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Sifting – Chapter 21: Launching Synchronicity

This posting is part of a series on my book Sifting. If you have not read the previous postings, please visit the menu above (click on Sifting) for a chronological listing of any previous chapters. Thanks!  


Chapter 21: Launching Synchronicity

Bob: What do you mean by “synchronicity”?

Sift: Synchronicity has to do with the occurrence of events that seem to be meaningfully related, but not causally related. Most people think of synchronistic events as remarkable coincidences. For example, you think about a friend you haven’t talked to in years, and within a short time, they call you. Or someone tells you that you will encounter several pennies on the street or sidewalk and that they represent good luck. Then, over the next few days, you seem to run across pennies everywhere you go.

Bob: Is synchronicity related to some sort of magical force of the universe?

Sift: Not necessarily. In most cases, synchronicity has to do with the way your brain filters incoming stimuli. Your sensory organs are constantly bombarded with incoming information. This would quickly overwhelm you if you didn’t have some sort of system to filter out the unimportant and only allow the important to pass through and compete for your attention. Humans have relatively sophisticated brain circuitry that takes care of the filtering process. You can, however, program this circuitry to notice specific things or incoming information related to specific things. One technique for programming this system to notice specific things is simply to focus on them mentally. For example, if you buy a new car, even if it is a relatively unique car, you will likely encounter many identical cars over the next few weeks. It is not magic; you programmed your brain to notice that particular kind of car by mentally focusing on it.

Bob: That’s why people run across all the pennies, isn’t it?

Sift: Yes. Next time you are at a sporting event or any event with a large crowd, look at the crowd in general. Then, close your eyes and think about mainly seeing people wearing red clothes. Then, open your eyes. Now, close your eyes and think about mainly seeing people wearing green. Then, open your eyes. You mainly notice what you think about.

Bob: Ok, I get it. If I think about how I want my life to unfold, I will more likely notice things related to making that happen in my life. I’ll, in effect, launch synchronicity in my life.

Sift: Very good, Bob. That is exactly how it works. In terms of the hero’s journey, doors will open for you, and helping hands will appear to assist you on your journey. Bob, there is a way to enhance this process.

Bob: Tell me about it.

Sift: You write things down. One of the best ways to program your brain to notice things is to express them in writing.

Bob: I’ll bet that’s why so many of the self-help books advise you to put your goals in writing. I can use my journal for this, can’t I?

Sift: Yes.

Bob: Can we talk about the kind of things I need to write about?

Sift: Sure. Spend some quality time thinking about what you would do if you had all the time and money you needed. And think about the things you are currently doing. Would you still do them if you had all the time and money you needed? What would you do if you had no concern for financial rewards or social acceptance? Remember, this kind of thinking is meant to launch synchronicity in your life. Life will always present you with plenty of situations where you have to consider the financial and social implications of your choices. I want to help you move in the direction of at least minimizing these situations. After you think about all of this, I suggest that you block out two pages of your journal and make two lists.

Bob: What kind of lists?

Sift: First, make a list of things you are grateful for, a gratitude list. Just get the list started, and you can add to it as you think more about it. Then, make up what I call “a genie list.”

Bob: What’s a genie list?

Sift: Remember the mythology about the genie that appears and says, “Your wish is my command?” Make a list of the things you want to be, do, and have. Of course, make sure the things you put on the list will most likely take you in the direction of joyfully participating in life.

Bob: I get it. If I write these things down, it will program my brain to notice things related to items on the lists. It will launch synchronicity related to both the things I am currently grateful for and the things I want to be, do, or have.

Sift: Exactly. And Bob, look for things I call “progress handholds,” similar to handholds rock climbers use to climb a steep surface. Each handhold located helps make a little progress and keeps the climber moving in the right direction. Look all around you. Look for things in your current circumstances that can serve as handholds to help you pursue the things you want – the things on your lists.

Bob: So, when people tell you to focus on the journey and not the destination, they are really telling you to learn to enjoy making progress as much as the final achievement of a goal?

Sift: You bring up an excellent point, Bob. I think this would be a good time for you to spend some time with your journal getting your lists started. Why don’t you do that for the rest of the day. Tomorrow morning, we can talk about something called “the progress principle.”

Bob: Okay, Sift. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.


End Chapter 21

Author’s Notes:

Main takeaway: You can program your brain to notice things you need to make progress. 

  1. Can you think of an example of synchronicity in your life? If you see any pennies on the ground this week, think of this chapter about synchronicity and how synchronicity works.
  2. Make a list of things you are grateful for, a gratitude list.
  3. Create a genie list.
  4. Look for “progress handholds” related to the things on your genie list.


 The entire book will eventually be posted on this blog. However, if you want a copy for yourself, or as a gift for a friend, you can find it at this link: Sifting

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Sifting – Chapter 20: Happiness is Not Enough

This posting is part of a series on my book Sifting. If you have not read the previous postings, please visit the menu above (click on Sifting) for a chronological listing of any previous chapters. Thanks!  


Chapter 20: Happiness is Not Enough

Bob: Sift, I’ve been thinking about your comment that happiness is not enough. Why is that?

Sift: As I mentioned, most people think of happiness in the smiley-face sense. It is true that happiness is about experiencing positive emotions; however, there are several reasons why happiness is not enough and why focusing on well-being is a better life strategy. As it turns out, happiness is typically the weakest contributor among many strategies you can choose to create and nurture a sense of well-being.

Bob: Why is that?

Sift: Mainly because of misunderstandings and myths related to the concept of happiness, including what really makes people happy, and how long they can expect the happiness to last.

Bob: Sounds interesting. Tell me more.

Sift: The first insight is that people are not good at forecasting their emotions. They almost always over or underestimate how good or bad they will feel when things happen to them. They also over and underestimate how long the good or bad feelings will last.

Bob: Why?

Sift: When people experience events, especially events perceived as good or bad, they usually focus too much on the event itself and ignore potential offsetting factors that might occur as the future unfolds. One of the classic examples of this relates to lottery winners. They primarily focus on the positive benefits of having all the money and not the negative aspects of attaining sudden wealth.

Bob: I get it. Like not knowing who your true friends are and wondering if people are just trying to figure out a way to get you to give them some money.

Sift: Exactly. And the same thing happens with events that are perceived as negative. Say your house burns down. You might focus mainly on the event – the loss of your home – and ignore all the good things that will happen in the future: friends who help you, getting new things to replace some of the old things you didn’t really care for; and normal life will continue as it always has: things like family get-togethers, time with friends, and other pleasant experiences. Poor forecasting and focusing only on the good or bad event can cause you to misjudge the long-term impact of the event.

Bob: Given my current circumstances, I understand these ideas quite well. When I made a lot of choices to accumulate houses, cars, and other things, I didn’t think much about the offsetting issues of excessive debt or the time and energy it takes to maintain all of those things.

