Burning the Diaries (NY Times)

Do you ever think about what might happen to your journals, should something happen to you? Would it matter to you if someone made the decision to read them, once you were gone.  Click  here to read one woman's short personal essay about her decision to burn all of her old journals. 

Review: You Learn by Living by Eleanor Roosevelt

To many Eleanor Roosevelt remains one of the most respected first ladies our country has ever known. She is considered a leader in her own right, apart from her husband, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and in fact, remained active in politics long after his death. She is associated with many human rights issues and continues to be seen as a lifelong social activist. 

In her book, You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life, Roosevelt outlines her philosophy for maintaining a fulfilling life, particularly as a woman. First published in 1960, it is now 57 years old, and while its age it starting to show, many of the points that she makes are still relevant today. 

The eleven keys that she shares are as follows:

  1. Learning to learn.
  2. Fear, the great enemy.
  3. The uses of time. 
  4. The difficult art of maturity.
  5. Readjustment is endless.
  6. Learning to be useful.
  7. The right to be an individual. 
  8. How to get the best out of people. 
  9. Facing responsibility.
  10. How everyone can take part in politics. 
  11. Learning to be a public servant.

Each key represents a chapter in which she explains each key, providing some examples from her life, as the wife of a politician and as a diplomat herself. One thing that I had to keep reminding myself of was that the book was written over 50 years ago by a woman, who had been born into and raised in a wealthy family. As I read, I often found her tone to be off-putting. More than once I thought that her comments smacked of privilege and that she wasn't addressing the typical woman, like myself, but rather socialites and the like. 

But as I read the book a second time, I found myself less offended, and while I could still pick up on her tone, I now simply see it as her way of speaking and seeing the world. The fact that she's well-bred and well-heeled (or was) is not her fault or a flaw. I cannot simply dismiss her thoughts or opinions because she sounds upper class. If I do that, I lose the opportunity to benefit from some helpful advice.

That said, nothing the Roosevelt says in this book is actually new, and perhaps that's because it's now 2017 and I've read a lot of books about how to lead a more fulfilling life. Some of those books may have even been inspired by her, as she has inspired the lives of many women (and men). Self-help books were not nearly as common in 1960, as they are today. Today, her list almost seems obvious and trite, to some extent. If provided with these headings, I feel I could have written just as well about all of the topics, except for, perhaps, the one on political responsibility, as I've never really served in any political capacity and don't feel qualified to do so. 

Instead of advice, the keys feel more like reminders. There's nothing new here. But they are good, solid reminders. For example, she advises that, "You must do the thing you cannot do." She is right and we all know this. We tell it to our kids, when we tell them that it's okay to be afraid, but they have to still do the thing anyway because that is what helps them develop courage. In fact, that really is courage. It good advice. 

Roosevelt also argues that we must embrace individuality and believe in ourselves. She goes on to point out that we shouldn't hope to be accepted by everyone or agreeable to everyone because if we were, we would certainly be compromising ourselves, on some level. What's funny is I think this of every single successful politician, and I would consider her to be a successful politician, even though it was her husband who was President. That said, I get it. But has all been said so many times before, but every politician has won some sort of popularity contest. And, of course, that doesn't mean convincing 100% of the people of anything, but it doesn't mean convincing a large number, and I have to think some level of individuality is sacrificed. I'm assuming. I could be wrong. 

And so, while I agreed with much of what she said and found her book to be filled with wisdom and practical common sense, I didn't walk away with any new way of thinking, though it did really remind me of my commitment to overcoming certain fears, embracing my individuality, and living a purposeful life in which I serve others. 


This is a recommended read. Tone aside, it's a practical and well-written guide to living a purposeful life. 

4 out of 5

The Challenge of Singletasking

If your life is anything like mine, you have all been there. Either you or someone you know has claimed to be juggling 100, 1,000 or a 1,000,000 things at a time. And depending on how many things you or they claim to have up in the air and just how exasperated you or they can manage to look and sound, seems to correlate, at least in the mind, of how important you think you are or you think they are. People even try to one up each other in "busy-ness."  It's like a competition to see who is doing the most, not who's necessary doing something the best. The ultimate goal seems to be to do the most or claim to do the most. 

