Solving Problems by Increasing Options
Most problems can be solved, goals reached, if we have the courage to get out of our cage… self-imposed limitations in our thinking… and explore the abundant universe waiting to assist us.
To stay free, we must learn to live a balanced life. Jiminy Cricket’s philosophy on this subject wasn’t far off. In the song by Milton Berle and Buddy Arnold, Jiminy sings,
Though his proportions may be slightly off, the sentiment definitely rings true. How many of us work twelve to sixteen hours a day, try to survive on four to six hours of restless sleep, and have a hard time devoting even two hours of any given day to fun? Or how many of us swing to extremes in the opposite direction, playing or sleeping too much and putting off important things we know we should be doing? To stay free, or live happy, peaceful, productive lives, we need to set priorities or goals for ourselves in all major areas of life and put a reasonable amount of time and effort into realizing each one. It’s a balancing act and you’re the juggler, but in this section we’ll use Jiminy’s outline to bounce around some ideas you may find helpful.
Let’s start with sleep. According to statistics, more than half of us in privileged, developed nations like the United States and Canada are insomniacs. We don’t get the six to eight hours of good sleep we need for optimum health and effectiveness. Sleep clears our minds so we can think properly during the day, and gives us the energy we need to go about our activities. It also helps our bodies heal naturally. So how can we get the consistent, restful sleep we need? There are several strategies I can think of:
- Nip problems in the bud. Either mentally or using an organizer like the forms in the previous section, tackle problems as soon as they come up. I believe unresolved problems are the number one cause of poor sleep.
- Exercise regularly. Health clubs with gyms and pools are nice, but just taking a brisk thirty minute walk every day, raises the endorphins or chemicals that help promote good sleep.
- Release your sexual energy if your hormones are still alive and well. Good sex with a loving partner is optimum but not a requirement. If this is a problem area in your life, by all means, get some help. Even though open, honest, rational discussion about sex may have been absent for many of us during our formative years, there are numerous resources available to us now. I’ve listed several good books in the bibliography of To Heaven Through Hell and there are lots of others out there. An orgasm is probably the ultimate sleeping pill. Don’t be afraid to take one when you need it even if you don’t have a partner!
- Get focused. Set your goals or priorities in all major areas of your life and keep some kind of a record of how you’re doing. In “The Official Guide to Success”, Tom Hopkins states “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal.” We’re successful as long as we’re trying!
- Say you’re sorry when you hurt someone and try not to do it again. Guilt is a mighty thief of sleep. In all your relationships, try to live by the golden rule, one passed down through history in at least twenty different variations. As you discover them, work on irrational feelings of guilt… things you were taught you had to do or refrain from that just weren’t true. And while you’re at it, forgive yourself for your real shortcomings and do the same for others…perhaps the most important component of the golden rule.
- Watch what you eat or drink and when you do it, including prescription drugs you may be taking. Many drugs list insomnia as side effects and you may need to look for alternate ways of taking care of health problems if you are dealing with this situation. Caffeine in tea, coffee, or chocolate cause insomnia in lots of people. Since caffeine takes about 7 hours to wear off, if you want to go to bed by 10:00, remember this old adage, “After three, caffeine free”. Avoid eating a big meal less than three or four hours before you want to lie down to sleep for the night, and don’t eat foods in the evening that you know give you indigestion. If you drink alcohol, have a drink before dinner and avoid it at night. Having several drinks at bedtime may put you to sleep but it probably won’t be a healthy, restful sleep not to mention how you’ll feel in the morning. And before we leave this subject, getting adequate sleep is a tremendous aid in weight management.
- Count your blessings as Bing Crosby sings “White Christmas”.
“When I’m worried and I can’t sleep,
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep, counting my blessings.”
Again, positive emotions at bedtime induce good sleep. Susan Jeffers calls it an attitude of gratitude in “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”, and suggests you keep a running list of all the things you’re thankful for.
- Ask your doctor about sleep apnea if you have trouble sleeping but didn’t find anything else on this list that that might help you get a good night’s sleep.
In your notebook, begin a third section for goal setting. Write down Tom Hopkins’ statement on success at the beginning of the section. Then write down the most important areas you want to work on in your life such as health, relationships, job, hobbies, education, etc., with a few sentences about what you’d like to accomplish in each area. Leave several blank pages after each goal. Periodically, list some things under each that you have done or are doing to reach that goal.
