . Then be that way with them. Imagine how you would feel..July 15: Today. you could decide to start forgiving. Today. Forgive others for the wrong they did you in the past. if those close to you tried to understand you rather than judge you. Today. you could. Today. you could replace judgement with understanding. Forgive the world for not being the way you wanted it to be. you could refuse to participate in situations of conflict. If you opt out of conflict it probably can’t take place and certainly can’t involve you.

She had been lost and was deeply upset. Ill health had exhausted his savings. everything passes.” Those words and the kindness with which they had been spoken had changed her life. In his despondency. He said to her. he felt he had wasted his time here on earth. They went on to change the life of her granddaughter as well. No one who had benefited from his being alive was around any longer. That middle-aged man who had comforted the woman in her childhood was the same one who felt he had not contributed in any way to the life of others. Nothing goes on for ever. “You know. He had lived too long. You just never know the effect you have on others.July 16: An old man reviews his life. a middle-aged woman was telling her grandchild about a magical experience she’d had when she was young. live today as though it’s an important date. He was dependent on others for almost everything. in the end. A middle-aged man had sat down with her. comforted her and told her he would help her find her parents and that the feeling of sadness would pass. An old man sat reviewing his life. One didn’t expect to attend the funerals of one’s children but he had been to all three of his. 207 . So. A few thousand miles away.

today would be a good time to let go of an old resentment. It’s obviously not a smart move to cling to it. 208 . resentment damages the person who harbours it more than the person towards whom it is directed. A Chinese proverb says: “If you’re going to pursue revenge. you’d better dig two graves. At the simplest level. for the sake of your own health.” Perhaps.July 17: There are no justified resentments.

The image. You don’t have to stay in a relationship that distorts who you are. 209 . If being with someone—a relative. Relationships can reflect back to us aspects of ourselves we don’t much care for and it seems easy to blame our partner for how we end up feeling. but it can be worth spending time checking that image to see how much of it is a true reflection of yourself. however distorted. friend or partner— often makes you feel bad about yourself and that doesn’t happen when you’re with other people. you may want to ask yourself if this is a relationship you should let go of. is still ours.July 18: Relationships are a mirror.

True courage involves the day-to-day confrontation with difficult problems and the feelings of despair they engender while getting on with life in spite of it all. the risk-taking act in an emergency situation that defines true courage.” — Ambrose Redmoon 210 . but rather. although it should be given its due. if you keep going today despite feelings that might be weighing you down. “Courage is not the absence of fear. you belong to the ranks of true heroes.July 19: What is courage? Many “people of courage” say the same thing: It’s not the heroic deed itself. So. the judgement that something else is more important than fear.

Of course. then go there and enjoy the experience to the full.July 20: No one owes you anything. If your heart and your head tell you today that’s the way to go. The acts of giving and receiving can express the very best sentiments of humanity. you don’t owe them anything either. 211 . “Never take anything that has not been freely given. Others don’t owe you anything. The Buddha said.” To ask from others what they are unwilling to give helps neither the one who asks nor the one who refuses.

July 21: Learn to play Mastermind. it could take a lifetime for you to do so. Look for clues in your relationships by studying the response to things which work and to things that don’t. if you don’t. Look out for clues today. This is a game where one player sets out coloured pegs behind a screen and the other player tries to reproduce the colour and the order in which the pegs have been placed. first. by guessing. you are more likely to get the result you seek. Without the clues. black pegs for the correct colour in the right place. then by taking his cue from the clues available to him: White pegs for the correct colour in the wrong place. the player would just go on guessing and the game could take a lifetime to be over. If you notice the clues. 212 . they will be there.

however. Perhaps. the way you feel will not help you make any major progress. 3. Not buying something you can do without to achieve a financial goal. An offer to help despite not feeling like it to further a relationship. A fifteen-minute walk or a good stretch to further a fitness goal. 2. but it’s still worth carrying out. 213 . it’s exhilarating and exciting. Sometimes. Leaving some food on your plate to help you move towards a weight goal. But that does not mean you cannot move forward at all. It could be any of the following: 1. 4.July 22: What is the smallest step you can take now? We all like to take big steps and move rapidly towards our goal. the smallest task is all you can manage today.

So. resolve to be effective in areas where that’s a real possibility and let go. at least for the moment. Today. get on and do it and let go of the worry about the big things that you aren’t directly responsible for. You can’t do everything. 214 . of the bigger issues over which you have no influence. It will overwhelm you and prevent you from being effective in areas where you can make a difference.July 23: Don’t worry about the world. But there is a lot you can do. there just isn’t time.

He awoke one morning. on his quest. He set off on his quest with a few possessions. convinced that this was the day he would discover the secret that would change his life. He lifted it up and straightened up before prising it open. For several months. And there. he arrived. This is a very old story and you probably guessed the ending before you got to it. he had been feeling it was close and now was the time to take action. tired and dusty. at a plot of land that fitted the image in his mind. His trip around the world had brought him back almost to the point from which he had started. He kept to a straight path despite many obstacles. his mind focused. It was then that he realized he was in his own back garden. all the while. a few feet below. and he faced and dealt with many dangers. I think there are two questions we can ask ourselves: 1 If the back garden represents our inner life. pausing to look back at his home and wondering how long it would be before he saw his own front door again. With the strength his travels had helped him to develop he began to dig up the ground.July 24: The search for the secret of life. could it be that we already have the answers within us? Could our hero have just gone out his back door and found the secret? Or was the journey away and back essential to the process of discovery? What would be your answers to these questions? Does this affect how you will spend today? 2. Several months went by. After two years. 215 . was the treasure he had sought for so long.

” There’s usually a reason for the aggression other people display. it defends itself if attacked.July 25: Dangerous animal. 216 . A sign at the zoo read: “This animal is dangerous. It’s useful to ask the question: Why do they/ I feel attacked in this situation? There are insights here for us to gain and we can choose to modify either our behaviour or our reactions.

So. perhaps. be they existing ones or those you are anticipating. but for those who give it high priority. Today. 217 . but also demands financial resources and maintenance. make a list of five people and five possessions in your life and ask yourself if the equation in each case is balanced enough to work for you.July 26: Does this free me or restrict me? Personal freedom is not important to some people. For example. particularly about relationships and possessions. a vehicle offers freedom. but demand something in return. the relevant question is: Does this give more than it demands? It’s particularly applicable to the relationships in your life. Most things offer freedom. this is an important question to ask.

because life itself is far more easy. people presume that the answers to their problems cannot be simple. But “simple” and “easy” are very different words. Otherwise. Answers can be “simple”. in other words. Sometimes. It’s an important distinction to make. 218 .July 27: Simple and easy. even if they turn out not to be easy. straightforward. Today. we may end up discounting the simple answers. But acting on a simple solution can be very difficult indeed. look for the simple answers.

but that doesn’t mean improvement is not a possibility today. The question to be asked is not “Why have I not obtained 10/10?”. but setting up a 1-10 scale can be of help in enhancing relationships.July 28: Relationship exercise. Think about your current level of satisfaction on the 1-10 scale with 1 as the lowest possible score. 219 . like communication or love life etc. Let’s say your result for your chosen area is a 5/10. but “What would a 6/10 look like?” A maximum score might not be available right now. You can either take your relationship as a whole or just one aspect of it. This won’t work for every couple.

Someone you spend time with is sad and depressed and you end up feeling the same way. Someone you spend time with is rather quiet. you even have a headache. Here is another way of asking the same question: Which way is the energy flowing? 220 . you feel depleted. as their history and emotions collide and combine with ours. not the life and soul of the party. diminished. Perhaps. You might want to reach out and explore the possibilities of this relationship. Chances are this person will end up feeling supported and be prepared to change. But after she leaves. and you may decide to withdraw from this relationship to preserve your own energy. tired. you feel rather content with life and find yourself smiling at something the two of you shared. Watch out. Someone you spend time with is sad and depressed and you end up feeling you have helped them. The answers you obtain may help them to do that.July 29: How does this person make me feel about myself? Given that our relationships with others easily become complicated. Here are a few examples: Someone you spend time with makes you laugh at his jokes. As in all things. This is a positive experience worth repeating. after he has left. These are important warning signs. Yet. asking yourself this question can offer important insights into what is going on. the head and the heart work best together. They may unconsciously be using your energy to boost themselves rather than engaging with you. You enjoy his charisma and strength.

however.July 30: A short poem by Robert Burns. Reason and logic have their uses. They are. when you are being logical and someone else has the feelings! 221 . of limited use when it comes to dealing with feelings. A man convinced against his will Is of the same opinion still. particularly. They are great for planning and can be the basis of sound decisions.

July 31: The job I might have enjoyed. the man at the garage might have made as much difference to his frame of mind as he did to his clients’ in an hour of therapy. came the reply. He arrived at his office. To the therapist’s standard opening question of “How can I help?”. “Most people lead lives of quiet desperation. thinking about the lack of purpose in his life. he stopped to buy petrol and as he went to pay. a simple job involving routine but friendly contact with people seemed very appealing.” The lives of others are rarely as they seem to us on the outside. “Well. 222 . feeling the burden of his work weighing heavily on him. Suddenly. Today. A therapist drove to his office on a Monday morning. the attendant gave him a cheery smile and wished him a good day.” Thoreau observed. I think I’m wasting my life. to find that his first appointment was with a new client who had arrived for his first session. keep that in mind when making judgements and feeling dissatisfied with your lot. The previous week had been particularly exhausting and he knew his diary was full for today and for the early part of the week ahead. With a heavy heart. reflecting that in that one simple gesture. He drove on. I serve people at a garage and I can’t stand the monotony of my work and the lack of human contact.

August .

By definition.. you could go to bed tired.August 1: Today. you could. if you want to pick them up. They will still be there tomorrow. Because you have given of your best and are all used up. you could refuse to look at the negatives.. you could decide what is worth worrying about. Today. Today. you will also decide to let go of the rest. Today. 224 .

you could spend today creating alternatives. If it meets none of them.August 2: What is the simplest thing that could possibly work? “Everything in life should be as simple as possible. If a solution meets two or three of these criteria. Elegance: A solution that appears to flow. 225 . Resonance: Something that feels right. 2. there is a solution which is simple. No part of it feels forced. He had also stated. “For every problem. obvious and wrong.” Einstein had observed. 3. Simplicity: A feeling that there isn’t anything missing or unnecessary. it’s almost certainly worth taking further.” This is not an easy area and not every simple solution is the correct one. in accord with your feelings and values. Here are three elements that could be important when you need to solve a problem: 1. but not more simple.

the things you feel most certain about.August 3: The enemy of truth is not lies. It’s a useful skill to carry with you into adulthood. you constantly asked questions. Why should the ideas that served you a year ago still be the most appropriate ones for your present circumstances? When you were a child. 226 . in particular. but convictions. The disadvantage with being certain about our beliefs is that it makes us inflexible. Today. you should question everything and. That’s how you found out about things.