Sift: Let’s talk about those things, Bob. That will help you understand another common misunderstanding related to sustaining long-term happiness. Humans quickly habituate, or adapt, to positive events and possessions. After a short time, any such change is viewed as their “new normal,” and they typically increase their desires and need more to maintain their level of satisfaction.

Bob: It’s like an addiction. You always want more.

Sift: Yes, and if you do not get more, you revert to what is called your “happiness set-point” within a short time. All humans have a natural tendency to revert to a certain range of happiness in the absence of influential or novel experiences. The same thing occurs when you experience positive or negative events. For example, after a breakup with a romantic partner, a promotion, marriage, a job change, getting a new car or house, or suffering a permanent injury, people quickly move back to their happiness set-point. That is one of the main reasons why happiness is not enough in terms of a life strategy.

Bob: Can you do anything about it?

Sift: Yes, you can expand your focus to include the ongoing pursuit of overall well-being. Bob, there are five specific paths, or strategies, you can pursue to increase and nurture well-being. And we can talk about all of them. The pursuit of happiness is just one of the paths; but as I mentioned, it is the weakest contributor to overall well-being and will never be enough on a stand-alone basis.

In answer to your specific question about what you can do about this, you can offset the natural tendency to adapt to events and things that you think will create lasting happiness with variety strategies and appreciation strategies.

Bob: What do you mean by that?

Sift: Proactively work to introduce variety into your life. Find ways to take on new challenges at work. Spend time doing new things with your wife and friends. Get new people involved in your life. For example, if you want to enjoy your house or vacation home more, invite people over to enjoy it with you. In general, find ways to do new things to offset your natural tendency to habituate or adapt to things in your life.

And learn to pause and appreciate what you have. Focus mindfully on things and experiences, rather than taking them for granted. Savor and completely enjoy them by dwelling specifically on how they make you feel. Spend as much time enjoying the happiness you already have. As you do, try to figure out what will make you happy in the future.

Bob: Okay, Sift, you just opened up a real can of worms with your comment about the five paths to well-being. I want to talk about all of those.

Sift: Bob, do you remember when you had to take pre-requisite courses in college? They wanted you to take a lower-level course to prepare you for a higher-level course.

Bob: Yes.

Sift: It would be best if we could cover a few more issues before we talk about the five paths. It would help you make the most of the knowledge when we talk about them.

Bob: Okay, what should we talk about next?

Sift: I think it would be good to talk about launching synchronicity.

Bob: Sounds interesting. Let’s do it.


End Chapter 20

Author’s Notes:

Main takeaway: Go beyond happiness and seek overall well-being.    

  1. Can you think of an event in your life, good or bad, that eventually turned out the opposite of your original assessment?
  2. How can you offset the tendency to adapt to positive things that happen in your life?
  3. Why do you think happiness is not always enough?


 The entire book will eventually be posted on this blog. However, if you want a copy for yourself, or as a gift for a friend, you can find it at this link: Sifting

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Sifting: Chapter 19 – Resetting Bob’s Direction

This posting is part of a series on my book Sifting. If you have not read the previous postings, please visit the menu above (click on Sifting) for a chronological listing of any previous chapters. Thanks!  


Chapter 19: Resetting Bob’s Direction

Bob: Hello, Sift.

Sift: Hello, Bob.

Bob: That little exercise you suggested turned out to be another eye opener for me – and quite a history lesson. As I got more into it, I started remembering people and events I hadn’t thought of in years, including some major life-shaping people and events.

Sift: That is what usually happens. Did it help you understand how your tapes influence your current choices?

Bob: Absolutely! I had no idea that so many things that happened in the past are still influencing my choices. You were right. It is like solving a puzzle and understanding how I created my current circumstances. I had many interesting thoughts about my history, but I had one huge aha moment.

Sift: What was that, Bob?

Bob: I thought I was a pretty good decision maker, but exploring my tapes taught me that I wasn’t really making a lot of new decisions. Many of what I thought were new decisions, were actually old decisions. That’s another way to think about tapes, isn’t it? Tapes are old decisions. And I didn’t even make most of the decisions. Others made them for me, and I never challenged them. I just accepted them as my own choices, and they created patterns of behavior around them that carried over into my adult life. That’s what you were talking about earlier when you told me to make sure my decisions were my own decisions, right?

Sift: Right.

Bob: The thought that I have been doing that, relying on tapes to make choices, is frightening, fascinating and, in one sense, exhilarating! With what you have already taught me, I truly believe that, as they say, my life will begin again at 40. It’s a bit weird, but I think it is time for me to begin making my own decisions.

Sift: Bob, you are turning out to be an extraordinary learner. I am impressed with how you are putting all the pieces of this puzzle together.

Bob: Thanks, Sift!

Sift: Bob, the exercise I suggested placed you mentally and emotionally in the past for an extended period of time. There was value in doing that, but I think it would be best if we spent some time talking about the present and future now. Are you interested in doing that?

Bob: Yes.

Sift: Good, let’s talk about resetting your direction.

Bob: Uh, okay. What exactly does that mean?

Sift: Now that you understand more about obstacles that can prevent you from pursuing your calling, this is a good time to begin talking about the process of going forward – about some things you can do to get on the right path in life and stay on it. When you go on any journey, including a hero’s journey, you need some way to determine if you are at least going in the right or wrong direction. That’s why it is a good idea to establish a directional benchmark to evaluate your new choices. Tell me, Bob, at this point in your life, what do you most want to move toward? Can you think of a way to clearly articulate that?

Bob: When you asked me that, the first thing that popped into my mind was all that stuff you told me earlier about emotions being my only direct source of knowledge.

Sift: Good, can you remember the five broad categories of emotions, Bob?

Bob: I think so. Joy, sadness, anger, fear…what was the other one?

Sift: Affection. It has a lot to do with people’s desire for acceptance by those important to them. Bob, I think your spontaneous thoughts are absolutely taking you in the right direction. Now, with those five emotions in mind, can you articulate what you most want to move toward in life?

Bob: Uh, yeah. I want to move toward joy. Can I use that as my directional benchmark?

Sift: Tell me a little more about what you mean when you say you want to move toward joy.

Bob: Sift, can I take a few minutes to think about this?

Sift: Yes, I think that is a good idea.

Bob sat up straight in his chair, breathed in and out deeply and slowly, closed his eyes, and sat still and silent. After a few minutes, he nodded his head, opened his eyes, and continued his conversation with Sift.

Bob: I want to move in the direction of joyfully participating in life.

Sift: Bob, I like the way you stated that. I like it a lot. I just want to make sure I fully understand what you mean when you say that.

Bob: I want to be happy. Is that a better way of saying it?

Sift: No, I like the way you originally stated your directional benchmark better. I just think it is important that we expand on what it means and take it beyond the idea of just being happy.

Bob: What do you mean by “expand it”? I thought happiness was the most sought after thing in the world?

