Gina's Book Talk

Monday, July 28, 2008

"The Path" by Laurie Beth Jones

An interview with Laurie Beth Jones, author of The Path

Why are you here? What is your reason for being? Are you waiting for invitations from others so you can begin really living your life? If you can’t immediately answer those questions, it may be time to formulate a personal mission statement. Did you think mission statements were only for corporations and businesses? Not anymore. Best-selling author Laurie Beth Jones suggests it’s important for each of us to clearly define our missions. Otherwise, it’s like sailing through life without a rudder. I spoke with Laurie Beth, who shared her insight and inspiration.

What’s the best way to form a sense of mission?

Carl Jung once said, “Nothing affects the environment of a child so much as the unlived life of a parent.” Many times people subconsciously live out their parents’ unfulfilled lives, even though it may not have anything to do with what they themselves want to do. It’s important that you look at your parents’ lives to make sure you’re not subconsciously living out their dreams rather than your own. Then, once you’ve performed that clearing exercise, form your mission statement. Following are the three elements of a good mission statement:

A mission statement should be no longer than a single sentence, so writers block shouldn't be an issue. People who accomplish a lot with their lives have laser-like focus. This focus enables them to zero in on what their mission is and state it succinctly. One of the most powerful mission statements in history was given to a 14-year-old French girl. She received a message that, essentially, was:

Dear Joan,

Save France!


That girl was, of course, Joan of Arc, and with no resources other than her faith, she rallied the French army and won battle after battle. And it was all because of that two-word mission statement: Save France.

A mission statement should be easily understood by a 12-year-old. Your mission statement should be so concise and simple that an average 12-year-old would hear it and then say, “Oh, I get it. This is what you do.”

You should be able to recite your mission statement from memory at gunpoint.
This means your mission needs to constantly be in your heart. You face decisions every day that are going to either take you closer to where you want to be or take you farther away. You have to know at any given moment what your mission is.

Webster’s Dictionary defines “mission” as a clearly defined territory of responsibility that is assigned by a higher headquarters as part of a larger plan. A mission is felt as a calling. I believe everyone is given a divine mission, and it’s our job to find out what it is -- and then do it. Then we will be in bliss because the only path to bliss is finding your mission and living it.

We often feel like we have to do it all; that we’re responsible for everything. Once you get clear about your mission you’ll sleep easier at night because you’ll know how to choose your battles.

What are some of the myths about mission?

One myth is “My job is my mission.” A mission is not a job description; it’s always larger than your job description. For example, let’s say you ask someone his mission in life, and he says, “To be a doctor.” What he has given you is a job description; his actual mission is probably healing. The truth is, if your mission is healing there are many ways to heal. Deepak Chopra and Andrew Weil are doctors who don’t practice in a traditional setting, yet they are living out their mission of healing. Your job is a temporary means of delivering your mission.

Women seem to have gotten trapped in another myth: “My role is my mission.” Many times if you ask a woman what her mission in life is, she’ll say, “To be a good wife and mother.” Who was she before she got married? Who is she going to be when the kids are grown? Women can get very tied up in their roles. They need to be aware that their roles can change. Your mission is larger than your role.

Some people think their mission is their “to-do” list. To-do lists should only be developed after you’ve written down your mission and your vision statement. A vision statement is a long, flowery description of what the landscape will look like as you accomplish your mission. The Founding Fathers got together and said, “We are here in order to form a more perfect union.” That was their mission statement. Then somebody said, “What would a more perfect union look like?” And that’s when they had to define it with the Bill of Rights. (In a more perfect union, we would have freedom of speech, we would have freedom of religion….) The Bill of Rights is the vision of this country.

People always buy into visions, either their own or someone else’s. We all absolutely have to have a vision. “Where there is no vision, people perish.” Don’t write your to-do list until you know your mission and your vision. Stephen Covey says that people get caught up in the good life or doing urgent things that aren't important. Once you are working from your vision, you are doing the important things that may not have seemed so urgent before you got it clear.

What in your opinion are the steps to success?

1. Get the information you need.
Get as much information as you can about your situation.

2. Get specific goals.
Joan of Arc’s mission was to save France. Her vision was to get the Dauphin crowned. Her first goal was to get off the farm; then get a horse; then ride to the Dauphin; then get permission to talk to the generals of the army. That’s getting specific about what it is you’re going to do.

3. Examine and enlist your resources.
All the men who signed the Declaration of Independence pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. They knew they needed an army so they sold land to buy ammunition for the army. Look at what you have; then decide what you can do to get what you need.

