Stepping in and out of your comfort zone

queen of the worldWishful Thinking leads to growth and change, which usually involves a level of risk, and taking risks requires courage.  My initial reaction to taking risks usually involves fear, which usually leads to procrastination.

Sound familiar?

If so, keep reading . . . I have learned to use a series of activities to increase my courage and face my fears.

The idea of combining the steps into a diet came to me after reading the book “The Joy Diet” by life coach and Oprah magazine columnist, Martha Beck. I read “The Joy Diet” about 10 years ago, and immediately started using it to create more joy in my life.

Beck lists “Taking Risks” as the fifth step of her ten-step plan for finding joy.

She encourages us to take risks that make sense and are oriented in the direction we want to go. She has one warning: the risk must be scary. (That part was easy for me!)

I hope “My Courage Diet” helps and encourages you, as much as it has guided and supported me.

To get started, all you need is a pen, a piece of paper, and the wish to change your life, even just a little.

My Courage Diet

Step 1 

Begin by writing a list of all the brave or difficult-to-accomplish things you have done.

List every single challenge you have faced and every 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 15 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.  (You can keep adding to the list forever!)

Each day, pick one item on the list to review and revisit. Take a minute to fully picture the scene and to feel the memories and sensations it brings. Remember how good it felt to face, achieve or complete the item . . .

Sixty seconds of reminiscing can bring you a flush of positive feelings and a nice boost of courage. (This part is really important so, please do it even if it seems silly.)

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 (no laughing, please). Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration” (no snickering, either) and Kenny Loggins’ “This is It” got me through my undergrad degree; Alaniss Morisette and Tina Turner 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.

Step 3

sidewalk-657906_640Create a list of movies that have inspired you. Select movies based on real people, who have faced overwhelming challenges. People, who have stepped in and out of their comfort zones, and achieved their dreams.

“Rudy”, “Rocket Boys/October Sky”, “Cinderella Man”, “The Greatest Game Ever Played” and “Julie & Julia” are some of my favorites. I’ll also add “Tin Cup” to the list, it is not in my top 10, but there are some scenes I adore. (Remember all of this is up to you, it’s your choice. Be honest about what you love.)

Carve out time to watch these movies.

If you are short on movie-watching time go online to the Internet Movie Database or to the official site of the movie, or see if the movie’s trailer is on YouTube.

If you already love a movie, reading about it or watching the trailer will bring all the good feelings associated with it back to you. Or, simple, 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 Cheers” web site and download their list of the 100 most inspiring movies. Keep watching until you feel energized and inspired.

You can also watch free, short inspirational videos here. This is one of my favorites, because it includes “Eye of the Tiger”.

Step 4

Make a list of books or stories that have inspired you. Include 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. (Your brain is an amazing, high-tech, personalized support tool. You have primed it with good thoughts, which it will automatically release when you take a moment or two  to reconnect with the moments and memories you love. Don’t let this gold mine of goodness sit idle, unearth the buried treasures that motivate and inspire you.)

recycle-619067_640Step 5

Repeat diet steps 1-4, as necessary. Repetition does not imply defeat or failure in any way; rather it reveals bravery and resiliency. When we rewind and recycle what has worked for us in the past, we are showing a high level of emotional competency, and it’s a great way for us to face new or stressful choices and challenges.

Step 6

Please add anything you want to the diet or change it in any way that gets you ready to take on the world. 

It is your courage diet now; go for it!     

WTW Dandelion

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(I posted the original version of “My Courage Diet” on Wishful Thinking Works in 2010 – it works!) 

Word flow

April is National Poetry Month. Each year around this time, I picture all the world’s words flowing and swirling together forming new relationships and floating back to us through interesting new pathways  –  poetry.

Please enjoy this post while sipping a soothing cup of tea, savoring the richness of a delicious, dark cup of coffee, or relaxing with a nice round glass of red wine. If now is not a good time, browse through later this weekend and then make a date with yourself to return and listen to a least one poem a week for the rest of the month – or even the year!

Here’s one of my favorites, which I’ve mentioned before; When the burning begins is by Patricia Smith and is about a girl and her Daddy making cornbread. I see the room, smell the burning, and feel her emotions. I think I like it so much because I heard it before I read it; I truly believe poems are best out loud, just like gratitude letters and Dr. Seuss.