Sift: Happiness is one of the components of overall well-being, and that is what I encourage you to focus on – overall well-being. If you explore happiness, you will discover that it is not enough on its own. It is a seemingly minor distinction, but in reality, it is not minor at all. Many people focus excessively on what you might think of as “the Hollywood- or Madison Avenue-version” of happiness and think of the smiley-face aspects of happiness. That is never enough to joyfully participate in life.

Bob: That makes sense. If happiness is a subset of well-being, happiness becomes a part of my overall focus?

Sift: Yes.

Bob: And what other kinds of things are included in well-being?

Sift: Things that create peace of mind, contentment, and other forms of life satisfaction.

Bob: Okay, so it’s not just about jumping up and down, rah-rah experiences?

Sift: No, not at all.

Bob: Okay, my directional benchmark is to joyfully participate in life, and, in general, that means I will make choices that move me in that direction.

Sift: Yes, Bob. When you are faced with significant choices or decisions, ask the question, “Will this choice take me toward or away from joyfully participating in life?” Of course, try to minimize or eliminate choices that take you away from joyfully participating in life.

Bob: Sift, this all makes sense, but why is it so important?

Sift: What was your directional benchmark before we had this discussion? How did you evaluate your choices?

Bob: I’m not really sure.

Sift: How would you categorize your life? What was your typical day like?

Bob: The word that comes to mind when you ask me that is chaotic.

Sift: Having a directional benchmark can help immunize you from chaos.

Bob: Huh? How does that immunize me from chaos?

Sift: Have you ever been to Penn Station in New York City during rush hour?

Bob: Sure, I used to catch trains from Manhattan to Long Island all the time.

Sift: Did things seem chaotic during rush hour?

Bob: Always!

Sift: I know it looked chaotic, but that was not really true chaos you were observing.

Bob: Huh?

Sift: It was not true chaos because, for the most part, everyone knew where he or she was going. Sure, they were zigzagging across the terminal and occasionally bumping into each other, and it looked much like chaos. However, if you stand above it all and observe the flow of traffic, something very interesting happens when they announce a track change. You can see subtle shifts in the flow of traffic. People do not panic; they just adjust their movement and trajectory and head in the direction of the new track. Since they know where they are headed, changes do not affect them much.

Bob: Wow, I never thought of that. If you know where you are headed, it is easier to deal with unexpected events, isn’t it?

Sift: Much easier. As we talk more, we will explore other ways to get more clarity about the goals that support your desire to joyfully participate in life; but step one is to get you going in the right direction and help you keep going in the right direction.

Bob: Sift, it strikes me that this is really the answer to the question, What do I want to be when I grow up? and it can provide me with excellent guidance on my specific goals.

Sift: Goals, by definition, involve destinations, and setting them is a worthwhile thing to do. However, your desire to joyfully participate in life provides you with an ongoing focus that supersedes any specific goal. The question of what to be or do when you grow up is not really about being a butcher, baker, candlestick maker, doctor or lawyer. It’s not about whether to marry, to have children, to buy a house, to own a certain car, to have a certain title, to make a certain amount of money, or anything like that. The question is whether or not pursuing these goals will move you toward or away from joyfully participating in life. Moving in the right direction is the most important thing. And in terms of the hero’s journey, trying to figure out your path counts as being on the path. When you start moving in the right direction, by even thinking about what your true path might be, you have begun your hero’s journey.

Bob: Sift, this is very clarifying for me. If someone asks me what I want to do with my life, my answer is to joyfully participate in life. Everything else is in the service of achieving that goal on an ongoing basis. They may not totally understand that response, but I do; and that is what matters.

Sift: Congratulations, Bob, you have reset your direction in life.

Bob: I am going to write some things in my journal now. I need to take some time to process all the thoughts on my mind.

Sift: Good idea, Bob.


End Chapter 19

Author’s Notes:

Main takeaway: Use joyfully participating in life as your directional benchmark for making day-to-day life choices.   

  1. Why do you think Bob came to the conclusion that his tapes represented old decisions? Why does that matter?
  2. What is the relationship between your choices and your potential to joyfully participate in life?
  3. How can having a directional benchmark help you minimize chaos in your life?


 The entire book will eventually be posted on this blog. However, if you want a copy for yourself, or as a gift for a friend, you can find it at this link: Sifting

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Sifting – Chapter 18: Behavior Tapes

This posting is part of a series on my book Sifting. If you have not read the previous postings, please visit the menu above (click on Sifting) for a chronological listing of any previous chapters. Thanks!  


Chapter 18: Behavior Tapes

Bob: Sift, I am ready to talk about tapes.

Sift: Good, Bob.

Bob: So, tapes can cause you to develop an external locus of control?

Sift: Yes, they have the potential to do that.

Bob: This is amazing.

Sift: What?

Bob: I didn’t even ask if you were there. I just started talking to you, and you responded.

Sift: That is the way it works when we have a strong connection.

Bob: I feel more comfortable that you will be there when I need to talk.

Sift: Good.

Bob: Okay, back to tapes. What kind of tapes are you talking about?

Sift: I am talking about mental tapes encoded into your brain and nervous system early in life. A tape is a deeply embedded, programmed response to certain events, similar to a programmed computer routine that, when activated, strongly influences your behavior. The term tape was used to describe these mental influences when programmers literally used reels of magnetic tape to record computer programs. Today, you might also think of them as software or apps for the brain. The point is, a large portion of your behavior, especially what some experts refer to as your “non-thinking,” or “automatic,” behavior, is strongly influenced or controlled by these tapes.

Bob: So, if tapes cause me to automatically respond without thinking much about it, they can get me into trouble, right?

Sift: That is partially right. Tapes can be quite helpful or, yes, they can create problems for you.

Bob: I don’t understand. Give me an example of how a tape can be helpful.

Sift: Almost everyone has a “look both ways before you cross the street” tape. This tape served you well as a child,and it continues to serve you well as an adult. Stepping off a curb usually triggers, or activates, your “look both ways” tape. You do not really think much about it, but the tape triggers a very specific and pre-determined behavior routine in response to your circumstances. Again, it is similar to a computer program. Many of these tapes that help you respond to routine and recurring events, such as driving, shaving, or tying your shoes, are quite helpful and save you a lot of time and energy. You wouldn’t want to have to rethink all the steps and choices you must make when driving every time you get behind the wheel of your car, would you? However, many tapes trigger behavior that does not serve you well.

Bob: Give me an example of that kind of tape.

Sift: In terms of maintaining an internal locus of control, one of the most challenging tapes to deal with is any form of the “everybody ought to love me all the time” tape. It is just human nature for people to want to be accepted, and even liked, by others; but it is not a realistic belief. You can work hard to treat others with respect and kindness, and some people still misunderstand you and get upset with you at times. With the exception of certain people with serious mental disorders, everybody has some version of this tape.

This is actually an example of a tape that can serve you well or cause problems for you, depending on the strength or intensity of the tape. It goes back to maintaining an appropriate balance between an internal and external locus of control. It is best to think in terms of extremes when you are considering tapes.