He can pause to reflect. here’s a way to help break the pattern. is up.August 4: Relationship exercise. it’s wise for both to spend fifteen minutes apart. Immediately afterwards. For couples who find conversation difficult and often end up arguing with each other. Toss a coin to see who goes first. free to say whatever is on his mind. Agree on a length of time for this exercise. If you can’t agree. 227 . That person can hold the coin and speak for as long as he wishes. make it thirty minutes. but the other person is not allowed to intervene or comment until the coin is passed to him. The process is repeated until the thirty minutes or whatever period of time has been agreed on.

They. lit the candles of those sitting behind them. in turn. When the lights were switched off. the course leader struck a match and lit a small candle. Hundreds of us were in the air-conditioned but windowless room. 228 . Seemingly without any hurry.August 5: Lighting the candle. What struck me most was that nothing needed to be said by way of explanation. every candle in the room was lit within a few minutes as we each contributed to the powerful light that now filled the whole room. the darkness seemed absolute. It was surprising how much light it cast. He used his candle to light those held by a couple of people in the front row. On stage.

229 . Today.August 6: Mid-life is not about what you do. rather than what you do. it’s about who you are. We are human beings. Yet. you could make it different. And that’s true of many other times in our lives. live who you are. not human “doings”. so much of our energy goes into planning the future and so little into enjoying the moment.

People often claim that their first priority is their partner. this might not apply to you. if they placed their lives under scrutiny. But it’s still worth spending a few minutes examining your answers to the question. People often claim qualities such as honesty. Yet. they would realize that the way they spent their time did not reflect this. their children or their friends. Of course.August 7: What is the biggest priority in your life? How are you living it? It’s interesting how often there is a difference between what we think we stand for and how we behave in our everyday lives. loyalty and reliability as priorities in their lives then choose to be oblivious to the fact that they don’t demonstrate these qualities in everyday situations. 230 .

If we were aware of the secret lives of those we sometimes want to punish and knew about their heartaches and troubles.August 8: The secret lives of others. Live today with this in mind and see how you end up feeling when you go to bed tonight. 231 . we would certainly not wish to add to the burdens they are already carrying.

232 .August 9: What is the purpose of my life? (1) Here is a simple answer: The purpose of my life is to enjoy the experience of being alive. Live this out today and then look at the item for tomorrow.

loving. but now you do have a starting point for what you want your life to be about. for example. Write down your three best skills. 233 .” You may want to refine your purpose and add detail. Write down three ways you want the world to be. Now write the following: “The purpose of my life is to use my (three qualities) and my (three skills) to help create a world which is (three ways).August 10: What is the purpose of my life? (2) Write down your three best qualities. for instance. organization. writing and typing. friendly and peaceful. compassion and determination. for example. intelligence.

but it is the outcome. 234 . my religion is kindness. Then observe how you end up feeling. “My religion is simple. Check it out. we each have to work out our own beliefs about life.” Now. That’s not why you practice them. The Dalai Lama once said. Reach out to someone else today in a way that is unexpected. But I think this is a great standard against which to check both our convictions and our conduct.August 11: A simple religion. The one person who always benefits when you practice “random acts of kindness” is yourself.

When someone does something for you or you do something for another person. 235 . The reasons may be complicated. And you don’t owe them anything either. No one owes you anything. nor love. Today. neither friendship. But ultimately. nor happiness. you could see if it’s for you. it’s because of the choice each of you has made.August 12: Who owes you? The answer is simple. you can start becoming free from expectations and resentments. This attitude is not for everyone. we all act in ways that serve us. nor respect. When you realize this.

. And decide if you want to move on to achieve more. And then spend time working on your weaknesses. Today you could play to your strengths.. Notice when you complain and ask yourself what action you could take. Today you could acknowledge your achievements. Today you could turn complaints onto action.August 13: Today you could. 236 .

saw how different he was from them. he turned to the chicken beside him and asked. Looking up. It is called an eagle. He spent his time scratching the ground for seeds. The eaglet eventually hatched along with the other eggs that were laid under the hen. He climbed the tree to look at the nest and saw that it contained a single egg. 237 . He was raised with the chickens and thought himself to be nothing but an unusual chicken. when he discovered that the eagle had been shot. took it back to his barn and slipped it under a brooding hen. the eagle fled for shelter with his companions. for the first time. In terror. He carried it carefully down from the tree. And so it is with each of us. It controls the air. We belong on the ground. One day. a dark. He looked at the chickens and. Do you have a destiny. Entranced by the majesty of such a powerful bird. searching for worms and clucking senselessly. a life far beyond your current way of living? The choice is yours. skill and power of the bird above.” The eagle looked up at the bird and saw the similarities he shared with it. ominous shadow fell across the barnyard. then devastated. The farmer was excited when an eagle nested in his property. the eagle saw the outstretched wings of a huge bird effortlessly moving in graceful circles as it glided on currents of warm air.” replied his companion “is the king of birds. We are chickens. “What’s that?” “That. The eagle now had a choice.August 14: Being the eagle. He could live and die as a chicken in the backyard coop or he could spread his wings and soar into the air with the majesty. Its realm is the sky.

Today.. Today. The energy spent in not doing it i probably more than it would take to complete the task. you could. 238 . See how they have built up and contributed to real changes in your life. you could mark your minor successes. Today.August 15: Today. you could write down one of your best qualities.. And see how you can use it in an interesting and varied way as your day progresses. you could complete something you have been putting off.

He was so busy looking forward. By all means. He had an apartment in the best part of town. the level of fitness he desired. He had the job and the income he wanted. 239 . he could look forward to enjoying life. He had finally achieved all his goals. It’s not forever. You may never have another. At last. It was not surprising.August 16: Having it all. the postponement of pleasure. It had all been worthwhile. have plans and objectives. but enjoy the present moment. the personal sacrifices. as he had devoted almost all his time to them. he did not see the truck that hit him from behind.

You have been given these two skills so they can complement each other. The more perspectives you have on any situation. 240 . the better the solutions you devise to your problems are likely to be. then take action.August 17: A good brain working with a good heart. The two essential tests any action or decision needs to pass are that it should make sense when you analyze it objectively and feel right in your heart. You need to be very careful about acting on just one of those tests. If both tests are passed. today.

Let them flow past to see what follows.August 18: Relationship exercise. no more than five minutes. Make eye contact and hold it without talking or moving. Try not to dwell on them. 241 . Sit opposite each other with knees almost touching for an agreed period of time. Observe what thoughts and feelings arise. It’s certainly not for everyone. do so on your own in front of a mirror. This is a very challenging exercise. agree not to discuss it at all. perhaps. Take fifteen minutes apart before discussing what you have experienced or. beginning with. Just concentrate on the experience of being together. If you don’t have a partner or don’t want to carry out this experiment with him or her. perhaps. Just try it and you’ll understand why.

who do you think will have made the best use of the moment? At the end of today. how many experiences will you have fully appreciated and how much time will you have spent reviewing the past and planning the future? 242 . Two friends on a safari holiday are watching the African sunset.August 19: The setting sun. When the sun completely sinks below the horizon. The other is reviewing the day and thinking of the transport that was late. the changing colors of the sky. One is lost in the experience—the birdsong. the gentle breeze. the substandard lunch that was served and the plans for tomorrow.

August 20: Rejoice in diversity. So. 243 . It’s the differences that make life interesting. but through those with individuals who challenge us. We evolve most not through our interactions with people who agree with us. Contact with different cultures. welcome today what is different. opinions and lifestyles all help us to grow. It’s there to teach you something of worth.

Although they can do a very good job of helping people avoid looking at them. 244 .August 21: Relationships don’t solve personal problems. family or partner. not that of your friends. There’s a simple question you should ask yourself: Did I feel like this before I went into this relationship? The answer will help you to distinguish between personal problems and relationship problems. The solution to whatever issues are troubling you is your own responsibility. You can adversely affect your relationships with them by expecting them to sort out problems that are not their concern.

I don’t know where this couplet comes from. To squander the present by reviewing the past or planning obsessively for the future is to waste life itself. There is only the present at your disposal. 245 .August 22: The past and future do combine To be the thief of present time. but I do think it contains the most important piece of advice available. you must focus on the moment. If you want to enjoy the experience of feeling fully alive.

Do you look in the mirror and no longer recognize the person you see looking back? Do you find you’ve given up on your friends. your interests and your beliefs in order to stay in a relationship? Then it’s time to either introduce significant changes in that relationship or give serious thought to the possibility of getting out of it. 246 .August 23: Don’t give up being you in order to be with someone else.

who hears our voice more than any other. your own? If the way you talk to yourself is harsher and more critical than the way you talk to children. perhaps. however. you need to change your habits.August 24: What do you say to yourself? Everyone talks to himself or herself. you would certainly invite strange looks. because inside each one of us is a child. often a frightened one. What sort of things do you say to yourself? Are they critical or encouraging? What tone of voice do you use? Gentle or harsh? Now. If you did it out loud and in the presence of others. how do you talk to children. 247 . what you are silently saying to yourself. No one can know.

There are. to say no. If you are going to be busy today. 248 . to feel stretched to the limits. It’s also perfectly all right to turn things down. of course. but a lot of your activity is a choice.August 25: Most activity is a choice. but just pause to reflect. You are the one who has the choice to make your life more complicated than it need be. It’s fine to take things on. make sure it’s because that’s what you choose to be. some things you need to do. when that best serves you. I’m sure it doesn’t feel like that if you are busy right now.

artist and contributor to society.August 26: What do you want on your tombstone? Everyone will have his own answer. boss. . among others. whatever it is you might want to achieve before you die: Best before . employee.. 249 . parent.. We all have our dreams and we may want an inscription mentioning our role as a good partner. followed by the date of your death. Here is one tombstone inscription you might consider.

warts and all. go ahead and have fun.August 27: Forget the potential. 250 . If the answer is NO. you owe it to yourself to ask if this person is right for you. is YES. Here’s a good relationship question: If I knew my partner or proposed partner was never going to change. would I be happy to spend the rest of my life with him/ her? If the honest answer.

look for opportunities to make it more enjoyable.. warts and all. you could acknowledge that wherever you go. you could. Acceptance can be the first step towards improvement. Today.. Whatever happens. The world is short of people who can graciously accept gifts and compliments. you could decide to have fun. you could practice being a cheerful receiver. 251 . there you are. Today. Today. Accept yourself as you are.August 28: Today.

It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the oil. it won’t occur to others to offer it. those who appear to be dealing with life well. So. Otherwise. ask for what you need and make an effort to find out what others need as well. Fair or not. 252 . If it applies to you. need to know how to ask for help. it’s a fact. It may seem unfair that those who get on with their lives without a fuss are not offered the support available to less able people.August 29: The squeaky wheel. even if they aren’t.

However. The following might serve as a useful analogy: The pig and the hen are both compatible in the sense they provide bacon and eggs respectively. But while the hen is involved. it’s not an “either-or” situation. just because someone is compatible does not necessarily mean that he or she is committed or even capable of commitment. 253 . The greatest commitment will not be enough to overcome a basic lack of compatibility and a relationship without this element can lead to a lifetime of unhappiness for both partners.August 30: Commitment and compatibility. Both these elements are important in a successful relationship. only the pig is committed.

