Let the past be content with itself

“Let the past be content with itself, for man needs forgetfulness as well as memory.”

—James Stephens, 20th Century Irish Novelist and Poet

My daughter shared an interesting observation in a recent conversation regarding the birth of our new grandson Weston. Although the experience of childbirth included the greatest pain she had ever experienced, the painful aspect of it was somehow fading, and only the wonderful moments remain.

EXERCISE:

Where would letting go of the past and a healthy dose of forgetfulness make the biggest difference in your life?

How can you also explore and enhance your memory-capturing abilities to also savor more of the moments of joy and delight?

The faintest pencil is better than the strongest memory

“The faintest pencil is better than the strongest memory.”

⏤Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism

Image of a pencil on a table

Image from Flickr by Chris

Sam Horn was one of the speakers/conversation starters at a coaching conference I attended last year. One of her favorite sayings is “Ink it when you think it.” She always has a notebook in her hand.

Productivity guru David Allen, who wrote Getting Things Done often advises his readers that brains were meant for thinking, not as a storage device for information of limited value.

EXERCISE:

How would an “Ink it when you think it” strategy foster less stress and far more productivity in your life?

Want to Forget

“To want to forget something is to think of it.”

—French Proverb

Image of pink elephant with glasses

Image from Flickr by Eric Wilcox

Did you know that there is a perpetual motion machine? Not necessarily in the physical world, since energy is always required, but in terms of our minds.

Consider past events and memories of negative or bad things that have happened in your life. What happens when you make the effort to forget these events and leave these thoughts in the past? You might even say to yourself, “Don’t think about X,” and in doing so, X is all you think about.

A common example of this is when we try to fall asleep, when our active minds keep us from getting the rest we need and crave. Sadly, this is the norm for many people.

EXERCISE:

Rather than trying to forget something you don’t wish to think about, consider how you can replace those thoughts with more desirable and intentionally relaxing ideas.

The Good Old Days

“Things aren’t what they used to be and probably never were.”

-Will Rogers, American cowboy, vaudeville performer, and film actor

Image from notonthehighstreet.com

Image from notonthehighstreet.com

It is not uncommon for people to romanticize the good old days. Just take a look at the photo albums, yearbooks, and memory banks from which we cherry-pick the choice moments when all was right with the world.

We all share the experience of “selective memory,” in which we remember some things quite vividly, and others not at all. Take a look at the stories you continue to tell – often to the chagrin of your significant others – when you’re out on the town!

EXERCISE:

How can you make the very most of your life from this point forward, by living by the idea that these are the good old days, and the best is still to come?

Even If I Failed

“What would I be glad I did, even if I failed?”

-Brene Brown, American Author & Scholar

Image from Flickr by Classic Film

Image from Flickr by Classic Film

Many people celebrated Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday this past December. In his famous song, “My Way,” – written for him by Paul Anka – Sinatra sings the phrase “Regrets – I’ve had a few.”

For many of us, regret is a common occurrence, since they are almost always associated with things we didn’t do rather than the things we did.

It is amazing the feeling we experience by simply summoning the courage to try something, even if it doesn’t work out. Somehow it is in the attempting of something new that we bolster our own self confidence and self worth.

EXERCISE:

What are you going to try today or this week that will make you glad even if you fail? What might it be like if you continued trying until you succeed?

“Your mind is for having…”

“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”

—David Allen, American productivity consultant & author

QC #756Among the books I recommend most often to clients who are challenged with managing their professional and personal time is Getting Things Done by David Allen.

One of the critical insights I derived from his work was the idea that too many people use their minds and memories to hold too much information. It turns out that doing so makes most of us far less productive and also causes overwhelming feelings and considerable stress. Perhaps that is why the subtitle of this valuable book is “the art of stress-free productivity.”

EXERCISE:

Please pick up and study Getting Things Done, and do whatever you can to “have” ideas, but “hold” them in memory-keeping or commitment-keeping technologies, where they will be available to you in the moments you plan to work on them.

“To teach is to learn twice.”

“To teach is to learn twice.”

—Joseph Joubert, French Esssayist

Photo from Flickr by Duane Schoon

Photo from Flickr by Duane Schoon

Have you ever considered that learning is a multi-step process? Do you recall times in your education when you would read, re-read, and literally memorize information to prepare for a quiz or test?

What happened to this information when you tried to recall it even a few weeks later? If you are like most people, non-essential information is wiped clean from your “cerebral hard drive,” to make room for information that is essential, or critical, to your existence.

EXERCISE:

A simple yet powerful technique to deepen and sustain things you wish to learn and master is contained in these three steps:

  1. Watch others who are very skilled at some behavior.
  2. Try to practice those skills for yourself.
  3. Teaching this skill to others will cement and sustain the lesson.

Remember it this way: Watch One, Do One, Teach One.