Bob: What do you mean by that?

Sift: If we consider the issue of caring what others think of us, one extreme is not caring at all. Absolutely not caring what anyone thinks of you is one of the factors mental health professionals often use to determine if someone is a sociopath or psychopath. For example, if Charles Manson says he does not care what anyone thinks of him, he probably means it. Others, without serious mental problems, do not really mean it. On the other extreme, if you care too much about what others think of you, you probably have a pretty strongly encoded “everybody ought to love me all the time” tape, and it can cause problems for you.

Bob: I get it. Sometimes, I shoot my mouth off about not caring what others think of me, but it’s mainly bragging. It always bothers me when people get upset with me. So, let me see if I understand this correctly. Going to the extremes is what gets you in trouble with some tapes, not necessarily the tape itself. The key to dealing with tapes is determining whether or not the behavior triggered by the tape is serving you well?

Sift: That is an excellent conclusion, Bob.

Bob: So tapes can become obstacles and get in the way of pursuing your calling in life.

Sift: Yes, stroke patterns and other life experiences often create tapes that prevent you from thinking in the present about your responses to the events in your life. Just as your past choices created your present circumstances, your current choices create your future circumstances. Therefore, if you are not pleased with your current circumstances, it is time to challenge some of the choices you made in the past and begin to make better ones in the present.

Bob: I’m certainly not pleased with my present circumstances. Wait a minute – it would be more accurate to say I am neither pleased nor displeased with my circumstances. How all this unfolds, including getting fired, can turn out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me. I like all the new things I am learning. It’s up to me, isn’t it? If I hold onto the beliefs that are serving me well and upgrade or replace the ones that aren’t, I’ll be better off in the future, won’t I?

Sift: You are correct,Bob. It is all up to you. It is important for you to understand that no new learning takes place, and no lasting change in behavior occurs, unless you disrupt some of your current, often strongly held beliefs. Bob, I have a suggestion for you.

Bob: What is that?

Sift: I think this would be a good time for us to pause our discussion for the rest of the day and give you some time to explore your tapes.

Bob: Which tapes?

Sift: Tapes related to your career, money, marriage, parenting, possessions, religion, political beliefs, and tapes related to any other area of your life that you intuitively sense you need to explore to create a better future for you and your family.

Bob: Any suggestions on how to go about doing that, or how to get started?

Sift: This is another good use of your journal. Bob, you are about to turn 40, right?

Bob: Yes, on Saturday.

Sift: Block out eight blank pages in your journal and use them to review your life history. Label the pages 0–5 , 6–10, 11–15, 16–20, and so on, representing five-year periods of your life up to the present. Then, start making informal notes on two things for each period: the people who influenced you, good or bad; and the significant events that occurred during the same period, good or bad. You can write single words, short phrases, draw pictures, doodle, or do anything you want to trigger your memories of the influential people and events. Then, scan these pages and let your thoughts go where they want to go. Think of the lessons you learned from these people and events that are still serving you well and those that are not. Your thoughts will likely trigger memories of new people and events you didn’t think of originally. If that happens, just go to the appropriate page and add the information. Use the rest of the day to get this process started, but think of it as an ongoing process – a process that will help you sift through your tapes and determine areas where you might want to challenge your beliefs. Don’t think of this as an assignment for today. Think of it as an assignment for the rest of your life. Enjoy it. Take your time with it. We can continue our discussion tomorrow, or whenever you are ready.

Bob: Sift, my mind is already working on the process. I am thinking of people and events as we speak. I agree, a pause right now is a good idea. I’ll talk to you later.

Sift: Okay, Bob. Enjoy the process.


End Chapter 18

Author’s Notes:

Main takeaway: Much of your current behavior is driven by historic events. Many of what you think of as your current choices were actually made long ago?  

  1. How would you describe a behavior tape to someone else?
  2. Can you think of some of your strongly imbedded behavior tapes (some that are helpful and some that are not)?
  3. What kind of problems can a strongly imbedded “everybody ought to love me all the time tape” cause?
  4. What people and events in your life created some of your predominant behavior tapes?


 The entire book will eventually be posted on this blog. However, if you want a copy for yourself, or as a gift for a friend, you can find it at this link: Sifting

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Sifting – Chapter 16: Locus of Control

This posting is part of a series on my book Sifting. If you have not read the previous postings, please visit the menu above (click on Sifting) for a chronological listing of any previous chapters. Thanks!  


Chapter 16: Locus of Control

Bob: Sift?

Sift: Hello, Bob.

Bob: I don’t want to be addicted to busyness anymore. I like the way I feel now – more grounded, centered, and focused. What else can I do to nurture this feeling and eventually be more like this all the time? Does that make sense?

Sift: Yes, Bob, that makes sense, and there are many things you can do to maintain these feelings. One of the next best steps you can take is shifting from a predominantly external locus of control to a predominantly internal locus of control.

Bob: I think I know what you mean. I need to stop letting external influences, especially other people, dictate how I think, feel, and act, don’t I? I need to stop caring what everybody else thinks of me?

Sift: Not exactly. I am only suggesting that you tip the scales in favor of valuing your own opinion related to the choices you make in life as much, or more, than the opinions of others. It is fine to listen to others, and even be influenced by others, as long as in the end, the choices you make are your own and you take full responsibility for them as being your choices. Failure to fully transition through the passage from adolescence to adulthood often causes people to maintain a predominantly external locus of control long after it is necessary or useful.

Bob: Huh?

Sift: In terms of one of the normal passages of life, people spend most of their formative years in a “What does everyone else want?” mode of operating. In other words, they predominantly seek and receive a lot of external guidance when making choices. This is totally appropriate when you are younger and helps you learn how the world works, especially if the authority figures and teachers in your life are grounded, centered, and wise. But that is not always the case. Sometimes, through their words or actions, they teach you things that will not serve you well as an adult. Often in such cases, people are just passing on illogical or inappropriate ideas that they learned from influential people in their lives. For this reason, it is a good idea, as an adult, to sift through all the significant lessons you learned as a child and adolescent that might not be serving you well in your current circumstances.

Bob: How do you know if they are serving you well or not?

Sift: If ideas and beliefs that drive your actions generate joyful feelings and productive results, they are likely serving you well. If they generate ongoing patterns of sadness, fear, anxiety, frustration, or failure, it might be time to question, and perhaps alter, your beliefs. Remember, your emotions are an excellent source of internal guidance.

If things in your life progress as they should, you eventually transition to more of a “What do I want?” phase of life. This should not be a self-centered phase; it is more a matter of taking full responsibility for your life and deciding what you want to do with your time, talent, and energy that will serve you and the world. The world, in this case, means any element of your world, your family, your employer, your community, or the world at large.

Bob: So what do you mean when you say some people fail to make the transition?

