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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/profile/blog/kit1197
Rated: 13+ · Book · Inspirational · #1986033
I’d rather write than talk. Nobody interrupts! Posting monthly or less now--see below.
My original purpose for this blog, which I started in August of 2019, was to see if I could maintain consistency, to discover what I want to write about, and to find my writing voice. In January, I started a "niche-less" blog at Wordpress.com where I've published weekly. -- Kit’s Kontemplations  .
--

I'm preparing to start a Catholic blog on Wordpress.com where I'll post weekly, and another site to put the rest of my writing. I also want to spend more time reading other blogs and offering thoughtful comments, both here on WDC and elsewhere. At most, I will publish once a month at no set time in this blog starting in September of 2020.

Thank you to those who have read and rated any posts on this blog. I really appreciate it.

I did NOT want to write “about” me on this blog. I wanted to share my interests, discoveries and maybe a few useful insights. If anything I've written helps even one person, whether or not they respond to the post, then this blog has been successful.
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August 29, 2020 at 4:10pm
August 29, 2020 at 4:10pm
#991827
I struggle with balance as much physically as in other areas. I tend toward extremes with my activities where I’ll spend a lot of time on one, and neglect many others. I’ve seen myself spend every spare minute doing Sudoku puzzles and forget all my other hobbies, not to mention chores. If I am doing something new or something I’ve not done in a really long time, it will be all I care about and everything else is an unwelcome distraction.

I’ve found balance, through consistent effort over many months around nutrition and weight. A “before” picture would show me eating far too much from the “junk” food group, obsessed with my weight, constantly comparing myself with others and unwilling to make any sacrifices to improve my situation. The key I discovered was a process of “renewing my mind” to gain a willingness to have and to follow lifetime boundaries with food. This process included journaling about my thoughts prior to breaking my boundaries and considering in which ways these thoughts were false and self-sabotaging.

The boundaries I set around eating were not limited to which foods I would not eat. The boundaries I set two years ago included:
*Bullet* no eating except sitting at the kitchen table
*Bullet* only one snack in the evening
*Bullet* no activity while eating except spiritual reading or Sudoku puzzles
As for the food itself, my main boundary was no sweet treats except on Sundays and social occasions that were not regular occurrences with family and specific friends. When I was first losing weight, I often didn’t have them on Sundays, either. I lost 25 pounds in eight months and now, two years later, I’ve kept it off.

If I applied this process to develop the habit of going to bed consistently by a certain time, I would not rely so much on caffeine, I’d have more physical energy and mental clarity. I’d be less tempted to eat outside my boundaries, especially when I’m tempted to procrastinate on something, usually writing or housework. Why is it that the thing most beneficial to our well-being, success and general effectiveness in life is the thing we resist with all our strength?

Setting boundaries with others helps me to stay balanced. Knowing that I can say “no” when that is what I need to do is very freeing. There are periods when work demands more time and energy than at other times. If you know how and when these cycles will happen, you can let important people in your life know what will be happening and in what ways you’ll be less available.

Boundaries are statements of intent that you put in place to protect you from the conflicting demands of daily life. Many of us are pushed and pulled in so many directions that our days are a whirlwind of too many things to do and too many decisions to make. Take the pressure off yourself, check out this post on some simple steps to help you focus on what’s important to you and why setting boundaries is the ultimate self-care.


There was a time when I often spent money impulsively. Now it rarely happens. I found that I was more likely to do it with books so I started avoiding book stores. I decided that before I could buy a new book, I had to complete two unread ones I already had. I also stopped looking at book catalogues that came in the mail. Yarn is more of a temptation now so I’ve started avoiding that section of Walmart unless I need a specific colour for my current project.

The place where I need to set a self-care boundary is with sleep. Even though I’m retired and living the COVID semi-isolated life, I have a routine and things to do. Ideally I’d get up at 9:00 a.m. and go to bed by midnight or 1:00 a.m. at the latest. It’s not unusual for me to get to bed a couple of hours later than that. The next day I drink extra coffee in order to function mentally. On some days, I take a nap. On most days, I do both. Setting the boundaries so that I get to bed on time is easy. Following them? Well, that rarely happens. Maybe I’m not yet sufficiently convinced of their benefits.

Reflect

*bullett* Have you experienced other people setting boundaries with you? How did that make you feel?
*bullett* Have you set boundaries with yourself? If so, were you able to keep them after some practice?
*bullett* Have you set boundaries with other people? If not, what stops you?
*bullett* Would you be willing to set boundaries to break a bad habit? If so, how would you decide which one to start with?

Sources

*Bullet*Instead of Work-Life Balance, Try Focusing on Boundaries  
*Bullet*WHY SETTING BOUNDARIES IS THE ULTIMATE SELF CARE  
*Bullet*10 Great Things That Happen When You Set Boundaries  
*Bullet*Creating Boundaries Between You and Your Bad Habits  



Monique from Ottawa, Canada
No matter what, WRITE!

August 23, 2020 at 11:20am
August 23, 2020 at 11:20am
#991407
Whether it’s how we were created, a result of our environment or a combination of the two, we’re dissatisfied and discontent with ourselves. We want to have more, to know more, to be more. Either we notice our faults or they’re brutally pointed out to us. What we’re like externally or who we are internally is rarely good enough. We want more height, more muscle, maybe more hair. We’re not thin enough, smart enough, pretty enough, or popular enough.

Our family members, our peer group and media (TV, magazines or social media) shoot us with “you’re inadequate” arrows: “You’re too _____!” or “You’re not _____ enough.”. A parent may compare you to one of your siblings, saying “Why can’t you be more like _____?”, and a spouse might complain about one of your faults, saying: “Why do you have to be so much like _____? where the blank refers to one of your parents or siblings.

Our inner abuser agrees with these and chimes in with: “You should be _____.”, or “You’ll never be _____ because you can’t ______.” These self-bashing statements often come from comparing ourselves to what the media says we must be like if we want affirmation or even acceptance. Our constant hope and yearning is for some kind of magic tool to repair everything in us that doesn’t “meet expectations”.

