Getting Things Done Part 3/3

A book worth looking at in time management is the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. He takes a holistic approach to the subject. One of the interesting parts of the book for me is where he talks about different centers people have for their lives: work, money, belongings, spouse, children, self, enemies, etc. Then, as an alternative, he recommends centering your life around time-honored principles, found in every culture and religion.

Personally, this makes a lot of sense to me, but I choose to center my life around God as I understand Him. The Codependents Anonymous Big Book suggests this, putting your relationship with God before all other relationships. In the Appendix of the book Divine Therapy, there is a table contrasting the ego-centered personality, and the God-centered personality. Even though the rest of the book is just as good, I would buy Divine Therapy just for those few pages of the appendix, because contrasting those types has been so helpful to me.

Covey’s book also advocates writing a mission for your life, as well as a mission for each one of the roles you play in life. Time management then comes down to working on a weekend day to set up your tasks for each one of your roles. I have never used this method, partly because I have never worn more than a few hats in life. This kind of approach seems more worthwhile when you are higher up the hierarchy and making decisions regarding your roles. When you are lower down the totem pole like I often have been, you have less and less opportunity to make decisions, and most of your time is obeying orders or following instructions. Because of this, Allen’s Getting Things Done system is more useful to me.

That being said, Covey’s book the 7 habits is still a great read, like how he talks about people’s possible competitive approach towards life. Win/win is where a person’s approach to competition is they want to win, but they also want the other person to win as well. Win/lose is the standard approach to competition. A person can choose to win by beating their opponent in a fair game through superior skill, talent, intelligence, ability, etc. Some people may choose to win by undermining the competition in some way, like getting a thug to break their opponent’s leg, like the U.S. figure skater Tonya Harding did to Nancy Kerrigan in 1994. Finally lose/lose is where a person has decided that they can’t win, but also want to make sure the competition doesn’t win either. You can probably imagine how these three paradigms to competition affect not only the world of sports but practically every other area of life where there is competition.

Covey also discusses how the American self help literature before the Second World War was focused on character and virtue. Since then the self-help literature has focused more on tools, techniques and quick fixes, and overlooks character and virtue. While I believe that the latter may be the best solution in some circumstances, I think it’s through developing character and virtue that a person can grow and mature, and attain a more stable and productive life.

I have partially read Goals! by Brian Tracy. In it, he writes about the importance of writing goals down. He says that those who are most successful are those who have written down goals. If you follow through with the advice in Getting Things Done, which I have attempted to summarize, then you would be writing your goals down, and be off to the races.

Getting Things Done Part 2/3

An important issue is to make sure things don’t fall through the cracks, like paying the rent or bills. I write down everything I should or want to do. In Getting Things Done, David Allen suggests taking a weekend where this is all you do, and make sure you have everything, EVERYTHING, covered. I have never done that, but instead, note things as they come up. For items explainable in a few words, I write them down on a small notepad you can buy at any stationery store. Then once I get the chance, I transfer these all to a goals list. For items that require more than a few words, I use a digital recorder. When I have the chance, I transfer the digital recorder files to the computer and organize them on my hard drive.

The reason I don’t use a smartphone, tablet, or computer to jot down ideas, is that a physical notepad or digital recorder is much quicker. Also, transferring many paper notes to the computer in one sitting is more time-efficient for me. Another reason I like the quick and easy notepad or digital recorder capturing method is that in my older middle age, my memory is worse. As I concentrate on finding the right word file, on my dropbox, on my tablet or computer, to enter the information, I forget what information I wanted to record!!!!

What your goals lists are called, or categorized by, depends on your situation. I suggest everyone has a “someday maybe” goals list, which comes from David Allen’s book. The someday-maybe list is for things you would like to do if time or the opportunity permits. Some of my goals lists, basically Microsoft Word files, are groceries, tech problems, sage, and intrepid website, this week, today, short term, medium term, long term, social, and so on. For “the today” word file and this week’s word file and a few others, I break them down into the following priorities: urgent, first, second, and third. If I don’t intend to do things in the third priority section, I take them out and put them in the someday maybe file. Often there are no items in the urgent priority area in my goals files.

