Resolutions for the Soul

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Julie Morgenstern, America’s #1 organizing expert, offers seven ‘musts’ for the New Year

It’s that time of the year again. Time to come up with a list of resolutions of how to improve your life. What’s different about this year is that we are on the verge of a decade change: a chance for a fresh approach, if ever there was one.

Without a doubt, the Great Recession was a heckuva way to finish a decade. And, if the saying that we reap what we sow holds true, it’d be interesting to take a moment to reflect on where our heads were ten years ago. On the cusp of the millennium, as I recall, all we were worried about was Y2k and whether or not our computers would crash or our alarm clocks would go off when we woke up on New Year’s Day. Our main goal was to make sure our lives just kept humming along, without losing all of our systems. Not the most long-term or visionary of goals. Quickly assured that everything was intact as of 12:01 AM January 1, 2000, the years that followed were characterized by the continued Pursuit of More … more wealth, status, celebrity, possessions, information and busy-ness — which spun to a frenzied state of chaos and ended in the Great Recession, a crushing collapse under the weight of all of our excesses.

For all of the suffering, the Great Recession has brought some great lessons too. For one, it’s probably wise to have a longer-term goal in mind at the beginning of a decade. Two, in the face of losing everything, we learned what really matters to us. We learned we can survive on less than we thought we needed, even if we enjoy having more. And we discovered that no amount of wealth, no position and no industry is immune to losing security. Senior executives in the sunset of their careers lost their jobs, prestige industries are teetering on irrelevance and even the wealthiest individuals and most noble institutions lost huge fortunes to Bernard Madoff. Finally, we learned how small and interconnected the entire world is. What happens in another country — or to your neighbor across the street — affects you.

Good lessons. Now what do we do with them? As we ponder 2011 and our vision for a new decade, we should build on these lessons and use them to springboard into a stronger era. Typically, resolutions are about breaking habits, like losing weight, exercising more or quitting smoking. They also rarely last more than three weeks, if that, before the gravitational pull of life sets in. That’s because they are resolutions of the surface, rather than resolutions of the soul. So for 2011, I propose we give new, much deeper meaning to traditional New Year’s resolutions, building upon the lessons of The Great Recession:

1. Lose weight. No, not just those extra pounds and love handles. This year, resolve to continuously shed the things in your life of only marginal value and focus on those of true value to you. In the face of the possibility of losing everything over the past year, take inventory of the items that you realized really matter. Then pledge to concentrate on those people, commitments and belongings you treasure most and stop wasting your limited time and resources on the things that just weigh you down.

2. Create balance. I don’t just mean resolving to give up your workaholic ways. This is about getting the equation between work, home, friends and family right. When chaos ensues — whether global, like the recession, or personal, like a divorce or illness — if any one aspect of your life gets damaged, you need the others to be there to support you, keep you fueled and help you stabilize. So, identify all of the buckets of your life and then plan weekly activities in each area so all are nurtured and none are ever neglected – time to prepare for peak performance meetings at work, time with family and friends, time for exercise and rest. The entire concept of the Balanced Life Planner, which I designed in partnership with FranklinCovey, was in response to our increased need to tend to all parts of our lives.

3. Get organized. Sure, we all need to rearrange our sock drawers, but now is the time to go well beyond the surface and truly get your most valuable possessions in order. If you’re disorganized when any crisis hits, you’re not agile and able to adapt quickly. The near economic collapse taught us that change can be sudden, and that no one is totally immune. So, proactively assess the five key areas of your life — belongings, contacts, finances, information and time — and create simple, reliable systems that will put you in control and give you instant access to what you need. You’ll feel prepared, confident and agile.

4. Quit, once and for all. And I don’t mean smoking, in this case. I’m referring to the inordinate amount of multitasking that has become our societal habit, which affects our ability to concentrate on anything. Multitasking has scientifically been proven to impair brain function, put our physical safety at risk, diminish our performance at work and impair our interpersonal relationships. In large part, I attribute the surprise collapse of the economy to the fact that, for the past decade, we were too distracted to pay attention to each other, to opportunities and to warning signs of problems ahead. Consciously redevelop your ability to concentrate on one thing at a time, and be truly present in the moment. It’s a better way to build a quality life.

5. Shape up. I’m not talking about your figure; I’m talking about getting your attitude in shape, by exercising humility and gratitude. As we climb out of the Great Recession and things begin looking up, don’t let your head get too big, thinking you are “entitled” or part of a special class as so many did in the boom years of the past decade. For 2011, strengthen your commitment to practicing gratitude and giving back. In your planner, end each day by writing down the one thing that happened for which you are most grateful. And schedule time to do at least one thing each week to help others — whether assisting a friend, volunteering in your community or supporting a charity. It will keep you well connected and humble at the same time.

6. Break out of your shell. I don’t mean becoming more social. One of the outcomes of the Great Recession is that we discovered a great resourcefulness in ourselves, as we were presented situations and challenges that we could not have possibly imagined ourselves facing. This was a nice surprise that strengthened us. As the economy improves, avoid falling back into limiting self-beliefs, by resolving to always include something in your schedule that you can’t possibly picture yourself doing. For me, it was taking gymnastics lessons when I was 47 years old and finding out that I actually could do a one-armed cartwheel. But it can be anything that works against your preconceptions of what is possible. Check out courses and activities at a local college or community center. When you occupy yourself with something totally off your radar or push yourself beyond your comfort zone, it builds your confidence and reminds you that you’re capable of facing any challenge and meeting every new opportunity.

7. Be a better person . And by this I don’t mean becoming someone different than you are. In a crisis, people find a way to cope — understanding what survival really means to them — and their best, most graceful self usually comes out. I’d ask you to identify the One Thing you did to get through the past year such as bravely exploring opportunities, investing more time in relationships or taking the time to breathe and enjoy your free time. Perhaps the one resolution you need to make is not to change anything about yourself, but to keep doing the One Thing that came out in the crisis, even as times get better. If that technique helped you survive during the crisis, it will clearly help you THRIVE during good times.