Sift: Some people never make it to the phase where they become more self-directed and autonomous. They never take the time to fully examine their beliefs and make sure they are their own beliefs. They never transition and adopt more of an internal locus of control. They, in effect, borrow their beliefs from others, most often their parents or main caregivers, and live their lives on a foundation of borrowed beliefs, rather than beliefs they have fully processed and accepted as their own.

Bob: What kind of beliefs are you talking about?

Sift: All your beliefs. For example, your beliefs about relationships, marriage, money, religion, politics, parenting, trustworthiness, abundance, scarcity, and everything else that relates to the major choices you make in life.

Bob: These are things I can explore in my journal, can’t I?

Sift: Yes, that is a very good idea. Reflect on these issues. Explore them in your journal. Talk with trusted advisors and friends. Do whatever works best for you to fully process beliefs that you learned from others.

Bob: Make them my own if I plan to allow them to influence my choices, right?

Sift: Yes.

Bob: Sift, let me see if I understand you correctly. Are you telling me that as an almost 40-year-old adult, I have not fully transitioned into adulthood?

Sift: Yes.

Bob: Wow, that’s an eye-opener. So I need to develop a more internal locus of control?

Sift: Right, if you truly want to remain grounded, centered, and focused, that is a great place to begin. Bob, there are two more topics closely related to this topic and your question that I think we need to explore.

Bob: Even without knowing what they are, I can already tell you, “Yes, I want to explore them with you. What are the topics?”

Sift: I think it would be helpful for you to understand strokes and psychological tapes.

Bob: I’m in! Let me make a few notes in my journal to remind me of some thoughts going through my mind right now, and then let’s talk all about strokes and tapes.

Sift: Take your time, Bob.


End Chapter 16

Author’s Notes:

Main takeaway: Make sure your beliefs are your beliefs (and not borrowed from others). 

  1. What does it mean to have a predominantly internal locus of control?
  2. Does having an internal locus of control mean you should never care what anyone thinks of you?
  3. What are some of the main benefits of having an internal locus of control?
  4. Are your beliefs regarding marriage, relationships, money, religion, politics, career, parenting and others significant areas of life really yours?


 The entire book will eventually be posted on this blog. However, if you want a copy for yourself, or as a gift for a friend, you can find it at this link: Sifting

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Sifting – Chapter 15: The Power of Journaling

This posting is part of a series on my book Sifting. If you have not read the previous postings, please visit the menu above (click on Sifting) for a chronological listing of any previous chapters. Thanks!  


Chapter 15: The Power of Journaling

Bob: Sift? Are you there?

Sift: Good morning, Bob.

Bob: Considering my circumstances, it is an absolute mystery to me how I slept so well last night. What are you doing to me to make that happen?

Sift: I am not doing anything. It’s because of what you are doing. Restful sleep is often, but not always, one of the benefits of clear thinking and the by-product of longer periods of mind-body synchronization.

Bob: Huh?

Sift: Bob, your mind is capable of being in the past, present, or future. Your body, or physical being, can only exist in the present. Therefore, the only place your mind and body can be in sync is in the present. Synchronizing your mind and body usually helps you feel more focused, grounded, and centered. These feelings, in turn, help your body and mind function at their best in both waking and non-waking periods. You spent a lot of time with your mind and body in sync yesterday for the first time in a long time.

Bob: Oh, that’s the “staying in the present moment” thing that people talk about? So, I need to always stay in the present moment?

Sift: No, there is significant value in mentally reflecting on the past and future. You can learn from the past and gain inspiration from the future. Problems only arise when you spend too much time out of sync with your body. Therefore, it is a good idea to spend most of your time in a present-oriented frame of mind.

Bob: I wrote in my journal this morning. Three pages!

Sift: Tell me about it.

Bob: To be honest, I didn’t really want to do it at first. I actually felt some discomfort that I did not have any meetings or work activities planned for the day. However, once I relaxed and got started, things got interesting. It was almost as if thoughts were flowing through me and onto the pages. I felt more like a conduit for the thoughts than the source of them. The thoughts seemed to randomly jump from topic to topic and across time periods. Actually, some of the thoughts were strange – thoughts about very specific childhood experiences, my college dorm room, my bills, people I haven’t thought of in years, my grandfather’s watch, smoke inside my body, a strange kite made of dollar bills, and other weird things like that.

Sift: What was the main feeling you experienced when you were journaling?

Bob pauses and thinks for a moment.

Bob: Well, I felt, for lack of a better word, a sense of cleansing. Does that make sense to you?

Sift: Yes, it does, Bob. Will you try something for me right now?

Bob: Sure.

Sift: Relax, close your eyes, and breathe like I suggested before. Inhale deeply and exhale slowly for a minute or so. When you finish, tell me what went through your mind when you were doing this.

Bob: Okay.

Bob pauses and opens his eyes after 37 seconds.

Bob: Sorry, Sift. I got so relaxed. I know I probably took much more than a minute.

Sift: That’s all right, Bob. You did fine. What was going on in your mind once you got into the rhythm of breathing? Did you experience any mental imagery?

Bob: Yeah, I did. I experienced a visual image of taking in pure, clear air and exhaling dark, black smoke. As I continued to exhale, the smoke got lighter in color. When I stopped, the smoke was still dark, but more gray than black.


Sift: Okay, why don’t you turn that visual image into an exercise and repeat it from time to time. Especially anytime you feel sadness, anger, or anxiety. Also, do the same thing with other thoughts that show up in your journal. Focus on the thought, and breathe in and out deeply and slowly, while thinking of the thought.

Bob: How do I know which thought to choose?

Sift: Tell me, what does the word resonate mean to you? What does it mean to resonate with something?

Bob: To me, that means something that provokes some sort of interesting, usually pleasant emotion, or curiosity.

Sift: Good, that’s the process you can use to choose your thought. Browse through your journal and pick a thought that causes you to experience a sense or feeling of resonance.

Bob: Okay, and doing this will help me discover my calling or next adventure in life?

Sift: Bob, do you remember when I talked about looking at this process as a puzzle or combination lock?

Bob: Yes.

Sift: Think of journaling, and all the things you experience as a result of reflecting on your journal thoughts, as pieces of the puzzle. There is no one way to discover your calling, and the same ideas will not work for everyone. Sometimes, a single idea or process makes things fall in place quickly; sometimes, it takes a combination of ideas over a longer period of time. I am going to talk with you about many things that will help you, or prove to be obstacles, to zero in on your calling. You decide which ones you want to try, which ones you do not think will work for you, and which potential obstacles you need to address. For example, you do not have to keep journaling after trying it a few days if you do not feel it is helping. However, I do strongly suggest you continue writing in your journal because, in your case, you accomplished in one try what many people take days or weeks to accomplish.

Bob: What is that?

Sift: You got to the point where you were experiencing a sense of flow on your first try. That probably means you have many thoughts and feelings that need to be processed or resolved. Journaling is one way to process such things. In any case, you choose the ideas you want to pursue. Other people respond more to meditation, yoga, breathing techniques, or other activities that counteract the urge to fill the day with busyness.