4. Turn old business into new business.
Many times we’re looking for new customers and haven’t paid attention to old customers. I tell people to go back to people who have helped them in the past.

5. Give people something tangible to remember you by.
People need visual reminders.

6. Break ranks and be bold.
So many people are marching in place, waiting for someone to give them permission to do something. Leaders give themselves permission.

7. Get visible.
Don’t keep a low profile once you get clear about what you came to do. Joan of Arc got a white horse and a new coat of armor and a flag. She was quite a visible sight when she came riding up to the French troops. She knew the power of presentation.

8. Saturate everything you do with prayer.
Prayer opens us up to receive divine help.

If you could only give one piece of advice, what would it be?

Follow your heart. It’s never to late to start.

Monday, July 14, 2008

“The Creative Journal” by Lucia Capacchione, PhD

An interview with Lucia Capacchione, PhD, author of The Creative Journal

If you picture someone who writes in a scrapbook journal, you might envision a love-struck teenage girl. But self-therapy pioneer Dr. Lucia Capacchione wants you to know there is more to journal writing than “Dear Diary.” Regardless of your age or gender, keeping a journal is a powerful tool for discovering and releasing your inner potential.

What is creative journal-keeping?

It’s a method that is based in art therapy principles. Art therapy is an approach to psychology in which the client draws pictures from the unconscious – it’s like having a dream on paper. The client draws images, shapes or abstract designs that represent their emotions, and their thoughts and feelings. With the creative journal I teach people to draw out on paper what is going on inside, and then they write about it. There are some written exercises in my book but most of them start with some sort of visual expression.

The creative journal not only helps people express what’s going on in their lives, it also encourages them to use their imagination to create what they do want. And that’s the difference in a creative journal because most journals and diaries are simply a record of what’s going on. Another significant difference is that I include art, which most diarists don’t do. (By the way, including art doesn’t require any talent.) I also encourage people to create a vision of their future, as well as one of the present and the past.

What might we discover about ourselves through keeping a journal as you suggest?

People do discover their emotions that they’ve been afraid to feel. Drawing accesses the part of the brain that has our emotional expression centers in it. The right brain has areas that govern our emotional expressiveness. So people who have a hard time feeling their emotions or expressing themselves have little access to that part of the brain. The right side of the brain -- being the visual, spatial side -- is also the side of the brain that governs our ability to express through art, through visual images, through photography. And when we use the drawing technique, that gets us into that area of the brain and it allows us to express emotions much more directly. The other thing this method can do is help people get through creative blocks. There’s an exercise in the book that I created when I was trying to write that book. It’s where I answer back to my inner critic. Answering back is one technique, and writing with your non-dominant hand is a very powerful technique. It opens up the inner child in you, as well as the emotional self and the creative self.

What is needed to keep a journal?

Anyone who can write or draw or make any marks on paper can keep a creative journal, even children and teens. For materials, all you really need is blank book, preferably 8-1/2 x 11, that is unlined. I recommend either a hardback diary or a spiral-bound sketchpad, and a set of felt pens in an assortment of colors. You can also use crayons for some of the exercises, but I recommend using colored felt pens so you can write and draw with the same pen.

What is the most important thing to remember about creative scrapbook journaling?

I’m a therapist but I know of no better tool for mental health than keeping a journal because you have complete control over it. You have it at all times, and you can write or draw in it whenever you want -- when you’re struggling with a challenge, when you’re setting goals, when you’re planning your life and career. It’s a fantastic way to set goals and assess who you are in life, and go after it. It’s a great tool for self-responsibility and for people to get to know themselves. You learn to become your own best friend and you have a dialog with yourself. If you keep a journal you then start to set goals and take yourself seriously. You become accountably for your own dreams. The creative journal enables you to do that. Lots of people think life happens to them, but it really doesn’t; they happen to life.

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Monday, June 30, 2008

"Seeking Peace" by Johann Christoph Arnold

An interview with Johann Christoph Arnold, author of Seeking Peace

It is a simple truth: We all seek peace, even if we don’t realize we are actively looking for it. To seek peace, suggests Johann Christoph Arnold, means nothing more than finding purpose in your life. It’s a universal quest that transcends religious faith. A prolific author who has met with many of the world’s religious leaders, Johann Christoph Arnold wrote Seeking Peace to offer direction for finding a purpose that will make our lives meaningful.

How can we find harmony within ourselves?

