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The world seems a little obsessed with “5 Hour Energy.” I’m a little concerned about the long term effects of this drink. I don’t know what’s in it and do not mean to endorse it. But I like the concept. Being in the zone is critical in sports and helpful in just about anything you take on.

That zone is really only about focus. Directed energy in the present moment. This attention keeps you looking in one direction. What could you accomplish if you were willing to give energy in the present moment to one thing? “I choose this.” That’s all focus is. You are in the zone when you say, this is all I’m doing.

Multi-tasking is okay now and again. When necessary, it’s helpful to be able to do it. But when you really want to get something done, be a success, do your best at something, the more focus you have, the better your chances for a good outcome.

No wonder everyone wants this drink.

There’s a lot of scattered energy these days. Multiple e-mails and conflicting demands are coming at us all the time and encourage that helter-skelter focus. On the contrary, anything that keeps our attention on a goal we can wrap ourselves around with energy and passion is far more productive. And it doesn’t have to come in a bottle!

Can’t we generate focus on our own? Without taking something? Think more about what you could do if you were willing. Choose one place you really want to put your energies. Make a commitment and focus your attention.

What human beings can do! Combing energies with others, we can give generously, do phenomenal things in sports, generate money, save the planet. Wow!

I’m doing The Artist’s Way, again.  It’s been a long time in between and my circumstances and creativity are at very different places.  So, too, for my dear friend who did it with me last time. I have to say, it’s a wonderful and fun program.  If you work it well, it produces amazing results!

It does take time to do, that’s for sure. With weekly readings and activities, you need to give it a fair amount of attention. As I learned in NaNoWriMo, it’s about the commitment to give it even a little time as many days as you can.  But the real key to this time management thing may be in the daily choices we make for where to put our focus.

Most of us lead busy lives . . . everyone from the 40-50 hour a week salaried workers to those rested and retired in Paradise.  There’s so much to do, to see, to take care of, to make happen, to find out, to listen to, to watch, to follow, to follow through, to follow up.

Can we drill it down to simple “Energy Math”?  I have so many hours to fill that aren’t about sleeping, eating, using the bathroom, etc.  So what am I going to do with them?  What are the things I really want to include?  Where do I choose to put my focus?

This takes observation.  Something we can all do, no matter how busy the schedule.
Needing only a few moments of your time now and again, (maybe when you’re waiting) and perhaps a small notebook or phone – to keep track of those findings.

So, you see what is and you do what works.  What is working for you and what isn’t?  Note those things which drain your energy or time. What activities are getting you where you want to go and what keeps you stuck?  Usually you can tell that what you’re doing just doesn’t feel right.  Or something else is calling you.

What are the things you want in your life?  Whether that’s spending more time with your children, nurturing your creativity or improving your game.  You need to decide what you choose to have in your life.

If those things aren’t fitting, something has to go. You need to make choices: what can you adjust, get rid of or replace?  It might take some time to patch up the leaks, but that’s okay.  Every little bit helps, frees up a little more space for something you’d rather have in your life.  And, knowing you’re taking the steps helps even if it’s just easing your state mind.

Everyone’s choices are different. But each day, sometimes in each moment, you need to think about where you’re going to put your focus. What are the cards you choose to pick to focus on and hold in your hand?

1) Make a Choice to Do It.  
Setting the Intention and putting some enthusiasm behind it is the best way to get going.

2) Plan Wisely.
Be sure to know how I’m going to do it.  Don’t overload.  Consider how I’m feeling and what else I need to do.  What will my overall energy requirements be?  Find a good time to do it.  And know the steps I’m going to take.

3) Know  the Reasons I Want to Do It.
This will increase my enthusiasm and seal my commitment if the going gets rough.

4) Accept That it May Not Get Done the Way I Picture It.
Doing what I say I’m going to do,
Has nothing to do with when.
Not being able to do it now (or when I planned),
Doesn’t negate doing it at another time.
Simply say when I will try again and stick to it.

5) Check to See if There’s an Easier Way.
I increase my chances of doing it if I make time to find the quickest route.

6)  Get Into the Good Feelings.
Remember how wonderful it feels to do what I said I would do, to follow through on my promises.  How about that feeling of  crossing it off the list, knowing I did it!

7) Remember the Steps for Goal Getting.
First is knowing what you want to do.
Second is figuring out what it will take to get it.
But nothing gets done unless you Take the Steps.

8) Stop to Appreciate the Accomplishment.
It’s so easy to jump into the next thing.  If I make sure to appreciate the accomplishment, I strengthen my will muscle and my commitment for the next goal.

On the one hand, discipline is known as the fortitude to stay with it.  On another, it’s harsh retribution for bad behavior.  Some will point to its root of “disciple” for clues to what this thing really is.  It is, I believe, at its best, a school of practice which you agree to follow.

Discipline is the willingness to get up and do something –

  •  You want to do or have chosen to do.
  •  Others expect you to do.
  •  Everyone else is doing.
  •  You think you should do or you’ve decided is best to do.
  •  You’ve promised to do.

And do it again.

