How many times have we all heard that our intentions matter? Too many to count, right? If you’re anything like me, there is often a big gulf between what I know intellectually and how I live my life. Bringing these two together is hard work. It requires me to discern, articulate, remember AND ACT on what I want. PHEW. The entire process can be overwhelming and I either give up or “forget” to take the action I know is necessary. Either way, chances are high that I will beat myself up – again – for not following through. UGH. Get me off this treadmill!
That’s why I love Patti Digh’s little book “Four Word Self Help, Simple Wisdom for Complex Lives” It’s an easy and quick read with wonderful artwork and fabulous action-oriented reminders like “Give Up Toxic People,” “Ask Why Not How,” and “Live in Present Tense.” Sweet, right?
Since being introduced to this practice by my first art teacher, Karen Brooks, I have often used it to help me remember how I want to live my life. Seriously. I have a large portion of wall space in my studio devoted to my personal four word self-help list. It’s one of the easiest and most effective ways I’ve found to create new perspectives and build new habits. And, it’s FUN!
This practice is particularly helpful because the result is custom-made for ME – or for YOU when it’s your turn . My dreams. My desires. My words. The fact that I stretch my creative muscles as I find new ways to express my thoughts is an added bonus!
So how does it work? Well, not surprisingly, Patti provides 4 key words to guide our creating: Simple. Focused. Positive. Action.
Simple. One thing I learned from practicing business law for 25+ years is that complicated solutions rarely work, especially not for the long haul. As human beings, we respond best to simple solutions that we can understand and remember. The world is complex enough. Our intentions don’t have to be! Simple phrases expressed in words that have meaning for you will help you remember – and activate – your own wisdom.
Focused. Confession time. I love NCIS and similar after-the-fact crime dramas. You may wonder what THAT has to do with “focused”? Well, you know how when the team comes into a crime scene, they use their flashlights to look around even when there are other lights available? They do that to help them focus on seeing every detail. Similarly, limiting ourselves to four words helps us narrow our scope and focus on what’s really important. It’s like writing haiku. The strict structure helps us find clear and simple way to express ourselves. It also helps us create a mantra that we are likely to remember.
Positive. Patti tells us to avoid the word “don’t.” This is another reason why I love her work. Focusing on what we WANT, rather than on what we DON’T want, keeps us moving TOWARDS our intentions and activates the power of the universe, which always says YES!!! to whatever we put out there. We are much more likely to create the life we want when we are clearly focused on THAT life.
I invite you to experience this difference first hand. Pause for a moment, breathe and center yourself. Now compare your inner response to these two phrases:
DON’T push so hard!!!!
HONOR your slowest part.
They feel very different, don’t they? The first one makes me feel defensive and on guard – as if my mother is going to come around the corner at any minute and nail me for doing something wrong. The second one though feels more expansive, causing me to pause and wonder “what IS my slowest part?” “What would it feel like to honor it?” “And what does that mean anyway, to honor the slowest part?”
Action. Growing is an active verb. It happens one step at a time. When I translate my intentions into positive action, I know what it is I can do to keep moving forward. This practice is not about pronouncements – early birds get worms – it’s about simple actions I can take that will support my momentum – invest your time wisely.
Creating Your Own. OK. Now it’s your turn! Ready to create your own four word self help? Let’s look at my recent post “honor the slowest part” as an example. I wanted a way to remind myself that I could no longer “do” my life the way I always had before. I had promised myself that I would stop saying “I can’t do x ” and focus instead on “I can do y .” I wanted to remind myself to pay attention to my limits, not waste precious energy cursing them.
Patti’s approach made intuitive sense. Instead of beating myself up after the fact for doing too much, I found a way to remind myself to slow down and honor my own limits BEFORE I’d gone too far. To live with my limits not in spite of them. Honor the slowest part thus became a way of life, not just a reminder of my intention.
Here are some more examples of my personal four word self helps:
HEALING takes real courage
Take time to PLAY!
Always accept GOOD ENOUGH!
BE in every moment
RISK opening your heart.
So go ahead – take the plunge. What is one of your most important intentions? Can you state it in four simple, focused, positive, active words? Give it a try! Start your own list and then share your wisdom with all of us below or on the Lotus Wisdom Facebook page.
Warning: Once you start creating your own four words, you will begin to see them everywhere. It’s true. You will. Remember, I warned you. Enjoy using this practice. Please share your wisdom. You are always enough. OK, I’ll stop now.