Monday, August 31, 2009

My Courage Diet

As promised, here is my “Courage Diet.”

I have successfully used all of these "diet" steps at different times in my life, but decided to combine them into a diet just a few weeks ago when faced with the challenge of starting this blog. The diet idea came from the book The Joy Diet by life coach and Oprah magazine columnist, Martha Beck, which I read about five years ago, and immediately started using to create more joy in my life.

Beck lists taking risks as the fifth step of her 10-step plan to finding joy. She encourages us to take risks that make sense and are oriented in the direction we want to go. She has one caveat: the risk must be scary. (That part was easy for me, since all risks scare me.)

I hope my "Courage Diet" helps and encourages you, as much as it has helped and supported me.
All you need is a pen and paper and the desire to change your life, even just a little.

Step 1
Begin writing a list of all of the brave or difficult-to-accomplish things you have done. List every single challenge you have faced and fear you have conquered. Remember, there was a time when tying your shoe, passing your driver’s test, and getting your first kiss, date, degree or job - seemed very, very scary.

Try not to think, just write. Set a timer for 3 minutes – writing and creating a deadline are essential parts of the process.

Then reread your list; fill-in any blanks; round-out the details and add any other brave acts that come to mind.

Each day, pick one item on the list to review and revisit. Take a minute to fully picture the scene in your mind and to feel the memories and sensations it brings. Sixty seconds of reminiscing can bring you a flush of positive feelings and a nice boost of courage.

Step 2
Think of the music that gets you going and in a great mood. For me “Eye of the Tiger” is a sure winner no matter what I am trying to conquer. Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration” (no laughing, please) and Kenny Loggins’ “This is It” got me through my undergrad degree; Alaniss Morisette kept me focused through relationship upheavals; classical music helped me with my Masters and Joe Cocker, Aretha Franklin and Iron & Wine’s “The Trapeze Swinger” kept me company in the Peace Corps.

It’s your pick, your list, your music. Now, put the music in a format that is easy to access and then, listen to it! Once, twice, three times a day - at home, in the car, running, walking, whatever it takes to keep you feeling motivated. (Shadow boxing in the shower is fully acceptable.)

Step 3
Create a list of movies that have inspired you – movies based on real people, who have faced challenges, stepped in and out of their comfort zones, and achieved their dreams. “Rudy,” “Rocket Boys/October Sky,” “Cinderella Man,” and “Julie & Julia” are some of my favorites.

Carve out time to watch these movies. If you are short on movie-watching time go online to or to the official site of the movie, or see if the movie’s trailer is on Then read about the film or watch the trailer. Replay the film in your mind, remembering the scenes, music, and characters that made it special to you.

If you cannot think of a single inspiring movie, go to the American Film Institute’s 100 Years 100 Cheersweb site and download their list of the 100 most inspiring movies. You can also watch free and short inspirational videos at

Step 4
Make a list of books or stories that have inspired you. Don’t forget your childhood favorites.

Read them again. If you are crunched for time, read the first and last chapters or your favorite passages, or even an online summary. It only takes a few minutes or a quick glance to bring back the memories and the meaning they held for you.

Step 5
Repeat diet steps 1-4, as necessary.

Step 6
Please add anything you want to the diet or change it in any way that makes you ready to take on the world or that yucky spider in the corner.

It is your diet now; go for it.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Lots of different things bring you to particular points in your life.

The simple explanation for my being here, in this chair, typing away, at this moment is: I have to.

(I love saying that - "I have to." It is like instead of being a grown woman, I am for a few seconds a 10 year-old kid, and for the most part, I have found that doing anything a 10 year- old kid does is usually fun and a good stress reliever.)

This blog is part of an assignment to be certified for something I care about. So here I am.

That's the simple reason.

The real reason is much more complicated. I am starting a new venture, following a dream. And as part of that process, I am doing something I really thought I would never do: writing a blog.

The person, who told me I had to do it, did so in such a matter-of-fact way, that, well, now I am doing it. I am taking a risk - a big, hairy, scary, make-my-spine-tingle, curl-my-toes, gives me the heebie-geebies (no clue how to spell that one) kind-of risk. And, I must admit that at some level, deep down, that is exciting. Nauseating, but exciting.

I feel brave. My fear is slowly turning into courage. Geez, the minute I said that I went back to feeling nauseated.

Taking risks scares me - big-time, gut-wrenching, shoulder-shaking, pleaseeeee-make-it-stop - scares me.

Do you remember the game Risk? We loved that game as kids, but it also made us crazy - all those little tiny colored pieces, conquering all those innocent countries.

I honestly do not remember finishing that game one single time without some sibling rivalry, competition filled moments - in fact, most of the time the game ended in with all of us in tears.

Sometimes conquering the world came to an abrupt halt because one of us would tap the game board from the bottom, sending those teeny wooden markers sliding this way and that, making it impossible to recreate who "owned" what.

Most of the time when we hear or see the word "risk" it is followed by another word like -
or management.
(There are entire USDA approved risk management agencies, for goodness sake.)

Or even worse, we find it proceeded by the word - "At" - an educational and societal label that is carries a very dubious if not downright negative connotation and is often hard to shake.

No wonder taking risks seems so scary.