scared man 2 by tom lin, creative commons, maggie mcreynolds blog

The Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective People

If you’re interested in self-improvement, you’ve probably read—or at least heard of—Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey’s premise is compelling and simple: that people who are productive, happy, engaged, and effective share what he calls “true north” character traits, habits that connect with their inner compasses and keep them aligned with their core, essential selves.

In other words, being happy and effective is a matter of changing your thoughts and behaviors. Even more importantly, you need to practice these new thoughts and behaviors until they’re as “hardwired” into your brain as the negative stuff you’ve been doing to shoot yourself in the foot.

Bringing the negative thoughts and behaviors to a screeching halt isn’t always easy—in part because some of those thoughts and behaviors have been with us for so long they’re practically reflexive; we’re not even aware we’re doing it. There are all kinds of insidiously creative ways we can undermine ourselves and keep ourselves stuck. Do any of these sound familiar to you?

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Help! There’s a Menacing Blob in the Backyard!

scary shadow, maggie mcreynolds blogI’m seriously nearsighted. Have been ever since I was a kid. So at night, when I took off my glasses and lay in bed looking out the window, the normal, everyday stuff of my backyard was transformed into something purely terrifying.

The swing set became a surreal giant arthropod. The Weber grill, a man crouched next to the back door. Every bush and shrub took on a menacing shape: a bear, a hulking monster, the mean lady down the street who hated our dog.

The thing is, everything in the backyard was just as it had been in the daylight, when I’d had my glasses on. All that had changed was my perception of it. Lost in the darkness, blinded by my own myopia, I could and did work myself into a complete state of panic over things that weren’t even there.

I wear contact lenses now, and I am often too tired when I take them out to spend much time gazing out at the backyard. But I can still scare myself quite easily when I find myself, lost and temporarily nearsighted, in the darkness of pain, anger, depression, or fear.

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happy cowgirl, maggie mcreynolds blog

Being Happy—One Nanosecond at a Time

The other night, I was relaxing in front of the fire with a cup of my favorite tea, a square of dark chocolate, and a great movie playing on the DVD. In that moment, I was safe, fed, warm, comfortable, and enjoying myself tremendously.

Then I started wondering about a friend who said he might call that night. I wondered when the phone would ring. I glanced at the clock, saw that it was later than I’d thought, and anticipated that he wouldn’t have much time to talk, if and when he did call. I felt some irritation feathering around the edges of my good mood. Because the second I started thinking about anything other than what simply was, right in that moment—I rocketed myself out of that moment into the land of conjecture and expectation. In short, I set myself up for disappointment.

I aspire to simply be, without expectation…to live with open mind, open heart, and open hands. To find that line between expecting nothing, and staying open to the possibility of anything.

It’s way harder than it sounds.

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