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Advice on Thinking at Higher Altitudes

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  • Advice on Thinking at Higher Altitudes

    Hello - I am going to take a day off next week as just a personal day for myself - a "mental health" day so to speak.

    I plan to spend some time that day doing some goal setting/thinking on higher altitudes - a 1 - 5 year time horizon.

    It is hard to find chunks of time for this sort of thing, so I want to make the most of it. Do any of you have some advice/words of warning using this time?

  • #2
    Re: Advice on Thinking at Higher Altitudes

    Originally posted by Bellaisa
    Do any of you have some advice/words of warning using this time?

    last weekend I tried to do the same and went through piles of notes and articles regarding mental and/or spiritual topics at home. And also a lot of "reading stuff" on goal-setting, time-management and project-management had accumulated over the last months.

    After filing the papers into file folders (sorted by subjects) I noticed that I would not be able to read it all on one weekend. Then I decided to set up an "Areas of Focus" binder with the dividers

    Hospital (work)
    Hospital (misc)
    Social (political party)
    Social (misc)
    Hobby (trees)
    Misc #1 (Taoism, GTD)
    Misc #2

    Into this binder I put important notes, plans and articles. Working with and on this binder will be an ongoing project for the future. A single weekend is not enough for me to clear my intentions, effects and goals for these important subjects. There is still a lot of "someday / maybe" stuff outside the "area of focus" binder and inside the file folders.



    • #3
      Walking in the woods

      I agree with Coz. Whenever I have the time I spend a day or at least a few hours in the Palatinate Forest near the village where I live in south-western Germany. The trees, streams, rocks, caves and small waterfalls make me forget about the daily chaos, and standing on top of a rocky hill looking down to the vallies clears my head.

      Waterfalls are really fascinating, especially in winter. I can stand there for hours in the cold near a pond into which the water falls down from an icicled rock and watch the icicles grow from the rim of the pond into the air.

      While I watch the growing icicles in winter or the young trees soaring up in spring, thoughts arise in my mind, too. With the permission of the local forest ranger I dig up small trees from time to time, take them home and plant them in pots or in the garden. So the trees serve as reminders at home.

      And a lot of that thoughts went into that "areas of focus" binder I mentioned in my previous post.



      • #4
        Watch the way your moods vary as the day goes on. For me, the first half of the day is the best time for imaginative thinking: with the day still new, there is a much stronger sense in my mind that anything is possible. I need a couple of hours to get to this stage where the finer nerve endings are all fully awake, so about 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. is my best time.

        Use the afternoon for planning/compiling/organising/typing.

        Before you start, read through some inspirational quotations.

        Also, make sure you address all the main categories: health, family, financial, intellectual, social, professional, and spiritual. If you do good work in 4 or 5 of these areas, the other two will suffer and you will feel unbalanced in the weeks to come.

        (Cosmo has some great posts on this type of integrity on the thread “is goal setting bad for you?” especially on the first page of that thread), see:;highlight=

        Listen to the right music. Many people recommend listening to your favourite upbeat energising pop/rock music, but my feeling is that this can narrow your focus too much.

        Many others including DA recommend Baroque music because of the way the mathematically accurate rhythm affects the brain’s workings.

        Personally, I listen to background ambient music with transcendental ambitions (strictly no beat/drums!). My utter favourite is Stuart Dempster’s “Underground Overlays from the Cistern Chapel”. This type of music does not intrude on the delicate new thoughts you are having. Rather, it seems to carry them along the stream.

        Most of all, try to identify what YOU want, and critically examine what others have said you must/should do.

        Have a great day!



        • #5
          This is a great thing to do sometimes to help get your priorities in order and develop a plan for the future.

          Try to do this when you're at your best. If you're a morning person, start developing these plans in the morning. If you're best at night, a night owl, then wait until the evening. Wait until your personal energy is at its best.

          Best of luck to you!


          • #6
            Thank you! Great ideas. I live in beautiful Phoenix where we are currently having record breaking heat, so I can't hang out outside; however, but we do have some of the most lovely resorts in the country. I may get something wonderful from the coffee bar and plant myself in the lobby - hopefully looking out on a fountain of some kind.

            Another idea for a location for this sort of thing is a university campus - they are often very pretty and are designed for people to hang out and think.


            • #7
              Jason recently mentioned the book _Your Best Year Yet_ in his blog. I'm about half-way through it and would recommend it as a source of ideas for your high-altitude thinking, which is what I was looking for.


