Recently I found an older book with some lasting ideas. Rory Vaden’s Take the Stairs offers great inspiration for those looking to stop procrastinating in all areas of their life. The one aspect though most people won’t want to hear is succeeding in life takes self-discipline. Vaden says you can’t succeed if you take shortcuts, like an escalator. Only if you take the stairs will you build muscle. Similarly, if you take care of the hardest tasks again and again, especiallys when you don’t feel like it, you will accomplish your goals.
Seven Principles of Self-Discipline
Vaden structures the book according to seven principles of self-discipline: sacrifice, commitment, focus, integrity, scheduling, faith, and action. Here are the most memorable things I learned from each of these.
Sacrifice. Choices that are easy in the short term are very often in direct conflict with what makes life easy in the long term.
Commitment. Changing from the question, “Should I?” to “How will I?” is the mind-set shift that makes all the difference.
Focus. Focus is about not allowing your attention to be distracted by less important tasks. The intensity of your focus is proportionate to the clarity of your vision.
Integrity. People with integrity align what they say with what they do. Achievers say they’re going to workout and then go do it. Achievers say they’re going to finish an important project that day and they do. You think it, you speak it, you act on it, and it happens.
Scheduling. We’re taught we need balance but Vaden believes we need to spend appropriate amounts of time on the priorities most critical to us.
Faith. Having faith is knowing that if you fail now, you’ll have something better waiting for you later.
Action. The three enemies of action are fear, entitlement, and perfectionism. If you let any of those three things guide you in the moment, you will procrastinate your intentions.
Overall, Vaden believes for high-achievers, success is not about skill, it’s about your will to succeed. We don’t fail because of poor circumstances, we fail because we lack discipline. Those are hard words to hear but also useful ones. Sometimes when a challenge is overwhelming and painful, it means a greater, more satisfying reward lies ahead. So we shouldn’t blame ourselves if we have a setback, just learn from it and get back on track.
Sophie Kinsella’s novel, The Undomestic Goddess, starts off with the question, “Would you consider yourself stressed?” I smiled when I saw that. It was a question the main character Samantha reads on an intake form before her massage appointment. And it so resonated with me considering this stressful pandemic life I’ve been living, that we’ve all been living, since 2020. I couldn’t stop reading. I mean, my answer to that question was “yes, without a doubt!”
As the massage starts, Samantha grows so worried about an email she forgot to send that she simply leaves the table before she can even relax. Ha, I can relate to that one. Later, after bombing out at work, she heads out of the city and is mistaken for a housekeeper applicant at a wealthy home. Can’t relate to that one, but not against it. The premise of a city attorney being mistaken for a housekeeper is pretty implausible for sure, but I ended up suspending my disbelief and going with the flow. The silly domestic life Samantha suddenly landed in mirrored my own experience well.
Trapped in a House with Lots of Housework
First of all, Samantha’s voluntarily trapped in a big house. During the pandemic, I’ve been trapped in my house, at least to varying degrees. I so related to being thrust into a situation where one’s anchored to the every day tasks of domestic life.
Second, Samantha struggles with cooking. Though I knew how to cook long before the pandemic, I leaned on eating out in restaurants and getting carry out to buffer the constant work of preparing and cleaning up after meals. During the height of the pandemic, I had to buy more groceries and plan more meals. I got more acquainted with a wider variety of foods. We ate carry-out meals a lot less often and never went to a restaurant (at least until that summer when cases were down and outdoor patios popped up). The book spoke to me there too.
And third, Samantha struggles with cleaning chores. She has trouble with the washing machine and iron and such. During the pandemic, I got more acquainted with my vacuum and dishwasher than ever. We got a new washing machine because the old one got hampered by me constantly washing clothes. Plus, with overall house cleaning before the pandemic, my kids and husband or an occasional house cleaner always helped. But with the kids stressed out over online learning and my husband working late every night, I was head house cleaner.
A Handsome Man and Hearty Humor
There’s also a romantic story line between Samantha and Nathaniel. This subplot was fine enough though the constant will-they, won’t-they question was a little tiring, maybe the only flaw of the book. The whole house and its distinct personalities were enough for me. Still, it kept the book light and sweet and I appreciated that.