Today. if they are honest. will admit that they treat themselves worse than they treat their friends. worse or better? Most people. why not start to treat yourself as well as you treat those you love? 254 . give them moral support when they are troubled. Now.August 31: How do you treat your friends? My guess is you are kind to them. celebrate good news with them. how do you treat yourself? The same. particularly when it comes to the matter of forgiveness. offer to help them when you can. forgive them when they are less than perfect and enjoy their company.

September .

If they agree.. go ahead. you could.September 1: Today. And take some time during the day to rejoice that it’s not so. And ask your brain to comment on what your heart tells you. you could get something wrong. Today. 256 . Today. Do it deliberately. You might make someone else feel better. you could think of three ways in which your life could be worse. you could listen to your heart. Today. make a mistake..

Either you can’t live with them or things will take a turn for the worse if you ignore them. There are also times when arriving at solutions takes more time and energy than accepting the problem and living with it. 257 . The world is never going to be perfect. so you can get on and enjoy the experience of being alive.September 2: Does this problem need to be solved? There are some problems in life you just have to deal with. It’s wise to distinguish between the two situations.

He might not agree with you. But you could tell yourself the same thing. we create our own experience.20° C that he creates his own experience. holiday plans that went awry. Today. you could take responsibility for what you create. when you get upset over something someone has said to you. a scratch on your car or a rainy day.. The list is endless. 258 ..September 3: Sometimes. an anniversary your partner forgot. a promotion for which you were passed over. Try telling a naked man who is standing in a strong wind at .

But often. it amounts to almost a stone. look back a year or five and take stock. it’s time to make changes so that this time next year. But over a year. In the context of losing weight. More often. See what has changed and ask yourself if you like the direction in which your life is going. So. 259 . change is a process. the change has been in progress for quite sometime without being noticed. a major event or a sudden occurrence. change occurs in an instant. it will all seem very different. If not. a pound a month is inconsequential. It is the realization of the change that is sudden. Sometimes. We may not be aware of it except in retrospect.September 4: Change can either be an event or a process.

If you’ve always been someone who dealt with problems. but drowning. consider if it might apply to someone you feel close to. what comes next was written for you. Unlike other people. If not. that part of you will still be active even when you take a short break.September 5: Do you always look as if you’re coping. you don’t have a choice. 260 . But consider the following: Just because you have to cope with everything most of the time. Here are some predictions: You feel you always have to cope. Your taking some “time out” may allow others to become more capable and result in them feeling better about themselves. a part of your world will collapse and things will go wrong and become chaotic. you’re not waving. even when you’re not? What was your reaction when you read this question? If you responded to it with a start of recognition. either because of childhood experiences you endured or because of current demands on you. Trust them to take over for a while. If the above made sense to you: Tell those close to you that on certain occasions. at least. does not mean you have to cope with everything all the time. Underlying your response is probably a fear that if you don’t keep on coping.

you could move things forward. Today. don’t stop looking for areas where you can still make improvements. But that doesn’t mean things can’t be improved. One of the signs of a flexible approach to life is a willingness to accept partial solutions to problems that can’t be solved in their entirety. 261 . When you’re faced with something you feel you have to come to terms with.September 6: Not all problems can be solved.

Some things have to be accepted. Inquiry and exploration are useful tools for understanding what is not yet clear. It may not be enough just to understand or to accept. 262 . It can help to have reasons. Some things have to be forgiven. It may be useful to understand the situation and let go. They are just not going to change and it’s better to recognize this and stop wasting your life waiting for something that won’t happen. but for your own peace of mind. Not so much for the sake of anyone else involved.September 7: Some things have to be… Some things have to be understood. even if nothing changes. You may have to forgive in order to move on.

They will enjoy reminding you about the problems they had understanding you.September 8: What was your life like when you were that age? This is a question mostly for parents. When you feel ignored by your fifteen-year-old. Bringing up children can be one of the most difficult and rewarding challenges in life. both from the social and financial point of view. That’s when it’s worth asking the question in the heading. that the lives of the next generation are often very different from ours. peer pressure and consumerism all change so much and so quickly. it’s worth reflecting on how you treated your parents when you yourself were fifteen. What is much more likely to be shared with our offspring is the experience we ourselves went through at the same age. Societies. remind yourself of how unwilling you were to talk to your mum and dad when your own body was changing. ask how your parents felt when you were five. How sensitive were you to their feelings? The experience of being human does not seem to change that much over the generations. When you find the tantrums of your five-year-old trying. 263 . If you are in doubt about the answers and your parents are still alive. When you are confused by your offspring’s refusal to engage with you or share his or her experiences at puberty. but also for those who have any contact with children. We make it that much more difficult when we have expectations that don’t match the reality of our children’s lives. check with them.

If it feels like a burden.September 9: A week of making a difference. Reach out with a reassuring touch or even a hug a person when he or she is having a difficult time. take some time to reflect on and review your list. 264 . write down what you did and the response your evoked. other than your feeling that they deserve it. at the end of each day. Most important. Think about the difference you have made to others and how it has left you feeling. After seven days. Pay someone a sincere compliment about something you would not usually mention. make one gesture beyond your normal routine that will benefit someone else in a way he doesn’t expect. Every day of the week to come. don’t try it. Give someone a small gift for no particular reason. This is an exercise that’s meant to be fun.

trying to bring about a change in them that will make them acceptable to us. For some reason. you have no control over the responses of others. if you are involved in bringing up children.September 10: Can you be free if you are still trying to control other people? Every attempt to control and change someone else involves surrendering a little of your own freedom. It goes with the territory of being a parent. it would be a good idea to accept people as they are. in practice. you are allowing your life to be controlled by them. Since. 265 . move on. by attempting to acquire it. Today. we believe that people should be different from how they are and invest time and energy in vain. you will realize that this loss of freedom is inevitable. But it’s interesting how we still give away our power when we are in an adult-to-adult situation. Of course. If that doesn’t benefit you.

move on. 266 . Don’t try and fit your relationship into someone else’s understanding of it.September 11: Every relationship is unique. Ask the simple question: Does this apply to me? If it doesn’t. If you think about your complexity as an individual. then add another party to the equation. Wherever you read about relationships or are told about them—and that certainly applies to the ideas in this book— please remember it may not apply to you. the possibilities are beyond calculation.

When he started school and someone said something unkind to him. All disagreements were kept private and they never criticized each other in his presence. Life can be good. Of course. they also took pains never to criticize him. they were there to catch him. They tried to project their relationship as a perfect one for his sake. 267 . he had no idea how to cope with it. When he looked as if he might fall. They were determined that their only child should have a perfect upbringing. It’s how you cope when things go wrong that’s the mark of your worth as a human being. When he cried. we wouldn’t grow. He grew up protected from all harm.September 12: The perfect childhood. but it won’t be perfect. the tissue they produced caught the tears almost before they started. If it were.

judgemental or critical and it’s easy to attribute to others all responsibility for this kind of response and ignore our own role in the matter. If we see ourselves as teachers and other people as our students to whom we are offering lessons on how to treat us. 268 .September 13: We teach people how to treat us. We may also begin to change our teaching method. Other people can be so unfair. our behaviour. you need to improve the way you teach them. we may get a very different view about our relationships and friendships. If you want people to improve their behaviour towards you. so that we get results that are better suited to our needs.

alcohol. children and arguments. the answer that comes up spontaneously to the question. since it advocates modifying attitudes and thereby being better equipped to take decisions that will be appropriate for given situations. Certain external problems. your immediate solution would be an external one. sex. the decision to make a quick exit instead of brooding on how you got there in the first place. with little prospect of matters improving.September 14: Is this an external problem or an internal one? We live in a world that encourages us to seek external solutions to internal problems. need external solutions. The external sources not only fail to offer permanent relief. cigarettes. Ultimately. money. If you’re in a violent or vicious relationship. we turn to food. tears. internal problems need internal solutions. So. among other diversions. which is mostly what this book is about. that is. When we feel miserable inside. for example. If your water pipe springs a leak. 269 . but merely contribute to frittering away precious time and sometimes end up destroying our lives in the bargain. “Is this an external or an internal problem?” would be your best indicator as to what needs to be addressed and rectified. on the other hand. don’t spend time thinking about it.

September 15: Today. Live beyond what you have previously held to be your limits. Think about where your past choices have taken you and if you’re not happy with where you are. Seek greater stimulation. you could exceed your expectations. choose differently in the future. perhaps.. shock other people.. you could look for a bigger challenge. 270 . you could. you could start making different choices. Today. surprise yourself and. Today. Today. a larger problem to address and bring out the best in yourself.

“and I will make up my mind as to which opinion I want to hold. 271 . Honey is definitely my favourite breakfast spread.” It’s easier to ride a horse in the direction in which it’s going. “You can’t have it both ways. I loathe honey. “There’s nothing better than honey on my croissants in the morning. Each has its own character. She says. On second thoughts. There are so many different kinds of honey.” “I quite agree. “But honey is so unhealthy.” she replies. once I know if we have any honey in the kitchen. All those little insects manufacturing it in unhygienic conditions … and it can be bad for your blood sugar.September 16: And is there honey? A woman is woken up by her partner who has brought her a breakfast of coffee and croissants in bed.” Then she says.” Her bemused partner replies. You need to make up your mind.

Spend a minute thinking about this item. Add another tomorrow and spend a minute on it too. even if you don’t feel it right now. If you find this makes a difference. so that you spend a total of five minutes reflecting on five items. add items as they occur to you. There are many people who can’t. Do this every day for a total of five days. Here is an exercise you could engage in to see if this idea works for you. If you can’t think of anything worth mentioning.September 17: An attitude of gratitude. along with another minute on the previous one. Write down one thing you suppose you could feel grateful for. write down the fact that you have the power of vision and can see. but its familiarity should not blind you to its inherent truth. If it doesn’t work for you. It will be there when you need it. file away the list. This is a phrase you have probably heard before. 272 .