Most importantly, as you make any New Year’s resolutions, remember to go way beyond the surface and recognize that the power to grow, prosper and find happiness comes from within your core. Before the recession, credibility and power were attached to wealth, status, industry. Too many people defined their power and worth by external factors like their salary, title, house square footage or quantity of designer handbags. People felt they could only be heard if they were attached to those external markings of success. But that’s not true anymore. With the collapse of the economy, small is the new big, and ideas can come from any person, anywhere. This New Year, resolve to identify a part of yourself you’ve not yet given full expression, and unleash your vision for the next decade.

Editor’s Note: New York Times bestselling author Julie Morgenstern is an organizing and time-management expert, business productivity consultant and speaker. Her company, Julie Morgenstern Enterprises, is dedicated to using her philosophies and methods to provide a wide range of practical solutions that transform the way people and companies function.

39 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Linda Myers says:

    I do believe we are going into a time or repositioning and reorganizing who we are, finding what lifts us up and letting go of what drags us down, though for each part of your life you “let” go, that space needs to remain filled and not fragmented at the same time.
    For each space of time or recreation which is done, the parts of who you are still need to be refilled and refueled rather than finding empty parts,spaces or events of your life. Otherwise you might create that cloud you are desire, too only find the holes in it will not support you from the inner aspects.

  2. avatar Briana Baran says:

    Interesting article, interesting thoughts…all of us have some areas of our lives that need adjusting. I am not a believer in New Year’s resolutions, as they inevitably fail. As a person who has had to make full life reorganizations many times (and not because of multi-tasking or entitlement), I understand that New Year’s resolutions are a lot like new, fad diets. They only work until you can’t stand them anymore.
    Simplifying, it’s called making life-changes. Or Life-style changes (which works for some who like the sound of that term better…sort of New Agey and getting with a better way). It is permanent, but it is done with care, and thought, and takes a lot of effort and planning. It is not a fad, or something you’re going to stop doing once some crisis is averted.
    And it’s very, very difficult. I’ve done it. I don’t drink, use drugs, or smoke cigarettes, and I haven’t for over twenty years. I am an alcoholic and an addict. It sucked and it was hard. I don’t compulsively spend, and I don’t compulsively collect (never quite made it to hoarder status), but it took the humiliation of bankruptcy to teach me the never-agains on that. My house is now very clean, and completely uncluttered. We live very modestly, and we continually modify our life to keep it simple, affordable and yet comfortable and interesting as well.
    I take voice lessons. At 51, I have a good, clean two octaves of range (more than when I was 18 years old), and I can now sight-read music. It brings me infinite joy. I have begun going to the library rather than buying books, much less expensive, and it feeds my two-books-a-week habit. We do our own cooking, cleaning and yard-work, have older, small cars that we carefully maintain, one TV, and our laptops.
    I am however, faced with a challenge this year that is one of the greatest that has ever been presented to me. Although my health is excellent (blood pressure, cholesterol, mental, all of it), my cardiologist has given me my marching orders. I must lose 100 pounds. Good grief, you’re saying, how much does this person weigh? Far too much…but if you saw me, you wouldn’t be able to guess (no one ever does, I carry my fat far too well), and I am far from 300 pounds. I do not snack, I don’t like sweets, I don’t binge, eat entire bags of chips or cookies, I don’t touch “junk food”, and I don’t over-eat at meals. I’m also not lying. The key to it is not eating out (which we’ve cut down to once a week, and yes, I usually leave large amounts on my plate)…and exercise. I don’t dislike exercise…I dislike being seen exercising, and I have a serious problem going to the delightful, friendly “Y” and getting in the lovely water, and enjoying hell out of myself doing water-aerobics.
    O, and severe body dysmorphia. I absolutely have to get past it. No more excuses, or not doing it. However, to be blunt and truthful, I am totally terrified. I can’t imagine myself smaller (and I will be very small, my ribs and collar-bones will be prominent, my wrist and hip bones will show…in fact, everything will be small except my shoulders, thighs, breasts and butt. I’m half Italian, what can I say?). The fears are endless, and groundless, but very, very real. It has been 25 years since I’ve been small (the weight came first after quitting cigarettes, then many years later after starting on Zyprexa, a drug I believe should be taken off of the market).
    But, well, it’s one of those life-changes. I started right before the holidays. I have lost a bit already, despite the food (I do the cooking, and it isn’t typical holiday fare…and the sweets do not tempt me). I am going to do this, because I must, because I want to be healthy. I asked my doctor why he was so adamant about this now, when my health is good. He said, “I’m not worried about now, I’m worried about in ten years from now”. Makes sense to me. So here I go, no resolutions, just making another change. I’d like to be around for grandbabies, should there be some on the distant horizon, and to love my husband for a good long time, and to keep singing.
    O, and could we not have the touting of products produced by the authors in the bodies of the articles? It really is rather tacky. It’s bad enough that a few of the members with nothing substantive at all to say insist on promoting their books whenever they comment. WoW should create a promotional forum for them. Really.

    • avatar Grace OMalley says:

      I loved your comment and I wish you every success in attaining all of your personal goals for 2011.  So much of what you wrote could have been written by me, including the 100 pounds.  I will look forward to future comments from you and hope that you keep us apprised of how you do in the coming year.  I work for a lawyer and he said to me one day about a client to tell her to that she has to “get her fat a## to court on the 9th!” and I was so shocked by his outburst (he never speaks of clients like that) and I said “Hey!  People don’t want to be fat!  She doesn’t want to be that way!  Shame on you!”  He was so shocked by my outburst, that he creased himself laughing, but being rather large himself, he agreed that it is one of life’s hardest struggles.  Anyway, good luck you and please remember you have a sister out there (many, I’m sure) who struggle with the same issues.