Part of Discipline is the getting up and doing, but it also includes the rules/the practice  which keeps you going.  The commitment and dedication, the following, the discipleship to keep coming back.  It contains a streak of perseverance, which might carry with it shades of retribution, but is merely the willingness to try again.

I like the vision of showing up.  Long ago. I don’t recall if it was Natalie Goldberg or Julia Cameron.  Perhaps Anne La Mott. (Much of their teaching overlaps.  Rather esteemed company in my book!)  As a writer, I was taught to just show up.  Doesn’t much matter what you do. If you can get yourself to the desk, to the writing tablet, you’re half way there.  That is the core of discipline. 

Once you’re there, you can use tricks you pick up for yourself along the way.  For instance, I can usually get into writing something if I read over what I’ve already written about it.  Or, if I take pen in hand (they say that’s more connected to the heart) and put it to paper and just write.  If I just write, free flowing, whatever I’m thinking about the topic at hand, what I want to write about it, I will generate something.  Natalie Goldberg swears by Writing Practice – doing 10 minutes of focused writing to get you warmed up. It’s worked for me more than once. There are many such fire-starters.  Some may suit you better than others.

It always begins with the first step of showing up. Being willing. Or as Paulette Terrels teaches, being willing to be willing.  I use the adage: “A small amount of effort, applied regularly, produces results.”  That regular application is the discipline to show up and show up again. You generate fuel to do that through your commitment to following the practice, the path you have chosen.

An additional observation shows me that when I do that, when I give things time and attention (again, no matter how much), “handling” it as SARK says, I generate momentum for coming back.  When next I come to the task, ask myself to show up,  I often find connections have been made.  That “small amount of effort” allows my subconscious to do some of the work for me. These connections fuel what I call the “head of steam.”  It creates a vortex for me to show up to write, eager to get to it, knowing exactly what I want to say.  (And have some time to stay with it. Amen!)

I’ve been pondering the concept of commitment.  What does it really mean to say I am committed to this relationship, I am committed to seeing this project through, I am committed to making things better?  What constitutes a commitment? 

I’d like to think it means that you’ve pledged to bring your  A game to the table.  To give it the best you have to give.  I also would like it to be about being willing to show up – day in and day out.  Not that things won’t crop up.  They will.  In the moment, there may be an emergency, or another priority that will trump your commitment.  But you keep coming back to it.

You may need to work late this evening.  But your priority, your commitment still remains to improving your relationship.  So you come back to that.  You use your commitment to set boundaries.  I will work X number of hours overtime in the week which will not impede on the commitment I’ve made to work on this other project. You are vigilant about making sure those emergencies don’t overshadow what you’ve pledged yourself to.

It means you are willing to make this thing you’ve committed to more important than everything else.  You allow your commitment to help you make decisions in the moment.  More often than not, you make the choice for what you have betrothed yourself too.

It is a betrothal, a promise or contract with this relationship or project.  It is an agreement.  Another word for betrothal is engagement.  You’re promising to engage the majority of your time and energy into this.  A troth is a loyal or pledged faithfulness.  I pledge my troth of fidelity that this is something I give importance to in my life.  It is an oath, a pledge, a promise, vow . .   It is Your Word.

Commitment actually means the act of committing to a charge or trust. (As in having someone committed)  I see it as transferring your trust to another, whether that’s the other person in the relationship or a project you’re invested in.

It is an agreement to do something – to show up, to follow through.  Something you are obligated or emotionally compelled to do, like a cause. Your heart is in it.

It is the deliberate carrying into action (such as committing a crime).  That says to me defining deliberately what you choose to do, setting your intention in your commitment. The idea is to perpetuate, to keep it in motion, keep moving toward this commitment.   Making it a high priority in your life.

Merriam Webster also adds, to commit is to reveal your views, take a stand. You’re going to commit yourself to one way or another.

I believe there is one more piece to this commitment puzzle.  That commitment, to avoid being broken, must remain flexible and open.  Too rigid and you will often find it shattered at your feet.  But if you allow it to be malleable to the realities on the ground, you will have a much stronger material with which to commit.  Things Change. People Change. Projects Change.  Relationships Change.  You need to be able to adjust your commitment to comfortably fit within the new shape of things.

It’s that Heart Engagement, the betrothal, a belief in a vision that will keep you on the path of commitment.  If your commitment is to Peace, Joy or Love, you can always follow stay pledged.

There are several ingredients you can use for a Motivation Shake.  Have-to certainly gets one going.  Money can be a tasty ingredient, in moderation.  A compelling reason like children might well motivate as well.  Pressure or nagging have been known to get  a body going.

There are a lot more interesting ingredients you can use.  Choosing any two or more of these can make for a powerful cocktail that will not only get you going, but keep you on the path, long after some of the previously mentioned motivations have burned out.

Being inspired is a wonderful mother dough if you’ve got one.  Add a little excitement and curiosity and you are cooking on all cylinders. Joy and delight can produce a good steady flavor.

Overflowing passion – doing it for love – can carry most of us a long way.

Collaboration and Community can keep you moving steadily forward.  Purpose and Commitment can take you to the finish line.