Blog posts with titles promoting “life hacks” that dangle a promise of that magic tool gain traction with lightning speed. They grab and hold our attention. We don’t skim these articles; we read them. Despite a multitude of previous disappointments, we hope this concept or technique will deliver on its promises. Everything wrong with us will be fixed with little or no effort required and our lives will be completely transformed.

My curiosity was peaked when a friend suggested using binaural beats to increase my creativity. While doing some research on the functions of the five speed categories of brainwaves, I found the majority of articles either described all five types or focused on alpha brainwaves. All five types of brainwaves are happening simultaneously in different degrees of intensity depending on what I’m doing or on my inner state of being. If the brain gets stuck in a “groove” where there are too many of a specific type of brainwave, we’ll experience a certain set of negative effects. On the flip side, if there are too few of any type of brainwave, we’ll experience another set of negative effects.

Not having a degree in science, medicine or psychology, we’re more eager for alpha brain waves more than a beggar is for dinner at an all-you-can-eat buffet. If the benefits of alpha waves were dishes at this buffet, here’s what’s on the menu:
*Bullet* reduced anxiety, depression and stress,
*Bullet* reduced blood pressure, heart rate and sweating
*Bullet* increased oxygen and blood flow to the brain
*Bullet* improved digestion, athletic performance, and mind-body integration
*Bullet* increased alertness, focus, creativity, memory and cognitive function
*Bullet* increased ability to ignore chronic pain

As in everything else, balance is critical. If your meal only consists of every available dessert at the buffet, you’re going to experience some negative effects. Having too much alpha brain wave activity can cause sleep interference or disorders and a lack of focus with too much daydreaming or fantasizing. Insufficient alpha brain wave activity can result in:
*Bullet* increased stress and anxiety
*Bullet* insomnia
*Bullet* obsessive/compulsive behaviour

A healthy brain — one which will help us maximise our potential — will be able to move through the different brainwaves fluidly as we respond to the different tasks of the day. ... Resilience means your central nervous system has the flexibility to move up and down through the range of frequencies: becoming more concentrated when we need it to be; more alert to danger if there is a genuine threat in the environment; and more able to rapidly decompress into an energy-conserving relaxed state once that threat has passed.


There are things we are likely to be doing such as closing our eyes, meditating or practicing relaxation techniques when we experience alpha brain waves but it’s not clear whether these activities actually cause an increase in alpha waves.

As you consider the positive things associated with alpha waves, remember that correlation does not equal causation. This means that, although these things happen together, one may or may not cause the other. Research on how alpha waves work continues from year to year, increasing our knowledge and helping us find applications for what we learn.


Apart from neurofeedback and brain wave entrainment (BWE), here is a non-exhaustive list of suggested ways to increase our alpha waves. This is useful when we’ve been operating in the high beta range for hours:
*Bullet* praying
*Bullet* deep breathing exercises, guided imagery, and body awareness
*Bullet* practicing mindfulness or yoga
*Bullet* engaging in aerobic exercise
*Bullet* avoiding caffeine, onions, garlic and television

Studies have shown that watching television induces low alpha waves in the human brain. Alpha waves are brainwaves between 8 to 12 HZ. and are commonly associated with relaxed meditative states as well as brain states associated with suggestibility. ... While Alpha waves achieved through meditation are beneficial (they promote relaxation and insight), too much time spent in the low Alpha wave state caused by TV can cause unfocussed daydreaming and inability to concentrate. Researchers have said that watching television is similar to staring at a blank wall for several hours.


Reflection
*Bullet* Do you find self-help articles irresistible? If so, what draws you to them so powerfully?
*Bullet* When you hear or read something new that promises solutions to an issue you’re experiencing, how skeptical are you?
*Bullet* Neurofeedback is expensive but binaural beats are an easily accessible way to boost your alpha brain waves. Are you likely to try them or do you have reservations?

Sources
*Bullet* Brainwaves: How They Affect our Lifestyle - Med-Sense Guaranteed Association  
*Bullet* The 5 Main Brainwaves  
*Bullet* Our brainwaves affect our moods and behaviour — How can neurofeedback help?  
*Bullet* Five Steps To Reducing Stress And Increasing Alpha Brainwaves  
*Bullet* Alpha Waves and Your Sleep  
*Bullet* Brainwaves and You  
*Bullet* What Are Alpha Brain Waves?  
*Bullet* Alpha Brain Waves: A Guide to Functions & Benefits  
*Bullet* How (and why) to boost your alpha brainwaves  
*Bullet* What is Brainwave Entrainment  
*Bullet* Understanding brain waves - Neurofeedback Alliance  
*Bullet* Understanding the Benefits of Brainwaves and Binaural Beats - The Ultimate Quick Start Guide  
*Bullet* Alpha Brain Waves Boost Creativity and Reduce Depression  

Extra resources

*Bullet* Different Types of Brain Waves: Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta, Gamma   (This article breaks down each type of wave by specific levels and describes their effects at each level.)
*Bullet* What are the Different types of Brainwave Entrainment? – UK  
*Bullet* What is Brainwave Entrainment & How Can it Change My Brain?  
August 15, 2020 at 12:18am
August 15, 2020 at 12:18am
#990811
Shortly after World War II, the number of men dying of heart disease reached epidemic proportions. By the 1950s, medical researchers were focusing on finding the cause of cardiovascular disease. It was clear that the plaque thickening the arteries contained fats and cholesterol which were believed to have been deposited from the bloodstream. Researcher, Ancel Keys first believed that cholesterol in the diet led to cholesterol in the blood. When his research proved that to be false, he shifted the blame to saturated fats, providing no explanation as to how saturated fat raised blood cholesterol levels or how blood cholesterol levels caused plaque to develop in the arteries.

A serious problem with nutritional claims is that they are based on associations between two or more factors. It is a logical fallacy that correlation is the same as causation. In other words, the existence of a statistical relationship between fat in the diet and fat in the bloodstream is not enough to establish that fat in the diet causes fat in the bloodstream, much less that it causes plaque to develop in the arteries.