The Favorite Poem Project, is amazing. Americans recite their favorite poems and you learn a bit of  back story along with hearing them share. These slices of humanity never fail to fill my heart, today I listened to “We Are Cool” read by John Ulrich a 20-year-old student at the time of the reading. His description of the love his family shares with him is worth the listen; the poem seems to be such a small part of his life, and yet it is the thing that gave him hope.

To hear other poems, check out:

  • BBC Arts and Poetry also offers poems for your listening pleasure
  • The Cortland Review is an online literary review in streaming audio where poets read their works. Their “Poets in Person” videos are wonderful, I admit that I am often more intrigued by poets than their poems, the videos feed my literary voyeuristic tendencies.

If you prefer to read rather than to listen to poetry, visit “The Poetry Foundation” to find a poem of your liking. Or, stop by to use words and stanzas to recover poetic memories.

For poetry with a twist go to the Poetry Foundation’s “Chicago Poetry Tour”, where the history of Chicago is shared out-loud in verse. (You can download this little wonder, print their map and walk through the streets or you can do as I did, and armchair travel your way around the town.)

And, no virtual poetry tour would be complete without mentioning NPR’s poetry section, where poetry based stories abound.

Please take a moment to share your favorite poem or poetry site with Wishful Thinking Works readers; we’re listening.

Impossible dreams

IMG_1239I think I might have mentioned that my life caught-up with my dreams in the Peace Corps.

For me that means the “pinch-me” moments came back-to-back.

Such as, pinch me: I can’t believe I celebrated Easter in 2009 with folks I barely knew, eating lamb roasted on a spit, while sipping wine along the water on the Greek Isle of Corfu in the Ionian Sea, which is just south of the Adriatic Sea and an arm of the Mediterranean and I loved every minute of it!

I had an absolutely fantastic time for 5 days at a total cost of $250.  You see, there was a time when I truly believed I would never be on a Greek Island, and certainly not for only $250. (Travel booked in Europe is cheaper than you can ever imagine.)

Oh, I wanted to be on a Greek island; I just couldn’t figure out how it would happen.  Too expensive, too far, too many other places to go first, no time, etc., etc., etc.


When a door closes . . .

I thought I had to have it all figured out for “it” to happen.

I was wrong.

And, you may be to, about your life and what is ahead.

You don’t have to have it all figured out. You just have to begin imagining what you do want.

That’s what wishful thinking is all about.

Maybe, just maybe, during this beautiful season of rebirth and renewal, you might want to take some time to dream some impossible dreams.

Don’t worry about the details.

We can work on those later.

Postscript: Never sell yourself or your dreams short!

I returned to Corfu for a week in 2016, as part of an amazing extended honeymoon in nearby Macedonia – two dreams coming true – marrying my husband Dan and another trip to Corfu. Now we both share amazing memories of two places I love, Macedonia and Corfu! We returned to Corfu in 2017 as part of a two week Mediterranean trip from Barcelona to Athens. Three times, and once all of it was just a dream . . .



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The magic of mindful eating

MP900177759Easter is just days way, and for many of us Easter baskets are wells of temptation. Instead on mindlessly chomping on handfuls of jelly beans or quickly biting off the head of a milk chocolate bunny, why not savor and enjoy each bite?

Studies show that paying attention to what we eat, how a food tastes and feels in our mouth and how we feel when eating it is not only is an effective weight loss tool, it is a great way to increase our happiness, especially if we consider the food we are eating a treat.

peeps1So, before you dive into that bowl of jelly beans or rip open a package of Peeps – take your time to pick out a few, put them on a special plate and then savor their color, aroma, texture and taste. Roll those babies around on your tongue and let your senses engage. Give those delectable delights your full attention, release those endorphins and enjoy every single second of  the experience.

Mindful eating can not only bring you sweet and satisfying moments, it can increase your happiness and your productivity.  It will raise your mood, and possibly interrupt the urge to eat more than you really want, which can reduce all those guilty feelings you might experience afterward.

It’ a win, win, win – enjoy!


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