In actuality, doing the most or doing the best, which is what we really want, is not achieved by multitasking. We have somehow duped into thinking that crazed busy-ness looks like success, when really deep focus and concentration lead to the kind of innovation, invention, and creativity that so many of us would like to achieve in our lives. We think that if we check more things off of our to do lists or bullet lists, we will find ourselves being the next Richard Branson or Steve Jobs, but the focus that both of these men, and many other like them are able to achieve, more resembles singletasking than multitasking. 

If any of you have been following my efforts for the past two weeks, you'll now that I've been finding it very difficult to singletask, which is something that, in my younger years, I was able to do quite easily and frequently. When reading a good book, I would become so immersed, that like Mihaly Csiksgentmihalyi describes in his TedTalk "Flow, the secret of happiness," I would find myself in a state in which I would no longer be aware of my physical self or my problems. I would have reached the state of flow. So, I know precisely what it feels like. And he's right, it is most likely the key or one of the keys to achieving a sense of fulfillment. 

In addition to fulfillment, singletasking is what our minds and bodies are designed to do. Brain imaging and other physical monitoring shows us that multitasking is actually bad for us. It taxes our minds, memories, and bodies. Rarely do people feel at ease or balanced, when they are multitasking. People may be mistaking the intense, stressed feeling that they're experiencing as excitement, "a rush," but it is actually stress and not a state any of us should want to be in or maintain. 

And so, I will continue to work towards singletasking and reaching flow again. How adept at you at focusing, concentrating, and singletasking? 

Living With Gratitude is a Process

For years now, I have always intended to live with an attitude of gratitude. Meaning, those are always my intentions, and to be quite honest, I thought I was doing a very good job of it. Most days, I will write about something for which I am grateful. My sons and I often talk about things for which each of us or all of us are grateful. But it wasn't until I received a message on LinkedIn, from an old acquaintance, that I called my gratitude practice into question, wondering if I was being as grateful as I can be or living with a grateful perspective? 

In her message to me, my old acquaintance told me how her family had been. In her recap, she wrote that one of her sons had been involved in a terrible car accident, which left him with a badly broken leg that ultimately required surgery and steel rods. I immediately thought about how awful it all sounded, but her next line read, "We are so blessed." They were blessed because he'd survived and was in the process of healing. She was grateful that she was in the position to homeschool him and that they had the means to keep it all together while all of this transpired. But, as hard as I try to be grateful in my life, I'd immediately turned to sorrow and sympathy when I read her story. 


I realize that, perhaps, I am being far too hard on myself. That night I questioned my attitude towards gratitude. Here I am always trying to inspire others to be grateful and not doing a very good job of it myself. But when I wrote about it, I realize that she and I were at different places in processing the information about the accident and her son's injury. And that sorrow, sympathy, pain, and all other negative feelings have their place and there are times when we should feel them. They are part of the normal and natural range of emotions. We cannot/I cannot ignore all of the other valid emotions that I might feel because I am trying to be positive or grateful. The other emotions are a part of my human experience, and once felt, I can hope to look at the "bright side" or "what I've learned" or look at the situation from another perspective, which clearly, my friend was able to do. Perhaps she didn't feel that way at the moment the accident occurred. No one is grateful that someone he or she loves is injured in an accident. 

I still believe that being grateful is important and a healthy attitude to strive for, but I also don't see it as a state we can perpetually be in. It is something to reach for though. It is the hopeful energy that pulls us forward in light. We are emotional beings with a wide range of experiences and emotions. Getting to the lessons and arriving at a state of gratitude can, in fact, be a process. It is a journey, and we should recognize it/them as such. In moments of crisis and tragedy there is often something for which we can find to be grateful, such as the heroes or people who reach out to help during such times, but there can also tremendous pain. And it has to be okay to feel the sorrow or pain and to feel it deeply. I think knowing the depth of our negative emotions gives us a greater awareness and appreciation for our positive emotions. 

I wish you awareness and appreciation this week.

Have a wonderful week.