Look around for these ingredients.  See where you can create more.  Pick them up like a perfectly colored leaf, a shiny stone or a fallen blossom.  As you come upon them.  As you find them around you.  Mix up your own shake using these warm and wonderful choices.

In my continuing adventure of writing about personal growth exercises, this week’s exercise is from Marcia Wieder’s “Making Your Dreams come True.”  Marcia is THE Dream Expert.  This exercise is about making a commitment to your dream.

You are to stand at the door, your face pressed against it, close enough to breathe on it and fog up a space. Then, wipe it.  See a view of your life when your dream comes true.  Really take it in.  All the sights, sounds, smells.  Sense the feelings you will have. Now, do you want to go for it?  Is it worth you making a commitment?  If you really, really want it, open the door and take a step out into it.  Trust that all will be well.

Marcia has a passion scale that goes like this: Red Hot / Turned On / Excited / Very Interested / Interested / Some Possibility / No Interest.  She’d like us to gauge everything we do on this scale.  When you’ve taken the step out of the door and  into your dream, see how it feels on this scale.

I had an interesting experience doing this many years ago.  I went bravely out the door, certain it was what I wanted.  As I did, I noticed a magnificent house ahead.  I knew the house well.  I approached it, but as I got to the second door, I couldn’t go through it.  I felt it was my house, but that somehow I couldn’t live there.  That someone else still owned the house. I’m not sure what that meant. 

But I do know that often we think we want something, but when it comes to actually doing it, we’re not so sure.  I watched a bit of the television show, “Last Restaurant Standing.”   Everyone seems to want a “Top Chef” type of show.  Anyway, there was a mom and son who wanted to open a restaurant.  (I believe the premise is several couples compete for the money to open their dream restaurant.)  But they weren’t clear about what kind of restaurant they wanted.  I suspect there are a lot of people who just think it would be fun.  But when they realize in order to do it, they have to keep the books and order the food and design a menu and please customers . . .  Well, it just doesn’t seem like so much fun, anymore.

Being committed to your dream is essential.  If you’re not willing to walk through that door, to embrace the life you dream of, it will forever remain out of your grasp.  It takes commitment.  Some days are better than others.  The commitment keeps you in the game. If you have that deep commitment then whatever you have to do to get there becomes more fun and exciting.  No, I don’t know how to keep the books for my restaurant, but I am willing to learn and try because I’m so committed to making great food for others.

Sure would be great if everything you did made you feel, at least, excited.  Really turned on and at times red hot would be an amazing way to live! I have to admit that I feel excited and turned on about my commitment.  But when it gets to Red Hot, I get a little afraid and back down.  This year, I want to embrace the heat, easily and with tons of fun!

Libby Gill’s theme for this year is “delivering excellence through discipline.”  This got me to thinking about Discipline.

My mother always said, “It’s a matter of discipline.”  My response was usually, “Ugh!”  Thinking it was going to be difficult and/or involve some form of punishment.  As in I’m going to be disciplined for what I’ve done.  

Her repetitions did pay off, though. (Thanks, mom.)  In some areas of my life, I am very disciplined.  In others I would say I’m as lackadaisical as any wastrel I’ve ever known.  What makes it work here and not there?  Maybe it’s that slanted and narrow view of Discipline.

Discipline has far more delightful refractions than the punitive angle. Discipline, like disciple, speaks of a following.  It might be about following a program or school of thought. As in the Discipline of Martial Arts Training.  It is a Practice.  A regular, ongoing practice.  I do Tai Chi every day so I move better, my systems flow better and it gets me in the mood to meditate. This follows that.  If I do these things that make me feel good/strong/healthy, ipso facto, this follows that, I will do the next thing and I will continue to feel good!

In order for your practice to grow, you need commitment. Commitment is the glue that keeps you in place. So we can look at discipline as a commitment to that Dojo (martial arts school). To whatever it is you decide you want to do. I like the phrase “Begin Again.”  Alcoholics Anonymous says “Keep Coming Back.”  Libby Gill speaks of perseverance in her book, “Traveling Hopefully.”  “Perseverance isn’t drudgery.  It’s a commitment to keep moving forward toward the vision you’ve created of your best possible life.”  You just need the commitment to keep coming back to your practice.

“Moving forward toward your vision” is a practice.  Sharon Salzberg, in an essay called the “Heart of Practice” from her book “A Heart as Wide as the World,” says, “Mindfulness is not something abstract or far away, it comes alive for each of us the moment we begin, and as we begin again.  This is the very heart of practice.”  Of Discipline.  To keep coming back.  The repetitions.

And making the choice.  Am I going to eat that delicious-looking, sweet, fattening donut, or am I going to have my allotment of peanuts instead?  Which shall it be?  Meditate or do the books?  Where is my commitment?  What is my choice?

Discipline, then, adds up to how often you make the same choice, out of your commitment. Ask yourself: does this support or drain me?  Does it take me where I want to go? Or at least in the right direction? The more you answer those questions, the easier it gets to know the right choice, to keep making the same choice, solidify Discipline and make it work for you.  Apply following/commitment/practice/choice Discipline to what you want to do and watch it bring you stellar results!

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