3 Steps to Mastering Your Life

Master

 

I am thinking about a passage I once read in a book by Italian psychiatrist Raffaele Morelli, called: “La Felicita’ e’ Qui” (happiness is here). He described the qualities of a real “maestro”, or teacher.   A master of agriculture, for example, is not necessarily one who has studied for a degree in the field, but rather someone who has been a lifelong farmer—one who knows the soil, the climate, the seed, the fertilizer, and the conditions that help and hinder the crops. Moreover, a real master has no expectations, after doing all of the groundwork. For example he/she can hope that the crops will grow and flourish, but unforeseen conditions could arise that foil even the best of preparations. Thus, a real master is prepared to accept the reality of the outcome, knowing that there are always elements we have no control over. A real master exudes serenity and inner strength. We can all be “masters” of our own life and here are three suggestions for doing that:

  1. Work hard for your desired outcome; then
  2. Accept whatever happens with grace and dignity, knowing you did all you can.
  3. If the outcome was desirable, give thanks. If undesirable, learn to distinguish if you could improve your efforts, or if it makes more sense to let go and move on.

 

Copyright 2019 Raeleen Mautner, Ph.D.

 

How A Simple Tomato Can Help You Write Your Book

I wrote my first book over 15 years ago. When it was published, it seemed everywhere I went people were not only interested in discussing the contents of the book, but also wanted me to coach them on how to write THEIR book. One woman told me she had wanted to write a book for the past 10 years, and please would I tell her what the “secret” was.

Well, there is no secret, not really. Just like there is no secret to losing weight—it comes down to the obvious Nike logo of “Just Do It”.

Everyone who has written a book knows that writing courses can be insightful, writer’s groups may offer motivation and camaraderie, but if you spend too much of your time attending courses and going to writers groups, you are robbing yourself of the time you need to write the book itself. Furthermore, the whole notion of “writer’s block” is another method of stalling, as it is premised on the misbelief that you have to wait for inspiration to strike before you can write.

There is no “Muse” that is going to descend on you and tell you what to write. So stop waiting for one, get rid of all excuses and distractions and make a commitment to yourself to WRITE!

Becoming an author doesn’t require a degree in literature, stimulating as that might be. It comes from the very mundane task of being willing to work hard, set aside time EVERY DAY to sit in a chair, and focus on typing out what you have outlined or planned.

The psychology of motivation, tells us that when we “chunk” large tasks into mini tasks, and then record our progress on paper, we actually get somewhere. Why? We can track our progress every time we reach a “mini-goal”, and seeing what we have accomplished thus far, motivates us to take the next step.

We can apply this technique to writing a book and I will share with you, a method that some of the most renowned authors use (e.g. Daniel H. Pink): It is called The Pomodoro Technique. Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato.

What does a tomato have to do with writing a book? Back in the late 80s when Francesco Cirillo, the creator of the technique, was in university, he always felt like no matter how hard he worked, he was not doing well with his studying. A big part of that was lack of focus, motivation, and too many distractions. Today we have even more distractions and for would-be authors, with publishers telling them to grow their presence on social media and build their “platform”, get out there and do some speaking, added to the daily tasks of oh, I don’t know, keeping your home in order, working a full or part time job, caring for pets, children or grandchildren, getting our exercise in and the other gazillion things that pop up in our mental “to-do” list every day—somehow our writing dreams just fade into the background until they dry up.

 

Don’t let YOUR dream of becoming an author dry up!

 

As an advocate of Aging Happy (title of my 4th book, which will be out in the beginning of 2019), I know how satisfying AND therapeutic writing can be, as we get older. I also know you may have wisdom and inspiration that others can benefit from if only you will get it down in writing.

Maybe you just want to write a book to leave as legacy to your children, grandchildren and generations to come with no particular desire to publish beyond making a few copies at the local printer. Or, you may want to finally write that novel from an idea you have had inside you for years but never acted upon, or started but never finished. Maybe you have a special expertise that you want to share with others by writing self-help or how to book.