There are a couple of significant advantages to the GTD system. The first, as David Allen says, you get it out of your head and into a trusted system. This way, you don’t always need to be thinking about what comes next and can focus on the task at hand. You can be fully present with whatever you are doing, or whoever you are with. To me, this is immense. A second advantage is that it is possible to see the array of things you have to do. You can quickly choose what is “first things first” or select the first-most-important-priority. Perhaps some people can do this in their heads, but I can’t. These two factors together – being able to be present in the moment/task/relationship and focusing on first things first – have helped dropped my anxiety and stress by a large degree.

If you have several vital priorities, I suggest choosing the task you least want to do first, or most want to avoid doing. Brian Tracy has written a whole book about this strategy called Eat That Frog. Choose the time of day when you have the most energy to do the thing you like least. If you are a morning person, I suggest “eating your frog” first thing in the morning. Likely the rest of your day will be much more pleasant and stress-free. If your energy is highest in the evening, then doing the dreaded task at that point may be the best time. This method is a good strategy for dealing with procrastination also. I like to save the most pleasant task for the last – the eating your dessert after the main part of the meal mentality. It gives me something to look forward to and generally makes my day more organized, efficient, and workable.

Bigger goals need to be broken down into tasks, and these tasks may need to be broken into even smaller tasks. Little steps for little feet, or for the feet of people dealing with chronic health challenges. As described above, don’t hesitate to set tasks as small as 15 minutes, especially regarding things about which you are procrastinating. For larger goals, this mindtools.com webpage on S.M.A.R.T. goals might be helpful, or their Goals setting toolkit.

In terms of periods, I break long term goals as two years or more, medium-term goals as six months to two years, and short term goals as six months or less. Of course, this is my way of framing long, medium, and short-term goals. Medium-term goals for you, for example, might be two months to one year. It’s whatever makes sense to you that is important.

Getting Things Done: Part 1 of 3

A problem for people in general, but perhaps more actutely with people with mental health challenges, is getting things done. This post is titled after the popular book Getting Things Done by David Allen (shortened to GTD for “followers”), where some of the ideas of this blog come from. I suspect a big challenge for people with mental health issues, is moderating your expectations on what you can do. You likely didn’t always have mental health issues, and could do more then when stress, anxiety, depression, paranoia, etc., wasn’t front and centre for you.

For myself, I learned to do just enough. When I exercise, I just exercise until I get tired, instead of comparing myself with what I could do before, or comparing myself against others,  or what other’s expectations or standards are. I do the same for chores, tasks and goals. I think 30 minutes a week, of straightening up my apartment, is good enough, especially if I get tired or lethargic after more then 30 minutes.

I got this idea from David Burns Feeling Good book chapter 5 “Do-nothingness – how to beat it”. He suggests setting a timer of 15 minutes for doing something you are procrastinating about. If you want to continue after 15 minutes, fine. But if you did 15 minutes, that’s progress. If you can do 15 minutes a day, several times a week, then the task will slowly get done. More importantly, once you start doing things you’ve been putting off, you feel better usually, have more energy, and probably can start setting goals of 20 minutes, then 25 minutes, etc.

That seems to be a law, that might be related to Newton’s laws of motion. Something at rest tends to stay at rest unless a force acts on it to get it moving. Something moving in a certain direction will continue to move in that direction, unless a force acts upon it. So if you throw a ball straight up, it goes up a certain distance, then air resistance and gravity slow it down to a stop, and gravity pulls it back to the ground. Air resistance and gravity are the forces that act against the ball when it is propelled in a certain direction.