              • #8
                Your Best Year Yet

                I have recently used the Best Year Yet book. I enjoyed going through the book and thinking about the ideas it presents. For several mornings I took the book and a notebook to a mountain stream in the woods near my house and worked on it while my dog played in the water. We both enjoyed the time I worked through each question as I finished reading a chapter rather than reading all the way through first and then doing the forms in the back -- I don't know which is best but that worked for me.


                • #9
                  Re: Advice on Thinking at Higher Altitudes

                  Do any of you have some advice/words of warning using this time?
                  One resource I've used a LOT in the past 5 years:

                  Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain.

                  She's written books, and created audio programs, about how to use the creative imagination to kick up dreams, goals, wishes and then do very real, very physical things to bring them into reality.

                  Also, I'm re-reading Napoleon Hill's stuff this week. I got a CD of some of his speeches...highly recommend those as well.


                  • #10
                    Re: Your Best Year Yet

                    Originally posted by marcia
                    I have recently used the Best Year Yet book. I enjoyed going through the book and thinking about the ideas it presents. For several mornings I took the book and a notebook to a mountain stream in the woods near my house and worked on it while my dog played in the water. We both enjoyed the time I worked through each question as I finished reading a chapter rather than reading all the way through first and then doing the forms in the back -- I don't know which is best but that worked for me.
                    Jason recommended Best Year Yet on this board a few months ago. I resisted doing it but a nagging voice told me it would be good for me.

                    I started it one Saturday morning and finished it the next Saturday morning. Today is June 7 and I have completed one week of my June 1, 2004 to May 31, 2005 Best Year Yet plan.

                    I have done 1-, 3-, and 5-year plans before so I thought I didn't need to work through Ditzler's program. But I did find it very helpful. It has definitely affected my behavior this past week as I faced some of those decision points where I could choose A or choose B. I start to move along the path of least resistant and then I think of the guidelines and focus of my Best Year Yet plan and I change direction and work on my long-term goods at the expense of short-term hedonism.

                    There is a very fine line in this field between the wheat and the chaff in my opinion. As I see it, the chaff encourages magical thinking by telling people that thinking something makes it real. "If wishes were horses beggars would ride," is the proper response to that. I can make all the affirmations I want about the shape of my nose or the height of my hairline. But that really is not a good use of my time.

                    On the other hand one is more likely to achieve realistic goals that one has set for oneself if one writes them down, reviews them, considers what qualities one needs to attain those goals, and affirms that one has those qualities.


                    • #11
                      Re: Advice on Thinking at Higher Altitudes

                      I harmed myself with Shakti's stuff years ago, as i Visualized, but i did not take the needed Action, and did not deal with life's ugly Adversities properly, which were not part of my Visualization.

                      I think that stuff is a bit dangerous if a person is a Procrastinator/Avoider. Its pretty tempting to Visualize something, put a pink bubble around it, and then "let it go, and turn it over the the universe".

                      Don't waste a lot of time Visualizing, and waiting for things to happen!

                      [quote="Jason Womack"]

                      One resource I've used a LOT in the past 5 years:

                      Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain.

                      She's written books, and created audio programs, about how to use the creative imagination to kick up dreams, goals, wishes and then do very real, very physical things to bring them into reality.

                      Also, I'm re-reading Napoleon Hill's stuff this week. I got a CD of some of his speeches...highly recommend those as well.
                      Last edited by CosmoGTD; 03-31-2006, 03:13 AM.


                      • #12

                        You have just written a 117 word account of why goal setting did not work for me, (hence my thread "Is goal setting bad for you?").

                        I remember the first time I read Anthony Robbins. I brainstormed, wrote lists of goals, and visualised like crazy. The result? Years of profound, life wrecking frustration. I had done exactly as I was told, but when I reached out to claim what I truly believed was mine, I found myself doing the same old wrong stuff, and falling flat on my face.

                        (In his defence, I will acknowledge that Tony Robbins also brought the phrase “massive Action” into my life. But the apparent magical powers of goal setting seemed to imply that he had found a way around the drudgery of massive action. After all, wasn’t this a revolutionary new approach to achieving personal success?)

                        The whole self help industry is just an exercise in rebranding. There were always people who did things, and people who didn’t do things. It was NOT the case that the doers had discovered the magical formula of goal setting. I believe the difference was that the non-doers were befuddled with self doubt, confusion, inferiority complexes, unworthiness, complete inability to make decisions, (or the inability to defend a decision once it is made), and a whole host of other mental crap that keeps us rooted to the spot.