Here are some possible answers: Yes. Then decide if you want to make changes. What changes would you have to make to come up with a different answer (including not being too harsh on yourself)? Are these changes you can make on your own? Are you willing to seek help from others? “Everyone thinks of changing the world. but I would find a few things difficult to bear. but no one thinks of changing himself. Be grateful that you are able to answer this way and consider what those around you contribute to your life. Examine your relationships to find out whether anything you bring to it has the potential of undermining it. No. I’d live with myself. Yes. I’d be very happy to live with myself.” —Leo Tolstoy 273 . but as a way of honestly looking at your role in relationships. I would not want to live with myself.September 18: Would you live with yourself? It’s a tough question: Would you live with yourself? It’s not meant as a “beat-yourself-up” question.

but it’s unlikely to become easier if you delay starting it. Your first action might well involve planning and preparation. I don’t take to easy solutions and I find it annoying when problems are dismissed with a phrase like “The longest journey starts with the first step. Here’s a challenge for today: Take any objective you have in mind and take the first step right now towards its achievement. it’s accurate and even insightful. financial success or health targets—you won’t get there until you start taking action. it won’t feel real. Whatever it is you want to achieve—fulfilment in a relationship.” What’s even more annoying with this one is that despite it being simplistic and failing to tell the full story. however you choose to look at it. but until it’s implemented in the outside world. You may undertake either a short journey or a long one.September 19: Does the longest journey start with the first step? I’m not a fan of bumper-sticker philosophy. modifying your attitude and making a decision. 274 .

it’s best to look at the small steps you can take towards your eventual goal. Financial success is usually not achieved in a day. This book wasn’t written in a day.. In other words. Many good things in life are the result of a number of small deeds. A weight-loss target is unlikely to be achieved in a day. but parts of it were. but this part of it certainly was! What do you want to start building today? 275 .. carried out often on a daily basis. it takes time to achieve. A damaged relationship cannot be mended in a day. The first part of the sentence is an expression parents use when their children clamour for instant gratification.September 20: Rome wasn’t built in a day. but you can open a savings account to start off with. It’s supposed to hold the moral that if something is worth having. wallowing in inactivity and impatient for their goals to be realized without any contribution on their part. but a daily weight reduction might be a feasible objective. Although “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. but new learning certainly can. And so they do. but a significant start can be made in that direction. parts of it were. Some people interpret this to mean that all they have to do is wait. An education cannot be acquired in a day.

” — Eleanor Roosevelt 276 .September 21: There are worse things in life than having a relationship end. but sometimes it’s what life asks of you. Living with violence or emotional abuse. It’s not easy to move on. courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stopped to look fear in the face. Watching your children being damaged. friends or interests. waiting for someone else to change. And here are some of them: Wasting your life. Losing your own identity. “You gain strength.

“What did he take?” The man shrugged his shoulders and said. he was stopped by a furniture maker who offered him £100 for the wood as well as a new cupboard for his kitchen. Passing a hardware store.” Sometimes. His toes came into contact with something and. took the cash and ran off. “Oh it was just a battered old coin I stumbled across this morning. “Are you all right?” she asked anxiously. On the journey home. An unemployed father of four was walking in the direction of the nearest town from home in search of work. he picked up an old coin. he passed a house which was being renovated and its owner offered him £150 for the cupboard which he accepted. it pays to devise the best possible explanation for things over which we have no control. as he had done every day for the past few months. Pleased with his fortune.September 22: The old coin. 277 . his wife rushed out. he took it to a coin collector who paid him £30 for his find. While carrying the cupboard home. he saw some wood and decided he would build his wife the shelves she had been asking for. Observing the incident from the kitchen window. when a man with a knife accosted him. he stood at the gate of his house counting the cash. Arriving at the town. Bills were piling up and his wife was getting depressed. bending down.

Too much activity can be a curse. see that when we act at the right time and in the right way. however. Well-timed and effective action can free you to contemplate the direction you are taking. It stops you from looking too deeply at issues in your life.September 23: The 80/20 principle. this idea states that 80 per cent of the results you achieve come from a mere 20 per cent of the actions you take. I do. Put simply. I have my doubts as to the degree of precision of any formula applied to a human situation. we obtain results that far exceed the energy involved. It’s certainly an excellent idea to concentrate your energies on things that make a difference instead of squandering your resources to no great effect in another area. How can you act more effectively today? 278 . Now.

Ask yourself this question two or three times and write down the answers. some underlying cause you are refusing to examine or some deeper reason you are avoiding looking at. However. If nothing comes up. chances are that there is something you are resisting. ask yourself what you would write down if you were going to write something. You can’t change things you don’t own up to. When that’s the pattern you keep following. it’s going to be different. but it might well tell you where to start looking for a solution. Then write that down. nothing has changed. so here’s something you can do right now: Take an issue where you tend to repeat a pattern despite your best efforts not to do so and ask yourself what it is you are resisting. 279 . when the next time comes. This doesn’t solve the problem. Each time we make up our minds that the next time.September 24: What you resist persists. but in the way we deal with our finances. not just in relationships. We are all guilty of repeating unhelpful patterns in our lives. our eating habits and so on.

keen to start doing the things she had been thinking about. Above all. The woman was driving home from the hospital in a daze. Her tests were clear. she wanted to spend her last weeks feeling fully alive. If this were you. It was from the hospital. She thought of the letters and e-mails she needed to write.” the new doctor had told her after reviewing her test results. the calls she wanted to make. the declarations of love she wanted to make to those close to her. the apologies she wanted to express for past mistakes. There was no problem with her health at all. she started to plan the month ahead. As her mind cleared during the long journey. “You probably have only one month to live.September 25: A month to live. There had been a terrible mix up. She realized that there were experiences she had always postponed which she could still cram into this month. The phone was ringing as she opened the door and she took the call. would you still take the action you had planned on your journey home? 280 . She arrived home.

you will usually have to develop flexibility in your approach in order to get where you want to be. but a lot of people waste much of their life trying to do so. If you want to fix the outcome. you can’t fix both the process and the outcome of an action. be it an athletic achievement. There is no “right answer” here. the way you respond to people or a set approach to business. As a general rule. If you want to fix a process. for instance. you can expect to obtain a variable outcome to each situation. the purchase of a house or fulfilment in a relationship.September 26: Fixing process or outcome. 281 . just a need to select an appropriate process or outcome for a proposed action and not waste time trying to force the way things are into a mould of your own making.

If either one of the parties involved is happy to enjoy an exploration of the given issue without attachment to the outcome. it’s good to stand firm and live with the disagreement. Sometimes. no argument can take place. Sometimes.September 27: Avoiding arguments. It’s almost impossible to argue with someone who is not concerned about being right. it’s time to respect differences and move on to other areas. Sometimes. 282 . An argument is a process that relies on those involved being attached to different outcomes. it’s fine to give way.

The next day. You never know what it is you do that will make all the difference. unbeknownst to him. When you are in the wrong. 1. there was a boy in my class known for his unruly behaviour. this was his best lesson. our English teacher came to class and publicly apologized both to the boy and to the rest of the class for losing his temper and resorting to hitting him. When I was twelve years old. You can grow in the eyes of others by the manner in which you handle your failures.September 28: My English teacher. of course. Our English teacher taught me many valuable things but. our much-respected teacher astounded the rest of the class by losing his temper sufficiently to slap the boy a number of times before sending him to the headmaster to be caned (this was. One day. 283 . 2. We talked of little else that week. after the English lesson had been disrupted several times by him. you need to acknowledge it and apologize for your error. in an era when it was a normal disciplinary procedure). We talked of little else that day. 3. This is one of the most useful lessons I have gleaned from my life.

The speech bubble suspended over both of them read : “You’re supposed to make me happy. having a relationship will change everything.” It might just be the biggest myth about relationships that if you are not happy already.September 29: You’re supposed to make me happy. A better approach is to take responsibility for your own happiness and be willing to share it with your partner. 284 . There used to be a cartoon in my counselling room which showed a couple pointing at each other.

but he knows better times are ahead and pulls again. another pull takes him to the post of Manager. Wanting to avoid being teased by his peers. But sadly. 285 . It’s a fulfilling phase in his career and his financial situation is more stable. They are struggling to make ends meet.September 30: The rope of time. he pulls the rope again. their friends and their loud late-night music are a trial for him and he looks forward to the day he and his wife can enjoy the peace of their home together. he pulls the rope once more and finds himself in the dark and surrounded by a wooden box. The problems of two teenage children. will make him older. and discovers that he is now in his early twenties. In response to his wish. In his late twenties. he gets a promotion. he finds that he also has spots on his face. Enjoy each stage of your life as it comes. So. but is not happy with his new job. A twelve-year-old wishes to become a teenager because “teenagers have more fun”. when he pulls it. a wizard gives him a rope which. He pulls the rope again and finds he has retired but is now facing major heart surgery. married and with a child. One tug and he’s a teenager. it’s over quickly enough. Another tug on the rope and he finds himself struggling now to hold onto his job and looks forward to his retirement. Anxious to find out what will happen next. but a bit too hard.


October .

you could. 288 . It’s useful to practice dealing with a rejection you have chosen. get used to stretching yourself.. Reach out. For yourself or someone you are close to..October 1: Today. you could be less comfortable and take a risk. Today. you could heal a hurt. Today. Today. It will give you the experience to deal with rejections in situations where they are not your choice. you could seek out rejection.

“From now on. simple life. As they dragged the soldier from the cottage. made beds and obeyed every order. and shine my boots. But he would not say a word. make my bed. The old man lived a quiet. It’s the part that allows you to choose when and how you react. until one day.October 2: The old man. you will serve my meals. and every day. his village was taken over by Nazi occupation forces. A storm trooper dragged him into the street and said. I will kill you. Then one day. the old man took a deep breath and finally answered the question with a “No!” There’s a part of you that remains free despite your external circumstances. you will let me live in your house. Will you do as you’re told?” The old man did not answer. 289 . Otherwise. For two years. he served meals. shined shoes. It’s what makes you human and it’s not for others to control. the Allied armies liberated the village.

the second-rate. a play that would interest you opens and a concert that you would be keen to attend is staged.October 3: Your life will end before the world stops being interesting. if you add up all the places you want to go to and the holidays you have at your disposal. relationships. as a small example: Every day. The message is about choice. Take travel: Assuming you don’t work in the travel industry. Take entertainment. of course. So. You’d better face it: Whatever your interests. you’re just not going to be able to cram it all in. learning and so on. at least one book you will enjoy reading is published. a film or TV program you would love to see is produced. And. And I haven’t mentioned your career. sports. You don’t have enough time to enjoy all the first-rate pleasures at your disposal. the more interests you have. there are more opportunities available to you than you will ever have time to explore. 290 . Today. the worse it gets. you don’t have time for the second-best. never settle for less. writing. a CD you would enjoy listening to is released.

sustained for a long time. So. You will almost certainly overestimate what you can achieve in a month. you will underestimate what you can accomplish in a year. It’s a shared human failing: We want it perfect and yet we want it now. It probably took you a long time to end up where you are now. but you can change your direction right now. but particularly true of relationships. what makes you believe any change will be instant? You may not be able to change your destination immediately. look for small. 291 . positive changes in your relationship or in any other area of your choice and work to expand them. will ensure that you end up in the future in a place very different from the one from which you started out. So. They rarely change overnight. concentrating on what does work and make more of it instead of obsessing about the problems. consistent changes over a long period.October 4: The benefit of small. today. It’s true of many things in life. But at the same time. A small change. It’s interesting how that urgency can prevent us from achieving our dreams.

You need to be aware of the difficulties in life.” she said. Describe your day so far. 292 . describe your day in terms of what has gone wrong and it will feel very different.October 5: Remember the colour.” She even helped by pointing out things that might have been missed—an ornament. “Look around the room. you have a choice.” said the therapist. “Now shut your eyes. Today. a part of a picture.” We remember what we focus on. “and try to remember everything that is green in colour. But they don’t need to be what you focus on all the time. “ and name everything in this room that is coloured blue. Now. in terms of what has gone right for you.