Where Kinsella really shines is in the humor department. She knows how to write in a super funny voice and keep that bouncy rhythm going. Anyone who’s read her books knows she’s the queen of this quirky chick-lit style. And this book was definitely funny. Samantha’s perky personality and chatty manner charmed me.
Overall, I recommend The Undomestic Goddess. Even though the book was published in 2005, finding it now seemed like kismet for me. As Samantha switched from a super-busy work situation and highly social life to a remote country home with quotidian tasks, so did I in a sense. It was the right book at the right time for me.
During 2020, I was kinda jealous of all the folks I saw on social media producing artistic projects and launching at-home start-up companies. I didn’t have a “pandemic project” as it were and felt so lame. Then in October a close editor friend of mine asked if I wanted to work with her on “that plants and mental health” book I’d always wanted to write. She needed a practice client for her book coaching certification program. So thinking I had some knowledge that might help people, I said yes. We then had a fun four months or so solidifying the book concept, forming the proposal, and all else. Afterward, I even sold it. And now over a year later, I’m thrilled to share with you the cover of a book that will help anyone who wants more happiness in their life: Leaf Your Troubles Behind: How to Destress and Grow Happiness Through Plants.
The book features over a dozen illustrations by the amazing Colorado artist Kara Fellows. Kara’s work is modern and hip, yet fun and friendly. I adore it. Kara was my first choice for illustrations and I was so happy when she agreed to take on the project. A gardener herself, she loves plants too and brought all of my ideas to wonderful visual life. She even did the main drawing that appears on the cover: the city windowsill with the cozy collection of plants.
The Ideas Behind it All
Over the last ten years, I’ve been reading more and more scientific studies showing how plants can literally reduce stress and help productivity and performance. This scanned with my own experience of what my gardening clients told me over the years. So I dove into the psychological research on happiness as well as the latest science on plants and mental health. That combined with my own knowledge of what worked in my life led me to create a new method for growing happiness.
My hope for this book is that it will help you lower your stress and gain more peace in your life. Plus, there’s so much great research on the happy-making effects of plants, it’s fun to explore it all.
The book doesn’t come out until July, 2022, but I’ll be sharing tidbits of related advice in the next few months.
More Details, Please
If you want to learn more, rather than having me blather on, just read the description of the book. It nicely sums up what it’s about:
Have you ever felt happier after a walk in the woods or fiddling with houseplants but your hectic life stressed you out again? In our rushed, tech-based, indoor society, we may yearn for a break but only manage to get through a noisy day and collapse in bed. Regaining a peaceful mind seems beyond reach. But what if there were easy, low-cost activities to heal the soul? What if we could regularly access tranquility? How would we do that? The answer may be in the simplest, most abundant thing all around us: plants.
Plants are like a magic pill for our mental health. Growing science tells us they lower heart rates, make us more relaxed and productive, boost our immune system, help us live longer, and provide air, food, fragrance, and beauty. In Leaf Your Troubles Behind: How to Destress and Grow Happiness Through Plants, horticulturalist Karen Hugg draws on the science and two decades of professional gardening experience to help readers reduce stress and increase happiness. Through her original, approachable system of “Green Leisure,” you will:
-discover nature’s scientifically proven power to heal us from stress
-explore what “green leisure” activities are right for you
-create a soothing green lounge at home, either via plants or just photos and décor
-gain confidence in growing low-maintenance but rewarding plants, indoors and out
-develop “green leisure” habits to ensure care for your soul any time of year
With personal stories, the latest research, and fun easy-to-do activities, Karen guides readers in delving into the wonders of plants while “leafing” their daily stress behind and growing joy.
Pre-orders Are Ready to Go
You can pre-order the book through Amazon right now. In weeks to come, I’ll be planning some special giveaways for those who order by this spring. And if you’re interested, you can read what I’ve already discovered about some of the science and strategies.
Until then, I wish you a peaceful week,
Make no mistake. Self-help writer Gabrielle Bernstein’s latest book, Super Attractor, is definitely woo-woo. It offers mantras, it’s got the word “Universe,” all over it, it references the famous channeler Abraham. If you’re the kind of reader who makes fun of touchy-feely, pseudo-psychological books, then this book is not for you. But if you’re the kind of reader who can see past that and take the author’s advice for what it is, then you’ll get quite a bit out of this book.