  3. avatar Maggie W says:

    Great article, Julie. I’ve never been a fan of resolutions. I’ve tried to live honestly and treat others well . Be good role model. Keep my nose out of others’ business. That’s about it. I think of my life in chapters. Some chapters were uneventful. One chapter was peppered with family and friends’ deaths, most totally unexpected. I was so anxious to close that chapter. There are even more chapters that I wish could have gone on endlessly. Sweet, they were.
    Now, an entire decade approaches. That means many chapters. That is also monumental and somewhat frightening. The world is approaching a population of 7 billion. UN demographers predict the population to be 9 billion by 2045. Incredible. Providing food, energy, and safety for such a population will call for much collaboration across companies, governments, and borders. Will we be up to it? As a kid, I caught fire flies and laid in freshly mowed grass, counting stars on a summer night.. Last week, I heard an unmistakable sound and rushed outside to search the sky. Snow geese in a loose V, honking loudly. We are stepping so carelessly and so hard on our planet’s resources now; will the next generation only see stars and snow geese in electronic books? Dylan was right. The times, they are a changing.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Regardless of the dire predictions of UN demographers, most people do not realize that the population of many Western European countries is on the decline due to extremely low birth rates (people electing not to have children, not infant mortality), and that the population of the United States is actually stable, holding at zero growth, with a foreseeable trend toward decline. China is also holding steady, partly because of rigidly enforced family planning by the government, and partly because there are virtually no women for the overwhelming numbers of men to marry and start a family with because of anachronistic beliefs in the superiority of the male child.
      The population issues are in Third World countries in which efforts to educate people concerning birth control and the necessity to be able to actually feed the children they produce are constantly undermined by religious morons. Like the current pope’s insane proscribing of condom use in Africa. And the socially demanded need for huge numbers of children in parts of India and certain Northern African and Middle Eastern countries. In some areas of India, progress has been made due to massive efforts on the part of women who have gone into the rural places and shown women that they do have a choice, and that, if their husbands won’t use condoms, they can refuse them sex. They also educate these women in trade so that they will be self-supporting…and the size of families, and the HIV problems have both decreased accordingly.
      Of course, when you have American women turning their uteri into clown cars, and undergoing fertility treatments in order to produce premature octuplets whom they can’t afford to feed and care for (not just the infamous Nadya Suleman, either), but who receive massive, even hyperbolic donations because some people think such births are God’s miracles, it’s just really hard to set a good example, isn’t it? Or people such as the Duggars (no, I don’t watch anything on loathsome TLC, the vomit-inducing network. But they just keep making the “news”), who think having 19 kids as long as you don’t keel over and die in the process, even if the poor little last one is going to probably be defective because mom should have stopped a long time ago…as her body told her to do, is perfectly fine. Hey, the world needs the burden, and god says it’s peachy keen, so why not be a spoiled, self-indulgent idiot?
      Yes, we know the facts, and intelligent, thinking people know what sort of thinking, and education, needs to be promoted. But irrationality will out, and as long as we have Pope Benedict the Holocaust denier, and protector of pedophiles, and promoter of infant starvation, HIV, rape and over-population and his ilk, we aren’t going to win in the places that are going to potentially bump up that world population. Things always change…it is unnatural for the world, and life, to remain in stasis. We will always be in flux. Would that humanity could change from a state of willful ignorance to one of at least acceptance of responsibility, and reality.

      • avatar BurienGirl says:

        Hi Briana, I agree with everything you say except that according to the recent US Census we’ve grown by about 10 percent over the last decade if I understand the numbers.  Some of that just may be the Duggars who seem to sail un blissfully unaware of what the are doing…

        • avatar Briana Baran says:

          There is some speculation that the 10% growth over the last decade may be an indicator of more comprehensive census taking. The Federal Government has certainly become a lot more interested, and forceful, about getting an accurate census (I don’t mean that Big Brother is watching), with repeated telephone calls and personal visits to those who don’t file their forms. This has been going on for a while. After I read your comment, I did some research and discovered that your Census figures were accurate.
          Ten percent growth may well be brought about by the, ahem, breeder segment of the population. While many Americans are realizing the impact of having vast families not only on the childrens’ chances of success, but also on the world at large, and having smaller families or opting for adoption, there is this peculiar group that seems to feel the need to breed. If you talk to Europeans about this, many are actually revolted at the degree of irresponsibility involved in bringing eight impaired infants into the world, especially when a couple already has a child or two. Even more so when they clearly can’t afford the children they already have. I have to confess, it has nauseated me to see these people splashed on magazine covers, and throughout the Internet as receivers of some sort of divine intervention and a miracle. These multiple births are neither…they are based in medical science being perverted for purely selfish reasons on the part of people who clearly have serious issues.
          Another reason for population growth in the US is probably immigration. A lot of children born here who moved back to another country have come home to roost. The numbers are quite astonishing.  Statistically, births are down. It is an odd situation.
          We stopped at two children. Only two, only two. We made it a permanent stop, by way of surgery (my kind and generous husband did that, rather than having me go through it). We would have adopted another, but at the time the screening process didn’t much care for us (an agnostic and an atheist. Horrors!), and out of the country adoption was prohibitively expensive. We even wanted a small child, and a girl, race optional, but o, those prejudices. We live very modestly, but lovingly and comfortably. We do our best to leave a small footprint. Would that others would do the same.

          • avatar BurienGirl says:

            Hello Again especially to Briana…  Hmm.  Interesting that some of that population growth could be better reporting.  I hadn’t thought of that.  My bet is that it is a combination of both.  So sad you you couldn’t follow through with your interest in adopting.  I’m a Christian and please know that there are others out there like me who don’t think your lack of a faith should be a factor.

