Can Everyone Follow their Passion?

The most popular theme of commencement speeches in high schools and colleges is Follow Your Passion. But how do you figure out what that is? And what if everyone wanted to follow their passion? Are the sanitation workers on the garbage trucks following their passion? What about school custodians, lunch ladies, and school crossing guards? I’ve had the opportunity to counsel more than a few school crossing … Continue reading Can Everyone Follow their Passion?

Mind Games for Relationship Change

At a workshop many years ago, I learned a communication technique that felt like a gimmick. The object was to respond to someone who was insulting you by agreeing with them. It was important to sound sincere, not sarcastic. No — it was important to be sincere and find a way to agree with some part of the insult that your tormentor was throwing at you. … Continue reading Mind Games for Relationship Change

The Sunny Side of Positive Thinking

Now that I’ve trashed positive thinking in The Dark Side of Positive Thinking, it’s time to set the record straight. Our beliefs and thoughts have a real, physical effect on our bodies, our brains, and our world. Take the placebo effect. When I was in college, there was a time I had a headache every evening at 9 pm. My routine was to walk into the bathroom and take … Continue reading The Sunny Side of Positive Thinking

Criticism is useful, not insulting

We all hate when someone expresses their displeasure with our appearance, behavior, or something we’ve produced. We usually jump to our defense. But learning to use criticism to our benefit is one of the most important things we can learn in life. It’s hard to hear that our story, picture, new jacket, or haircut is not quite right, according to someone else. But it’s always useful. Always? Even if the person … Continue reading Criticism is useful, not insulting

Whitewashing Tom Sawyer’s Fence

Every kid eventually discovers this trick. We used to call it “reverse psychology.” Psychotherapists call it a “paradoxical intervention.” Mark Twain says it best in the story of Tom Sawyer and the fence that Aunt Polly made him whitewash on a beautiful summer day. We’re all familiar with how the clever Tom lit upon the idea of bamboozling his friends to not only paint the fence for him, but to pay for … Continue reading Whitewashing Tom Sawyer’s Fence

Emotional Blackmail

As we travel through life we learn techniques for dealing with other people. We learn those techniques from parents, friends, teachers, characters in books, movies, TV, and experience. Sometimes we make it up and try something new just to see what happens. When I was a young girl I watched a lot of old romantic movies. I saw that when a man was rude to a woman, she would … Continue reading Emotional Blackmail

When to Move On – in Writing and Life

A friend asked me how I knew when a piece of my writing was good. I told her that when I finish a first draft (or 2nd, 3rd, …) I always think it’s garbage. She looked shocked and asked, “Do you revise it a lot?” I nodded. “But how do you know when you’ve revised it enough and it’s finished?” Accomplished writers will tell you to let the work … Continue reading When to Move On – in Writing and Life

Musicals begin with an “I wish” Song

Today, on This American Life, I learned about the “I wish” song in movie and Broadway musicals. The main character sets the story in motion by singing about their fondest hope for themselves. 3 of my favorites are Somewhere over the Rainbow, in The Wizard of Oz; Wouldn’t it be Loverly, in My Fair Lady; Tomorrow, in Annie. This reminded me of our own lives. … Continue reading Musicals begin with an “I wish” Song

Tricking Myself out of Fear

I was feeling as if life had passed me by and it was too late to do anything truly great. I tuned into an interview of the filmmaker Richard Linklater on NPR, and felt even more of a failure. He’d accomplished so much and I hadn’t. (It’s a great habit comparing yourself to successful people if you want to create paralysis.)

In thinking about my past life, I decided I fell far short of my dreams. I was clueless about what I wanted for my future life. That’s not exactly true. I knew exactly what I wanted but I was terrified I would fail. Continue reading Tricking Myself out of Fear