The Pomodoro Technique was named for the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo himself used to help him stay focused on his studying, and later on his professional work tasks. The technique helped him become successful in all areas of his life and has since helped many others. In a nutshell, here is an example of how it works, as applied to writing a book:

 

Goal: Writing a Book

Equipment: Kitchen Timer (shaped like a tomato or not); Paper, Pencil, and amount of time you will set aside EACH DAY for your task—in this case, of writing a book.

Time: I like to set a non-negotiable block of time each day (either before or after work).

 

  1. Choose the Task you will work on today: This task can be the outlining of your book, or the completion of 5-10 pages of a chapter, or doing the research needed for that chapter.
  2. Set your Timer (pomodoro or other kitchen timer) for 25 minutes.
  3. During this 25-minute time segment, block out all distractions. No Internet, no cellphone, no TV on in the background.
  4. Work straight through for 25 minutes, then when the timer rings put a check mark next to the title of that task (see below for example). Next comes a short break.
  5. Get up and stretch, walk around the house, get water, take a bathroom break, etc., for 3-5 minutes.
  6. Set the timer for another 25 minutes and get back to the task.
  7. Repeat the process. After each 25-minute segment, put another checkmark next to your task.
  8. After 4 pomodori (or checkmarks) take a longer break of 20-30 minutes. Go out for a walk, pop in an exercise video, prepare a salad, do whatever does not involve the task you are working on. This way you will clear your head and be able to get back to task until it is completed
  9. Set the Timer again in 25-minute segments and repeat the process until your task for that day is complete.

 

Make sure that you are realistic in setting your task(s) for the day. For example if you only have 1 hour a day to devote to writing, don’t set a goal of completing an entire chapter in that one hour. Self-motivation is about seeing yourself succeed at the mini tasks you set out. A bunch of completed sub-tasks will serve as reward and motivator to keep you going when you realize what you have already accomplished thus far.

 

Rough Example of The Pomodoro Technique applied to writing a book:

Outline Book ✔✔✔✔ longer break ✔✔
Write Preface ✔✔✔✔ longer break ✔✔✔✔ longer break ✔✔✔
Research Chapter 1 ✔✔✔✔longer break✔

 

Now is the time. If you have always wanted to write a book, get going and share your insights and expertise by finally getting them on paper. You can do this, if you just take that first step and START!

Let’s start a conversation in the comments section below: What will YOUR book be about?

 

Reference (and for more information)

Cirillo, Francesco (2009, 2018) The Pomodoro Technique, LuLu & Currency Publishers)

(C) Raeleen Mautner, LLC 2018

Why Improving Your Memory Could Be A Laughing Matter

Hilarious New Musical Comedy, “Italian Wedding Soup”, Pantochino Productions in Milford CT.  Opening Night is April 20th–Come Share a Laugh with me! For Tickets Click Here

One day last week after leaving the house in a rush from having overslept; I suddenly broke out into a cold sweat wondering if I had unplugged the iron, turned off the stove, filled the dogs’ water dishes, and set the alarm. 15 minutes into my drive I could no longer bear it, so I turned the car around and went back to check all of these things. No, I don’t suffer from OCD, and as far as I know, my cognitive abilities are still quite sharp. But when we are under stress (for example, in a rush), short- term memory goes down the tubes.

Did I maybe just need a good laugh?

Short term memory is responsible for processing information that comes in from our senses, encoding that information so it can find a permanent home in our long term memory, to be later drawn back out when we need it. Short term memory is pretty important, even though it can’t handle a lot of information at once, and it can’t hold it there very long.

In older adults, research has shown that short-term memory deficits can result in making serious errors when taking medication, not doing physical therapy exercises correctly, or even missing health care appointments!

Most medical practitioners have begun to recognize the value of integrative approaches that go beyond traditional medicines and tap into holistic wellness solutions. Cognitive training, certain vitamins and herbal supplements, and (no surprise here) physical exercise, all help in improving short-term memory in older adults. One study, however, found that humor could have clinically significant benefits and rehabilitative properties with respect to short-term memory in this same population.

