Tag Archives: self-help

Shift Happens! by Robert Holden

Shift Happens: How to Live an Inspired Life...Starting Right Now!Shift Happens: How to Live an Inspired Life…Starting Right Now! by Robert Holden

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I seem to be in a Robert Holden kick these days, and for good reason I think: this guy obviously knows what he’s talking about. He practices what he preaches, and it seeps through every word, every sentence he writes. He is honest and transparent, and doesn’t hide potential challenges to his philosophy.

Because, let’s get this straight: Holden’s work presents a philosophy of life. It may be wrapped in self-help paper, but dig a little and you have a fascinating, and eminently positive, conception of human beings and human life.

I think that Shift Happens is a great place to start if you’re new to Holden. It is comprised of short, punchy essays that develop an idea or a topic, such as feeling stuck, relationships, and struggling. It is filled with inspirational quotes and stories of transformation, of people who were just a miserable as you feel and discovered that there was a better way.

However, I’m starting to hit a wall with Holden: as much as I am inspired by his writing, I’m having a hard time finding ways to do what he suggests: letting go of guilt, fear and expectations. He routinely suggests to release control and give it up to God (not the Christian God but rather a general idea of divinity). Not being especially religious, I sometimes have trouble relating to this advice, but I admit that everyone needs some spiritual nourishing in their life. So here I am, trying to understand this concept of God and trying to give my struggles up.

There’s also a lot of talk about mediation, but little instruction on how to do it. In Holden’s world, it seems to be simply a matter of sitting down somewhere and being still. And it might just be as simple as that, but a single paragraph giving basic instructions would be appreciated, if only in appendix.

If you want a quick inspirational read, I strongly suggest this volume. However, if you want to delve deeper into Holden’s philosophy and approach, you can get Happiness Now!: Timeless Wisdom for Feeling Good FAST, which I have reviewed earlier.

This book matters because it is filled with wisdom that we simply have forgotten and need to relearn. If you even only read one chapter a day, you’ll feel more inspired, more positive and definitely more hopeful. The secret? Live in the present.

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Happiness Now! by Robert Holden (review)

Happiness Now!: Timeless Wisdom for Feeling Good FASTHappiness Now!: Timeless Wisdom for Feeling Good FAST by Robert Holden

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve always looked at self-help books with a bit of suspicion. Either they are blindingly obvious and don’t deserve their asking price, or they are useless to anyone other than the person who wrote it, in which case we end up with the same result: you spent money, and quite a bit of time, for something that is definitely not helpful.

Robert Holden avoids both pitfalls with Happiness Now!: Timeless Wisdom for Feeling Good FAST… if you’re ready to listen to its message.

The book’s core idea is most elegant in its simplicity: happiness is within your grasp, now. The title is actually a bit misleading: “now” is not about “feel happy right now because you are reading this book”, but rather about how the secret of happiness is in the “now”. The book won’t make you feel happy, but it may, in Holden’s words, encourage you to happiness.

Throughout the book, Holden uses personal experience, writings from philosophers, poets and religious figures from around the world (and not just the Bible, which I appreciated), and examples from past clinical work with clients to show that deep down, everyone knows how to be happy. Most of us have simply forgotten.

The book takes you through the many facets of happiness: realizing that we already are happy, giving up the search for happiness, the curse of “not being good enough”, accepting yourself, letting go of conditional love, the healing process, the importance of love, and lightening your burden.

After reading this book, I had the strangest, yet most familiar feeling: that I knew all of this all long. How easy is it to forget, in our frenzied search for more money, more possessions, more success, more love, that each of us has something inside that makes all those things optional at best.

Have you ever felt a part of you resisting the nature of modern life? Looking for a slower, more meaningful way to relate to the world and to others?

Listen to it. It’s happiness knocking at your heart’s door.

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On Focus

If you remember, last Sunday I linked to an article about how multitasking is actually slowing us down and reducing our productivity. Since then, I’ve been thinking about the nature of focus and concentration and how it changes our perception of life, work and writing.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been experiencing problems focusing on what I have to do because of constant distractions: Twitter, Facebook, emails, text messages, television. Something that should take me 20 minutes took me an hour because I was constantly stopping to check my tweets and the like.

Why we need more focus

Being focused means living in the present–concentrating on one thing at a time and leaving our distractions (internal and external) behind. In our increasingly rapid society where everything and everyone is connected through so many networks, it seems like an insurmountable task to just do one thing at a time.

We need more focus because it helps us:

  • Be more productive
  • Appreciate the moment
  • Enjoy our downtime
  • Do meaningful things

When I spend time with my boyfriend or with my friends, I don’t want to be distracted by tweets and messages. I want to be there, 100%, because it’s the only way I’ll really make this time meaningful. Let’s give an extreme example: how would you react if your partner suddenly started tweeting during sex? Awkward, isn’t it?

It’s the same with interacting with friends and acquaintances, even strangers. If you think it’s rude that someone interrupts their conversation to you to answer a text, then it’s most likely to be rude if you do the same.

How we can focus more

I’ve developed several tools to focus over the years, most of them for being more productive in my writing. But you can also use them in your life as well.

Be conscious of what you do

Do everything consciously, with forethought and deliberation. Avoid the confusion of the scatter-brained and the impulsive.

Find somewhere calm or stimulating

When I was writing my thesis, I had 3 distinct stages: working at the library, working at home and working in the student lounge. After a while, I became unable to produce in a certain space, so I had to switch every few months.

Observe your patterns and figure out when you need a change of scenery. If you can’t afford to work anywhere else, take a short walk, close your eyes and imagine a tropical beach, or simply change the orientation of your desk.

Allocate time

I now have time especially allocated to dealing with social media and blogging. Instead of letting Twitter eat a few seconds of my time every minute, I just keep it all for after the important tasks have been done. Yeah, my Klout may suffer from it, but Klout doesn’t pay the bills…

Cut out distractions

If you really need to do something, you have to cut out distractions. Turn off your phone and your iPad, shut down your email program and close the browser windows you don’t need. Cut off the Internet if you don’t need it for this task.

On my computer, I have 2 desktops (thank you Lion OSX!), one for work and one for blogging and social media. This has helped me a lot to keep distractions away from my attention.

Shut out the world

There’s something called “binaural brain wave” programs that deliver a certain frequency to your brain depending on the effect you want. There are a few iPhone apps as well as the works of Kelly Howell–I find both useful in most situations.

These programs shut out outside sound and help put your brain in the right state, at the same time. That’s what I call a great 2 for 1!

What can you achieve now that you can focus?

I’ve been more productive in the past 2 days than I have been in weeks. By keeping myself focused, I can achieve more in shorter amounts of time and feel less stressed about deadlines.

These thoughts are also related to my TV diet, another distraction I’m trying to reduce in my life.

What have you done to reduce distractions and increase your focus lately? Share with me in the comments!

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