When you have two statistical variables, they can be associated or correlated. Association refers to any relationship between two variables and correlation refers to a linear relationship between associated variables. The terms “association” and “correlation” are usually used interchangeably. The relationship between two variables is usually shown in a scatter plot diagram. An association or even a strong correlation between two statistical variables often leads to the mistaken assumption that one caused the other. Here are a few examples of real “spurious” correlations that obviously have no causal relationship:
*Bullet* People who drowned after falling out of a fishing boat AND Marriage rate in Kentucky
*Bullet* Per capita consumption of chicken AND Total US crude oil imports
*Bullet* Suicides by hanging, strangulation and suffocation AND Number of lawyers in North Carolina

If the sales of sunglasses and of ice-cream increase dramatically during the same week, it’s a logical fallacy to conclude either that eating ice-cream requires one to wear sunglasses or that wearing sunglasses induces a craving for ice-cream. The correct conclusion is that a third “lurking” variable, a series of hot sunny days caused people to need sunglasses and to buy ice-cream. We don’t know what the lurking variables are when it comes to heart disease but the answer won’t be discovered by researchers following Ancel Key’s example.

Keys found the perfect diversion in the discipline of nutritional epidemiology, for which he required no special skills or training. Masquerading behind this covert scientific pretense, he promoted weak associational data from that freshly discovered academic discipline as if it were definitive proof for his — actually Gofman’s — hypotheses. Yet he was fully aware that associational data cannot prove causation except under a few exceptional circumstances, circumstances that Keys’ especially weak associational data could never establish.


To prove causation, a scientific approach including a randomized control test must be used. For example, if you want to prove that a new cancer treatment is more effective than a current one, you need two groups of cancer patients who have as many characteristics in common as possible. These patients are randomly placed in either the control group who get the current treatment, or in the intervention group who get the new treatment. If it is to be a “blind” study, neither the experimenter nor the participants know which group they are in since the control group is given a placebo. The outcome for individuals in each group are carefully measured over a specific period of time.

The Randomized Control Test (RCT) approach has a number of problems when it comes to nutrition research. With nutrition, no placebo exists for any given food or nutrient. It can’t be truly a blind study if the participant knows what they are supposed to eat, they can do research online and find out whether they are in the control or the intervention group. Adherence is also a problem which grows over time. If participants “cheat” on what they eat much of the time and don’t disclose this, what effect will that have on the results? RCTs are rare in nutrition for a variety of reasons.

Only a randomized controlled trial (RCT) can come close to establishing that an exposure to something causes a particular outcome. But RCTs — where researchers deliberately expose people to something and compare them to a group of people who were not exposed — are rare in nutrition. They're too expensive, and it's too difficult to study people over a long period of time in real-life eating situations. It's also unethical to expose people to something if the hypothesis suggests it will cause harm.


The epidemiology tools that work in other areas do not work for nutrition. There are too many factors including, but not limited to: stress, income and education levels, and sleep rhythms. There are 250,000 different foods consumed in endless combinations. The sheer complexity prevents researchers from making clear links between diet and health outcomes.

The usual method of nutritional research often involves poorly designed studies. The October 9th edition of the Los Angeles Times featured an Op-Ed article by Nina Teicholz describing the “crash and burn” of Brian Wansink, a Cornell University professor and prominent scientist. He served as executive director of the U.S. government’s Dietary Guidelines, which set the standard for healthy eating for the nation. She focuses, not on Wansink, but on the type of science he represents which has provided mistaken dietary advice since the 1980s. She quotes John Ioannidis, a Stanford University professor and evidence-based medicine expert who wrote this about the state of nutritional research:

... given all of the problems with this kind of nutrition research, “Reform has long been due.” The claims of this weak science, when tested properly by rigorous clinical trials, have been shown in two analyses to be correct only 0% to 20% of the time. This means that 80% to100% of the time, they’re wrong.


If the problem of confusing correlation with causation wasn’t a big enough problem with the nutritional research method, the major data source are food questionnaires where the participant is required to report quantities and types of foods consumed. I might remember what I ate yesterday but I’d have no accurate idea of the quantity. If I ate three candy bars this afternoon, what do you think the chances are that I’d report that on the questionnaire?

Worse, the associational data in nutrition studies are particularly unreliable because the studies depend upon self-reported answers on dietary questionnaires with such queries as: How many cups of pasta did you consume weekly for the last six months? Or, how much did you enjoy that last slice of pizza? Studies have long shown that people misrepresent what they eat — or they simply can’t remember.


Obviously nutrition research can’t accurately prescribe what we should eat. So why do we still listen to them? For centuries, people ate based on instinct and common sense. They were much healthier than we are now. Shouldn’t that tell us something? When it comes to information and truth, it doesn’t take much to destroy my trust. One contradiction is all it takes. For me, it was the flip-flop on eating eggs. I’ve always avoided any food plan that severely restricted any food group. It makes sense to eat more “whole” foods that have not been processed and to eat moderately from every food group.

One serious problem with the dietary guidelines is the power they have over what is available to us in the supermarket. If we don’t believe the myth that fat is bad and want dairy products with higher fat, good luck finding it!

Reflection:

*Bullet* How much attention do you pay to what health care practitioners tell you to eat or to avoid?
*Bullet* What’s the first nutritional advice you questioned the truth of?
*Bullet* Do you give much thought to what you eat or do you just go for what is quick, convenient and tasty?
*Bullet* If you’ve chosen a particular diet, how did you find out about it and what promises were attached to it?
*Bullet* If you consented to participate in a nutrition study, what aspect of it would you find to be the most challenging?

Sources
*Bullet* The Diet-Heart Hypothesis, Part 1  
*Bullet* Ancel Keys' Cholesterol Con, Part 1  
*Bullet* Spurious Correlations  
*Bullet* Op-Ed: Sloppy science bears substantial blame for Americans’ bad eating habits  
*Bullet* Randomized trials are no panacea for what ails nutrition research  
*Bullet*Brainwashed — The Mainstreaming of Nutritional Mythology  
*Bullet*{x-link:https://www.diagnosisdiet.com/full-article/epidemiological-studies}The Problem with Epidemiological Studies




Monique from Ottawa, Canada
No matter what, WRITE!