Two groups consisting of men and women average age of 68.7 and having normal cognitive scores were divided into two groups: the control group and the humor group. The control group was asked to sit calmly (no cell phones, reading, or dozing off) for 20 minutes; the; the humor group could select either a Red Skelton comedy video or 20 minutes worth of America’s Funniest Home Videos. Learning tasks (e.g. a word list) were presented to assess short-term memory—such as learning ability, delayed recall, and visual recognition of words. Saliva cortisol levels (the stress hormone) were also measured at various times.

Researchers found significant differences between the control and intervention group on all fronts. Learning improved by 38.5% in the humor group (24% in the control group). Delayed recall (remembering) improved by 43.6% in the humor group, and 20.3% in the control group, and the cortisol levels were significantly lower in the humor group as well.

What does this mean to those of us who are journeying into our older years? Stop taking life so seriously all the time and start laughing more. Build laughter into your daily routine as you would exercise. Hit the nostalgia channel on your cable dial and watch a couple of episodes of I Love Lucy, The Golden Girls, Seinfeld, Modern Family, or whatever sitcom, movie, or theater production that makes your sides ache with laughter.

Memory Note to Myself: From here on in before I leave the house, I plan to think of something funny I saw or heard recently, and have a good laugh to set the tone for the day. I will make and check off a short list of the things that need to be in order before I leave the house. And I will cherish and preserve my memory—- for as long as I can remember to do so 🙂

Reference:

Gains, G.S, et.al. (2014). The effect of humor on short-term memory in older adults: a new component for whole-person wellness. Advances. Spring Vol 28(2) 16-24.

©Raeleen Mautner, LLC

 

What the *^%$# Are You Telling Yourself?!

What you say to yourself DOES matter. Researchers found that older adults are generally higher in spontaneous self-affirmation tendencies, as compared to other age groups. But that doesn’t mean we’re all immune to occasional negative self-talk. When you examine your own mental chatter, you might discover that you can say some pretty mean things to yourself. Mental statements like: “I’ll never lose this weight”; “Nothing good ever happens to me”; “What’s the point of trying, things never change”; “I never fit in anywhere, what’s wrong with me?”; “I look so (old, fat, skinny, short, tired, bald, etc.).”

The bottom line is, you can reverse this negative thought pattern if you can catch yourself thinking these thoughts, and then correct them. You can also train yourself to establish a new habit of saying positive things about yourself. I’m not saying you should make things up, or make your statements extreme (I am the greatest; I am invincible, etc.). Rather, look to your past accomplishments and successes. Reflect on your values. Have you gotten through a challenge in the past and felt proud of how much strength you had? Have you met goals before? Have you mended your broken heart after a breakup or loss?

Plenty of research confirms why you should make positive self-affirmations a habit. In experiments where researchers had participants practice positive (“induced” ) self-affirmations, the outcomes included taking care of one’s health better, lower stress levels, greater weight loss, and an improvement in general psychological wellbeing.

Here are some ideas for making positive self-talk a habit:

  1. Write down your values, strengths, and past accomplishments.
  2. Think of a challenge you are facing. What are you telling yourself about your ability to handle this issue?
  3. How many times a day do you “bad-mouth” yourself? Put a check mark on a piece of paper whenever you become aware of putting yourself down.
  4. Begin to change any negative self-talk by substituting the put-downs with positive self-affirmations. You do this by recalling your past victories, values and strengths (see #1).

Eventually, by establishing a habit of positive self-talk, those self-affirmations will become spontaneous, and the number of negative “checks” you record will dwindle.

Researchers found a direct association between spontaneous self-affirmations and wellbeing. In my book that’s reason enough to start being your own best friend. Compliment yourself when you achieve a goal; remind yourself of what you have already accomplished in life; encourage yourself as you would a beloved family member.

I’d love to know how YOU are turning negative self-talk around. I read all of your comments!

Please like and share this post with anyone you feel it might benefit. And if you haven’t received my free Happiness eBook yet, just go to the tab on my homepage and get started putting more happiness into your life.

 

© Raeleen Mautner, LLC.