Here is a link where you can get free downloadable graphic organizers. These quick diagram outlines come in handy in goal-setting as well as many other projects. This website, edhelper.com is designed for teachers, but if you type “graphic organizers” into their search box, then click on “general”, you’ll find standard organizers very helpful for goal-setting, especially. While you’re there, look at the additional types of forms you may find useful in organizing other areas of your life.
Go ahead and make some big posters or write affirmations concerning your goals, and look at them often. I keep a picture of three little raccoons peeking out a hole in an old tree in my office where I can always see it. Under the picture it says, “There are those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened.” The picture reminds me I’m trying to be in the first group! And under it, I have six current goal-related affirmations posted. Knowing we can make our own dreams come true is a good feeling or emotion and good emotions promote good sleep.
Let’s look at work as our next general category in the balanced life. We’ll include our means of financial support, or jobs if we’re gainfully employed, and all the effort we put into having the things in life we want and need, which we do at home and elsewhere. Work can be fun and fun can be work, so there’s some overlapping here. Also, most of us have five days a week at a job and do our other “work” over the weekend. Again, this is just a rough outline. How you plan your work and work your plan is up to you. Here are some work related matters to think about.
- Give any work you’re doing your undivided attention. Some call it living in the present moment and perhaps during work hours it’s the hardest strategy to master. The main thing is stay on task, especially in the job you do for your main financial security. Work is good for us. Doing our job well at our place of business brings great satisfaction as well as ensures that we will keep a job. Staying on task also prevents the many unhappy personality conflicts that come along when we allow ourselves too much time for interaction in other people’s personal or work related affairs while we’re supposed to be doing our own work. No matter how upset you are with your own personal problems, try not to think about them or discuss them on your employer’s time. Schedule a problem solving session for yourself after work, alone or with a good friend.
- Live within your means. If you exercise champagne taste on a beer budget, you’re heading for trouble. The credit card is a good friend under responsible circumstances, but most of us have felt the sting of spending more money than we can pay back. So, if this is a big problem for you, stop doing it!!! Pay cash from funds you know you have or designate a certain amount of your paycheck for timely repayment. And don’t spend that money on anything else.
- “Waste not, want not.”Or, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” There are literally hundreds of ways to save money and it’s fun as well as rewarding. For example, I have been shopping at thrift or second-hand stores and garage sales for many years now. The money I’ve saved doing this, and earned, having an occasional garage sale of my own, has freed up thousands of dollars toward things I needed to buy new, and our eventual modest, but comfortable debt-free retirement. “Reduce, reuse, recycle” is a phrase from a cute song younger kids learn at school these days. This is timely advice for all of us. I can think of so many examples of saving money through recycling but here is a recent one. Below is a picture of a quilt in the making, using mainly recycled material. Cutting uniform sized squares from the good fabric left in worn out clothing or other furnishings and sewing them together can create yards and yards of free material to be made not only into quilts, but cut into pattern pieces for making almost anything. I call this universal fabric because anyone, anywhere, can do this.
Well, look around your own home and see what you can fix instead of throwing out, or take apart and turn into something useful.
- Get organized. Whether at home or your place of employment, have a place for everything and put everything in its place. Doing so saves time, money, and energy as we go about the many tasks we have to perform every day. Keeping things where they belong can also prevent accidents.
- Look good, feel good. Whether you’re going to work, out shopping, or staying home, dress for the occasion. Take some time and money from your budget to buy clothes that look good on you, and don’t be afraid to be colorful. People respond to us according to how we present ourselves. We also feel better about ourselves if we look nice every day.
- Keep things clean and tidy. Being raised by a Dutch mother, everyone in my family developed this habit. And it’s a good one. We feel better when we’re clean, our clothing is clean, and our surroundings are clean.
- Divide and conquer. Put everyone to work in a well-run, efficient household. How you divide up the chores is up to you, but taking time to teach our children how to do parts of the work they are capable of doing is good for them and good for us.