August 9, 2020 at 3:08pm
August 9, 2020 at 3:08pm
#990354
The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees oneself of the chains that shackle the spirit... the arbitrariness of the constraint only serves to obtain precision of execution. — Igor Stravinsky


My first experience with constraints around writing happened over 20 years ago in a 6-week Creative Writing course. Our teacher passed around four envelopes labelled “Who”, “What”. “Where” and “When”. We each drew out a slip of paper from all the envelopes and were instructed to leave them face-down without looking at them. At her signal, we were to look at our slips and weave them into a story within 15 minutes. There was no time to do anything other than put pen to page and write like crazy. When the timer went off, I had a story. This was my first introduction to writing prompts. You are given something very specific and a time limit. You don’t think, you just write and let the magic happen.

Another experience with constraints concerned musical improvisation on a piano. For those unfamiliar with music theory, there are 12 keys, each of which has a set of seven notes, three major chords, three minor chords, and one diminished chord. The seven notes repeat all along the keyboard. Each of the chords have three notes played together but in three different positions. For example: the C chord contains the notes C, E and G. You can play the chord in the root position (C-E-G), in the first inversion as it’s called (E-G-C), or in the second inversion (G-C-E). The sheer volume of possibilities is mind boggling and not all sound well together. In each improvisation lesson, the teacher tells you which key to use so you know which set of 7 notes you are working with. Then he tells you which two of the seven possible chords of the key you are to use. Rather than crippling your creativity in improvisation, these constraints are liberating. All the other options are pushed aside and you focus only on what is assigned.

When I re-joined Writing.com   last summer, completely empty of confidence, it was their wide selection of short prompt-based activities that lit my creative fire. Some of these included: Tweet Me a Story, Taboo Words, 24-Syllables and Oriental Poetry. What was most effective to get my creativity flowing was more specific prompts and shorter time available to submit my entry.

Creativity is full of paradoxes — not the least of which is the fact that having absolute creative freedom is often highly uncreative. It’s a phenomenon called “paralysis of choice.” The more options we have, the harder it is to choose anything. So we do nothing. When everything is an option, somehow we find ourselves optionless.


I have several sources for writing prompts and several little writing projects on my mind to do. Instead of inspiring me to be creative, it only impairs my ability to focus, leaving me fatigued.

What is currently hindering my writing lately includes:
*Bullet* no fixed time to write
*Bullet* no planned writing “assignment” for the time I decide I’ll sit to write
*Bullet* no deadlines
*Bullet* too many possible things to write

Here’s how I’ve come to understand it: focus is important to our productivity as creative people. If we’re given too many options, our focus ends up fragmented. Creativity does not like fragmentation. ... Creativity thrives within constraints, because constraints give us the gift of focus. ... If we are offered a wide-open world, we can quickly become overwhelmed. So we must narrow it down.


As any other writer can relate to, there are so many ways to procrastinate on writing. The worst is eating. What I’ve also realized is that if I’ve been putting off other things more than twice, they “weigh” on me. I feel physically and mentally sluggish until I get at least one of those other things done. Once I complete even one of those other things, I feel energized to complete another thing or to write.

Benefits of time constraints:
*Bullet* prevents perfectionism, self-criticism and “imposter syndrome”
*Bullet* forces you to focus your attention
*Bullet* applies “pressure to perform” which gets that messy and far-from-perfect first draft done
*Bullet* forces you to think differently
*Bullet* unleashes imagination fostering unfiltered ideas
*Bullet* eliminates opportunity for procrastination

When we demand ourselves to be routinely creative, we need creative routines. ... As a growing body of psychology research shows, structure is the sustenance of creativity. ... The structure that is right for you won’t hinder your freedom, it will instead focus your ingenuity.


What I think would help me, if I could make myself do it, would be to list the small writing projects I want to do and assign a deadline for the first draft of each one. I could block out times for writing that would fit my schedule and start each one with a timed free-write from a prompt to “warm up”. I need a more regular structure to my daily life so I get enough rest, accomplish the non-writing stuff that needs to be done and make time for the reading that will fuel my writing.

Reflect:
*Bullet* Have you detected any patterns in your creative “highs” and “lows”?
*Bullet* Do you take a disciplined approach to writing with a view to earning an income or getting published or do you treat it as a hobby? If you treat it as a hobby, are you satisfied with how much writing you accomplish?
*Bullet* Have you experimented with prompts, with self-imposed deadlines or with some other type of writing constraint? If so, what did you discover?

Sources:
Exploring the Power of Creative Constraints in 5 Examples  
Constraints in Creativity — Are They a Good Thing?  
The science of creativity  
August 2, 2020 at 11:44pm
August 2, 2020 at 11:44pm
#989757
One of Merriam Webster’s definitions for the verb “ to succeed” is “to accomplish what is intended”. A decade or so ago, I was deep in “productivity mode”, measuring my worth by what I accomplished. Any given day during those years, what I “intended” was far beyond most people’s capacity to achieve yet I berated myself for everything on my list that I didn’t get done. I still need to keep a long task list but it’s more to have tasks on paper instead of whirling through my mind. Whoever said that our minds are for thinking not storage, was right on.

Having a good or “successful” day used to mean getting as much done as possible, as perfectly as possible. Getting sick gave me a feeling of relief since I had a great excuse for doing what I felt like doing instead of what I should be doing. It’s hardly surprising that I got sick a whole lot more often during those years than I do now.

This way of living along with a few other issues resulted in a “breakdown”. I was first diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome then later with clinical depression. My planned two weeks off work turned into almost two years. “Success” during the first few months was simply making my bed, taking a shower and getting dressed

I thrive on routine and structure. Though my days look much different now than before I retired, my days are structured around a core set of “categories”. These include: spiritual, chores, study, creative work, service and leisure. Now, during the pandemic lock-down, my “rule of life” has fewer components but it still exists. Fortunately I’m an introvert with a wide variety of interests, so I’m never bored. The challenge is to manage some kind of balance in my various activities and still do things that are less captivating, like housework and self-care.