          • avatar Baby Snooks says:

            Many discover the philosophy of religion and so their lives are lived through acts rather than words. There is a big difference.  

            Julie Morgenstern of course is talking about the philosophy of life – interesting how it didn’t take long for the conversation to be diverted to religion and the dogma of religion rather than the philosophy of religion. But then few really know the philosophy and live by the words rather than the acts.

            Spreading smiles is more important than spreading the word.  That sums up my philosophy of life. So if you meet me, you get a smile. And you will always get a smile. Forever. Unless you make me frown. Then you don’t get a smile. You get fire and brimstone the likes of which you will have never seen before.  And then you get sent on your merry little way. It took me 50 years to realize Mae West was right. Everyone deserves a second chance. With someone else. 

            Her version of “the best way to avoid going to hell is to avoid those you know are headed there.” 

            As for those who believe they need to “save souls” my experience has always been they should start by saving their own. 

  4. avatar Rho says:

    I need to gain weight not lose weight. 🙂

  5. avatar jamestrr says:

    All you really have to do is make Christ preeminent in your life. Colosians 1:18. If He is first and foremost then it will be Him that will draw people to Himself. Like John the Baptist said, “He must increase and I must decrease.” We need less of self and more of Him. That’s the best we can do to live that righteous life that will draw others.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Well, jamestrr, it is precisely that mindset, that one religion’s dogma is the only possible rules for existence, and contains the only wisdom available, that has caused so much violence, dissonance, division, mayhem and death in the world. Christian prohibitions against birth control (this is in no way limited to Roman Catholic dogma) have prevented millions from preventing the conception of infants who cannot be fed, or housed, or kept safe from genocide and extremes of violence such as rape and torture, or horrible, lingering deaths due to epidemic, or even pandemic disease. The insane belief that it is better to convert people than educate them, and actually teach them about reality, is an enormous problem when dealing with pandemic disease, starvation, over-population, and infant mortality.
      You can proselytize all you want about Jesus…but can a man whose existence cannot even be proven heal children with HIV that they are infected with in the womb because their mothers have been repeatedly raped? Can he feed the masses as in the Bible story…because I don’t see it happening, and an awfully great percentage of those starving are either innocents or Christian (o wait, maybe they’re not your particular flavor)? Can he kill all of the mosquitoes that spread the malaria that kills millions of children every year? Can he find cures? Can he convince people to use condoms…o, wait, every sperm is sacred, and reproductive rights are wrong.
      Could he stop all of the wars fought in his name, all the hatred foisted on others by those who cherry-pick the Bible to support their own fears and insecurities, all of the agony and death, all of the false moral superiority of those who call others sinners, and the continuing promotion of ignorance by the institutions built in his name?
      If you want to believe that Jesus is the answer, hey, go for it. But intelligent, critical thought is the answer, and rationality, and hard work, and medical science, and planning…not praying for miracles and insisting everyone must believe in one brand of metaphysical irrationality based on atavistic, tribal thinking.

      • avatar Bella Mia says:

        Do we really need to disparage the views of other posters, or follow the guidelines and be respectful?
        Communism slaughtered 100 million innocent men, women and children.  Mao ordered people to be numbered rather than named, average people, not prisoners.  The average woman in Russia has 15 abortions, while women are forced to abort in China.  Charming.  Life is cheap in godless communism.
        Science has shown that people with faith in God recover more quickly, and have fewer illnesses. They have longer marriages and have more satisfaction in those marriages.  Children raised with faith have fewer social problems, fewer pregnancies, and better grades.   Faith teaches love and hope, kindness and forgiveness, dignity, modesty, nurturing and fidelity – all postively correlated with longevity and happiness.
        Utah, one of the most religious states in the country, has just logged the lowest out of wedlock birth rate in the country, the lowest drunk driving rate, the #1 Best Place for Businesses in 2010, and Gallup ranked Utah #2 in Well-being in 2009

        “Well-Being: Top 10 States”
        Utah #2

        Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index 2009 state-level data encompass more than 350,000 interviews conducted among national adults aged 18 older across all 50 states. Gallup and Healthways started tracking state-level well-being in 2008. The Well-Being Index score for the nation and for each state is an average of six sub-indexes, which individually examine life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors, and access to basic necessities.
        So if religion is some kind of poison, it’s certainly having the opposite effect on my college state.

        • avatar Baby Snooks says:

          Life is cheap in godless communism.

          Life is cheap in god-fearing capitalistic countries as well. Particularly ours.  Where vulture capitalism is viewed by Christians as, well, so Christian.  Stealing a poor man’s bakery so you can turn around and “charitably” toss some of his own crumbs to him is not Christian.  And that pretty much sums up the attitudes of many Christians in this country who, well, aren’t really so Christian.   As for Utah and the Mormons people should read the history of the beginning of the Mormon church.  Please.  Some lunatic who obviously read the Q’uran and liked the part about the polygamy and decided the angel would come appear to him. To save us all of course.  Religion is all about saving us all. Looking around I would say at this point we need someone to finally save us from religion.  And man created god in his image.  Period. 

          I believe in the same god you do by the way. I just believe god threw the big black rock at Abraham after he cast him into the desert. And missed.  Next time I suspect god won’t miss. Obviously Abraham came to think of god as the mean old man in the sky. Abraham didn’t get it.  None of his followers all these millenium later have either. 