My message to people is: “Get busy. You are only young once. Find purpose in your life, and use your life to do something constructive.” Too many people are wasting their lives. Society could be so much more constructive. Every act of love and service has a ripple effect. Like the ripples caused by a small pebble thrown into a lake, one act of love spreads to many people. It takes only one stone to start an avalanche -- one human being’s life can make a difference. You might not see the difference in your lifetime, but through service to other people you leave a legacy behind when you leave this world.

How do paradoxes relate to peace?

Jesus said, “I come not to bring peace but a sword.” That might sound contradictory because Jesus’ main message was love. But love always brings confrontation because it demands change, and people are afraid to change. That’s a paradox.

Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador was a crusader for peace. He informed the world about the killings in his country, and like other great leaders who have fought for peace, Romero was assassinated. But Oscar Romero was the voice and conscience of El Salvador, and he left a legacy for the people of his country and the world. His assassination sparked a movement for equality and peace that still continues today. That’s a paradox.

Similarly, Mahatma Gandhi devoted his life to nonviolence and was assassinated. Yet the result was the liberation of his people. His influence and his principles of peace are still followed by people today.

How does forgiveness relate to peace?

Forgiveness is powerful. For example, I know people whose family members were murdered. Instead of wanting revenge, they forgave the murderer and decided to work with the families of other murder victims, and even with the murderers on death row, to bring about reconciliation. Jesus told us to love our enemies because love overcomes tension and violence.

I frequently visit “hot spots,” such as Palestine’s West Bank where I have witnessed the conflict between the Jews and the Arabs. And I know that peace will only come out of one-to-one-relationships. It won’t be because of peace agreements or other political actions. Peace will come where there is a Jew and a Muslim who forgive each other.

What do you mean by “abundant life”?

An abundant life means you have found peace, you have found forgiveness, and you are not afraid to die. It’s important to remember that every human being is important. We all lead busy lives. We rush from one appointment to the next, and we don’t take time for each other. Maybe your child will come up to you when you are involved in something, and you’ll say, “Don’t bother me now. I’m too busy.” Instead, why not take a few minutes and ask what you can do to help your child? It brings a satisfaction that money can’t buy. And it reduces fear and brings happiness and security.

As a people we are so materialistic. We have so much junk, so many possessions, but we always want more. And we become busier and busier. Families often don’t have mealtimes together anymore. There is no time for our children, unless it's their birthday party or some other special occasion. We are missing out on the most important things in life.

Albert Einstein once said that if you want your child to be brilliant, read him a fairy tale, and if you want your child to be still more brilliant, read still more fairy tales. In our society we want to put children on the fast academic track. We want to make children into miniature adults and we don’t allow them to be children. That spells disaster.

What is your most important piece of advice?

Love people. Give yourself an open invitation to treasure everyone you meet. Every person is unique -- you will find no other exactly like that one person. You can always learn something from other people that will enrich your life. It doesn’t matter who that person is. Whether homeless or a millionaire, each person is a human being. There’s something valuable in each and every one of us.

Seeking Peace by Johann Christoph Arnold is available from

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

"101 Ways to Enrich Your Life" by Karen Diedrich and Robert Lemke

A discussion with Karen Diedrich, co-author of 101 Ways to Enrich Your Life

When Karen Diedrich's mother was dying of cancer, a simple phone from a concerned employer helped Karen find a source of peace amid the turmoil that was her mother's illness. That phone call from Robert Lemke, the man who was to later become Karen's co-author, provided insight on keeping perspective and handling fears. This invaluable advice, along with many other concepts developed by the pair over the next several months, evolved into their inspiring book, 101 Ways to Enrich Your Life. Karen Diedrich explains how these basic ideas can help us confidently handle life's issues:

How can we strike a balance between the major things and minor things in life?

The first thing you need to do is sort out your mountains from your molehills. Some people describe this by saying, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." Start by deciding what your "main thing" is. Then it's a matter of keeping that in front of you; of keeping perspective.

For example, my co-author, Bob Lemke, and I talk about a "worry basket." Everybody has a worry basket, and most of us tend to keep that basket full. You may fill it with worries such as when you're going to get your laundry done or when you're going to get Easter crafts done in time for your church bazaar . Then something major can fall into your basket; something that gives you a big-time worry. Maybe you hit a period of struggle in your life, and what happens then is that the big worry pushes all the little worries aside. You realize that all those little things you had in your worry basket aren't really worth worrying about, and you focus on the one big thing. Eventually, you survive that big worry, one way or another, and then, because your basket is empty, you wonder what you're going to do. Will you allow yourself to fill up that worry basket again with trivial stuff? Or are you going to choose to "keep the main thing the main thing"? Why not decide to take a moment every day to be grateful for all you have, all you've accomplished and all that's going well in your life?