If succeeding means accomplishing what I intend, then I must be careful to intend what is most in line with what I value while being realistic about my available free time and energy. Deepening my relationship with God, creativity, self-care and using my time well are vital to my sense of well-being.

During these past few months, isolated at home with my husband, my definition of a “successful” day includes (in no particular order):
*Bullet* fulfilling the requirements of my Carmelite vocation
*Bullet* following my food boundaries so as to either lose or maintain my weight
*Bullet* spending time creatively: writing, piano, art on my iPad, or yarn crafts
*Bullet* doing at least one household chore
*Bullet* walking on the treadmill
*Bullet* getting to bed by midnight (which rarely happens)
*Bullet* doing self-care (flossing and remembering to take medication)

Other “successes” that aren’t part of my daily routine include:
*Bullet* resisting the temptation to engage in an unhealthy habit I’m striving to remove
*Bullet* finishing a project I've started
*Bullet* keeping a promise I've made to myself
*Bullet* practicing discipline by doing something I don't feel like doing when I don't feel like doing it because it needs to be done
*Bullet* doing an act of kindness or service
*Bullet* refraining from expressing an opinion, either because it’s not necessary or could offend even if it’s true

Depending on our temperament, time of life, cultural values and perhaps even gender, we’ll have widely different perceptions of what it means to be successful.

Reflect:
*Bullet* What does “success” look like for you?
*Bullet* If you don’t see yourself as successful right now, are you moving in that direction or do you see it as impossible?
*Bullet* If you do see yourself as successful, how have you defined and achieved your success?
*Bullet* What do you believe is the most important requirement to experiencing success?
*Bullet* What do you consider to be the most significant evidence of success?
July 25, 2020 at 10:14pm
July 25, 2020 at 10:14pm
#989140
I've pursued several unrelated interests over the four decades of my adult life that have endured for more than three months. Of these, very few have lasted more than six months, and apart from developing my spiritual life, none have lasted beyond a year. I've returned to a few of them once or twice after a period of several years. I practiced some regularly for a few months then dropped them again and others I played around with more sporadically.

In no particular order and aside from writing, I've pursued these interests for a period of three to six months:
*Bullet* using a program to transcribe books into Braille
*Bullet* learning about Linux so I could ditch Windows
*Bullet* weight loss, nutrition and fitness so I could drop 30 pounds
*Bullet* knitting and crocheting squares to be made into blankets for charity
*Bullet* learning to play piano with chords and rhythm patterns so I could compose worship songs
*Bullet* collecting and sharing spiritual quotes on social media
*Bullet* studying apologetics, logic, and algebra

I'd still like to learn Latin, advanced music theory, and how to create Android or iOS apps. Are you wondering yet if I have ADD? Even after three months of isolation due to the pandemic, boredom’s not been an issue. I love classics, fantasy, and historical romance novels. The only way I find time for them is to listen to audiobooks while doing housework or working out on the treadmill.

My favourite definition of a passion is something you're willing to suffer for. It's something for which you're willing to give up other enjoyable activities in order to make time to do it. It's more than a "strong interest" because even a strong interest dies when shot with obstacles and challenges.

A passion isn't necessarily a single activity, nor is it a goal. It's rooted in your soul, a value, or maybe several related values. I've identified the "mission statement" for my life: to become all that God designed me to be and to reflect His truth, beauty and goodness in every area of my life.

Flowing from this, my core values are:
*Bullet* pursuing physical, emotional and mental wellness
*Bullet* maintaining internal balance and focus
*Bullet* using my gifts to provide something of value to others

We don’t just pour our efforts into our heart’s desire, but we also can learn to feel passionate about that which we put effort toward. --Sanam Hafeez, Psy.D
THE SECRET TO DEVELOPING PASSIONS (RATHER THAN SEARCHING FOR THEM, LIKE NEEDLES IN A HAYSTACK)  

If this is true, I'll never develop a passion because I have so many interests and they're like reflecting sunlight on a brook - bright, beautiful and entirely unstable. I don't need to discover my passion; there's abundant advice on how to do that. Rather, I need to settle on one interest or combine a few and develop a passion from these.

How do I decide which of these to focus on when any one I choose means I have to sacrifice at least one or two others that I'm equally interested in? I have more time than most people since I'm retired and have few other commitments, especially with the pandemic eliminating our social lives. Still, there are a limited number of daily hours available to pursue any of these and I already go to bed long after midnight.

No matter which direction I take, there'll come a time when it gets difficult. I've never been great at persevering through this stage, either from laziness or a lack of self-confidence. If failure is defined as giving up, I've had a lot of failures. I've had two successes at weight loss and both of these were because I wanted it badly enough. As fascinating as I find any of these activities, I don't know if my interest is as powerful and as compelling as my desire was to lose weight.

I've reviewed at least 10 articles about "discovering your passion" and several of them offered a list of questions to help you figure this out. If this were a puzzle to be solved or a treasure map to follow, here's where I'd look for clues:
1. What's the most expensive item on your wish list? Or which category describes the majority of items on this list?
2. What "unnecessary" thing do you regularly spend money on?
3. What books are on your shelf or e-reader or audiobook account?
4. Which podcasts do you subscribe to?
5. What sites are in your bookmarks? Or what categories of articles are in your Instapaper, or in your Pocket account?
6. During your workday, what do you most look forward to doing when you leave?
7. What will you stay up past your bedtime to do?
8. What do you yearn to do when you get enough time (when the kids are grown and gone or when you've retired)?
9. What do you never want to do, if you have a choice about it? (Example: sell stuff, speak publicly, or do anything on a computer)
10. What do you most often procrastinate doing other than preparing taxes and visiting the dentist?

If it's true that your passion will always "come back to you", then writing could be it for me, or at least in part. This is the third time in my life where I've devoted six months or more of consistent effort to writing. There are other things that I've come back to but nothing I've persevered with for more than a few weeks.