When we want to get something done, there might be all kinds of different forces acting against us: our low self esteem, low confidence, negative self talk, other people criticizing or judging us, peer pressure, etc. But even in these cases, the ability to act again and again, builds momentum within yourself, and this can overcome the forces that weigh you down. By making a habit of cleaning your house/apartment 15 minutes a day, you gain momentum, and you get energy to do it 20 minutes a day. Or you may set other goals you wouldn’t have otherwise because of the extra momentum or energy you are getting. But because we are limited creatures, with only so much expendable energy in a day, the sky is not the limit (as some may want us to believe).

I used to try and do all my errands in a day. For many people, that might be the only choice they have. I get tired quickly by errands, and usually feel depressed after a day of “shopping”. In the past, I used to travel to a fairly large city half an hour drive away to do my errands. Now I buy a lot online, and shop locally. I also split up my errands into several days instead of doing them all at once. This way, instead of getting depressed, fatigued, and bothered by mental health challenges, errands can actually be pleasant (can you imagine?).

The Drum

A long-time first nations Baha’i friend told me how she uses the drum daily with prayer, so I quickly got one. Here is the one I got, along with the banger thing. This video helped me decide which drum to get, and this other video I find worth watching.  Anyone familiar with First Nations celebrations, is aware how important the drum is. Apparently many, perhaps all, cultures have incorporated the drum sometime in their history. My friend said she doesn’t have any kind of method in using it, so I never got caught up in learning “the right way” to use the drum. I find the drum helps me to clear my mind better, so distracting thoughts don’t get in the way. I keep a regular beat, about once a second, or the pace of a heartbeat. I use it when saying prayers in general and the 95 greatest names. I combine each 5 greatest names with one name of God, as presented in an earlier post on this website. I think a bit about the name of God I choose, then say 5 greatest names while thinking of that name of God. It makes it easy to keep track of how many greatest names I have said, since I count out 19 names of God from my word file on my tablet and know when I have said enough. It seems to fit, because of the number 19, right?

Think For Yourself

An old fashioned liberal arts university education was largely based around teaching students to think for themselves. These days, it’s even more important with fake news, fake anything on the internet, and leaders that blatantly lie to us. The Baha’i Faith strongly encourages people to think for themselves, and to recognize the Manifestation of God for today, Baha’u’llah, through their own eyes and own understanding, and not to follow blindly any charsmatic leader who claims to authority or superiority of some kind.

In fact, learning anything new may help lessen a person’s mental health struggles. I got this idea from the book Curious, written by a BBC TV show producer who experienced a severe depression, and got through his depression by learning new things and being “curious”. I have also found this works from my own personal experience. Perhaps this is related to building new neural networks in your brain to over-ride the neural networks that were built previously, which set you up for your mental health challenges. If you are wondering what to learn, consider the following areas based on what your personal situation is: problem solving, urgent issues or needs, interest, fun, long term goals, spiritual development, career development, relationships, specific mental health challenges, physical health.

“Furthermore, know ye that God has created in man the power of reason, whereby man is enabled to investigate reality. God has not intended man to imitate blindly his fathers and ancestors. He has endowed him with mind, or the faculty of reasoning, by the exercise of which he is to investigate and discover the truth, and that which he finds real and true he must accept. He must not be an imitator or blind follower of any soul. He must not rely implicitly upon the opinion of any man without investigation; nay, each soul must seek intelligently and independently, arriving at a real conclusion and bound only by that reality. The greatest cause of bereavement and disheartening in the world of humanity is ignorance based upon blind imitation. It is due to this that wars and battles prevail; from this cause hatred and animosity arise continually among mankind. Through failure to investigate reality the Jews rejected Jesus Christ…

… God has given man the eye of investigation by which he may see and recognize truth. He has endowed man with ears that he may hear the message of reality and conferred upon him the gift of reason by which he may discover things for himself. This is his endowment and equipment for the investigation of reality. Man is not intended to see through the eyes of another, hear through another’s ears nor comprehend with another’s brain. Each human creature has individual endowment, power and responsibility in the creative plan of God. Therefore, depend upon your own reason and judgment and adhere to the outcome of your own investigation; otherwise, you will be utterly submerged in the sea of ignorance and deprived of all the bounties of God. Turn to God, supplicate humbly at His threshold, seeking assistance and confirmation, that God may rend asunder the veils that obscure your vision. Then will your eyes be filled with illumination, face to face you will behold the reality of God and your heart become completely purified from the dross of ignorance, reflecting the glories and bounties of the Kingdom.” (Abdu’l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace)