Without the intervals of silence to set off the sounds. It is said that much of man’s unhappiness arises from his inability to sit in a room on his own. Let your quiet times become a regular part of your daily life. right now. of constant noise— the noise of activity. in which we can review where we have been. for five minutes. can help you develop the skill. an occasional oasis of calm. a quiet time for reflection.October 6: Silence is as important as noise. Music consists of sounds and silences. where we are now and where we are going. To some. Silence merely means being at one with yourself. To make more sense of life. we need to create silence. the situation can seem rather threatening. of our interactions with each other—and of our thoughts. the life we live today consists. of television. 293 . there wouldn’t be a tune. starting. say. to hear the song we are here to sing. Yet. perhaps. But staying with the silence. so often.

You know you have to practice when you learn to speak a foreign language or to dance well. 294 . baby. “Practice. “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” the tourist asks the New York cab driver. to be more loving? The answer is often the same: Practice. baby. But what about learning to be confident.October 7: Carnegie Hall. (It’s a very old joke). practice. practice” he replies.

most of the time. the situation is not likely to change. you feel like the parent and the other person like your child. 295 . Relationships with people who have fatal flaws they are not doing anything to rectify such as affairs. Relationships where. it’s not healthy for either of you. it doesn’t breed respect on either side. drugs or alcohol. Here are some things it’s best to avoid: Relationships with people who don’t make you feel good after a few encounters.October 8: Things to avoid in relationships. Fatal flaws are usually just that—fatal. Relationships where you feel you have to rescue the other person all the time.

October 9: The stuck bus.
A bus gets stuck under a low bridge after the driver makes a mistake and takes the wrong turning. No one is hurt, but the efforts of the fire-fighters to pull the bus out are in vain. It just won’t budge. Using greater force could end up damaging the bridge. A young girl rides up on her bike to watch the proceedings and says quietly to the Fire Chief: “Why don’t you just let the tyres down?” There are two ways to use this story. Sometimes, solutions to your problems are far simpler than you think, if you keep your mind open to all possibilities. Sometimes, what you need to do is let the air out of a situation. Occasionally, all you have to do to achieve this is breathe out.


October 10: “There is a crack in everything”
This is a line from a Leonard Cohen song: “There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.” Cohen is a poet. So, what he writes is open to a number of interpretations. For me, however, this quote is about how we deal with the problems and difficulties we face in life. I don’t subscribe to the belief that everything has a purpose, a meaning. But I do believe that all experiences, good or bad, have the potential to contribute to our growth and knowledge. I do believe that when things get disrupted or impaired—our relationships, our jobs or our health—along with the sense of loss and sadness that ensues, there is the possibility of fresh light illuminating the very core of our being.


October 11: Ten things to know about sex.
The first thing to know about sex: It was meant to be fun. If it’s not, then you need to do something about it. The second thing to know about sex: It doesn’t have to be a big part of your relationship. However, it’s perfectly all right if it is. The third thing to know about sex: Long-term relationships don’t last simply because of a great sex life. It’s not enough. The fourth thing to know about sex: There are no external norms or methods to conform to. If what you do works for both of you, that’s just fine. The fifth thing to know about sex: It’s just as important to please yourself, as it is to please your partner. The sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth things to know about sex: It was meant to be fun. Don’t make it too serious.


October 12: The special occasion.
A brother and sister are sorting through the possessions of their recently deceased mother. They come across the expensive dress she had bought, years ago, for a special occasion and realize it is still in the store wrapping. In all her life, she had never found an occasion special enough to wear it. You may feel this is not about you, but think about the things you intend to do “when the time is right.” There is nothing wrong in looking forward to things. But it’s a big waste to die, waiting for a reason to celebrate. What can you celebrate today?


October 13: Don’t smother each other.
Relationships are very, very important. A great relationship is one of the best experiences life has to offer. But it’s not the only experience and relationships benefit from each partner bringing in something new from time to time. If your relationship feels a bit dead, it might be time to get out more and not always together. Most things don’t grow so well in the shade. So, give your relationship the importance it deserves, but don’t let it consume your life. If you do, it just might die from lack of nourishment.


October 14: Stopping the ripples.
“Throw a pebble into the pond,” instructed the teacher. “Now try and stop the ripples.” Of course, every move the student made to stop the water moving caused new ripples to form and so it went. “The only way to control the ripples,” the teacher finally suggested, “is not to throw the stone in the first place.” Once you take action on something, you lose control over the effect it has. So, when it comes to adopting a negative attitude to yourself or to others and acting on it, it’s best if you just don’t start.


October 15: Today, you could...
Today, you could work to change what you can. Having done so, look for the best in what you can’t change. Today, you could do only what works for you. If you aren’t getting to where you want to be, try doing something different. Today, you could delay dealing with the urgent. And spend time on what is important. It’s interesting how the “urgent” tends to get sorted out.


if I move this pen a bit.October 16: Only one way to be right. the problem. does that make it untidy?” “Yes. if things kept on it are moved about. “Well. but only one way you can see it as tidy!” —Gregory Bateson Too many rules can spoil your life and your relationships. it does.” says her father. If you can have at your disposal a number of ways to enjoy success.” she replies. “So.” “Well. you are far more likely to enjoy it than if you confine yourself to one. “What makes it untidy?” he asks her. “the pen has to be right there. Don’t make your life harder than it need be. 303 . “is there are a lot of ways you can see your desk as untidy. on that spot. A father is talking to his daughter who is a bit upset because her desk is untidy.” she answers.

what would it be? What would my future be like if I had learnt the lessons that are being offered? If you don’t come up with anything. It’s worth writing down a few sentences to capture elements that repeat themselves. Take a few minutes to look back at your life and see if you can identify some of the patterns that occur in the area of your relationships. go back over some past events and think about how they might have turned out differently if you had already absorbed what you need to know. move on. career or health.October 17: The lessons keep appearing until the learning takes place. If you do see a lesson to be learnt. This may not be for you. Then ask yourself the following questions: If these situations were trying to teach me something. 304 .

he drew a picture without following a previously traced outline and found. he traced the outline with his pencil and submitted the work as his own. —David Gordon Sometimes. having taken two sheets of paper instead of the usual single sheet by mistake. But then he started to feel guilty and decided he would stop cheating. The following term. you have to practice in an artificially created situation in order to learn how to deal with something. This gave him an idea and he took a sheet of paper home and traced over a drawing he liked. that with all the practice. After a couple of failed attempts. This he then took to school. The skill will develop gradually and what you had to simulate in order to practice will become truly your own. “Fake it till you make it”. He noticed an outline of the drawing on the second sheet. And after a few weeks he had a piece of work selected for display. so that an outline of it was left on the sheet underneath. At school. And so it continued for a whole term. Pretend anger in order to learn how to stop being angry. During the lesson. One day. to his surprise. he had his work selected for display on the classroom wall. even when you don’t feel loving. his drawing skills had improved considerably. Demonstrate feelings of love. he was not very good at drawing and had never had his work displayed in the classroom. 305 .October 18: Cheating at drawing. he completed a drawing.

As a result. So. and it certainly doesn’t feel like it when I’m at the receiving end. What I do know is that my relationships work better when I assume this to be true. I am less likely to get upset and more likely to meet the needs of the person or persons with whom I am interacting. But when I stop to think about the times I have been unkind to others. Could this be true for you as well? 306 . I’m not sure this is true every time. perhaps. a cry for help from the person who is responsible for it.October 19: Every unkind act is a cry for help. unkindness to others is. I realize that it was because I had been feeling bad about myself. I end up having a better time with them.

“If you had a boat and employed people. Make sure you recognize what you have now and enjoy it to the full. “Anything you want. A man is sitting fishing for his supper when he is approached by a visiting businessman who tells him.” “And what would I do then?” asked the fisherman. And you’d soon be rich.October 20: The fisherman and the businessman. “I’m doing that now. 307 .” said the businessman. you could catch more fish and sell them at a profit. It’s a very well-known and insightful story. There is no greater waste than trying hard to get what is already yours.” replied the angler.

even though you end up feeling remote from the process.October 21: Connected or disconnected? This is a good one to check out by asking yourself ‘When do I feel most connected to life. 308 . when do I feel most disconnected to life’ Try to stand back from the habits you have formed. And if you decide you are not willing then at least it’s something you can feel you have made a conscious decision about. Change is sometimes very difficult with hard wired habits and ways of going about things but it is possible. Is it in ways that make you feel connected or are you wasting your time in activity you feel you have to undertake even though it doesn’t serve you are your objectives. make sure you are not selecting something just because it’s familiar and then examine how you spend most of your time. if you are willing to pay the price.

” he said. It’s a violent metaphor. given sufficient reason. I would find a way out of this. A well-known newspaper owner faced the prospect of bankruptcy when his loan application was turned down. And he did. Choose a problem you are facing. Tell yourself that the alternative to solving it is your worst nightmare.October 22: If I had a gun to my head. What action would you take? 309 . but it does remind us that. we can overcome almost anything. “If someone put a gun to my head.

like your job.October 23: Work can be easier than relationships. And don’t automatically accept the first answer that comes up for you. but at least check it out. what might that something be? You may conclude that the work pressure is genuine. just stop and ask yourself this: If I were using this work as a way of avoiding something. When you are “too busy” to be with someone you care about. Often. Nowhere is this truer than in your relationships. Work—and here I mean any activity. gardening or keeping fit—while beneficial in itself can be a great way of distracting you from the crucial issues in your life. 310 . that’s true.

As you read it. with each of us. you could be rejoicing. eventually. “If you can bring me a mustard seed from any household which has not known death. 311 . your child will live again. A woman came to the Buddha and pleaded with him to bring her dead child back to life. Death visits every household and catches up.October 24: The mustard seed. you might realize that if you don’t have a sound reason for grieving.” It is a story full of sadness that also depicts an undeniable reality. “I understand now. but to no avail. When she returned from her unsuccessful quest. She searched for days for such a household. she said.” he promised her.

at the same time. you can celebrate what we do have in common and rejoice. It prevents us from building up prejudice against others. But it’s also important to recognize just how different people are. religious or political. in our diversity. understanding and kindness. Mankind will never agree on a belief system. 312 . We all bleed when we are cut. let’s not waste our time trying to achieve this end. emotionally as well as physically. even if some people can conceal it more effectively than others. experiences and personalities are concerned.October 25: We are all the same : We are all different. Today. one from another. beliefs. As far as our background. It’s useful to acknowledge what we all have in common. with ideas that are both true and yet seem to contradict each other. is the mark of a mature and intelligent approach to life. We will never all see the world the same way. we are all different. So. An ability to deal with paradox. It teaches us empathy. because we are able to put ourselves in another person’s shoes occasionally and to see things from their perspective.

313 . it seems a strange idea that we would choose to live with suffering. There are many people who. even if many of our experiences with that person are not necessarily pleasant ones. prefer to endure the kind of suffering with which they are familiar rather than confront their fear of the unknown. One of the attractions of being in a relationship with someone can be the sense of security it gives us. despite being in a poor relationship contributing little to their well-being. Becoming aware of this and facing the fear involved in moving on can be the start of important changes.October 26: Why do we choose to live with suffering? At first sight. particularly in our relationships.