At the time I'm writing this, I've maintained my focus on writing for 10 months. I've posted more than 50 articles on my Writing.com blog and about 12 on my WordPress blog. I'm still posting to each of these weekly. Since I'm also considering creating a third one that will focus on Catholic spirituality and apologetics. maybe I won't turn aside from writing to something that seems more interesting. Writing will remain my strongest focus for the foreseeable future. It will never be my only focus – and it doesn’t need to be.

Reflection:
*Bullet*When you suddenly have a lot of free time, are you excited or bored?
*Bullet*Do you have a hobby that is your main focus or do you struggle to balance several competing interests?
*Bullet*If you feel pressured to “find your passion”, how do you deal with it?


July 20, 2020 at 12:10am
July 20, 2020 at 12:10am
#988637
After a couple of months in lock-down due to the pandemic, I decided to return to Sudoku puzzles. A few years before I retired I was solving a lot of them. Whenever I try something new, I try to find guidance so I can be as proficient as possible.

One useful tool is the Simple Sudoku program that only works on the Windows platform. I use this to enter puzzles from books. I use the “Print Plain” option to print them large enough for me to work with. When I make errors while solving, I can identify them, use my eraser, then continue solving from that point. If I get stuck, I can use the “Print With Candidates” option and work from that to finish solving. The program does have a button which provides hints. These are often more cryptic than helpful.

I read plenty of books and watched quite a few videos, seeking tips for solving Sudoku puzzles. A lot of what’s available is somewhat helpful but mostly confusing. In my search for better solving strategies, I discovered Chad Barker, the Sudoku Professor. He has a unique and very useful approach to solving Sudoku puzzles.

Nothing compares to Chad’s videos for ease of understanding, simplicity and effectiveness. His explanations are clear and methodical. In every lesson, he covers the entire puzzle and explains each step of his thought process. He provides PDFs of the puzzles he uses for each lesson so you can print it and follow along. In many of the lessons, he also provides an exercise puzzle and video reviewing the exercise. The only downside to his method is that it won’t work on any electronic version of Sudoku; it has to be pencil and paper.

It is not enough to just watch the videos to gain real skill. Practice is essential and he recommends puzzles that have been published in books or newspapers. Nevertheless, I have found the puzzles freely available at KrazyDad.com to be very good. After extended periods away from Sudoku, I’m finding it very worthwhile to review the videos. Watching them, even for a third or fourth time, I noticed very helpful tips I’d forgotten.

When I first purchased his lessons, there were four levels: Freshman, Sophomore, Junior and Senior. If you want to solve easy to intermediate puzzles, you’d probably find the Sudoku Essentials and the Bachelor level to be more than sufficient. If you’re really into Sudoku, his higher level courses are worth the investment.

The Bachelor level is what corresponds to the four lesson levels I originally purchased. The new levels are:
*Bullet* Master’s Prep
*Bullet* Master’s
*Bullet* Doctorate
*Bullet* Mistake Eliminator

In order to do this review, I signed up with a different email. As soon as I did, a web page appeared with two videos that together provide the first of four free lessons. The first free lesson is available immediately after signing up. It covers the “1 through 9 technique”. It’s often the only way to get enough information to make progress on a medium or intermediate puzzle.

The second free lesson continues the “1 through 9 technique” and explains the power of two of his pencil-marking techniques. He gives different labels to some number patterns which are more descriptive and explains how identifying them hlelps you solve other cells in the row, column or box. In this lesson he covers the “double-double” which most Sudoku books refer to as a “naked pair”.

In the third free lesson, he covers the next step which involves looking at what is missing in rows or columns with fewer than 5 empty spaces. This is covered in later lessons as the “Think Outside the Box” technique. He also reinforces the pencil-marking techniques.

The fourth (and final) free lesson highlights the problems with some other solving techniques, especially what Chad calls the "Brute Force" technique where you start by identifying and pencil-marking all the possible candidates for each empty cell.

There are a few problems with this:
*Bullet* It is tedious, killing any real chance of enjoying the game.
*Bullet* It hides, rather than highlights, useful information.
*Bullet* Errors are very likely.
*Bullet* It provides little help for easy puzzles and is useless for harder ones.

When you click the button at the bottom of this last lesson, you see that the Bachelor level course is 50% off for three days, a typical marketing gimmick. Even 50% off is still $97. You have to be pretty committed to Sudoku to pay that much. I paid $70 for what is now the Bachelor course about six years ago and found it worthwhile since I was doing a lot of easy to medium level Sudoku. You may not do as many but perhaps you want to solve much harder ones. If so, you won't find any better help anywhere else.

Check out these resources


Sudoku Professor:
*Bullet* Sign up for free lessons Get 4 lessons free  
*Bullet* Courses and cost {x-link:https://www.sudokuprofessor.com/products/}Sudoku Curriculum}

Simple Sudoku
*Bullet* Download program created by Angus Johnson  
*Bullet* Simple Sudoku Guide Angus Johnson’s Guide to solving Sudoku  

Places to get puzzles
*Bullet* KrazyDad Sudoku puzzles  
*Bullet* Astraware app and puzzles  

Other
Sudoku Forum  



July 12, 2020 at 12:10am
July 12, 2020 at 12:10am
#987884
I came across some articles about why we write where one author, in particular, said that many writers have never articulated to themselves why they write. I’ve gone through periods where I wrote a lot and regularly, followed by years, even decades, of no writing at all. I first started writing in high school.

My English teacher told me to never stop writing because I had talent. I didn’t follow her advice. I was in my 40s by the time I took it up for a couple of years and then dropped it again for almost two decades. Now, in my 60s, I’ve returned to it, hopefully to stay with it this time. Instead of wondering why I kept giving it up, a more interesting question is why do I keep returning to it?

Last summer, after helping a friend write a cover letter, there was a stirring within me to return to writing. I re-activated my membership with Writing.com (WDC) and entered a few contests. Something had shifted in me. I had no interest in fiction; creating plots and characters no longer appealed to me. Since I enjoy reading fiction, this makes no sense to me. However, even nine months later, this hasn’t changed.