        • avatar Briana Baran says:

          Bella, please cite the source that says that the average Russian woman has had 15 abortions. Claims like that simply can’t be made without citing a reliable source. Also, “Russia” is not the U.S.S.R. anymore, nor has it been for a considerable span of years, is composed of numerous countries, and is not Communist. Forced abortions are no longer performed in China, and, in fact, abortion performed to terminate a pregnancy due to the sex of the child, or because of failure to use birth control, are illegal and carry serious consequences. The world watches China a lot more carefully these days. It still has a vile government, and an anachronistic society in many ways…but the former, and certainly the latter, are not in any way soley due to Communism. You really ought to brush up on your world history.
          As to the millions killed by “godless communism”, would you like me to begin reciting the litany of wars fought in the name of Jesus Christ, the Crusades, the Inquisitions and witch hunts, back alley abortions performed on countless women because Christian dogma based law forbade them from saying “No” to their husbands…when one more birth would kill them, and there was no money to feed the children they already had? This went on into the mid 20th century, Bella. How about the Holocaust, and the nine million killed by Adolph Hitler’s machine? Hitler was a Catholic, and he received a birthday card personally from the Pope every year of his genocidal rule, and the Church refused to afford any help in trying to stop his efforts, and then aided and abetted uncounted Nazi war criminals in their escape from justice at Nuremberg. What the hell, it was only Jews, gypsies and homosexuals, right? And how many more millions do you suppose were killed in the European Theater? And during the Serb/Croatian war, those Muslim women were not raping themselves multiple times until they bled to death.
          I’m delighted Utah is happy. Texas is almost completely Christian, and is almost infamous for it. We have one of the highest teen-age, out-of-wedlock birthrates in the nation, despite all of the preaching and supposed benefits of abstinence education. Christians as a whole have been statistically shown to have quite a bit less post-marital sex than other folks…maybe they like it that way. The business about prayer and having faith giving one a healthier life, and quicker recovery (or a better chance at recovery) has been completely debunked. In fact, those who know that they are being prayed for may suffer more complication and a longer recovery time because of false expectations.
          ” Faith teaches love and hope, kindness and forgiveness, dignity, modesty, nurturing and fidelity…” I suppose this explains the intolerance of those who condemn homosexuals, who feel it is their right to pry into the private lives of everyone, who want to force conversion to their way, and to have their way be the only way, to the exclusion of all others, for our Nation (which is based in the idea of religious freedom), who would like to deny people reproductive rights, the right to die with dignity, who think that all Muslims are terrorist fanatics and should be deported, even if they are second or third generation born here, who think that chattel law should be brought back…shall I continue? The reason I addressed jamestrr is simple, like too many Christians, he believes that his dogmatic solution is the only solution, and that everyone should follow it, despite the havoc that religion has played, and continues to play in this world.
          O, and as for all of that touchy-feely stuff that allegedly only faith can provide? My 13-year-old son asked to volunteer at the local animal adoption center every weekend. The people love him because he is mature, respectful, and kind to both the cats he works with and the people. He is endlessly patient, and very compassionate and considerate. He is also a straight A gifted and talented student, an extremely funny and innovative actor, and an excellent writer, He definitely knows right from wrong, is fiercely loyal to his many friends, very nurturing, would love to have a wife and children someday (because he learned about being a good husband and father from his atheist daddy), and is a hopeful, happy, forward looking human being. He wants to be a paleontologist, not to make the Big Find, but because he finds the whole idea fascinating. He isn’t after glory, or fancy toys, or social status, so I guess that qualifies as humility. I am an agnostic, by the way…though not a Communist (nice attempt at a bad correlation. Agnosticism does not equal communism, nor does the equation apply to atheism).
          And some of the most Christian students in his school have left obscene notes on his locker, harassed him mercilessly, and even physically attacked him because he doesn’t believe in their (and your) god. Tolerance. Of course.
          As I said, how nice for Oklahoma. Now how about opening a window on the entire world, and history, and reality…not just lala land?

          • avatar Baby Snooks says:

            Religion breeds contempt for others. There isn’t a religion on the face of this earth that does not believe “its” god is the one and only god, or that in the case of some religions such as Buddhism that “its” beliefs are the only “truths” by which man must live, that has not used its religious beliefs as a basis to commit the most ungodly of atrocities against those who do not believe in their god or who do not share their beliefs.  Buddhism is forevr portrayed as a religious philosophy based on the concept of peaceful co-existence. It is anything but. And the Dalai Lama not that long ago condemned homosexuality. Who is he? Some lunatic who cliams to be a reincarnated lama from centuries ago. Where he came from originally is never really discussed. He should go back to wherever he came from originally.  He finally lost me when he condemned homosexuality. After preaching love and harmony. Suddenly, he preaches hate. Guess it helps raise money from the Americans who love to hate homosexuals but still want to be Buddhists. So let’s tailor the Buddhism for the Americans so they will continue to send the checks. Someone should ask him about the genocide through the centuries in Tibet at the hands of the Dalai Lama. The same hands according to him and his followers. When this one dies, I hope the Chinese government steals the toys so no one can “identify” him when he comes back.  And the Hindus. The love to hate as well. They hate Buddhists. And they hate Muslims.  Hitler hasn’t been the only monster. There have been quite a few of them. Of all shapes, sizes, colors. And religions.

            But the worst have always been the followers of the god of Abraham. Someone tells me they’re Jewish, Christian or Muslim and I want to refer them to a psychiatrist. Did I ask what they were? So why tell me?  I don’t care.

            And that is why the founding fathers wanted a guarantee of freedom of religion that guaranteed freedom from religion but unfortunately they did not state it clearly enough to override the continual insistence by some that this country was founded by Christians as a Christian nation despite evidence to the contrary in the writings of the founding fathers and the absolute evidence of the Treaty of Tripoli.