What’s It About?
The premise launches from that mid-2000s television special called The Secret. The Secret talked about how when we align ourselves with the positivity and joy of the universe, good fortune comes our way. Basically, the idea is you manifest whatever your mind focuses on. So the question becomes can you “manifest” ten-thousand dollars? Probably not. But if you align all of your mind’s thoughts and actions with that goal, you may indeed end up with ten-thousand dollars eventually.
So while the idea is a little out there, I have to attest that it actually works. I’ve had situations in my life when I stopped pushing and agonizing over a “want,” only to have that “want” fulfilled only because I let go of my angsty desire for it and came at the goal from a place of detached, relaxed love. It’s strange. It’s happened to me with real estate, relationships, and career success.
As Bernstein says, you have to align yourself with what you want to attract. Part of that alignment is positive thinking, yes, but a bigger part is also concrete action. Every action you take, even if small, builds to form a fluid productive process toward your ultimate goal.
The Idea of Faith
But as Bernstein says you can’t push it. You can’t force it. You can’t agonize over it. It’s got to come from a place of love and joy and wholeness. You have to keep an open faith in yourself and the future. And that idea of faith is where the book gets woo-woo. Bernstein talks about her spiritual faith a lot, and she encourages you to do so as well. But she also says whether that’s God, the universe, a higher power, or another larger, more powerful consciousness other than yourself is up to you. The point is to swim with life’s flow, not flail against the current.
What I Got out of This Book
And so, once you buy in, I think you’ll find solid advice here. Bernstein, in her very organized way, guides you through the process. In early chapters, she helps you rid yourself of the negativity that may be holding you back. Then, once you truly feel aligned with positivity, she helps you dial into the abundance waiting for you. She believes the universe and spiritual guides play a part and this is where the book got a little far-fetched for me.
But then she goes into how to align yourself through what you do everyday to this larger plan, which I found highly useful. Also, her ideas about the importance of intention and gratitude also resonated with me. Plus, she wraps it up with some fairly useful ideas about how to keep your positivity going beyond the book.
So, if you’re looking for a book to motivate you into making changes this January, I highly recommend it. Gabby Bernstein knows how to effectively help us discover our best selves and that alone makes this book worth reading.
Just a short note to let you know the cover for my next novel, The Dark Petals of Provence, is finished and ready to go! It was created by designer Jessica Dionne who again expertly combined danger and beauty for a delicious atmosphere.
A Story Set in Provence
The book tells the story of April Pearce, an American photographer assigned to cover the countryside in Provence. On her first night, she sees a teenager running through a lavender field covered in blood. But when she investigates, the local town turns aggressive and threatening, making her job more and more difficult until the climax when April has nothing to lose and reveals the dark secret the village has kept hidden for years.
The Earliest Idea
I’ve always loved Marcel Pagnol’s books Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring. They focus on a city family shunned by local country folks and their subsequent revenge. You may remember the movies, which starred Gerard Depardieu. They expertly captured the book’s tension and danger. Plus, you feel like you’re in the hot landscape of Provence. I love them. I thought it would be cool to write an updated version of that dynamic, of an outsider accidentally stumbling upon a local community’s nefarious nature and in effect blowing it all apart.
A Character Near to my Heart
I started with the image of a wounded teen boy running through a field as a photographer accidentally snapped photos of him from a distance. Almost like a Rear Window situation. Then a key character took on the personality traits of my daughter who’s the friendliest, most compassionate, cognitively delayed young person you’ll ever meet. And the plot unfolded from there.
An Alluring Setting
The book also grew out of my love of stories set in Provence. A few years back, I spent a bunch of time reading mysteries by Serena Kent and M.L. Longworth and others. They’re some of my favorite books in which to escape. So now, I offer my own mystery that combines my love of France, my wish to dream of Provence, and my urge to spin a compelling story. Plus, of course a unique plant! I hope you enjoy it. You can pre-order it through Amazon now.