What I’ve Been Up To

In October and November, I decided to very carefully analyze my life and come up with meaningful new year’s resolutions. The entire process in coming up with them and even up to this point has yielded what I consider some real breakthroughs and realizations. The process of seriously and honestly looking inward has gotten me to a point where I feel I’ve nailed down bottlenecks to more success (and perhaps more happiness) in life. Like any “problem” the consequences masked the root causes. And like any problem, you can fix anything unless you get to the root. And like any problem, trying to fix the consequences is futile and frustrating.

I can be obsessive. But that’s something I was always aware of enough to stop, think, relax, and come back to earth. So, during this quest of mine I compiled a list of over 40 books to read. They revolved around focus, creativity, memory, and other areas I felt could use some improvement. I kept adding, prioritizing, and re-prioritizing books depending on what I learned day to day. Also mixed into the list are other business books–not only personal development material. This doesn’t include blogs, videos, and other sources of information. I was aware that the long list of books was becoming too obsessive.

On the personal development front, I bought two books that were about focus and attention. I wrote reviews on my endscatterbrain.com site, which I developed to catalog my endeavor on this “focus” branch of my resolutions. There were some very common themes in both books, which got me to pay more attention to some things (no pun intended).

During all of this, and also another resolution of mine, I was also hammering away at a serious household budget. Now seeing the cost of 40+ books made me consider going to the library instead of buying all the books.

Luckily enough one book high up on my priority list was available at the library, so I pushed it up on my priority list. It was lucky in two ways. One that I got a book I wanted to read (for free–or better yet got my tax dollar worth), and two that I got to read this one sooner than later. The book is The Accidental Creative, by Todd Henry.

Call me a hypocrite, but I despise written reviews of books that start out like “I haven’t finished the book yet, but…” Because you can’t really review a book you haven’t finished yet or have had a chance to put the ideas into practice yet, right? Right?

Like I wrote on EndScatterbrain, a book can be either great or not depending on where you are with your knowledge and needs of the subject at the moment. Well, I’m half way through The Accidental Creative and already it’s helped tie everything together so well that I now have perfect clarity. And I also have the start of a serious and more focused plan and the desire to DO things that I think will blast me through hurdles (imaginary or not) that I’ve stumbled over for years. The book has hit home so much, that I can’t wait to adopt the lifestyle changes he’s going to suggest in later chapters. If the common themes to the other books provide any clues, I have a strong suspicion of what these lifestyle changes are going to be. Plus he alluded to some, which I know, understand, agree, and are thankfully very doable.

So tonight I decided enough is enough. The other 40 or so books will go unread for now. I’m going to cool down the blog reading and video watching a little too. I know what I need to do. FOCUS. And I need the time I would have spent reading and I need to START DOING.

What’s funny is that the process I started in October, WAS really a big part of the breakthrough in disguise. The books, content, etc. are just support material (tips, tricks, advice). But the support material has reinforced things I know I need to start doing. I love coming up with my own Yogi Berra’isms… So, I already knew what I needed to do, but I had to read about it to realize that I knew what I already knew.

The common themes in all three books is mindfulness, deliberateness, and purposefulness. And to put things into action. What got me to this point, are exactly those things. What’s going to get me far beyond this point, I’m confident, are those same things.

Also, habits and lifestyle choices have profound downstream consequences. For example, staying in your comfort zone and not forcing yourself to try new things can put a damper on creativity. Checking Twitter every five minutes rather than being in the moment (even when on line at the supermarket), has consequences on focus later on in the day. Going about your daily routine without a firm grasp of the day’s purpose can make you feel like you are in a rut, and also keep you from recognizing priorities.

Those are just a few of the things I came to realize and which I have already seen improvement.

I’m going to write a post explaining the above in better detail on EndScatterbrain soon. I’ll explain why I think focus, memory, and creativity are interrelated and what to do to improve those areas. Of course I have to wait some time for me to actually put more of the strategies into practice and see more success before I’d recommend them to anyone. But in a very short time, I have already seen enough improvement that I am confident to go full speed down this path.

One thing’s tried and true enough to declare. You’ll see it in every business book and in every self-help book. And while I always knew it in the back of my mind and applied it so many times, I guess it wasn’t so clear in my mind to apply to personal development as much as I could have. It’s to put things in motion. You can’t get from a to z without taking the first steps. There will be mistakes, failures, learning, re-routes, etc. You will also discover other things you would never have if you were wasting time and energy trying to be perfect at the starting line. I’ve seen this in my own healthy living endeavor and in so many work projects, but yet it escaped me to apply it here (until recently).

Another important thing to note… One of the books was deliberate in stressing that while you are working on improving areas of your life, you should never lose sight of your current strengths. And you should continue to put your current strengths to work. That advice has helped me avoid feeling that identifying and admitting you have areas to improve means you are inferior. Focusing so much on improvement can make you compare only your weaknesses to others. Instead you should see it for what they are–challenges and a pursuit of betterment. It puts things into a very healthy perspective.