“O SON OF SPIRIT!  The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behooveth thee to be. Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes.” (Baha’u’llah, Arabic Hidden Words)

“O son of man! If thine eyes be turned towards mercy, forsake the things that profit thee, and cleave unto that which will profit mankind. And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for thy neighbor that which thou choosest for thyself.” (Bahá’u’lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf)

I have wondered what justice means, and I think the good old golden rule, as defined by many traditions and religions, comes pretty close, if not describing it perfectly.  

Of course, thinking for yourself clearly means that you have a good capacity to be truthful and honest. This means, not only about the world and other people, but also about your own self. One of the 12 step slogans is “know yourself, be honest”. I believe that you get better at virtues like truthfulness by practicing them often, similar to how sports or music stars get really good by practicing their craft. The Baha’i writings are very clear about the importance of developing the capacity for truthfulness in ourselves.

“Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues. Without truthfulness progress and success, in all the worlds of God, are impossible for any soul. When this holy attribute is established in man, all the divine qualities will also be acquired.” (Abdu’l-Baha, Cited in Shoghi Effendi,”The Advent of Divine Justice”)

“Consider that the worst of qualities and most odious of attributes, which is the foundation of all evil, is lying. No worse or more blameworthy quality than this can be imagined to exist; it is the destroyer of all human perfections and the cause of innumerable vices. There is no worse characteristic than this; it is the foundation of all evils.” (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions)

“If the sum of all sins were to be weighed in the balance, falsehood would, on its own, countervail them; nay its evils would even outweigh them and its detriment prove greater. It were better for thee that thou shouldst be a blasphemer and tell the truth than that thou shouldst mouth the formulas of faith and yet be a liar.”  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Trustworthiness compilation)

It has been my understanding that our ability to face reality determines our mental health. If we refuse to face reality, in ourselves, others, society, life, whatever, we have some degree of mental illness. In Scott Peck Road Less Traveled, he writes that life is difficult, because of problems and the negative emotions that are associated with problems. “This tendency to avoid problems and the emotional suffering inherent in them is the primary basis of all human mental illness. Since most of us have this tendency to a greater or lesser degree, most of us are mentally ill to a greater or lesser degree, lacking complete mental health.” (Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled)

Prejudice is also a huge barrier to understanding truth and reality. Prejudice derives from the word prejudge. Prejudge means that you assume all kinds of things about a person based on fairly superficial, neutral or anecdotal information, or things they may have little or no control over, such as the clothes they wear, the vehicle they drive, their job, their highest level of education completed, where they live, who their friends are, their family, how other people treat them, their disabilities, their lifestyle or interests, the church or religion they belong to, the color of their skin, their gender, their age, their nationality, the language they speak, and so on. Like the old saying goes, you can’t judge a book by looking at it’s cover.

So for example, a person can take one of the characteristics above, say the vehicle they drive, and assume many things about the person based on the vehicle they drive. For example, based on past experience, you have concluded that anyone that drives a Corvette is an arrogant jerk. This is prejudging their character, without even realizing you don’t know enough about the person to make that automatic assumption. A common prejudice is that young male African Americans are violent, dangerous or criminal. This is so common, police have for decades, perhaps centuries, unfairly targeted and treated young black males solely on their color of their skin, their age and their gender.

Usually prejudice is negative, though people can have positive prejudices too, such as having an unreasonably high opinion of a person because they are a sports, music or movie star, or seeing the aforementioned attributes in a positive way (the vehicle they drive, the color of their skin, etc). The basic problem with prejudice, is that often or usually it’s not true and it’s not fair. Abdu’l-Baha says, prejudice can ultimately lead to war, or even genocide such as Nazi Germany or 1990’s Rwanda.