The world and those close to you will survive. And yet. they started no more than fifteen minutes before and the reason they are so much more advanced is because they never had to rush to appointments. but that’s perfectly all right.October 27: Advanced civilizations. it is excellent advice in a world where we live as if fifteen minutes would make all the difference. The truth is. had more time to evolve. — Woody Allen I can remember being advised to take time to read carefully through exam question papers before starting to write the answers. why not take that time now to sit and think about the rest of your day and the difference it could make if you decided not to rush? Some things might not get done. There is a theory that there are other civilizations out there that are far more advanced than ours. I recall how difficult I found this. because the urge to make “progress” was so great. therefore. So. They began tens of thousands of years before ours did and have. 314 .

” (Actually. I do.October 28: Assumptions are like termites. but you just don’t notice. turn this around and list some assumptions you make about other people. those close to you.” (Like a duck. Unchallenged. Assumptions are like termites. Turn the assumptions into questions and check them out with the person involved: “Do you always feel as calm as you seem on the outside?” “Do you feel your contributions are acknowledged and appreciated?” It’s interesting how easy it is to feel misunderstood and how it’s more difficult to accept that we might be misunderstanding others. I’m paddling furiously below the surface of the water.) Now. they can erode your foundations.) “You don’t contribute. Think for a moment about the mistaken assumptions other people make about you. 315 . particularly. Here are a couple of examples: “You always seem so calm.

it’s wise to replay the past in your mind from the point of view of an observer and allow the insights to arise spontaneously without the need for a strong reaction.October 29: You are more than the drama. It is from this place that changes can be planned and resources gathered. It is from this place that patterns can be recognized and reactions—your own and those of others—more fully understood. 316 . regard unfolding events with detachment and simply observe what is happening without actively participating in it. where you can stand back. There is a place within you. Sometimes. You are more than the drama in your life and you are certainly more than the drama in your relationships.

” he said. “Spin a coin. 317 .” Sometimes. you need to notice what feelings come up for you. Sigmund Freud was asked for advice on how to make difficult decisions. you need to pretend you have made a decision in order to discover your deeper feelings about the issue. he explained. “When the coin comes down. To help make a decision. you will have some clue as to how you really feel about the decision.October 30: Flipping a coin. You can live with those feelings for a few days before spending another few days assuming you have made the opposite decision. When challenged about the idea of leaving important choices to chance.

particularly in Western society. They are the things we tend to say in the heat of the moment.October 31: Relationships. 318 . the words of congratulations and support that we hold back and. like life. it’s the expressions of love. There’s many a person whose life is filled with regret at the things he wished he had said to someone who is no longer with him. when it is too late. regret not voicing. don’t last forever. They are rarely words of criticism. you could change that. Today. hardly ever words spoken in anger. But for some reason that is common to so many people.

November .

Today. Notice how naming them makes them easier to deal with. Allow yourself to acknowledge that you are more than your feelings... Tell someone else about it and watch them smile. 320 . Something makes you smile. you could. you could name your fears. you could just notice your feelings. you could notice something new. Today. Today. see how they come and go.November 1: Today.

when the teacher died. Take a pen and write down three things you do now that served you once. another cat was brought to the monastery and tied up during the evening sessions. They certainly do. “Old habits die hard. learned descendants of the spiritual teacher wrote scholarly treatises about the religious significance of tying up a cat for meditation practice. 321 . but are no longer applicable. if we don’t make ourselves aware of them. the cat continued to be tied up during the meditation sessions. Years later. Today. When the spiritual teacher and his disciples began their evening meditation. So. the teacher ordered that the cat be tied up during the evening meditation practice. And when the cat eventually died.” our parents used to say. Centuries later.November 2: The ritual cat. you could initiate much-needed changes. the cat who lived in the monastery made such a racket that it distracted them.

322 . Understanding the lesson may turn out to be a part of the solution. It’s not true of every problem. often in different guises.November 3: What can this problem teach you? Suppose some of your problems are teachers in disguise. chances are you need to learn something. and that until you have learned the lesson. you will have to go on taking the test. but when the same issue keeps coming up.

be it between individuals or nations. 323 . Let me illustrate this with some examples. Most disagreements are about practice. but underlying that dispute is a shared belief that a nation has a right to know the extent of its boundaries. not principle. but are unlikely to disagree over wanting the best for their children. when we disagree about things. Nations disagree over territorial boundaries. Parents may differ in their attitude to disciplining children. but are always unanimous in their wish to create a safe society. when the highest principles of each party are explored. Test this out today. however. trivial or crucial.November 4: What is the point of highest agreement? Almost every area of dispute. Politicians disagree over the use of imprisonment as a deterrent to crime. it feels as though the differences between the parties cannot be bridged at all. has a point of agreement. like a good start in the process of resolving the conflict. Often. To seek and find the point on which we can agree seems.

try opening the door to peep out and have a look. she decides to open the door and find out for herself if what she has been told is true. never to open it. but determined to be brave and as the door opens.November 5: The cellar door. She is scared. because what lies behind it is frightening and dangerous. sometimes. — Based on an Emo Phillips joke We all spend some time trapped either in cellars which others have made for us or.. When she is a bit older and her parents are elsewhere. in dark places of our own making. Your courage may well be rewarded and what lies on the other side may turn out to be less of a fright and more of a delight. she sees .. above all. Today. 324 . green fields. other children playing and the sun shining down on them. A child is warned to keep clear of the cellar door and.

to not need a dramatic development in order to fully appreciate the moment? 325 . because so much of their life is spent either reviewing the past or planning the future. These can be times when we feel fully alive. when something dramatic happens—and it can be either positive or negative—we don’t have time to review or plan. if you’re looking forward to being able to live in the present. The present is here and now. It’s surprisingly easy to read this heading without recognizing the inherent contradiction. The fact is. a skill they have to practice.November 6: Looking forward to living in the present. Wouldn’t it be great to have such feelings as part of your regular life. fully in the present. for many people. you’ve missed the point. We just have to live through that moment. Often. Being fully able to experience the moment is.

you don’t have any control over how the other person involved in the argument behaves. It applies to disagreements with your partner. 326 . So. however. While there’s a lot to be said for forgiveness.November 7: When you disagree about the present. This could be Rule No. but throwing up the bitter residue of past events merely reduces the likelihood of arriving at a solution. You could. forgetting is more problematic. parent and child. friend. “Forgive and forget”. don’t bring up the past. Not every argument can be resolved to the satisfaction of each of the individuals concerned. you may not be able to forget past differences with others. among others. But that does not mean you should keep reminding yourself or them about those differences. We all know the phrase. You don’t have to play the game of dredging up the past if you don’t want to. Now. spouse. 1 in the book of How to Have a Constructive Argument. control your own responses to the situation.

But the spoons laid out are longer than their arms. But the spoons laid out are longer than their arms. because they are feeding each other. people are seated at a long table loaded with food. On the other hand. They are satisfying their hunger. 327 . They are starving. In Hell.November 8: Heaven and Hell. A tour has been arranged of Heaven and Hell. it can make a difference in how you respond to the next person you interact with. because they cannot get food into their mouths. In Heaven. You can see this as an irritatingly simplistic view of life. people are seated at a long table loaded with food.

If you’re not one of these people. Some lifelong battles. without doing anyone harm. against poverty or injustice. The role fits them like a glove and they take them up to pursue the changes they believe in. It can damage personal relationships while seeking a better world for all.November 9: Trying to make the world different can be a lifelong battle. can be just as important a contribution to the world and be of greater benefit to those close to you. decent life. Living a simple. suit certain people. These people often contribute to the world in a big way. It seems they were born to be campaigners. for example. Having a “cause” can be all-consuming. 328 . your position is just as valid and you might end up having a more enjoyable life.

you could stop comparing. 329 .. Life is not a balance sheet to be kept. taking action often does. you could stop keeping score. Today.November 10: Today. Today.. Today. you could. Complaining rarely changes things. it’s a resource to be enjoyed. stop comparing yourself with other people. you could stop complaining. Particularly.

Subsequently. when she falls into a deep hole from which there appears to be no way out. as the woman sinks into deeper despair. a religious leader hears her cries and suggests she reflect on the true meaning of her predicament. a therapist responds with an offer to help her explore how she allowed herself to get into this situation. realizes what has happened and jumps into the hole with her. you can both be a friend and accept friendship.” I am not suggesting that professionals cannot be friends too. Finally. Friendship requires someone who is prepared to start from where you are rather than from where they are and is willing and able to travel down the same road with you. a friend comes by. The friend’s explanation is as follows: “I have been in this hole before. but often. She cries out for help and a passing academic leans over and offers her advice on how to avoid such holes in future. True empathy can involve more than listening or dispensing advice. A woman is out for a walk. they are not. I know the way out. 330 .November 11: Falling in a hole. He also tells her that there is a being somewhere who cares about her. Various other professionals offer advice. Today. The woman is pleased to have her company. but also wonders why her friend has put herself in the same situation. Later.

An ability to enjoy life doesn’t automatically follow from life being enjoyable. doesn’t mean I know how to enjoy it. only to realize you didn’t remember to enjoy it while it was happening.” wrote Carrie Fisher. But then. It’s an interesting thought.. Where you have a choice about how you feel. It would be silly to go to bed tonight thinking what a great day you have had. 331 . feeling sad doesn’t always follow from receiving bad news. it’s good to exercise it in your favor.November 12: Just because this is the best time of my life… “Just because this is the best time of my life. Events and your reactions to them are not as directly linked as you assume.

Our egos get involved and what. Perhaps you have even been that driver. in the greater scheme of things. For that matter.November 13: Don’t let a small disagreement ruin a big relationship. is of no consequence becomes a matter where our very identity is put on the line. It’s so easy to attach emotional energy to a minor dispute. Does this seem an exaggeration? Well. sit in a car with an angry driver when someone cuts him (or her) off. It’s good to stand back and ask yourself this question: If I were observing this happening to someone else. don’t let a small disagreement ruin a small relationship either. would I think they were overreacting? 332 .

“but I am looking for them here.” replies the man. because the light is so much better. I dropped them in my back garden. 333 . searching under a streetlight for the keys he has dropped. “Where exactly did you drop them?” “Oh.November 14: The lost keys.” This seems just a very silly story. Some people spend money or have a drink to make themselves feel better. It’s dusk and a man is on his knees. That’s about as sensible as looking for your keys where the light is best rather than where you actually dropped them. He is joined by his neighbour who helps him search for them and asks. until I remember all the times I have tidied up my desk rather than face a difficult issue.

Here’s where it gets interesting: “I love you. I like to stay in bed a bit longer.” The first suggests. but I don’t like beetroot. I don’t love you. The second suggests that although you sometimes make me angry. “And” shows two things can be true at the same time. pay careful attention to each word you use and check if it’s appropriate. you make me angry. perhaps unconsciously.” Beetroot is the exception to my love of vegetables. If you do. Lesson over. “But” shows an exception to a rule. For instance. as in “I love vegetables. sometimes. “I enjoy running and. 334 .November 15: Using “and” or “but” This isn’t an English lesson. I still love you and always will. Today. but sometimes. the change might make a difference. you make me angry. but a simple way to improve communication and change experience.” “I love you and sometimes. that when I’m angry.” My preference for a lie-in does not make me enjoy running less.