- Just do it. There are lots of things we just don’t feel like doing…things like cleaning the bathrooms, pulling the weeds out of the garden, or doing the dishes before we go to bed at night. But we feel better when they’re done. For things I don’t automatically do each day, I write myself a list most mornings and include a few of those not so popular chores on it. Eventually, they all get done.
Create another section in your notebook where you can write daily “To Do” lists. Lists help us to decide what to do, remember what to do, and pat ourselves on the back at night as we check off all the things we’ve accomplished.
Well, this brings us to the last aspect of a balanced life, fun! Fun activities are those that easily and safely remove us from our cares and worries and allow love, joy, peace and other positive emotions to come flowing in from the same source we mentioned in Breaking Free…the same invisible realm from which we tap knowledge, creativity, energy and all empowering goodness with our sixth sense. We can’t stay there all the time but we can go there often to relax and regain the incredible feeling of well-being. And the difficulties of life are so much easier to endure, our problems so much easier to handle, when we know we’ll allow ourselves to have some fun. So what are we waiting for. Let’s look at some activities that we can really enjoy.
- NatureCamping, fishing, travel to beautiful, peaceful places…all of these activities seem to make time stand still, reminding us of the natural beauty that’s been on earth since time began, refreshing our spirits. The Sierra Club is a great resource if you’re single or just like exploring nature with a group of nature enthusiasts. Visit their website sierraclub.org to see what activities might be scheduled in your area. If you can’t get away, put up pictures of beautiful scenes, grow some plants in a favorite spot in your house or yard, and hook up a small fountain.
- The ArtsPainting, playing music, dancing, singing, and writing are all creative ventures in which we lose ourselves easily and quickly.Because creativity comes from the invisible realm we discussed earlier, these activities are especially important in reminding us of our connection to it. So explore your talents and make this wonderful connection often!
- SportsLike other forms of exercise, playing sports releases endorphins, or chemicals that create a wonderful sense of well-being and peacefulness. From soccer to tennis to golf, the possibilities are endless, alone, with a partner, or with a whole team.
- HobbiesThis category of fun presents an endless cornucopia of possibilities…everything from quilting to gardening to taking photographs. You can enjoy them by yourself or join clubs to enhance your skills and make good friends. meetup.com has groups meeting almost everywhere to share the major hobbies, or you can start one yourself.
- ReadingRead for fun or read to expand your knowledge of things you’re interested in. Again, endless possibilities like learning a new language, keeping up with current events, revisiting subjects you loved in school. Put your mind on positive things and positive emotions will follow.
Old fashioned table games like Canasta, Bridge and Dominos can provide endless hours of fun and socializing for very little money. In addition, they can bring families closer together. Computer games can also be a great source of fun and interaction for young and older people alike.
In all areas of work and fun, the families that play together may very well be the ones that stay together!
The list of fun things to do is endless…but let’s not stop at reading here. If you spend all your time on the serious things in life and find it difficult to take breaks for fun, pick at least one idea from this list or other ideas you may have stored away in the back of your mind, and start spending some time each week on that activity. You’ll feel much better if you do and connecting with that invisible realm, where all good things reside, is what having fun is all about.
Two Last Thoughts
First, balancing our philosophy of life is possibly the most important, yet difficult thing to do. But our thinking and our actions are inseparable, so work on it. Formulating a healthy view of how human beings are made and how they can operate successfully in a world that is both tangible and intangible, involves using all our senses….becoming more aware of our connectedness to our Creator, the whole human race, and every living thing on this planet….incorporating good ideas wherever we find them, while limiting ourselves to no one source. We become what we believe!
And finally, try to balance your needs and wants with those of others. We all have so much to give and share in all areas of our lives, and a balanced life includes giving and receiving. I like what an elderly black lady said about helping others. ”Give as much as you can, to as many as you can, for as long as you can.” And many of these “gifts” are free…yet priceless! A smile, a kind word, praise, compliments, encouragement or a good joke, to list a few. Just be sure to take care of yourself too.
Since we are all unique, the areas in which we can contribute to help make the world a better place are infinite.
Well, that about wraps up the principles and strategies from To Heaven Through Hell for happy, peaceful, productive living. Regardless of how our lives get messed up, we have everything we need to turn things around. I hope this website with all its resources will be helpful to you on your own journey to wholeness… your journey to heaven through hell.