Since WDC offers a blog space, I decided to see how regularly I would publish posts on it. I’ve never been good at sticking with things for long since I have so many interests so imagine my amazement when I’d produced two posts per week from August until December then one post weekly since the beginning of 2020. I’ve also written a few essays for WDC contests with good results.

So now I know what I’m meant to write: relatively short non-fiction. The question of why I want to write is linked to the question of who I want to write for. The topics that I write about are pieces of that puzzle. My ideal reader, or “avatar”, is someone who shares my interests and is passionate about learning new things.

If I find myself wondering how important writing is to me, my feelings about it are no reliable guide. I need to look at how much time I spend creating new content or doing “writing-related” activities in the past week; has this increased, stayed constant or decreased? It’s not how I feel about an activity, it’s how much time I spend doing it that truthfully indicates how important it is to me now.

On days where I don’t feel like creating something new, I want to still do something related to writing. I’m afraid that, otherwise, I’ll lose my “momentum” and not be able to get it back. I’ve invested so much time and energy into writing this time around that I don’t want to risk wasting it. Having created a “real” blog on Wordpress.com is helping because it’s a commitment to real and potential readers.

When it comes to fresh writing that isn’t for one of the WDC contests, I write about things I’ve discovered and encourage my readers to take opportunities to learn and to engage in critical thinking. I express my opinion about something important to me or share a perspective that is counter-cultural.

Sharing discoveries
I’ve been writing some book reviews, and plan to review a few sites and products. I like to share things I discover. When it comes to sharing information, I like to research a topic, to break it down and summarize it in a way that enables my readers to move from complete bewilderment to, hopefully, a basic general understanding.

Support learning and thinking
Besides pointing readers to free opportunities to learn online, I write to encourage critical thinking. I’ve written about pseudoscience, navigating the nutrition maze, and dealing with over-abundant contradictory advice on a topic.

Stating opinions
I’m not interested in controversies and debates. I just share my insights and values. If others can relate or if it helps them to know that they’re not alone in how they view a situation or practice, that’s a blessing for both of us. For those who see things differently, they have good reasons for their perspective. An example of this would be the article I wrote about consuming news media.

Suggesting new perspectives
We sabotage ourselves in so many ways. Our beliefs and attitudes shape how we behave and the habits that keep us from reaching our goals. I like to point the flashlight in a new direction. My article Let “good enough” BE enough suggests that getting the task accomplished is better than waiting forever for it to be “perfect”.

The writing I’ve done since last summer has given me a sense of who I’m writing for. It’s revealing some things that I’m passionate about. One of these things is “truth”, something I believe is absolute, not relative. I know I want to continue to write whether or not I ever see evidence that anyone has read my articles. That is one indication of how important writing is to me now.

Reflections for others who write:
*Bullet* Have you ever listed the reasons why you write?
*Bullet* Do you know how important writing is to you?
*Bullet* What genres of writing are you drawn to and which ones don’t interest you in the least?

July 5, 2020 at 12:22am
July 5, 2020 at 12:22am
#987253
After considering the advice to “write every day” and some other useless tidbits, I want to share what I found most interesting and useful for someone who doesn’t write consistently, who does not want to give up, and who wants to figure out where writing fits into her life plan. After reading a lot of articles, I grouped the most interesting tips I found into three categories:
*Bullet* Staying in the flow
*Bullet* Improving your craft
*Bullet* Maintaining motivation

Ways to stay “in the flow” when writing drafts:
*Bullet* Put your mobile devices in airplane mode and disconnect your laptop from the WiFi.
*Bullet* Turn off spelling and grammar checkers.
*Bullet* Prepare a general outline or mind map before starting a first draft.
*Bullet* Write TK as a marker for where you need to add or edit something later and move on.
*Bullet* Put your editing voice in “lock down”.

Removing potential distractions and having at least a general sense of direction when I start the first draft is obvious. The TK tip is something I’d never have thought of. I can search for it when I’m ready to edit. The fact that something will need attention doesn’t have to prevent me from finishing the draft. The hardest part of writing is keeping my editing voice quiet. Writing the TK in places reassures my inner editor that she’ll get her chance later; she can go chill somewhere else until I’m ready for her help.

Improving your craft:
*Bullet* Become a grammar expert.
*Bullet* Increase your vocabulary.
*Bullet* Increase your typing speed.
*Bullet* Practice writing headlines.

I’m reasonably good at grammar and there’s definitely room for improvement. I have the Elements of Style and a workbook to go with it that I’ve not opened yet. I completed a Foundations of Grammar course at Lynda.com (freely available through my local library membership). I want to improve my grammar skills but I don’t aspire to be an expert. There are various style guides out there and they’re massive! I don’t write for an income so I don’t need to be a “Grammar Guru”.

Learning new words can be more fun than work. You don’t need to use uncommon words but it’s important to know what they mean so that you don’t misuse them. Since the average reading level is at about the 8th grade, you might wonder why to bother increasing your vocabulary. Because I’m a writer, I’m fascinated with the power and meaning of words. Words are for a writer what flour is for a baker.

I learned touch-typing in high school so I don’t really need to work at increasing it unless I decide to do freelance transcription or data entry. There are plenty of apps available to help you learn or improve your typing skill. I’d definitely do it if I were a 2-finger typist so that my fingers could keep up with my ideas. I can type much faster than I write by hand. At the same time, there is a different “feel” to handwriting that works better than typing, depending on what state I’m in.

Getting better at writing headlines is vital for a blogger but not necessary for someone who writes fiction or poetry. My headlines definitely need improvement if they are to catch any reader’s interest. It would be absolutely essential if I was freelance writing for marketers, something completely unappealing.