335 . But you are still left with the feelings. It’s better to write rather than to type. your disappointments. Letting go of your failures. let your feelings be released and rise with the smoke. You may need to do this more than once. 2. and your setbacks. While it’s true that honesty is important in a relationship. The technique improves with practice. it’s best to be silent. Letting go of feelings towards people who are no longer around. that’s up to you. of course.November 16: Burning communications. but. it’s also true that some things are best left unsaid. 3. When your own problems generate strong feelings within you and sharing them with someone close to you is the equivalent of dumping the fallout on them. Make a ceremony of setting fire to what you have written and while you watch the paper burn. Here’s a technique that can work for times like this: Write your feelings down on a piece of paper. Letting go of damaging experiences in the past that are holding you back. It can also be used for: 1.

As the story goes. each person has a choice: They can either take home their experiences of the past year or opt for those endured by another villager. need a helping hand from you when you feel least able to reach out. Suspend your judgements. they all choose to take back their own experiences. This is the story of a village where. When you have learnt what you need to.November 17: Tree of sorrows. You have little idea of the problems faced by most people. 336 . problems and difficulties they have experienced over the past twelve months. Then they pin their list on a special tree called the Tree of Sorrows for a day. Events in life are here to teach you. At the end of the day. sometimes. so that all the villagers can read them. all the inhabitants write down the sorrows. once a year. to know all is to forgive all. particularly. Others have their own path and their own struggles and may. you can move on. those who seem to be sailing through life. as these seem easier to bear than any of the others they have read about.

Your job is to experience the moment. But while you do all that. your attitudes flexible. time just keeps passing. 337 . it’s death. But. you might consider that it’s better than the alternative.November 18: Is there an alternative to getting older? There is. unfortunately. There are ways to keep your body in shape. Much as you might wish that you didn’t have to get older. it’s all you have. your mind sharp.

she was asked by reporters what she thought about the ideals of life. When the English comedienne. She replied.November 19: The pursuit of happiness.” What a great distinction! Happiness often seems to be something you have to work hard to achieve. Make today a day of joy. Joyce Grenfell. 338 . “I’m not so interested in the pursuit of happiness as in the discovery of joy. you only have to notice it. liberty and the pursuit of happiness. first went to the USA. The discovery of joy suggests something that is already there.

. you could try doing less. Or even doing nothing and just see what turns up. for what others have contributed to you. Today.. Today. you could show your appreciation. 339 . And learn to move on. to leave them behind. Today. you could. then. First. you could accept that there will always be disagreements. for what you have achieved.November 20: Today.

They considered and rejected a number of locations. relationships.November 21: The meaning of life. the answers usually lie within you. not outside to inside. possessions and success. But it is important to get the direction right—inside to outside. to their careers. Most people look outside themselves. among other things. Once you connect with this. but when it comes to finding life’s true meaning. they will never think to look there. it is natural to seek an external expression of who you are. 340 . for the meaning of life. All of these can be important. The gods met to decide where to hide the meaning of life so that humankind would have to struggle to find it.” And they were right. before one of them suggested. “Let’s hide it inside each human being.

November 22: What do you value most in life and in what ways are you betraying it? This is not meant to be a “beat-yourself-up” type of question. but one that leads you—gently. keeping more in line with your values? 341 . I hope—to a higher standard of values by which to operate. How can you live today.

Fill in your own examples. Not all of life’s problems can be solved this way. “Every time I do that. it ends in a row. don’t do it then. I feel terrible the next morning. don’t do it then. So.” — Tommy Cooper Old joke. It can be that simple sometimes. don’t do it then.” The doctor replies. “So. 342 .November 23: Don’t do it then. Whenever I think about my divorce. Each time we talk about your mother. bad medical advice. So. A woman goes to see the doctor. but some can. I get very upset and break down in tears. but consider the following: Every time I drink too much. it hurts. So. don’t do it then. lifts up her right arm and says.

for whom you harbor loving feelings you haven’t expressed in a while: Just tell them how you feel about them… Why are you waiting? 343 . brother or sister. say it. child. So. particularly. if it is loving and supportive.November 24: If you only had one hour to live and one call to make. Nor can we know when our time will come. if there is something that needs to be said. who would you phone. NOW! The partner. what would you say and why are you waiting? None of us lives forever. parent.

Make yourself sound convincing. If it hasn’t made a difference a month from now. Change your thinking and you will succeed in changing your experience. try something else.November 25: Affirmations. out loud. like “I’m doing well at this” and how many. choose a statement. such as negative phrases from childhood that you tend to repeat to yourself or thoughts that run you down all the time. I suggest you skip this item. So. But if most of them diminish you. 344 . twenty times a day in two sessions of ten times each. Give each repetition as much emphasis as possible. It’s not for you. I have the right to feel the way I do. But consider the statements you do make to yourself silently during an average day: How many of them are positive. if most of yours are positive. this is a chance to take action to counter these influences. from the list below. and resolve to repeat it with feeling and. and I can choose to feel differently. Here is the theory behind it: Your experience is influenced by your thinking. I have the qualities I need to deal with any problems I face. Affirmations are positive statements you repeat to yourself silently on a regular basis—a strange idea to some people. are negative? Now. But you won’t need to. I love and accept myself and this allows me to grow. Affirmations help you to change your thinking. like “I’ve screwed up again”. perhaps. because this will work. preferably.

“I’ll organize it for you” Be on your guard when dealing with organizations. God and the devil are walking down a street.” says the devil. sometimes with scant regard for the attitudes of their members.” replies God. “It’s Truth. however well-intended they may appear to be. 345 . They can develop a life and energy of their own. “Let me have it. when God suddenly bends down to pick something up. “What’s that?” asks the devil.November 26: God and the devil.

This is a question that challenges you to find the best in everything and everybody. therefore. is largely determined by our perception of it and is. 346 . however difficult. It can lead to fairly unexpected answers.November 27: How can I enjoy this or learn from it? Our experience of a situation. something over which we can exercise a measure of control.

” says the lecturer “is that it only works if you put the big rocks in first. Then she asks. water. A week and. You need to decide that. it’s full. “No. But it is fair to ask if they get the priority they deserve. “The lesson. a lifetime. Amazingly. She receives the same answer.” The lecturer then takes some gravel to fill in the gaps and repeats her question. “What is the lesson here?” The students come up with various answers which run along the following lines of you always have more time than you think. “Is there room for more?” Thinking she means more rocks. the teacher takes a large bucket and fills it to the brim with rocks. the routine of life always seems to get done or of it doesn’t it never really seems to matter as much as we thought it would. 347 .November 28: The big rocks. The process is repeated. as she adds sand and lastly. can easily pass without time being given to things that are important. the students reply.” It’s not for anyone else to tell you what your “big rocks” are or should be. Then she asks her students. in some cases. At a lecture on time management.

“I don’t know.” 348 . if the first reply is.” For example. the following questions often lead to a “I don’t know” reply: Do I want to do this? Am I in love? Is this the right action for me? Asking the question. can. “I still don’t know. “What would I say if I did know?”.November 29: What would I say if I did know? This is a question you can ask of yourself or of others. at times. reveal deeper feelings and understanding. The worst that can happen is to receive the reply.

one seemed preoccupied. he finally spoke out. “I set her down on the other side long ago. she asked if they could carry her across. While travelling across the land. the life of someone you love.November 30: The travelling monks. If you could stop holding on to negative thoughts and feelings. She thanked him and departed. It’s an oft-repeated tale and a very old one at that. The trouble with familiar things is that we react to the familiarity and tend to miss the learning.” You probably know this story. “Brother. while you are still carrying her. But you picked that one up on your shoulder and carried her!” “Brother.” he said. 349 . One of the monks hesitated. carried her across the water and put her down on the opposite bank. perhaps. Wary of the strong current. As the monks continued on their way. you might transform your life and. Unable to remain silent. but the other quickly picked her up. “our spiritual training teaches us to avoid contact with women.” the second monk replied. two monks came across a young woman standing by the bank of a river.


December .

. you could make a greater effort. Walk the extra mile. Today. you can take it easy. you could tell the truth and nothing else.December 1: Today. First to yourself. Today.. Today. This could be the most difficult thing you try to do all year. Tomorrow. you could look for the strongest reason why. if you still want to. 352 . you could. work towards your desired goal without a pause. then to others. you will find the HOW you need. If you have a big enough WHY.

December 2: Making a difference. the problems of the world. along with our own.” she says. “That’s pointless. 353 . From a distance. You can’t possibly make a difference. others remember what you say. a woman can be seen walking along a beach and bending down at regular intervals to pick something up and throw it into the sea. does make a difference. but unexpected compliment? Well. “Made a difference to that one.” he tells her. Can you remember when someone paid you a casual. just as you remember what they say and you do make a difference and can do so today. Sometimes. issues. a passer-by realizes that she is throwing stranded starfish back into the water. As she comes closer.” The woman bends down and throws another one into the sea. a smile at the supermarket checkout. “There are so many starfish stranded on this beach. can seem so overwhelming that we just don’t think we can make a difference to anything. sincere. But a kind word to a friend or stranger. more immediate.

December 3: What comes after understanding?
It can be of great help to look at the past, particularly, the important events of our childhood, and to arrive at an understanding of how we got to be the person we have become. However, if you stop there, your journey is incomplete. The purpose of looking back is not to understand, but to change, and this requires action in the here and now. You may need the understanding to make the plan, but without taking action, it’s like buying a train ticket and staying on the platform. What action do you need to take today?


December 4: The meaning of a communication is the response you get.
Most people think the meaning of a communication is defined by what they want to say. But consider this sentence: “I’ve explained it to you a dozen times, but you still don’t get it”. What’s important here? Is it the explanation or the fact that the other person doesn’t seem to have understood? If your wish is to communicate something, then it might be more helpful to see the meaning as being defined by the response to what you say, rather than by what you actually do say. “I realize I haven’t done a good job of explaining this yet” might be a better response than the one cited above. This is particularly true when talking to children and others who are close to you. If they don’t get it, you need to explain it again and differently until they do. The bad news is that saying the same thing again, and saying it louder, rarely works. The good news is that you almost always get a second chance, and a third.


December 5: Living in the present.
A man is captured by enemies and thrown into prison. That night, he is unable to sleep, because he fears that the next day, he will be interrogated, tortured and executed. Then, the words of his teacher come to him: “Tomorrow is not real. It is an illusion. The only reality is now.” Heeding these words, he calms down and falls asleep. Your first reaction might be: “Nice idea; completely impractical.” But you could start to think about the small steps you might take towards living in the present, rather than agonize over the past or worry about the future. I doubt that many people will ever get to the position of the person in the story, but you can do better.


December 6: How would you live, if you were going to live for a thousand years? What would you do, if you were going to die tonight?
These are two very different perspectives on life. Both can be useful in creating the balance you might need between the immediate and the long term. Consider the following idea: Something which threatens your life is a problem; everything else is an inconvenience.