Here are more links about the Baha’i teaching of the individual investation of truth.

http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/ab/PT/pt-42.html

http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/ab/SAB/sab-203.html

Names of God

Names of God

The rationale behind these ideas is from the short healing prayer phrase “Thy Name is my healing”. Below is a link to a file with quite a few names of God taken from the writings and prayers:

https://bahai-library.com/takkenberg_names_god

I use the names of God in the following ways:

  • I picked out names of God I liked from the webpage above, and printed them out on 3” x 5” index cards and laminated the cards.
  • When saying the 95 greatest names daily, I choose one name of God to focus on for each 5 greatest names.
  • When saying shorter prayers I have memorized, like the removers of difficulties, I focus on one name of God for the prayer. I say these prayers from time to time during the day.
  • I found the following names to be key, to differentiate God from everything else, and helped me put into perspective the other names of God: Creator, Ruler of the Universe, Eternal, Ancient.
  • I combine a name of God with Allah’u’Abha, and say this from time to time during the day.
  • I just choose a name of God, and meditate about it a bit, while doing whatever during the day.

Benefits of using the names of God in this way:

  • It helps me to understand God better, and therefore fulfill my purpose in Him creating me (short obligatory prayer).
  • It helps me to feel God’s presence in my life.
  • I feel more calm and confident and hopeful.
  • I understand the Baha’I revelation better.
  • I get to know many of the names of God by heart, and can often pick a name of God related to a struggle or mental test I am having, then combine that with Allah’u’Abha, a short memorize prayer that is appropriate to the situation, or just think about that name of God. Sometimes I quickly combine various names of God appropriate to these situations.

I have read and heard that people with mental health challenges, like anxiety or depression, suffer cognitive impairment. This makes it harder for us to think clearly, solve problems, face challenging situations, concentrate well enough to read, or even get out of bed. This kind of simple process I think helps get me back into contact with God. I suggest to anyone reading this, don’t push yourself to fatigue, and to do it at your own pace.

Baha’u’llah – Baha’i Prayers

Thy name is my healing, O my God, and remembrance of Thee is my remedy. Nearness to Thee is my hope, and love for Thee is my companion. Thy mercy to me is my healing and my succor in both this world and the world to come. Thou, verily, art the All-Bountiful, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.

I bear witness, O my God, that Thou hast created me to know Thee and to worship Thee. I testify, at this moment, to my powerlessness and to Thy might, to my poverty and to Thy wealth. There is none other God but Thee, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting.

Baha’u’llah – The Arabic Hidden Words

O SON OF LIGHT! Forget all save Me and commune with My spirit. This is of the essence of My command, therefore turn unto it.

O SON OF BEING! Thy Paradise is My love; thy heavenly home, reunion with Me. Enter therein and tarry not. This is that which hath been destined for thee in Our kingdom above and Our exalted dominion.

O SON OF BEING! My love is My stronghold; he that entereth therein is safe and secure, and he that turneth away shall surely stray and perish.

Baha’u’llah – The Kitab-i-Aqdas

Pride not yourselves on much reading of the verses or on a multitude of pious acts by night and day; for were a man to read a single verse with joy and radiance it would be better for him than to read with lassitude all the Holy Books of God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting. Read ye the sacred verses in such measure that ye be not overcome by languor and despondency. Lay not upon your souls that which will weary them and weigh them down, but rather what will lighten and uplift them, so that they may soar on the wings of the Divine verses towards the Dawning-place of His manifest signs; this will draw you nearer to God, did ye but comprehend.

Using Prayer to Make Decisions

I have struggled with making decisions in the past. I bought a few books on it, and had some success with that. Because of the complexity of life these days, and that I don’t know everything and can’t predict the future, I have turned to prayer for assistance in making decisions. This is also in keeping with step 3 of the Anonymous 12 step programs, such as AA – to turn my life and will over to the care of God as I understand Him. In some cases, research and education may be needed as well.