            Religion has nothing to do with god. It has to d with man. And man created god in his image. Fine with me. Keep your god to yourself.  Or at least your religion.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            Why did I say Oklahoma? O, must have been thinking about that really good Christian, Timothy McVeigh…
            All the best to Utah…and the Mormons who ultimately lost their bid at ruining other people’s lives through Proposition 8. Tolerance, kindness, forgiveness…ah, yes. Time, people…

          • avatar Baby Snooks says:

            The Mormons weren’t alone in California. They had some help from the Catholics and the Scientologists.  And of course the Southern Baptists. Who threw the Curse of Ham out not longer after the Civil Rights Act was passed and they realized all those cursed people could become allies in the battle for souls. Just as long as they stayed in their own churches of course. No longer cursed but, well, you know. Separate but equal. Things have changed a little. But not much. The cursed people, well, now they go around cursing others. Well, they go around cursing the homosexuals.  “The Bible says…” Forgetting what the Bible says about them.   The way to heaven apparently is by pointing fingers at others.  The Bible talks about that as well.  “If thine eye offends thee, pluck it out. ”  Just make sure it’s your eye. Not someone else’s.  

            Great wisdom in the Bible.  Little of it heeded.  Great curses also.  The Book of Psalms is basically a book of curses.  The mean old man in the sky and all.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            But the Mormons are largely alone in Utah. I find it fascinating that you managed to mention the two religious organizations that top my list of human aberrations, Scientolgy and Catholicism. I have had up close and personal experience with both, and I would say that not even loathing to the point of nausea quite describes my feelings.
            Now here in Houston, we do have Southern Baptists. It always amuses me to go driving past the vast, industrial complexes of the First, Second, and brand new Hwy. 59 Forest Cove Baptist Church. I often refer to them as Munitions Factories for God. I’ve been inside Second Baptist, for a Christmas pageant, complete with donkeys, a cow, camels, sheep, Three Kings (all white, I’m reasonably certain one was supposed to be a Saracen or Moore…), and a very WASPy Holy Family, complete with extremely irate Infant Jesus. I have never seen so many sable, chinchilla and Blackglama full-length fur coats (on a 70 degree night, mind you), nor such a brilliant collection of fallen stars (I am referring to the millions in diamonds…and none of these were trumpery, o, heavens no), designer gowns and official Texas Big Hair. I do have to wonder what a man born to a carpenter, and his nearly repudiated wife, and born in a stable full of (undoubtedly much less well tended) animals would have thought of this gauche spectacle. Dignity and humility? Surely you jest. And not a single…cough, ahem…minority person.
            To be a woman who just paid out of pocket for the emergency c-section birth of her son (and I covered all of my bills due to careful planning, with no government or family assistance), who had to pay for a special formula (my son could not tolerate milk of any kind), who was the sole provider for her family (husband got booted a year and a half later), and who got her clothing, and her child’s at thrift stores, and to know that her FIL had paid $125 each for tickets to this…horror show (but MIL wouldn’t babysit even in emergencies)…Yes, Baby, I do love our Southern Baptists too. Onward christian soldiers…

          • avatar Baby Snooks says:

            And now we will add Tucson alongside Oklahoma City to the list of proud moments of patriots. Today, a 22 year old white male, all we know so far, who took an automatic weapon and shot a US congresswoman and killed 6 others including a 9 year old girl and a federal judge. All we know so far. But we don’t have to know much more to know that he was no doubt spurred on by the hateful rhetoric of the few and who will applaud his actions. What on earth has happened to this country?

            Interesting that Gabrielle Giffords was one of the Democrats in Sarah Palin’s
            “gunsights” and no doubt Sarah Palin is proud of her little patriot. How I feel. People who incite others to violence with their rhetoric should have held equally accountable. And the founding fathers would no doubt applaud my saying that. But of course the Constitution that the founding fathers wrote means nothing to these people. Or apparently to those who will just put their rose-colored glasses back on and act as if it doesn’t matter instead of getting outraged and directing the outrage where it belongs. At the feet of the Republican Party which gave a voice to these lunatics. Including the one who shot Gabrielle Giffords. 

            I have this feeling this young man was spurred on as well by the hateful rhetoric of the “immigration reform” lunatics which is ironic because Gabrielle Giffords was one of the few Democrats who believed our laws should be enforced and our borders secured.  Not a proud day for this country. Or for the Republican Party which should be held accountable for this along with Sarah Palin.

            And they are lunatics. All of them. Particularly the ones in Washington. I come from a Republican family. To me at this point the word Republican has become a synonym for evil.

      • avatar Linda Myers says:

        Belief, in any form gives a person vision, hope and dreams beyond today. It is not about God or no God, parables or truth of the Bible or ethic or religiously being superior – it is about a personal truth which is not for us to judge. Jamestrr finds this in being a Christian and you find it elsewhere, neither is less than the other. Peace is found in our beliefs, that is not denied anyone regardless of the choice satisfying us, we can only satisfy ourselves.

        • avatar Baby Snooks says:

          I agree but some believe their way is the only way. And believe the rest of us should hit the highway if we don’t believe in their way. 
          I believe in freedom of religion. But also freedom from religion. The lack of freedom from religion is what kept Andrea Yates from getting help and what kept Child Protective Services from removing the children. Chattel law still rules.  And let no man, and no court, intrude into the rights of the man.  Even to protect his wife. Or his children. 

          • avatar Linda Myers says:

            I don’t disagree with you on this and many times religion is used to justify acts in the courts and does lead some to destruction. I had a client years ago, whose medical facility was the first responder when the group put on the purple robes and all laid down to die in hopes of catching the tail wind of a comet, being a part of the aftermath and cleanup from the scene did affect you he was at that time. There are those who take it to extremes though largely people who quote scripture do it as their way of expressing from inside. Tolerance is one step, accepting views is a larger step. If the person here had followed the quote with telling me I am going to hell, I probably would have laughed because personally I do not believe in hell, but when the thoughts they hold true rise them above contributing to the pain in this world, so be it. I personally, if found a need for a written object of communication to listen through – I would grab a deck of my tarot cards. 🙂 We all have our preferences.