Maintain your motivation and momentum by doing at least one of these activities each day:
*Bullet* Do research for a future piece of writing.
*Bullet* Plan an article or chapter or do a character sketch.
*Bullet* Write a first draft for something, or do some free writing based on a prompt.
*Bullet* Edit an earlier draft written at least one or two days ago.
*Bullet* Read something from your writing genre or about the writing craft.
*Bullet* Engage with other writers.
*Bullet* Participate in an online writing community such as Writing.com  

I’ve had series of days where I didn’t do any of these things and I didn’t like the result. The more days I neglected writing, the harder it was to return to it. If, during these “off” days, I did too many “left-brain” activities like Sudoku puzzles, I was less inclined to write than if I did something more creative like colouring on my iPad. I don’t write fiction but even reading a novel is better than Sudoku because I’m still engaging with someone else’s writing.

When I read too many articles or listen to too many podcasts by professional writers whose goal is to help you succeed in your writing “career”, I feel drained and start wondering why I’m bothering to write at all. I compare my “drive” with theirs and realize that I’m not part of their intended audience. I want to be a “hobby writer”. I want writing to be a significant part of my life but I never intended it to “be” my life. Either I’ll always be a person who juggles many interests or I haven’t yet found my all-consuming “passion”. I find myself forgetting that it’s OK for writing to not be the sum total of my life.

Reflection:
*Bullet* Do you know why you want to write and who your audience would be?}
*Bullet* Which, if any, of the tips in this article are new to you?
*Bullet* Which aspect of writing do you find the most challenging?
*Bullet* If you don’t write or do writing-related activities regularly, what helps you to get back to writing?
*Bullet* If writing is just a “hobby” for you, is this what you want or do you dream of earning income from it?
June 28, 2020 at 11:34pm
June 28, 2020 at 11:34pm
#986737
After decades of being “outcome focused”, I’d come to a point in my life where the process is more important than “getting stuff done”. I started with goals where I had no control over the outcome and switched to goals which were about concrete things I could achieve regardless of other factors. Only in the past few years have I focused on a few key long-term goals. These direct my strategy and choices about where I will focus my efforts. In Atomic Habits, James Clear distinguishes between the goal or result and the process or system that moves you in the direction of your goals.

Prevailing wisdom claims that the best way to achieve what we want in life—getting into better shape, building a successful business, relaxing more and worrying less, spending more time with friends and family—is to set specific, actionable goals. ... Eventually, I began to realize that my results had very little to do with the goals I set and nearly everything to do with the systems I followed. ... Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.


After putting goals in their proper and most useful context, he expresses how important it is to attach your identity to the habit you want to build. Habits that benefit us have the reward at the end; unhelpful habits have the reward at the beginning. Playing video games provide immediate pleasure and no later reward or benefit. Doing your daily exercise has no immediate pleasure but provides a reward after repeating the action regularly over an extended period of time.

James suggests getting some immediate pleasure from exercise by attaching it to an aspect of your identity: “You are a person who does not miss workouts”. When you do your workout, you are casting a vote for this growing identity. If you miss one scheduled workout, forgive yourself and make sure you don’t miss the next one. This works for breaking a bad habit, or at least reducing its frequency. Concerning weight management one identity statement could be either: “I am not a person who eats junk food” or “I am a person who eats 90% healthy foods”. When I eat carrots instead of cookies, I’m casting a vote for either or both of these identities.

Your habits embody your identity. Every action you take is a vote for the person you wish to become. The most practical way to change who you are is to change what you do. Habits are not about having something, they are about becoming someone.


In his book, he describes the “atomic” habits we start with as being extremely small in terms of time and effort. One example he gave was of a morbidly obese man who went to the gym with the rule that he could only stay for 5 minutes for the first several weeks. The point wasn’t to exercise, it was to develop the habit of “showing up”.

Even when you know you should start small, it’s easy to start too big. When you dream about making a change, excitement inevitably takes over and you end up trying to do too much too soon. The most effective way I know to counteract this tendency is to use the Two-Minute Rule, which states, “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.” You’ll find that nearly any habit can be scaled down into a two-minute version. ... The idea is to make your habits as easy as possible to start.


If I wanted to develop the habit of writing every day, I could start with writing 3 sentences every day in my bullet journal. There are already several days a week when I want to write a lot more than that. This is for the days that I don’t want to write at all. On those days, I could write 3 sentences about anything at all.

On the other hand, if I wanted to develop the habit of practicing the piano every day, I normally would have put together a practice “routine” that would take at least 45 minutes to complete. Instead, I could choose one of the components of that routine. After the end of the second week, I would add one or two more pieces. It isn’t about how much I do, it’s about developing the habit of sitting at the piano, turning it on, putting on the earphones and putting my fingers on the keys. The “gateway habit” is doing that one piece of my routine.

What you want is a “gateway habit” that naturally leads you down a more productive path. ... Your goal might be to run a marathon, but your gateway habit is to put on your running shoes. That’s how you follow the Two-Minute Rule. ... People often think it’s weird to get hyped about reading one page or meditating for one minute or making one sales call. But the point is not to do one thing. The point is to master the habit of showing up. The truth is, a habit must be established before it can be improved. If you can’t learn the basic skill of showing up, then you have little hope of mastering the finer details. Instead of trying to engineer a perfect habit from the start, do the easy thing on a more consistent basis. You have to standardize before you can optimize.


He gives more detailed strategies for developing beneficial habits and breaking those that sabotage us. Instead of relying on self-control to eliminate a habit, he suggests removing the cues. Don’t buy the junk food, remove the app from your phone or tablet. Make the habit as inconvenient as possible. When it comes to developing good habits, make it obvious, attractive and satisfying. Tying the habit to your identity is one way to make it satisfying.
This doesn’t cover all of the gems in Atomic Habits. I highly recommend it. It was worth reading slowly and taking notes for further reflection. It validated my intuitive sense that goals were not what I needed, at least not in the way I was using them. There are some interview videos on YouTube where he explains how he gained the wisdom he shares. After watching them, I was more motivated to read the book.
Atomic Habits-Amazon  
Use ATOMIC HABITS to Change Your LIFE! 10 Rules  
Summary of Atomic Habits by Sam Thomas Davies  
Interview with James Clear  

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