December 7: The farmer and the horse.
A woman farmer owns a horse which is admired by all and sundry. One day, it escapes and her friends express their regret over her loss. “Things happen,” is her response to the situation, and within a few days, the horse returns with a number of horses in tow. Her friends express their pleasure at this new turn of events. “Things happen,” says the farmer, and a few days later, her son breaks his leg trying to tame one of the new horses. Again, her response to this mishap is, “Things happen.” A few days after that, when the recruiting army comes to the village, her son is spared enlistment because of his injury... And so it goes on. You may never know the true meaning of an event, favourable or unfavourable, until long after it has taken place. Looking back, I suspect some of your greatest problems have given you your best lessons and what you initially thought was good news may have turned out to be a mixed blessing.


December 8: Could you look forward to looking back on all this?
This is one for the difficult times in life, when you feel the world is closing in and the future looks bleak. The truth is, most things pass. Over a period of time, most things look and feel different. Look back on a problem that threatened to consume your life some time ago and see where you are in relation to it now. It may lend a different perspective altogether to your current situation. So, if you believe things may well improve in the future, why wait? Look forward to looking back.


December 9: Sharpening the saw.
A workman is trying hard to cut a large log in two with a saw that a passer-by notices is obviously blunt. “Why not stop for a while and sharpen your saw?” she suggests. “I don’t have the time,” is the reply, “I have to get this finished as soon as possible.” How many of your tasks in life would be completed more quickly and, perhaps, with less effort, if you broached them in a positive frame of mind? However, this can take time to achieve and, sometimes, you just have to plough ahead and get things done because of time constraints. More often than you think, you can take the time to care for yourselves first, to spend more time in planning a task so that you’ll need to spend less time on its execution.


Today. They are clues to what you really want. It’s a clue to what you still need to take action on to feel fulfilled.. See how taking responsibility changes the way you feel. Today. you could take full responsibility—for everything that happens to you. Today.. 361 . you could. you could notice what disappoints you.December 10: Today. you could explore in depth your fleeting wishes.

we have come from the hospital where their mother. it would change your negative response to them to a positive one. At the first stop. If you were aware of that reason. 362 . but the children were so badly behaved that I found it impossible to read or enjoy the journey. I asked the father if he couldn’t try and control his children better.” My mood changed immediately from one of irritation to: “How can I help?” — Stephen Covey You can never fully know what others are going through or why they act the way they do. He replied. has just died. I was taking the tube one Sunday morning and reading my newspaper. A little annoyed. a man and his three young children entered our carriage. “Oh. Today it would be good to recognise most people are fighting a hard battle and react with kindness to whatever happens. I am sorry they disturbed you. my wife. but you could try assuming that people have a reason for it. You see.December 11: The Sunday tube train.

December 12: What action can you take today that in six months time you will be pleased you took? It could be a decision you make and start acting on. but it’s also true that some things demand long-term planning. The important thing is to take the action now. Getting the balance right is one of the most important skills in life. a person you call. It could be a book you order or a holiday you book. It’s great to live in the here and now. even though the benefits may not be apparent for some months. It could be planning a theatre trip or a social event. 363 . something you let go of or someone you sever ties with.

December 13: What is commitment? We have all been through the experience of promising something in the heat of the moment.” With this definition in mind. but that’s not commitment. Here’s a good definition for it: “Commitment is still doing something long after the emotion which caused you to start has faded. what commitment can you make today? 364 . New Year resolutions are a good example.

You just have to pay the price to change it. At least. you know you had a choice. 365 .December 14: Am I willing to pay the price? You can have most of the things you want. the price will be too high. You have the right to ask in any situation: Is this what I want for myself? If it is not. you don’t have to put up with it. That’s fine. if you are prepared to pay the price and usually the cost is not financial. Sometimes.

“Do you ever stop worrying about your children?” She replied. The message for offspring. Most people will have parents who are still alive. even if they tell you that’s not the case. The bond is just too strong.” Not everyone is a parent. Don’t wait for them to go away. Whatever situation you are in. So. 366 . you could reach out today to offer them some reassurance and express your gratitude for all they’ve been to you. I worried less about my son once I got him into an old people’s home.December 15: Children and parents. A lady in her nineties was asked once. but everyone has been a child. it’s important to remember that parents never stop worrying about their children. “Well. the message to parents is that these feelings are a part of life. Perhaps. is that parents are usually more concerned for them than they let on. regardless of their age.

you can’t control what happens to you. but it’s a significant area of personal freedom. where you need to react positively in a world that is often negative. Often. but you can exercise some influence over your reactions to them.December 16: Freedom is what you do with what has been done to you. 367 . It’s not an easy area to operate in.

you reduce the chance of joyful surprise overtaking you.December 17: Disappointment takes adequate planning. 368 . to the current events. If you suffer before you need to. not the burden of your past investment. you suffer more than you need to. When you take things as they come. When you invest too much of the future with your detailed plans and expectations. you just have your reactions. positive or negative.

not other people. without an emotional history. 369 . The good news is that relationships can offer ample scope for healing. so it is. in such cases. A reliable guide is a situation where an old problem crops up in a new relationship or emerges in more than one relationship at the same time. Our problems often surface in our relationships. To bring this about. If each partner in a relationship came without a past. You can. Most problems aren’t solved by relationships. but declaring that our difficulties are expressed in a relationship is not quite the same as claiming that the relationship itself caused the problems. you can’t blame your partner for anything that isn’t working out. affording both partners the opportunity to nurture each other and grow. be reasonably sure that it’s about you. You have to take direct responsibility for the problems in your life. however. then the above would not be true. But they don’t.December 18: Most problems aren’t caused by relationships.

he picks up the raft and carries it on his back for the rest of his life. one that you no longer need. but the current is too strong for swimming.December 19: Carrying the raft. Consider the attitude you had when you were poor. perhaps. a strategy you have made a habit of and still haven’t left behind you. now that you are more financially comfortable. He builds a raft that carries him safely over. although the fear—and your childhood—are long gone. On his arrival at the far bank. 370 . or things you still own that served you once but which are no longer appropriate and yet you hang on to “just in case”. just in case he has to cross another swollen river. A traveller comes across a swollen river he needs to cross. where you were well off once and had adopted an attitude to fit your circumstances and which you must modify now you have met harder times. the reverse. Take a look to see if there are things you are still doing. or. For example examine the way you dealt with a childhood fear.

you could focus on gratitude and appreciation. 371 . And notice how this allows more space for love and joy. And notice. you could be a friend. Today. how much richer your life feels. you could let go of anger and resentment. Today.... And start treating yourself as well as you treat your friends. by the time you go to bed tonight.December 20: Today.. Today. you could. to yourself.

Enjoy the fact that you can’t read the future. Life will always be too short. but it also means that they miss out on unexpected delights. to an extent. 372 . when it comes to life. on the unpredictability of its outcome. And yet. on not knowing in advance what happens next. if you’re watching a film or a sporting event. some people go to great pains to avoid surprises and the uncertainty they imply. This may mean that they don’t have to deal with disappointment they hadn’t anticipated.December 21: Do you want to know what happens next? Probably not. however long you live. The information would detract from your enjoyment of the experience that depends. Life is uncertain.

Once we are clear in our minds about what we want. the very fact that you have made it is enough in itself. Or we find ourselves merely wanting to feel differently about something or somebody. at times. that it would make more sense to seek to bring about internal change than to expect external factors to change. Yet. but simply states our willingness to be there and to be of assistance. It is not an offer to be made lightly and sometimes.December 22: What do you want? : How can I help? The first question is about clarity. It neither makes any suggestions nor offers solutions. both for ourselves and for others. The second question is a great one to ask others. 373 . It is useful to recognize that this is a part of your state of mind. it is very hard to be specific about our goals. It logically follows. our chances of getting it are greatly enhanced. We are usually more certain about what we don’t want.

Take action on the ones you encounter. yes. Your journey will always involve dealing with problems and. Work towards making your problems more manageable instead of trying to create a life without any. Problems are a sign of life. death is the only destination. 374 .December 23: If there were nothing wrong in the world. but also accept that this will only create space for more. Don’t waste your life dreaming of a time when all your problems will be behind you. there wouldn’t be anything for you to do.

I am far keener to accept and honour the experience of clients just as they describe it. They don’t. additional insights arise that’s a bonus and can be of great help. They merely enhance it. however.December 24: What else is going on here? There is a tendency among counsellors and therapists to discuss the situations their clients present by urging them to “look at what’s really going on here”. That seems to me both to undermine the client’s version of the experience and to create a power imbalance. 375 . If. in the course of the exploration. negate the client’s original presentation.

376 . of what there is in your life that makes you proud. it’s because you’re not looking hard enough.December 25: What makes you proud? It’s worth drawing up a list of what you have achieved. It may just change how you see life. Read the list out to yourself every morning for a week. If you can’t think of anything.

” They should be time-bound. They should lay emphasis on the positive.December 26: What is a good objective? It’s great to have clear objectives. Here are some criteria they probably should meet: 1. 377 .” rather than “I want this sometime soon.” They should be measurable. 3. as in “I want to react positively to what my partner says. as in “I want to be fit and healthy.” 2. 4. as in “I want to have this a month from today. as in “I want to weigh 60kg” rather than “I want to lose some weight.” rather than “I want to stop being so lazy.” rather than “I want my partner to stop being critical.” They should be within your control.

if anything. For the future. 378 . they have in common.December 27: What’s different about the good times? Here is a stimulating exercise: Write down five happy experiences in your life (or five relatively happy ones for those of you who don’t yet view life in positive terms) and examine them to find out what. you might consider trying to experience more of what shows up from this exercise.

December 28: Everything is part of the journey. you are setting yourself up for disappointment. your aim is not to get to a particular point on the floor. there is always another part of the journey to be undertaken. During a dance. As long as you are alive. Objectives are important. but to enjoy the experience of dancing. Life is a dance. If you think everything is going to be fine when you have “arrived”. There is no way to happiness. happiness is the way. but the process is just as significant. 379 .

December 29: Have you ever tried to push the river? Some things you can and should fight against. like social injustice. Some things you have to let flow and stop trying to speed up or slow down the river. like a physically abusive relationship. Some things you can and should flee from. 380 .

It is not. however. Yes.December 30: Nothing works for everyone. 381 . if everyone shared your beliefs. not or others. Don’t contribute to that suffering by believing things on behalf of others. Be certain only for yourself. but the conflict between different beliefs. what you believe or do not believe that causes all the suffering. the world would probably be a better place.

I wish you well.December 31: On a scale of 1 – 10. it’s been a pleasure to have walked this part of the road with you. 2. Then ask yourself the following three questions: 1. Just decide what number best sums up the last twelve months. how have you felt during the past year? This is not a question to ponder over at length. How you will feel during the journey and on your arrival is up to you. 3. 382 . What needs to change to enable me to choose a higher figure in a year’s time? What decisions do I need to make right now to support this process? What action must I take today to start moving in that direction? It’s almost certain you will arrive at a particular point twelve months from now.

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