Bob: I absolutely want to keep journaling. It was interesting and I enjoyed it. It was quite a radical departure from my normal routine of rushing around to get ready, gulping coffee, fighting rush-hour traffic, and such.

Sift: Good, how you begin your day often sets the tone for how the rest of your day will unfold. Journaling and similar activities help retrain your nervous system to embrace a more productive pace for life. People often get addicted to busyness and need some process to help them settle in to a better pace. And pacing your life appropriately is one of the keys to becoming more grounded and centered. The irony is that you will accomplish much more in a typical day when you slow down a bit and pace yourself correctly.

Bob: I will keep journaling and experiment with some of the other techniques you mentioned.

Sift: Good, here are a few suggestions for your journaling. Keep letting your thoughts unfold naturally, if they will. If you ever get stuck, write about four things: people who have influenced you; events – good and bad – that somehow shaped your life, especially events that turned out to present fork-in-the-road choices or decisions for you; things you want to do, be, or have in the future; and things that create a sense or feeling of gratitude.

Bob: Influential people? Do you mean people like my parents?

Sift: I mean any influential people in your past or present world – parents, relatives, siblings, caregivers, teachers, coaches, bosses, coworkers, friends, or anyone else who influenced you in any way. Don’t force these topics. Again, if you can’t think of anything else, start with them and let your thoughts go where they want to go.

Bob: Sift, this is just a structured process to help me get better at slowing down and reflecting on important things, isn’t it? It will help keep me from getting too caught up in the busyness trap, won’t it?

Sift: Yes.

Bob: I’m going to get a cup of coffee and then I want to talk more. Sift, thanks for helping me!

Sift: Okay, Bob. It is my pleasure, and I appreciate your curiosity. I’ll be here when you are ready to continue.


End Chapter 15

Author’s Notes:

Main takeaway: It’s a good idea to develop your own way, or ways, to process the events of your life.  

  1. Do you believe you should always try to stay in the present moment? Why or why not?
  2. Why do you think the process of journaling is beneficial for many people?
  3. Who were the influential people, and what were the significants events, that shaped your current viewpoint of the world?


 The entire book will eventually be posted on this blog. However, if you want a copy for yourself, or as a gift for a friend, you can find it at this link: Sifting

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Sifting – Chapter 14: The Busyness Trap

This posting is part of a series on my book Sifting. If you have not read the previous postings, please visit the menu above (click on Sifting) for a chronological listing of any previous chapters. Thanks!  


Chapter 14: The Busyness Trap

Bob: So, what is the main obstacle that prevents people from pursuing their calling?

Sift: Busyness.

Bob: Huh? Businesses somehow cause all these problems?

Sift: No, I mean busyness spelled B-U-S-Y-N-E-S-S. People clutter their lives with activities that seem important to them. They confuse frenetic motion and low-value activity with meaningful and purposeful action.

Bob: I totally get that now. I don’t think I would have understood the real significance of what you just said before the call from Mr. Dawson. It’s strange; earlier today, I was convinced that so many things I planned to do this week were so important. And then I got the call from Mr. Dawson, and now none of those things are important. I know I am getting a bit philosophical, but I remember having similar thoughts when I watched the coverage of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. I specifically remember the scene on TV when papers were floating down, zigzagging through the air on the way to the ground. I thought, “Just a short time ago, I’ll bet a lot of people thought those papers were so important, and now they are totally meaningless and insignificant.”

Sift: That’s what happens, Bob. People get caught up in a whirlwind of busyness, and it makes it difficult to discern what is really important and what is not. Unfortunately, sometimes, it takes a disaster, cancer, a car wreck, the death of a loved one, or some similar event for humans to break the cycle of getting caught up in their busyness trap. But that’s not the way things have to work. Do you remember the Pareto Principle you learned about in college?

Bob: Yeah, I think it suggested that you get the majority of your results from the minority of your efforts.

Sift: Exactly. Another way of thinking of the Pareto Principle is that the majority of your efforts do not matter.

Bob: Huh. Interesting. I guess that is another way of saying the same thing.

Sift: You mentioned changing your mind about what was important after the call from Mr. Dawson. Let me ask you a question. How difficult would it have been for anyone to convince you of that before you got the call?

Bob, did you hear my question?

Bob: Uh, yeah. I was thinking about it. That’s an interesting question. My guess is that it would have been almost impossible to convince me of that before the call.

Sift: That is true with everyone caught up in the busyness trap. Therefore, one of the first practical steps you can take – if you desire to get on the right path in life – is to learn to pace yourself appropriately and purposely build some time for reflection into your daily schedule. Speaking of reflection time, it is late and we have covered a lot of new ideas. I think this would be a good time for you to get some rest and process some of these ideas. We can talk more about specific ways to escape from the busyness trap tomorrow.

Bob: Huh? How can I get rest and process ideas at the same time?

Sift: That is one of the purposes of sleep. Your brain works while you are sleeping. It reinforces learning and connects new memories to existing memories and works to make sense of the events of the day. I want you to consider doing something first thing tomorrow morning before we talk again.

Bob: What’s that?

Sift: Do you have any kind of notebook you can use as a journal?

Bob: Sure, I keep a notebook in my briefcase to make notes on follow-up actions.

Sift: Good, when you get up in the morning, start writing about whatever is on your mind in your notebook. Don’t be concerned with grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, or anything else like that. Write extemporaneously and just capture your thoughts on paper. You can stop in the middle of a thought and switch to another thought, if you’d like. Let your thoughts go wherever they seem to want to go. Try to write at least one page, or for at least ten minutes, if you can. More and longer is fine, but don’t worry about that either. Just keep thinking and keep your pen or pencil moving.

Bob: Okay, I’ll do it. Will you be here tomorrow?

Sift: Yes. If you want to connect with me, you know how to do it now. If you have any difficulty, just relax, breathe in deeply, exhale slowly, and think of me. Then ask a question.

Bob: Got it. Goodnight, Sift. Thanks for everything!

Sift: Goodnight, Bob. You are welcome.


End Chapter 14

Author’s Notes:

Main takeaway: Busyness is usually counter-productive for those who desire to joyfully and productively participate him life.  

  1. Why do you think some people value busyness so much?
  2. Does the 80/20 Rule (Pareto Principle) apply to you, or are you somehow exempt from it?
  3. Do you know people who confuse frenetic motion and low-value activity with meaningful and purposeful action?


 The entire book will eventually be posted on this blog. However, if you want a copy for yourself, or as a gift for a friend, you can find it at this link: Sifting

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Sifting – Chapter 13: The Source of the Journey

This posting is part of a series on my book Sifting. If you have not read the previous postings, please visit the menu above (click on Sifting) for a chronological listing of any previous chapters. Thanks!  