        • avatar Briana Baran says:

          Unfortunately, you are referring to personal peace, and too many Christians would force their personal peace on the entire world…which is what brings about peace’s exact opposite. It always infuriates me when someone begins smugly quoting Scripture as a way of making this point, “If everyone would just relax, and give up their ability to think, and do it my way, we’d all be just fine”.
          You said, “There are those who take it to extremes though largely people who quote scripture do it as their way of expressing from inside.”. I have not found this to be true. Instead, most who feel the need to quote from Scripture either do so because they have abdicated the ability to think for themselves…or because they are using Scripture as what they believe to be an inviolable bit of armor for their own biases, fears and hatreds.
          To me, spiritualism is intensely personal, and should never be foisted off on others, much less forced on them. You can believe as you will, as I have said far too many times on this site, your personal faith does not bother me, nor do I have an issue with it or you because of it. But the moment you go from saying, “This brings me comfort”, to, “If everyone would do it my way, everyone would be better off”, you’ve put my back up.
          That’s what religion does. Not personal faith or belief, but the organizations that suck these things from people, and swell like malignant growths, and foster intolerance, greed, corruption and divisiveness. All of my friends are Christians, one of them Born Again, and none of them have ever tried to convert me. We converse very rationally on a whole range of topics, including religion, without animosity. I don’t try to convince them that their personal faith is wrong…because I don’t know that it is. But dogmatically founded institutions? And those who are willing to wage war, whether it is in the political arena, the schools, or on the bloody battlefield to force their personal faith on the masses? That is something entirely different.

          • avatar Linda Myers says:

            Although true Spirituality is not religion but more inner with a connecting factor between spirit and science also. Spiritualism is a religion practiced in churches all around the globe as a faith likened to any other faith. The services I have attended in a church of Spiritualism are bible based, the only real twist is the mediumship performed in the services and healing sessions.
            I believe there is truth in all faiths in this world, past and present into the earliest of what is now  termed Pagan. I frankly, do not like labels period. My grandmother was Nazarene all her life, yet the bible she carried since she was a teen was gnostic. My  mother and grandmother were connected in seeing and hearing spirit, but yet kept it hidden because of the fear of the church turning on them. I don’t care for being preached to, or do I tell people my way is the only way – complete opposite, I tell them only they know who they are.
            I accept the person rather than choosing to distance myself whether they are Christian, Hebrew, Arabic, Hindu, Native American or any other choice they have made with the belief, we are spirit first in a physical experience, beyond our physical self the religions do not exist, so why expense the energy in trying to prove one superior over the other, when none are.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            I was speaking of spiritualism in the abstract, as in one’s personal system of belief or faith in an existence other than the physical, unrelated to any organized institution, religious, metaphysical or philosophical. In other words, not “Spiritualism” with a capital “S”, as practiced by a group.
            No offense intended, as I profoundly respect your opinions, but this is precisely what I was talking about. My personal spirituality has absolutely nothing to do with Spiritualism as you defined it, either as an institution, or your own personal beliefs. That’s why it has nothing to do with my view of reality. They are completely separate, just as church and state are supposed to be.
            As far as any religion, or set of man-made dogmatic rules being superior to any other, in my highly cynical and iconoclastic opinion, they are all equally worthless.

          • avatar Linda Myers says:

            Understood, and I apologize for misunderstanding you. And I do not disagree. 🙂

  6. avatar Joan Larsen says:

    Dear Julie,  As always, Julie, you stand true to what should be our own ways of thinking.  But this time you are so clever in laying this all out:  lose weight, shape up, be a better person . . . but if one reads down we see that the “shell phrases” actually should mean to us something far deeper.  You bring us to what truly is important to a good life – if we choose to listen. 

    No matter our own situation, we must be out there first — not rolled in a heap on a bed trying to make the world go away.  Once interacting with others, we must then listen more than speak for only then can we help others and pull the world closer to us.  We can lose ourselves in others, often finding that things that we thought had us in mired in sticky mud are minescule compared to the serious problems of others.  It shakes up our thinking when we realize that — but always in a good way.  IF we are out there for others, there is little time for the “poor me” attitude . . . resulting in our feeling better about ourselves in the process. 

    Always – always — be starting on new paths also . . . for there is something about the process of learning that opens doors in our minds one after another.  Our world is no longer tiny — and the people we meet along our new paths can be the life-changing pieces we waited a lifetime for.  The people who spend hours bickering, disagreeing and never resolving (as we knew they wouldn’t) tell me that they are stuck in the house in that mud.  Those of us who have multiple interests that are ever expanding have so enlarged their worlds that this “stuff” they are doing is “baby stuff”.  We are each given a much larger world . . . and it is easy to tell those who have chosen it and those who sit in the same rut day after day. 

    In each section, you have pulled out the essentials of life from all the rest.  If people listen to you, they are already going on the right path.  .  . and the expectations of where the paths may lead are life-changing.  I call it “having many irons on the fire” so that one disappointment – and there rarely would be — is so small because there are other high points that are exhilarating.

    Great article, well written — you really know your stuff!  Joan

    • Dear Joan-  Your commitment to a life of FULL ENGAGEMENT is so wise, and well stated.  I couldn’t agree more.  It reminds of the famous Woody Allen line that “90% of life is just showing up”.  Granted, (as several posters have remarked), the difficulties and changes we’ve been going through for the past couple years have made it exhausting to keep showing up….there is no other choice.  And when you do engage, you gain the learnings, insights and relationships that define the new world order (which is continuing to take shape).

      Thanks so much for your always insightful and positive point of view!