Don’t feel obligated to fill up that worry basket with trivial stuff. You may think you can't be happy until you work out certain things in your life, but most often, life is happening to you in the meantime. You're missing out on all the precious things that happen to you day to day because you're focused on that time in the future when everything is going to be OK. It's important to accept that life is never going to be perfect. You'll never have everything in your life exactly the way you want it, so focus on what do you have in your life that's great right now, and celebrate that.

What is "personal culture" and why is it important?

Personal culture refers to your beliefs and your behaviors. It's basically what you think and do. Many of us go through life without ever realizing that we have control over our personal culture, so it's important to focus on the idea that you have complete control over everything you think and everything you do. You can control how you display your personal culture to the rest of the world.

101 Ways to Enrich Your Life is not about money; rather, it's about every other way you can live in prosperity. Everything it takes to live a rich life costs nothing. The best way to live rich is to take the beliefs and behaviors that form your personal culture and make them positive. Then take those positive beliefs and align them with positive behaviors. The manner in which you behave should fit with the way you think. For example, sometimes you may feel compelled to do something even though it goes against your beliefs, but if you have that incongruity you'll have a lot of internal conflict. If you can align positive behaviors and positive beliefs, however, you'll have a very strong personal culture and be living rich.

The place to start is with your beliefs about yourself. Once you can truly believe positive things about yourself and behave in ways that make you feel good about yourself, everything else is easy.

How can we use our personal culture to enrich our lives?

There are four tools on which we rely in everyday life. I remember them with the acronym CALM:

The things we say, the messages we send, the things we think and feel

Our behaviors; the things we do

Lessons learned
Your real wisdom comes from here. Wisdom is knowledge applied. If you learn the lesson and acquire a different perspective or behavior, you can change things in your life for the better.

Most often, the people who control money have influence. Many of us go through life thinking money is our primary tool, but the other three tools -- communication, action and lessons learned -- can be far more powerful than money. Once you realize that, you can really make a difference in how you live your life.

What is "interpersonal culture"?

Interpersonal culture refers to the way you share your personal culture with other people; with their own personal cultures. When you have shared beliefs and behaviors with other people, you can develop a strong, positive interpersonal culture. And from there you can develop customs and traditions that perpetuate those combined cultures. Conversely, culture clash is when you rub up against people who have a different personal culture than your own. Have you ever been with a group of people who were all laughing about something but you didn’t see any humor in it at all? That's an example of a culture clash.

We naturally gravitate toward people who are like we are. That doesn’t mean you shouldn't value diversity; it simply points to the fact that when you're in a situation where you're uncomfortable or you feel like a misfit, the odds are good that you're in the middle of a culture clash. Understand and accept that's what happening. It doesn’t mean there's something wrong with you; it just means you have different beliefs and behaviors than the other folks in the group.

To really enrich your life you need to develop bonds with people who have cultures that align with yours. Those people make the best marriage partners and the best long-term friends. The popular idea is to get married to someone you think will make you "complete," but it's more important that you get yourself complete. You first have to know who you are before you can look for an alignment with someone else. If you look for someone to fill in the places where you're missing, you'll be stuck in the status quo and neither of you will grow. You'll need that person to stay the way he is, and he'll need you to stay the way you are, and you'll both end up stifling each other. Your goal should be for each of you to grow independently. Think of it as enriching someone else's life; not what they can do for you or how they can make you complete.

What advice do you think is most important?

I think the most powerful advice is that you shouldn't let fear keep you from daring to live the life you dream. Fear is something that sucks the peace and confidence out of your life. It's insidious, and you probably don’t understand how many of your beliefs and behaviors are driven by fear. Inspirational writer Marianne Williamson says that everything in life is either fear or love. If there's anything that gets in your way -- anything that prevents you from building a strong personal culture -- it's fear.

The way to develop confidence is to conquer your fears, but first you have to identify your fears, quantify them, and then deal with them. And it takes courage to do that. Courage is not the absence of fear; courage is doing what you know is right even if you're scared silly. Work on overcoming your fears and look for the lessons learned. If you can face your fears and recognize how that helps you to grow, you'll have a much richer, more fulfilling life.