Chapter 13: The Source of the Journey

Bob: I understand the call to adventure, the hero, the herald, and the refusal of the call. What’s the source of the hero’s journey? Where did all these ideas come from?

Sift: The hero’s journey is a highly summarized articulation of the collective wisdom of all those who came before you. Billions of people have lived and died on Earth. As these people learned to deal with the events and people they encountered during their lives, many felt a strong urge to share their wisdom with others, especially their direct descendants.

Throughout most of history, these ideas were passed on to others by word-of-mouth. Storytellers and artists created fairly tales, parables, poetry, and used various forms of artistic expression to share their wisdom. These ideas were eventually incorporated into our mythologies, customs, traditions, and religions. Mythologist Joseph Campbell originally articulated the hero’s journey, the call to adventure, the herald, and many of the other ideas we have discussed. Campbell dedicated his life to the study of all the great religions, mythologies, and other sources of collective wisdom in an effort to discover the common elements of these various sources. The hero’s journey articulates these common elements. The hero’s journey is a template for the journey we call life. It is, in effect, a road map for the journey from birth to death.

Bob: So the hero’s journey offers insights on how to live your life.

Sift: Yes, the hero’s journey addresses the stages you will likely pass through in life and the archetypes you will likely encounter.

Bob: Okay, so if I understand the hero’s journey, I’ll have a better chance of knowing what to expect in life and how to deal with it? What else do I need to know about the hero’s journey?

Sift: Bob, I encourage you to pursue your interest in the hero’s journey and learn about all the stages and archetypes; but you already know enough to begin getting back on track with your life. We can discuss any other relevant elements of the hero’s journey based on your curiosity and the specific questions you ask.

Bob: Okay, I’m curious about a few things. What really kept me from following my calling? And how can I begin pursuing my calling?

Sift: Those are excellent questions. If I understand you correctly, you want to know more about the obstacles that prevent people from pursuing their unique adventures in life? And you want to discuss some commonsense, practical steps you can take to begin pursuing your calling?

Bob: Yes.


End Chapter 13

Author’s Notes:

Main takeaway: The Hero’s Journey is an excellent source of wisdom/guidance for those who desire to joyfully and productively participate in life.   

  1. How can you use the hero’s journey template, describing the stages of life and archetypes you can expect to encounter in life, to improve your life?
  2. What is the value of knowing, or at least exploring, your calling in life?
  3. Can you think of some the archetypes you have encountered in your life (heralds, mentors, threshold guardians, etc.)?


 The entire book will eventually be posted on this blog. However, if you want a copy for yourself, or as a gift for a friend, you can find it at this link: Sifting

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Sifting – Chapter 12: Bob Reflects on His Current Situation

This posting is part of a series on my book Sifting. If you have not read the previous postings, please visit the menu above (click on Sifting) for a chronological listing of any previous chapters. Thanks!  


Chapter 12: Bob Reflects on His Current Situation

Bob: Sift, are you there?

Sift: Yes, Bob, how are you doing?

Bob: I have another question about the phone call.

Sift: What is that, Bob?

Bob: When I hung up the phone after talking with Mr. Dawson the other day, after I had some time to process what he told me, I was surprised that I felt a sense of relief. Is that normal?

Sift: Your response was not necessarily typical; however, it was quite healthy and appropriate. In similar situations, people often respond with anger, resentment, denial, or some other form of negative emotions. This prevents what you just referred to as processing the event, and can cause someone to get locked into one of these extreme mental positions. For example, some people often remain angry or in denial for years after such an experience. Some people remain that way for the rest of their lives. This, of course, takes up a lot of their energy that could be used for more productive life activities and severely inhibits their ongoing potential for learning and personal growth.

Bob: I’m not sure about denial, but my initial response was anger. I still can’t believe what the company did to me.

Sift: First of all, anger is a valid emotion that serves you well in certain situations. All emotions are valid and appropriate in certain situations. It is the fact that you are aware of the emotion, that you take time to process the emotion, and the manner in which you process the emotion, that are most important. Second, the company did not do anything to you. What happened to you was set in motion by choices you consciously made, or made by default, in the past. Remember your ongoing refusal of the call to adventure?

Bob:  Oh, yeah, I guess that is another way to look at it.

Sift: Yes, Bob. The event you refer to as getting fired is neither good nor bad in isolation. It is similar to the concept of absolute numbers in mathematics whereby the numerical value has neither a positive nor a negative sign associated with it. If someone asked you to use the number eight in a formula or equation, you might ask them if you should consider the number a positive eight or a negative eight. With regard to mathematical equations, this is a valid question. However, in real-life situations similar to this, such as getting fired, an appropriate response would be, “You decide whether it is positive or negative, Bob. It’s up to you.”

Bob: It sure looks like a negative event right now. It certainly is going to create some problems when the bills pile up and no paychecks are coming in.

Sift: Bob, I’m about to tell you two things that are very important. Are you paying close attention?

Bob: Yes.

Sift: One, the job of a problem is to get your attention. And two, the job of your emotions is to guide your choices and actions. These are signals that tell you to increase your level of awareness and pay close attention to your current choices. These are the traffic signals and directional signs of life. Sometimes, you need to go. Sometimes, you need to proceed with caution. Sometimes, you need to yield the right of way. Sometimes, you need to stop. And your emotions give you feedback on the quality of your choices.

Bob: Uh, okay. And what do I do when problems get my attention?

Sift: You get still, you get quiet, you reflect, and you ask questions. What is the lesson this experience or feeling is trying to teach me? What can I do about it? Typically, the lesson and solution will fall into one of five categories: more, better, different, less, or some combination of these four actions. For example, ask yourself:

  • Do I need to be doing more of something I am already doing?
  • How can I do something I am already doing better?
  • Do I need to be doing something different?
  • Do I need to be doing less of something I am already doing?

Bob: So, you are saying that getting fired might turn out to be good for me?

Sift: That’s up to you, Bob. When you learn to see and think clearly, you will be able to look back over your entire life and understand that everything that has happened to you, including getting fired, was perfectly orchestrated to help you learn and grow.

Bob: Why is that?

Sift: Because that is the way life works. All the information needed to joyfully participate in life is provided to humans on an ongoing basis. It’s there for anyone who chooses to tune into it.

Bob: And you tune in with stillness, quietness, and curiosity, right?

Sift: Excellent, Bob, you are learning.


End Chapter 12

Author’s Notes:

Main takeaway: Events in your life are learning experiences and the job of a problem is to get your attention.  

  1. Why do you think Bob felt a sense of relief after talking with Mr. Dawson and getting fired?
  2. What are some events in your life that seemed to be bad at the time, but later turned out to be good for you?
  3. In what sense are your emotions like the “traffic signals of your life?”


 The entire book will eventually be posted on this blog. However, if you want a copy for yourself, or as a gift for a friend, you can find it at this link: Sifting

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Sifting – Chapter 11: Heroes and Heralds


This posting is part of a series on my book Sifting. If you have not read the previous postings, please visit the menu above (click on Sifting) for a chronological listing of any previous chapters. Thanks!  