Problem solving or finding a solution to a problem also involves making a decision between several options, or just formulating possible solutions to the problem. In cases where there is no standard line of procedure, prayer can be helpful in both coming up with possible solutions, and then once again when choosing between several options. Below are two ways of using prayer when making decisions.

1st Method

“While in Haifa, the beloved Guardian of the Cause gave to the writer (Mrs Ruth Moffet), the most concise, complete, and effective formula she has ever seen, for the Dynamics of Prayer. After saying to stress the need of more prayers and meditation among the friends, he said to use these five steps if we had a problem of any kind for which we desired a solution or wished help.

First Step – Pray and meditate about it. Use the prayers of the Manifestations as they have the greatest power. Then remain in the silence of contemplation for a few minutes.

Second Step – Arrive at a decision and hold this. This decision is usually born during the contemplation. It may seem almost impossible of accomplishment but if it seems to be as answer to a prayer or a way of solving the problem, then immediately take the next step.

Third Step – Have determination to carry the decision through. Many fail here. The decision, budding into determination, is blighted and instead becomes a wish or a vague longing. When determination is born, immediately take the next step.

Fourth Step – Have faith and confidence that the power will flow through you, the right way will appear, the door will open, the right thought, the right message, the right principle or the right book will be given you. Have confidence, and the right thing will come to your need. Then, as you rise from prayer, take at once the fifth step.

Fifth Step – Then, he said, lastly, ACT; Act as though it had all been answered. Then act with tireless, ceaseless energy. And as you act, you, yourself, will become a magnet, which will attract more power to your being, until you become an unobstructed channel for the Divine power to flow through you.

Many pray but do not remain for the last half of the first step. Some who meditate arrive at a decision, but fail to hold it. Few have the determination to carry the decision through, still fewer have the confidence that the right thing will come to their need. But how many remember to act as though it had all been answered? How true are those words-“Greater than the prayer is the spirit in which it is uttered” and greater than the way it is uttered is the spirit in which it is carried out.

The above statement belongs properly to the class of statement known as “pilgrim’s notes” and as such has no authority but, since it seems to be particularly helpful and clear, it was felt that believers should not be deprived of it.”

(Baha’i Administration, pp 90-91)

2nd Method

“Your email letter of 17 August 2012, addressed to the Universal House of Justice, enquiring about a prayer revealed by Bahá’u’lláh for Jináb-i-Samandar to assist him in making a difficult decision, has been received at the Bahá’í World Centre and passed to our Office for reply. The prayer is in Arabic, was transcribed by ‘Andalíb, and has been published in Majmú‘iyi-Alvá-i-Mubárakiy-i-arat-i-Bahá’u’lláh (Tihrán: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 132 B.E.), page 9. It is also available through the Bahá’í Reference Library at reference.bahai.org/fa/t/c/AB/ab-68 and reference.bahai.org/fa/t/b/AN/an-13.html.

The following is the authorized English translation of the prayer:

Sín Mím [Samandar], upon him rest My glory, hath ever been the recipient of divine favours, and there hath befallen him in the path of God that which His knowledge alone can encompass.

In regard to his affairs, let him repeat nineteen times:

“Thou seest me, O my God, detached from all save Thee and cleaving unto Thee. Guide me, then, in all mine affairs unto that which profiteth me for the glory of Thy Cause and the loftiness of the station of thy loved ones.”

Let him then reflect upon the matter and undertake whatever cometh to mind. This vehement opposition of the enemies will indeed give way to supreme prosperity.

Universal House of Justice to an individual”

(Copied from https://www.thebahaiprayers.com/subject/decision-making)

You can combine both methods, by saying the prayer for the 2nd method 19 times, for the first step of the first method.

