Posted in Autobiography, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Empowerment, Living with Illness, Storytelling

Advice from an Acting Teacher

I watch a lot of interviews because I believe they give a behind the scenes look at people’s lives and circumstances.  It’s similar to what Andy Andrews shares about autobiographies, no one ever wrote an autobiography who didn’t succeed.  The same can be true for interviews, only those who overcome challenges (I’m not referring to celebrities, it’s all walks of life) get interviewed.

Jake Gyllenhaal’s new movie “Stronger” about Jeff Bauman who survived the Boston Marathon bombing was the focus of the interview.  When asked about his process he shared advice from an acting teacher, “The target draws forth the arrow”.  What do you think about when you read that statement?  It shouldn’t be a surprise that when I heard the quote I jumped for a pad and paper because these words of wisdom will make you think about how you take on life’s challenges.

When faced with a life challenge, especially a chronic or life-threatening illness there is a primary target…wellness!  It’s similar to the saying Keep Your Eye on the Prize!  When we have a target to focus on, we are given something to aim our physical, emotional, and spiritual energies.

The doctor gives us the target.  The moment you hear the words “I’m sorry to tell you but…” you become an arrow.  You are summoned to take aim and make conscious decisions.  It will take the momentum you absorb from friends, family, medication, and faith to propel yourself toward the target.

Champion 24-Inch Bullseye Archery Target (2-pack)

There is something empowering about picturing yourself as an arrow, moving with force and speed toward a desired outcome.  My ongoing reminder is, you may not get well, but you can always get better.  Remember a target has rings with the bulls-eye in the center.  What do the outer rings mean to you?  What if you don’t hit a bulls-eye the first time or ever?  What level of comfort do you have focusing on other aspects of your life if wellness isn’t in the cards?

I hope when picturing yourself as the arrow, you equate it with being a real-life superhero.  Your journey is unique to you!  The outcomes may or may not be within your control, but where do you have control?  You have control over your determination, perseverance, and attitude.  You have the right to create a relationship with your doctor that is both respectful and honest.

We will all have targets that arise in our lives because challenge is part of the human experience.  The arrow you become shapes your narrative.  Your narrative is the force behind your momentum…keep it going!

Posted in Autobiography, Caregiving, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Life Motivation, living with chronic illness, overcoming adversity

Arthur Ashe’s Life Principle(s)

I was listening to the audio of Andy Andrews book, Mastering the Seven Decisions. It is the follow-up to his monumental book The Traveler’s Gift. Andrews talks about the seven decisions not as suggestions but as principles. He makes a point of stating their principles because principles are universal. They aren’t specific to any one person but to everyone. His seven decisions (or principles) were derived from reading the autobiographies/biographies/memoirs or more than two hundred people. He found that the challenges these people faced and the tools and strategies to overcome their challenges could be reduced to seven decisions.

The idea that principles are universal makes me think about how important it is to find these gems. It’s one of those things I’m on the lookout for and when I hear it, read it, or experience it, I grab hold tightly and see how to make the principle (a universal strategy) more conscious in my life.

I was listening to the acceptance speech by Michael Sam, the first openly gay pro football player drafted to the St. Louis Rams, who received the Courage Award at the ESPYS. In his speech Sam referred to another great athlete Arthur Ashe. He shared Ashe’s philosophy of, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” This simple three-part statement took me by surprise. How could something so simple, so true, so applicable to everyone’s life not be needlepointed on every cushion in the land?

The first part of the principle “start where you are”, can it get any simpler. It requires us to make a personal assessment of what’s going on in our lives, in the now! It doesn’t matter how things used to be, but what is your current reality. This is very important for all of us who have experienced any type of life interruption such as an illness, divorce, bankruptcy, or other challenge. Where are you today and on the map of life that’s where you put the red dot that says, “You are here!”

The second part of the life principle, “Use what you have” is just practical. There are no imaginary resources. If you need more tools in your life toolbox seek them out. You can augment “what you have” by taking a class, attending a support group, going to therapy, or seeking counsel of a spiritual advisor.

The final part of the principle’s trilogy, “Do what you can” requires you to take action. If you’re facing an illness how will you support your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs? If you’re looking for love you have to get out in the world; UPS doesn’t deliver life partners to your door. If you’re having a spiritual crisis finding support, going on retreat, setting out on a pilgrimage, or attending a service are the things you’re able to do to change the situation.

We know that Arthur Ashe came to these principles based on a long career as a champion tennis player as well as someone who eventually died of AIDS. The challenges in his life were eased because he lived by these principles. He learned how to make the necessary accommodations to live a full life.

What will you do today with Ashe’s three-fold principle?

Facing some form of life interruption?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit

Want to implement Ashe’s life principles through art?  Visit

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, overcoming adversity

Viewing Your Life as an Outsider

I’m a big fan of Andy Andrews. Andrews is the comedian, speaker, and most importantly a brilliant author. His book The Traveler’s Gift recently sold its millionth copy in the United States. The one thing I have taken seriously from Andrews is how important it is to read biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs. As a result of reading over two hundred of these literary works he developed what he calls “The seven decisions”, the key to a healthy and successful life. If we take his recommendation to read this literary genre, but add a twist what happens?

Consider reading the story of your life. I’m not suggesting you sit down at your computer and write your own autobiography. I am suggesting that you begin to explore your life as if it were a third party. What would show up if you’re book club was reading your story, what would be the high points, the low points, and the what were they thinking points?

It’s obvious that we’re entrenched in our own lives. We have a skewed view of our lives because we’re vested in the outcome. Our need to be the hero in our own story is strong and that may get in the way of overcoming adversity when it presents itself. It’s time to learn from your life, not simply look at it and feel helpless that nothing will change.