  7. avatar Linda Myers says:

    In the early 90’s, our new manager at the time brought us all together one day and asked a question “If you died today, how would you be remembered?” and then asked us to read 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. From there I refocused my life and how I wanted to live it. It jolted my thinking at the time, then in 2005 when I had a chance to attend a class on the same subject done by Franklin Covey in our home office I went even though I had double pneumonia at the time and as far as my doctor knew I was on bed rest. In both circumstances the points to think about and creating your mission statement, etc. in life were valuable.
    Books written to bring thinking to different heights rather than just have a message of follow me, do catch my attention. I am not much of a follower, I congratulate you on your book and challenging new thought processes to form and recreate our lives.

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      Such a curious question.  But most will see the question simply as “How do you want to be remembered?” Big difference.  Most of course want to be remembered as a nice person. Unfortunately looking back on it all nice people rarely make any real difference for anyone else. They just think they do.  A smile, a check, and a kind word is nice. But sometimes, again, it doesn’t make any real difference for anyone else. 

      But if you read this piece again, it is not how to make the world a better place for someone else. It is about how to make your world a better place for you.  It’s all about “me.” 

      I will not be remembered by some as a nice person. But by others as someone who made a difference for them by being willing to not be nice. Among the things my not being nice accomplished is a senior citizens apartment complex and affordable housing in an African-American historic district, one of the very few in this country, that definitely was not planned despite the “public” proclamation that it was. I made enemies as they say. But so did they. I did the right thing. Including shaming them publicly. More people should be shamed publicly. Unfortunately too many are not willing to not be nice. Preferring instead to be nice and silent. That’s how the Nazis took over Germany.  The really nice Germans became the really good Germans. And said absolutely nothing. There is no greater evil than silence.

      Everyone forgets, which I love to remind everyone of, that had the founding fathers decided to be nice, we would be singing “God Save the Queen” instead of “God Bless America.”

      Hopefully everyone in their quest to become a better “me” in the New Year will try to make things a little better for a “you” even they have to not be nice in order to do so. 

      As for those who prefer to be nice and silent you will leave this world just exactly as you found it.  And will have made no difference. And so how you will be remembered doesn’t really matter.  

  8. avatar Linda Myers says:

    When I was asked the question, he told us to visualize standing over our own casket – being a person who learns, stores and relates from the visuals it was a huge “oh shit!” moment for me anyway. In the end we are remembered through the impressions left with others, that is what sticks. Most people store feelings in relationship to events in life and when asked to reflect the feeling is what takes over in response. If that feeling is matched with a positive, whether or not it was received at a moment that initially brought distress and anger, the outcome of how the feeling was stored is the memory.
    I by no means have been known as telling people I work with the warm and fuzzies to make them feel good, sometimes the complete opposite or some point in between, it might be a week later, month or year  before they come back and say I get it, or I understand now. Life isn’t always pretty, but if you are false in expressing who you are and the method used – what your left with is feeling pointless in the attempt.
    Everyone was given a voice or being valid of expression to either use or abuse, if the expression comes from the truth or heart of who you are, whether coming across soft or loud it won’t fail you. To me baby, you are an awesome person and I for one will not be remembering you otherwise! Your strong, you have heart and shoot from the hip! You make people think and that is what this world needs, more thinking and people who will stand up for change in whatever method chosen for the greater good of humanity.
    Happy New Year!

  9. avatar Laurie Deer says:

    I made a resolution for this year to stop complaining.  I cannot go into detail because it would constitute the “C” word but you get the drift.   Happy New Year, wishing all a great year full of good health, great friends, love and prosperity.

  10. avatar Eldebbo C says:

    I hadn’t been on her in a while. Don’t like the new look and I quit getting emails and alerts, Why?

  11. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Great article as usual Julie! You always provide timely and sensible tidbits to ponder.
    Happy New Year and here’s hoping you stick to “your” resolutions.  Take care, Belinda Joy

  12. Great article! I intend on working on my humility and gratitude each day in 2011. Thanks for the reminder!

  13. avatar Deni says:

    I’ve adopted a new way of thinking and living, and it’s made my life so much easier. I remain calm no matter what:  If I lose my one and only diamond ring (which I did)- I didn’t freak out as I would have, I realized it’s here somewhere and will eventually show up.  I plan ahead if I have to go someplace the following day and ensure my keys are where they should be so I’m not a nut case running around looking for them.

    I’ve begun to simplify my life and get rid of all the STUFF I collected over the years.  First I offer it to my children and if they don’t want it, then to my brother and one sister, and then I donate whatever they don’t want to the Woman’s Shelter.  For some reason, yet to be determined I’ve lost over 60 lbs since Aug and I’ve a TON of clothes I can’t wear so I gave them to the shelter, all my work suits, purses, shoes, anything to give another woman a foot up on that interview she needs to restart her life.

    The other day I underwent another Breast Cancer surgery, not sure of the outcome yet, cancer cells were found that’s for sure, but not sure where were going from here, but with this new calm and not worrying about every little thing life has gotten so much easier.  I enjoy my children more, Church more, and I don’t really get upset anymore, as my Great Nanna Maude would say “I’ve become a duck”, like water I let it roll off my back and go with the water.
    I’ve organized everything from shoes and purses, to my various Bibles, fiction Novels, to my bedroom closet, I’ve gotten rid of all the kitchen gadgets I don’t use or need, and thanks to Rachel Ray and her cookware and dishes cooking has become a pleasure again, I cook for my kids 3 or 4 times a week, thus making my eating habits so much more healthy.  I found organizing my life in every aspect has made a huge difference in the way I think, act, and with my failing memory (due to chemo), I can find everything I am looking for in a matter of minutes (with the exception of the elusive diamond ring).  Simplicity and peace of mind is the best gift I’ve given myself ever.
    I don’t make resolutions because I’ve never once kept one, but lifestyle changes are working out just great for me.