What We Need To Know Most

“… we must not allow ourselves to forget the continuing, appalling burden of suffering under which millions of human beings are always groaning—a burden which they have borne for century upon century and which it is the mission of Bahá’u’lláh to lift at last. The principal cause of this suffering, which one can witness wherever one turns, is the corruption of human morals and the prevalence of prejudice, suspicion, hatred, untrustworthiness, selfishness and tyranny among men. It is not merely material well-being that people need. What they desperately need is to know how to live their lives—they need to know who they are, to what purpose they exist, and how they should act towards one another; and, once they know the answers to these questions they need to be helped to gradually apply these answers to everyday behavior. It is to the solution of this basic problem of mankind that the greater part of all our energy and resources should be directed.”

(Universal House of Justice message November 19, 1974)

The Six Prerequisites of Spiritual Growth

“Bahá’u’lláh has stated quite clearly in His Writings the essential requisites for our spiritual growth, and these are stressed again and again by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in His talks and Tablets. One can summarize them briefly in this way:

  • The recital each day of one of the Obligatory Prayers with pure-hearted devotion.
  • The regular reading of the Sacred Scriptures, specifically at least each morning and evening, with reverence, attention and thought.
  • Prayerful meditation on the Teachings, so that we may understand them more deeply, fulfill them more faithfully, and convey them more accurately to others.
  • Striving every day to bring our behavior more into accordance with the high standards that are set forth in the Teachings.
  • Teaching the Cause of God.
  • Selfless service in the work of the Cause and in the carrying on of our trade or profession.”

(Universal House of Justice message September 1, 1983)

One Day At a Time – Some Thoughts

Besides the first four steps of the Anonymous 12 step programs, the one idea of the 12-step program I find most helpful is living one day at a time. This is not a new idea, as both Jesus said this (Matthew 6:34) and Dale Carnegie wrote about it in the first chapter of his book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, first published in 1948 (Wikipedia). When all the chips are down, I have little faith in God or myself, feel overwhelmed, mostly hopeless, then living one day at a time is sometimes the only thing that keeps me going. I heard in a 12-step meeting, that if a day is too much, live one hour at a time, and if one hour is too much, live one moment at a time. Living one moment at a time sounds like mindfulness, another topic I hope to blog about.

Of course, a person needs plans and goals for the future. I have read in several books or resources, where a person needs to break down big goals into smaller goals and break those smaller goals into doable tasks. SMART goals is a strategy for setting practical goals. Setting goals is usually perscribed to people with mental health challenges, since it gives you purpose, something to focus on, avoid dwelling on the negative in life, and boosts your self esteem. Often, breaking down big goals into smaller goals or tasks is not practical, takes too much time, or I don’t know enough about the task, problem, or goal to do this. In this case, doing the next best thing, or the next most important thing, is the best strategy.

When trying to implement a virtue or teaching of the faith I have never been good at, living one day at a time fits perfectly. I figure out how to practice the teaching the best I can (which is all I can do anyways), put it into practice, reflect on the experience, and then usually come up with a more efficient or mature way of practicing the teaching the next day. At least that’s my goal. In practice, I just do what I can, which is usually less then what I’d hope to do. I have heard that Baha’is in Colombia use this strategy of planning/action/reflection, where the Ruhi method was developed. In essense, living one day at a time is all a person can do anyways.

I think one big challenge of living one day at a time, is letting go of control and ego. Our society teaches us to seek control, domination, superiority, self-aggrandizement, material wealth and power. These values seem to be a bedrock of Western society and are probably responsible to a large degree for the rise in material wealth over the centuries, especially the last two. Unfortunately, over the last two centuries, there have been winners, mainly the elite among the white European culture and colonies, and there have been losers, perhaps just about everyone else. 