I’m amazed when I take a step back and do my own life review ( a term and process often used with the elderly). Challenges will present themselves and being prepared with as many strategies for overcoming adversity is important. This life review process can be done at any age, even young folks, it just means the process may be shorter given the amount of time they’ve lived.

Start out asking yourself, what do I hope to accomplish by engaging this life review process. When I engage in the process I am looking for the things that have helped me resolve physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges. I look for strategies that become my own universal principles. One of those principles for me is to engage in art when I’m challenged emotionally. When I’m challenged physically I’ve tightened up my health and healing regimen. I’m in contact with my doctor(s) to shorten, relieve, and resolve a flare of my autoimmune disease. I’ve lived long enough to know my body’s circadian rhythms and the things that lessen the pain and anguish of a health relapse.

I guess what I’m really asking you to do in this process is “meet yourself for the first time”. Perhaps I’m borrowing the Buddhist philosophy of a beginner’s mind, but it works so use it. This process isn’t about nitpicking the mistakes made in life, but looking for the best practices that have given your life meaning and pleasure.

Facing adversity?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit

Want to try and see how art impacts healing?  Visit

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Storytelling

Who Are Your Travelers?

One of my favorite books is “The Traveler’s Gift” by Andy Andrews.  I recommend that book to everyone I meet and at every talk I give, no matter the audience.  I believe the book is a great way to focus on what’s important in your life and gives some clues on how to make changes in your life if that’s what you desire.

The book is part historical fiction and part self-help.  It takes you on a journey both through time and within, exploring your soul.  The book’s main character after suffering horrible circumstances in his life has a car accident and that prompts his journey back through time.  His journeys take deliver him to meet with historical figures and they have deep conversations.  As the main character gets ready to depart, the historical figure gives him a message, the lesson he needed to learn from that individual.

The “seven decisions”, the lessons learned from the historical figures are delivered by those such as Anne Frank, Christopher Columbus, Harry Truman, and Abraham Lincoln, just to name a few.  These prominent figures impact the main character profoundly (yes I now it’s not real), but the lessons are very real and are applicable no matter what’s going on in your life.

So I started wondering, if I were the main character in the book, whom would I hope to meet from the past that would potentially influence my life.  I know that in the book the historical figures were chosen by the Archangel Gabriel, so if that were an option for me that would be great.  However, if I were choosing my own, what criteria would I be looking for and what lessons would I be hoping to learn?

I encourage you to read this book, utilize the “seven decisions” and then think about who your travelers might be?  I’d love to share this journey with you.  Feel free to enter your journey in the comment section below or email me at

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness, Self-Nurture

Choose To Be Happy

Welcome to another Caregiver Friday!

One of my favorite books is “The Traveler’s Gift” by Andy Andrews.  I’ve mentioned his book a number of times because I believe the lessons are simple and can be adapted to anyone’s life.  I was thinking about the caregivers I know and aside from being tired, many have present with a sense of defeat.  They know that the care they provide is important, but it’s certainly not the life they planned for.

In “The Traveler’s Gift” the main character meets with Anne Frank.  The lesson she presents is “Today I choose to be happy”.  I know that it may seem like a difficult idea to comprehend, but finding a way to rekindle and experience joy is crucial to caregiving.

Energy is like money.   Every day you are given a finite amount of energy.  The key question is how will you spend that energy today?  Financial experts will say that you should always pay yourself first and then divide the remaining money for creditors, in your case, those who need your caregiving attention.

What would you do to pay yourself first?  What activities or spiritual practices will you engage in to invest in you for today?  The bigger question is can you keep it up and continue investing in your own happiness.  You may think that there is a disconnect between your personal happiness and the care you give as a care provider.  The truth is the two are directly correlated.  When you give yourself the gift of time and the experience of happiness you develop physical and emotional resilience.  You learn to disconnect from the drama of day-to-day caregiving and awaken to a new set of priorities that benefit you and the recipient of your care.

My wish for you today is that you make the right choices that keeps you connected to your center.  I hope you find ways that inject happiness into your life so you get to experience the sunshine in the sky and in your heart.

Posted in Emotional Health, Having a Voice

Don’t Sleepwalk Through Life

How many people have you met over the course of your life who simply go through the motions?  Maybe you were one prior to hearing the doctor say, “I’m sorry to tell you but…”.  If those words didn’t set off life’s alarm clock I’m not sure anything will, but let’s give it a try.

One of my favorite books that I encourage my clients to read (for a complete list go to, is Andy Andrews book “The Traveler’s Gift”.  It’s an easy read and can be picked up whenever it’s convenient.  The lessons are not reliant upon one another so take it at your own pace.  I recently visited my family and decided to give the book to my dad to make sure in life he’s not hitting the snooze button.

The following week I met up with my father and he began discussing the book, without prompting.  The lesson that caught his attention was from the chapter where the main character meets Anne Frank.  The lesson he learned from her is “Today I will choose to be happy”.  That’s a pretty big statement for a 14 year old girl who is hiding from death but ultimately can’t outrun the horror of the Nazis.

When we make conscious choices we are not sleepwalking, we’re not even dozing.  It’s during those times of the day when we make conscious choices that we feel alive.  The decisions aren’t always easy, but each one is a notch on your belt of life’s accomplishments.  You can choose to live in a dream world but unless you’re attune to the subconscious messages of your dreams, it’s only fantasy.

Turn up the volume on life’s alarm clock.  Remove the snooze button and take action.  Even if it’s the smallest thing, what will you do choose happiness today?  Let me know and share it with the world.