Buy this book from 101 Ways to Enrich Your Life

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"Tapping Your Inner Strength" by Edith Henderson Grotberg, PhD

Recognizing Your Own Resilience
A discussion with Tapping Your Inner Strength author, Edith Henderson Grotberg, PhD

Although we often seem universally bonded by experiences with adversity, some of us are better able to tap into an inner strength that carries us through the hard times. Edith Henderson Grotberg has made it her mission to learn how people deal with adversities. We spoke recently with Dr. Grotberg on her unique perspective into acquiring resilience.

What's the best way to examine and strengthen "resilience building blocks"?

Resilience is acquired as a result of normal growth and development. The basic "building blocks" for resilience are connected to various ages. From the following five basic building blocks, all other resilience factors are developed. The first building block is trust. If, for example, you learned as an infant that you couldn't trust your environment, you would not be able to function in life -- not as a child nor as an adult. Trust is developed in the first year of life and if it is not established, you may grow into a person who doesn't trust others and who feels very vulnerable. One of the exercises I ask people to do is to look at their lives as far back as they can remember to determine why they don't trust people today. Where did trust break down? If it is broken down, you can rebuild it now.

The second building block involves developing autonomy. Somewhere during your second or third year of life you become aware that you are separate from other people. This realization allows you to understand that what you do can get responses from those around you, and, in turn, they can get responses back from you. It is in this phase that you begin to recognize that you have rights and you need to be respected. A good exercise regarding autonomy is to look back as far as possible and remember experiences you had with a parent. Think back to an experience in which that person was contributing to the promotion of your autonomy and independence while also setting rules and limits. What was the experience like? Were the rules too strict, robbing you of your independence?

The third building block takes place when you learn to take initiative. This step begins when you are between 3 and 4 years old. You become willing to take risks, to try new things, to get involved. But somewhere in your development, you may have lost the ability to take initiative. Think about when this may have happened. Was your creativity crushed? Were you humiliated or teased? Were you told that something you did was "dumb"?

The fourth building block is industry, and it develops during the school-age years. This is where you acquire skills of problem-solving and interpersonal relationships. Determine where that skill might have broken down. What do you need to do to build it up?

The fifth building block develops during the teenage years -- identity. You start to question who you are and how you measure up to other people. You define your goals for yourself and look toward how you'll make money in your future.

The book outlines clear steps to strengthen each area, so that you don’t have to live with the wreckage of the past.

How can we tap our inner strength in everyday life?

The first thing you have to do when faced with adversity is reach into your inner strength. Ask yourself what you need to deal with your adversity. Then you must have trust and confidence in yourself that you can deal with it. You do need to have faith that you can handle it because you are risking failure.

The next step is to determine the resources you have around you. Who do you know who can help you? Who can be trusted? Who are your role models? Recognize your own skills and the best way for you to manage your fear or anger in the face of adversity.

How do cultural beliefs factor into inner strength?

We are all very dependent on what our specific culture emphasizes. One cultural difference, for example, is whether an individual or collective emphasis is used to approach problems. If there is a collective emphasis, people of that culture are not willing to resolve adversity on their own. They tend to work with other people, especially members of the family. Other cultures, however, may emphasize the individual, and a person is held accountable for himself and expected to be strong.

In one country I studied, children are supported very strongly by the family until they are 5 or 6 years old; then they are turned loose and expected to solve their own problems. The kids who know how to reach out and already have a strong sense of autonomy can manage on their own. Kids who are very dependent on others are overwhelmed. They become ill; they run away; they get depressed. They can't handle that kind of change.

Age is a factor in cultural differences, too. Some cultures keep their children dependent for a good part of their lives, particularly in a patriarchal system. Other cultures encourage independence earlier. This all plays a part in how you deal with adversity.

How do we live through and learn from adversity?

Adversity often has a life of its own. You can try to prepare for it by asking yourself what's going to happen or who will be affected. You can draw on your inner strengths and determine which resilience factors will be useful. But although some adversities are events we known are coming (such as a divorce, or a job cutback), it sometimes takes us by surprise. Then we have to plan our actions and determine how we can become strengthened or transformed by adversity. Actor Christopher Reeve is a perfect example of this. A horse-riding accident left him paralyzed, but his resilience and optimism have been an inspiration to other people who have been faced with the same adversity.

It is important to be intellectually and emotionally involved. But you also have to appreciate that most things are based on emotional rather than intellectual responses. If you don’t feel confident or secure, it's hard to get going intellectually. You may ignore your emotions and think you can deal with adversities cognitively, but that's not true. You always have to deal with your feelings.

Tapping Your Inner Strength is available from