The middle class in various nations, has benefitted, but this middle class is also at the mercy of many forces and changes they have no power over. The Baha’i Faith teaches that extremes of wealth and poverty is a sign of injustice and corruption in society, as of systemic prejudice also. (provide links) The Faith teaches we are children of One God, who loves us all equally, and like other religions, we need to follow the golden rule, to treat others like we want to be treated, and wish for others what we wish for ourselves. These ego-based values that have characterised human civilization all too often, not only victimizes the weak and vulnerable, but corrupts the powerful. Ultimately, people’s station in the next life might be quite different then their station in this life: “But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.” (Bible, Matthew 19:30)

In order to live one day at a time, I suspect one needs to believe in a benevolent all-mighty higher power which has your best interests in mind. If there is no benevolent omnipotent force directing the affairs of the world, then you can’t let go of your desires and expectations. You have to do it all yourself, if you are going to get what you want, need, desire and aspire to. The problem with this, is that other people also are struggling to get what they need, want and desire, and often you are an obstacle in their path or a threat to what they want or to their ego. It becomes a battle of wills, with the strongest winning out, and the weaker being victimized in one form or another. It becomes ultimately a very unfair, injust, crass, harsh life – an environment where there seems to me to be often an undeclared state of war between family members, friends/frenemies, neighbours, workers, and citizens.

If you trust in an Almighty Creator who has everyone’s best interests in mind, you can let go and let God, putting your life in God’s hands, and following what you understand as His Will for you. It isn’t all up to you whether or not success comes your way, because God’s plans for you are more beneficial for you then your own plans. You even become detached from the whole idea of material and/or career success, in my opinion way too emphasized in North American society. I hope to blog about the proofs of the existence of a Creator. Until then, the book A Case for the Existence of God and the essay The Scientific Proof of the Existence of God are excellent resources for those interested.

I believe detachment is required. If a person is attached to a goal, an outcome, people behaving in a certain way, or attaining one’s desire, these desires and expectations, when excessive, gum up the process of living one day at a time. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things that I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” (The Serenity Prayer) “No man shall attain the shores of the ocean of true understanding except he be detached from all that is in heaven and on earth.” (Baha’u’llah, Book of Certitude)

I also believe one should recognize the transitory, fleeting, unpredictable, even capricious nature of this world and it’s inhabitants – especially the human inhabitants. In the Book of Certitude, Baha’u’llah says in the tablet to the true seeker, “Our purpose in revealing these convincing and weighty utterances is to impress upon the seeker that he should regard all else beside God as transient, and count all things save Him, Who is the Object of all adoration, as utter nothingness.”

Living in these times of chaos, unpredictability, where things can change quickly and situations may be ephemeral. Expecting people or situations to remain constant, predictable, and unchanging is not realistic. A situation that seems solid and certain, might silently vanish away without anyone noticing much, like long-lasting Canadian retail titans like Eaton’s, K-Mart, Future Shop and Zellers. A person or adversary who seems very powerful, overwhelmingly confident, self-assured, even intimidating and threatening, might at a later time, lose all their momentum and self-assurance. Heraclitus said 2,600 years ago, you could not step in the same river twice , meaning that things are always changing. I read in a Sociology textbook, that the more quickly technology changes, the more quickly society changes. Anyone exposed to the technology world, or more so for those working in the technology field, knows how quickly it is changing. I suspect that there has never been a time in the history of humanity where things were so ephemeral or the future so uncertain.

As Baha’u’llah writes: The world is but a show, vain and empty, a mere nothing, bearing the semblance of reality. Set not your affections upon it. Break not the bond that uniteth you with your Creator, and be not of those that have erred and strayed from His ways. Verily I say, the world is like the vapor in a desert, which the thirsty dreameth to be water and striveth after it with all his might, until when he cometh unto it, he findeth it to be mere illusion. It may, moreover, be likened unto the lifeless image of the beloved whom the lover hath sought and found, in the end, after long search and to his utmost regret, to be such as cannot “fatten nor appease his hunger.” (Gleanings)

O SON OF MY HANDMAID! Be not troubled in poverty nor confident in riches, for poverty is followed by riches, and riches are followed by poverty. Yet to be poor in all save God is a wondrous gift, belittle not the value thereof, for in the end it will make thee rich in God, and thus thou shalt know the meaning of the utterance, “In truth ye are the poor,” and the holy words, “God is the all-possessing,” shall even as the true morn break forth gloriously resplendent upon the horizon of the lover’s heart, and abide secure on the throne of wealth. (Baha’u’llah, Hidden Words)