Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Johnny Mercer sang, “Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.” I’m all for that. In fact, it’s part of my personal credo, and a tool that I‘ve tried to implement in my life for years now. However, before I can eliminate the negative, I first have to identify it. These negatives have a name - I call them Demotivators. They are the things that steel time, energy, and focus from my day, and/or distract me or take me from what really ought to be done (like accentuating the positive).

We’re all fellow sojourners, and I’ve never been one to shield my process - it helps me understand myself, and it’s my hope that maybe it enlightens some of you (talk about the blind leading the blind… oy.) So, let’s focus for just a minute or two on the negative(s), identify the nasty bastard(s), and send ’em packin’. Hit the road, Jack… don’tchya come back no mo’!

Here are a few of my Demotivators:

1) Lack of exercise. While it’s easy to say I haven’t gotten out for a good long walk because I’ve been busy, it’s mostly bullshit. There’s always time. Physical health benefits aside, exercise makes for a well-rounded life in all kinds of ways. It energizes and inspires. It clears the brain case of unwanted junk. It’s a way to be all by yourself even in a crowd. For me, it’s a physical form of meditation… a Zen thing.

My new paradigm: Walk every day for at least ½ an hour.

2) Let’s face it… housework. I’ve never been one of those regularly scheduled cleaners (laundry included). I’ve never held to the schedule of, “Well, it’s Monday. Time to dust and vacuum,” or “Ah, Thursday… laundry day.” It gets done when it gets done, which translates to, it gets done when I notice it enough that it bugs me and after I’ve procrastinated at least two days. You could say I’m a free spirit and unfettered by such mundanity. Although this is somewhat true, what really happens here is that by the time I do get started on housework, I’m in such a lather (pun intended) over it that it becomes at least a day long, if not two days, project. I end up not focusing on anything else until it’s done, and worse, feel guilty for even having creative thoughts.

My new paradigm: Do a load of laundry as soon as the basket is full - not smashed down & burgeoning full, but just tossed in full. Thoroughly clean one room every day of the week.

3) Procrastination. Didn't we just have this discussion the other day?! (Cue heavy sigh...) I just need to stop, that's all. I really need to work against being a career procrastinator. It's so difficult to change something that I've been adept at my entire life.

My new paradigm: Carpe Hora! Don't worry about the whole day. Seize the hour. Larry says it best, "Git 'er done!" 

Okay then. With that out of the way, let’s accentuate the positive. While there are small ways I do this throughout the day, the best way I know of is to use daily affirmations. My affirmations change as needed, but there are a couple that I've kept going for years. Here’s how it works: I pick a simple phrase or two that says something positive about me or my life, or something that I want to change for the better (easy examples: I am a good person, or I will eat healthfully today); I keep the phrase in my head and repeat it aloud often. I also start the day by saying these phrases to myself in the mirror. Saying them while looking in the mirror is a wonderful way to identify yourself with the efficacious things you are saying.

While popular psychology can delve into the deeper reasons, I kind of discovered this on my own (with just a little help from friends). The more we hear something, the more we tend to believe it. The more we say something, the more believable it becomes. As a child I felt mostly invisible until and unless my shortcomings and failures were pointed out. Thus, I grew up believing that I had nothing worthwhile to share with the world. As an adult I didn't believe it when others told me anything different because I hadn't opened myself to the idea. It wasn't until a few years ago that I realized the crime I was committing by not sharing all of myself. Even so, I couldn't let go of my creative pieces (whether writing, music, or art...) until I started telling myself that I'd done well... until I started recognizing that some of the things I was creating were just the type of thing I'd go looking for if I were in the market.

One day as I was driving down the road and thinking about a new design, I suddenly grinned and said aloud, "Hey! I'm an artist." It was such a startling moment for me that I pulled over. I repeated it, I don't know, maybe a dozen more times. It felt good. It felt so good that when I got home I made a list of things I liked about myself. Then I read the list aloud. Twice. Looking back, I think it was that day that I really gained a lot of the self-confidence I have now. It most definitely liberated my creative side, and probably a lot of my creative style.

I won't give you an assignment today. This is one that we each have to realize, design, and and actualize in our own time. All I will do is encourage you to heed the words of Mr. Mercer. It works, it really does. If you need my help, please holler.

Sing it with me & Aretha...

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