Chapter 11: Heroes and Heralds


Bob: Sift, can you feel the heat from the fire?

Sift: Yes, Bob, I can feel anything you feel.

Bob: It’s not colder out there wherever you are?

Sift: I am not out there, Bob, I am inside you.

Bob: Oh, yeah, I forgot. Sift, this is a lot of information to absorb. Can I ask you some questions to clarify some of the things we have talked about?

Sift: Yes.

Bob: Tell me a little about the hero’s journey. Who are you talking about when you use the word hero?

Sift: You are the hero we are talking about now.

Bob: Me? How can I be a hero? I haven’t done anything heroic.

Sift: Everyone is the hero of his or her own journey, and we are talking about your journey. Remember, this conversation was initiated by your question about the purpose of your life.

Bob: So everyone is the hero of his or her own life?

Sift: Everyone has the potential to be the hero of his or her own life. Another way to describe life is to call it an adventure or a journey. I didn’t use the term hero before, but as we discussed, you are most hero-like when you answer the call to your unique adventure and pursue the journey that aligns your life activities with that particular adventure. We also previously discussed that people are designed to be meaning-seeking creatures. Personal experiences give meaning to life. Therefore, people on a hero’s journey seek experiences that give their lives the most meaning. In any particular adventure, the hero is the person who is most active in the adventure, learns the most, and changes and grows the most. The journey is always seen through the eyes of the hero.

Bob: So, the hero could only be me if we are talking about my life, right?

Sift: Right.

Bob: I never really thought of myself as a hero.

Sift: Right now, you are not a hero.

Bob: What? It’s my life! Who else could be the hero of my life?

Sift: You must be on the journey – on the path. You must either know or genuinely be working toward discovering your unique call to adventure.

Bob: So who calls me? How do I find out about my call to adventure?

Sift: The hero is not the only participant in the hero’s journey. There are other archetypes you will encounter. For example, the herald is the archetype that typically communicates the call to adventure by issuing challenges or announcing the coming of a significant change.

Bob: What’s an archetype?

Sift: Archetypes are symbolic forms, or forces, that either assist you on your hero’s journey or redirect you, block you, or somehow test your resolve. Archetypes can be people, but they do not have to be people. In your case, the herald has shown up in your life for years in various forms. For example, your herald archetype has shown up as restlessness and various related forms of fear, anger, sadness, or even curiosity. Most recently, your herald morphed into the human form of a Mr. Dawson.

Bob: Ohhh! Ohhh! I get it now! So Mr. Dawson was my herald? The call from him was my call to adventure. It was an announcement that it was time for me to move on. Duhhh! The puzzle pieces are falling into place. Wow, this isn’t just abstract stuff; it’s reality. I’ve been ignoring other versions of the call to adventure for years, and the universe upped the ante on me! This is an example of the “disintegrating or dissolving under unusual circumstances” you mentioned earlier?

Sift: Yes, and that is not uncommon. It happens to most people. They ignore their heralds. Especially people who are very busy and easily get caught up in some of the illusions that society presents to them as important.

Bob: What are the consequences of missing all those signals?

Sift: In terms of the hero’s journey, missing or ignoring signals is referred to as the refusal of the call. That simply means that you were called to participate in a particular journey in life, and you made the choice to participate in other activities that are not in alignment with your calling. In terms of the consequences, they are fairly straightforward and predictable. Little misalignments lead to little struggles; significant misalignments lead to significant struggles. Short-term misalignments lead to short-term struggles; long-term misalignments lead to long-term struggles.

Bob: Most people do not know it, but I’ve been struggling for a long time. So, these heralds have been trying to contact me for a long time, right?

Sift: Yes.

Bob: So anything can be a herald – thoughts, experiences, sayings, people, or feelings?

Sift: Yes.

Bob: Ah – some of the pieces of the puzzle are definitely falling in place for me. So struggles, fear, sadness, anger, and other such experiences, are indicators that it is time for a change – a new adventure? That’s what you were talking about earlier.

Sift: Yes, or it could also mean it is time for some sort of adjustment to your current adventure. The magnitude of the adjustment required, or change necessary, is usually in direct proportion to the frequency, intensity, and duration of your struggles. And when the struggles begin to negatively impact your life in a significant way, it is usually time for a significant adjustment. Once again, short-term, low-intensity struggles only require minor adjustments. Patterns of the struggles and emotions are more important than isolated events.

Bob: Tell me again how can you tell if you are on the right path and going in the right direction?

Sift: Remember, the frequency, intensity, and duration of emotions related to joyful experiences are indicators that you are on the right path going in the right direction. Overall, you feel a sense of well-being. You also feel grounded, centered, energized, and that you are fully engaged and joyfully participating in life.

Bob: Nobody else knows it, but I haven’t felt that way in quite a while. So what happens if you keep on refusing the call to a new adventure?

Sift: The consequences are very predictable. If you consistently refuse your call to adventure, one or both of the following things will typically happen: One, life dries up. Things in your life that were formerly important begin to lose their meaning and no longer hold your interest. Boredom, restlessness, procrastination, and similar feelings begin showing up and they remain present for longer periods of time. Some people try to medicate these feelings with food, alcohol, drugs, spending, accumulation of unneeded possessions, and other forms of excessive or self-defeating behavior. Sometimes, Mother Nature sends messages that it is time for a change in the form of headaches, insomnia, stomach problems, anxiety, heart problems, other illnesses, etc.  Two, the universe, or some mysterious force of the universe that you might now think of as an archetype, will, as you said, “up the ante” and disrupt your current life path. In other words, you get some sort of physical or symbolic kick in the seat of the pants that is designed to kick-start your true adventure – to get you back on the right path.

Bob: That’s why instead of getting promoted to head up the global project, I got fired, isn’t it?

Sift: Yes.

Bob: All that stuff about shutting down the U.S. operations because they needed to allocate capital resources to the emerging markets in China was a way of upping the ante for me, wasn’t it?

Sift: Yes. That particular event will serve as a call to adventure and opportunity for some, and the response to the ongoing refusal of the call for others. That’s the way the world works.

Bob: It looks as if the global company I worked for is no longer a part of my adventure, right?

Sift: Yes, it looks that way.

Bob: I need to think about all of this for a minute.

Sift: I understand. Take your time.


End Chapter 11

Author’s Notes:

Main takeaway: Pay attention to signs that you are being called to a new adventure. 

  1. Why should you spend more time looking inside yourself for answers than looking outside?
  2. What experiences give your life the most meaning?
  3. With experiences, events, or feelings have served (or tried to serve) as heralds for you?
  4. What are the consequences of missing or ignoring your true calling?


 The entire book will eventually be posted on this blog. However, if you want a copy for yourself, or as a gift for a friend, you can find it at this link: Sifting

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