1. Are you paralyzed with fear?
“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”
It starts to get scary when you start taking action. But much like the idea of the “obstacle is the way,” so is that fear resistance we’re almost certain to have. Push through it, and know you are on the right path.
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield delivers a guide to inspire and support those who struggle to express their creativity. Pressfield offers unique, compelling ways to overcome resistance.
2. What mountain are you moving today?
“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”
To move a mountain may be a miracle, but it’s a miracle that comes through incredibly hard and persistent labor and (self) belief. It’s a lesson on habits. It’s a lesson in persistence.
The Analects by Confucius may be the most influential book of all time. As Leys states in his introduction to the Penguin edition, “No book in the entire history of the world has exerted, over a longer period of time, a greater influence on a larger number of people than this slim volume.”
3. What risks are you taking right now?
“If you’ve never done anything wrong it’s probably because you have never tried anything new.”
You learn to walk by falling. You become a better mountain biker by crashing (within reason). You could even go so far as to say you literally learn by failing. It is the curious minds who pursue answers for themselves that come back with valuable findings.
Relativity: The Special and the General Theory by Albert Einstein is a tour de force on the history, philosophy, and psychology of the scientific understanding of empty space. It is shocking, thrilling, and amazing.
4. Think about a person or situation that currently upsets you and practice mindful breathing while focusing on the subject for at least five minutes. See if it helps bring at least a small degree of calm and clarity in your thinking.
“Mindful breathing is the vehicle that you use to go back to your true home.”
Mindful breathing is a meditation technique that seeks to reduce the size of the emotion or thought in the brain. The idea is to get perspective, to listen to your body, and to let the experience of conscious breathwork do its work to calm. In a calm state, you can make better decisions.
Taming the Tiger Within: Meditations on Transforming Difficult Emotions by Thich Nhat Hanh is a collection of meditations about anger and fear, and what to do when they arise. Many pages have only one or two sentences, but this brevity is effective for the subject matter. It allows the reader to reflect and meditate on the words, have insights, and experience relief.
5. Do you avoid certain family members and colleagues because of bitter, festering tension that you can’t figure out how to address?
“One of the most surprising things I’ve noticed during my experiments in productive disagreement is how quickly things go off the rails precisely when people stop speaking from their own perspective and try to speculate about other people’s perspectives.”
Why Are We Yelling?: The Art of Productive Disagreement by Buster Benson helps you overcome the challenge of dealing with difficult people that can leave you brimming with repressed emotions. Conflict doesn’t have to be unpleasant. Properly channeled, conflict can be the most powerful tool we have at our disposal for deepening relationships, solving problems, and coming up with new ideas.
6. What distracts you the most? How can you give more focused attention on the things you value?
“Dissatisfaction and discomfort dominate our brain’s default state, but we can use them to motivate us instead of defeat us.”
That’s the very challenge, though, isn’t it? We can choose to make this default state of our brain’s into something motivating. Step one is a mindset shift, which tends to be a process, and is a skill that can be developed. The second part of choosing is simply to understand our brains and feelings.
Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life by Nir Eyal tells us how to be more productive and how to get more done with plenty of technical detail. A refreshingly different approach to time management than other books on the subject.
7. Is it possible that the tribe you’re working in aspires to victories that are collective and not merely personal?
“Change the language in the tribe, and you have changed the tribe itself.”
It’s similar to changing the story, or changing the script you’ve been following or telling yourself. It applies to groups every bit as much as to individuals.
Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization by Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright reminds me of Jim Collins book Good to Great in that both are presenting findings from lengthy research studies.
8. In terms of a habit you want to stop: Do you think there could be a way to substitute the habit with something else? Have you ever given it a try? In terms of forming a habit: How can you better understand what would motivate you to develop it and stick with it?
“It is facile to imply that smoking, alcoholism, overeating, or other ingrained patterns can be upended without real effort. Genuine change requires work and self-understanding of the cravings driving behaviors.”
There are no quick fixes. Habits are micro-efforts that over time lead to big results, and yes it is all a process. The hard truth: it doesn’t just take work, the outer results begin from the inner work.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg focuses on learning to change behavior by identifying the routine, and figuring out the cue that triggers the routine and craving underlying that cue by experimenting with different rewards.
9. When someone criticizes you or your work, what is the information telling you about their taste? Is there good information to learn from?
“Playing big doesn’t come from working more, pushing harder, or finding confidence. It comes from listening to the most powerful and secure part of you, not the voice of self-doubt.”
Listening to that powerful and secure part of you does increase confidence. Playing big — for women and men — means finding that inner wisdom, and that feedback from others tells us at least as much if not more about the person giving the feedback as it does about the content we’ve put out there.
Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message by Tara Mohr is a wonderful book that invites not only women but also men to share leadership, and to aspire to greater equilibrium in the roles we play.
These journaling prompts encourage you to build self-confidence through trial and error. They recognize the need to overcome fear through struggle, to re-frame failure as life experiments. Push through resistance stone by stone.