                        You can teach these non-doers the steps and stages of goal setting, but they will probably fall at the first fence by insisting to themselves that they have not earned the right to decide on a new course of action for their own lives. (Admit it, how often have you returned from a book or seminar or tape with fire in your belly – then you go to for that thing you have been putting off for ages, and the very first thought you have is: “well, before I do that I’ll just …” and you are right back where you were – back in your own skin, because very very few of us can change who we are).

                        It is cruel and deliberately insensitive to tell these people they do not have the guts to get out of their comfort zones. They are imprisoned by years of negative conditioning. Even worse, they simply just might not be doers in the tunnel-vision way doers are defined in goal setting literature. Is an artist a doer? Does an artist need to be a great team player and/or leader? Does he need great persuasive or presentational skills to get his best work done?


                        An artist is someone cast into life with one layer of skin missing – hyper-sensitive to the nuances and the currents and under-currents of life. Think of a radio telescope pointing at the sky waiting for what ever touched its surface and you get the idea. (Put an artist in a typical corporate scenario and he will start jotting down character sketches of the people he is meeting with).

                        What happens to an artist if he starts to believe that he needs the typical tools that goal-setting gurus tell us we need? He will believe that the first thing he has to do is smother his sensitivity, and the second thing he has to do is take life by the scruff of the neck and kick its ass. The result? He ceases to be an artist.

                        (It’s their agents who need the typical goal setting stuff!).

                        Sorry about the ranting, but I too am going through the painful process of waking up from the Robbins/Waitley/Magic Lamp etc etc etc dream. There is nothing new under the sun. If you want to do something, then you either are or are not capable of doing it. It’s as simple as that. I have not moved one inch along in my life despite shelves full of “life changing” books. In fact, I put aside a lot of the things I used to love doing because they did not fit the corporate goal-setter formula (and let’s face it, most goals setter writers have their eye on the big prize: the major corporations. Look at how Daniel Goleman swerved into championing teams as the ideal social unit for a better future).

                        Now I feel that I have to get through all of those books in order to make sure my life is sufficiently in order so that I can start doing again the things I used to do eight years ago before I heard of any of this stuff!

                        If we feel we have to read goal-setting literature in order to get the things we desire, then that is a sure sign that what we really need is a major overhaul in the way we think about ourselves, and in the way we make our way though the days and weeks of our lives. Just learn how to get stuff done, and then add on the rebranded common sense if that helps you to focus.



                        • #13
                          Some additional info

                          I guess, just being me, that for myself I have to disagree that you shouldn't set goals or targets. (I am also biased being the strategic planner and performance architect for a federal agency) This past weekend I took the time to really reexamine my life over the past two years and found myself lacking. I wasn't accomplishing my goals and targets at nearly the rate that I was before I switched completely to the GTD system (I also discovered during my review that a Palm makes a great tracking tool and a really poor planning tool, but more on that in another post). It seems like I am getting a lot more little stuff done, I am just not making the good intuitive choices that this approach requires. So I am going to go back to a hybrid system between FranklinCovey and GTD.

                          Given the syncronicity of the universe, I also discovered a website with the following advice that I would like to repost here.

                          The 6 Hidden Secrets About Personal Marketing, Branding, Personal Development, and Self-Help

                          So don't waste your time looking for it. And don't wait for it either. Everything that you need to be everything that you want to be, already exists. In fact, you probably even already know most of it. Don't you?

                          SECRET NUMBER 2: LEARNING IS FOR LOSERS.
                          Don't learn it. Don't study it. DO it. Where would your life be right now if you had simply done everything you already know?

                          But you can do a lot more — and be a lot more than you currently are. It's called "get real." Have realistic goals. Your mind is smart enough to know what is in your realm of possibility and what isn't. If you're not hot, don't have a goal of being a super model. If you're short, you'll never be in the NBA. If you're tall, you'll never be a jockey. And — sorry — but you'll probably never be a billionaire.

                          Don't dream about "what if." Pick a target and go after it. Relentlessly.

                          Procrastination is the leading cause of failure. Shockingly, "never getting started" causes people to never get started. I'm not trying to get inside your head... based on sheer mathematical statistics of experience and probability - I already AM inside your head.

                          Pardon my French, but there's really no more eloquent way to put it. If even half of that stuff really worked, I would be writing this pool-side aboard my own private space shuttle. And I'm not. Having said that, there are TONS of fabulous ideas that you should put to use. But keep it in perspective - you still have to do the work and make the changes. Obsession is the only shortcut.

                          This, along with a lot of other great information on personal branding, can be found at


                          • #14

                            Nice post. There are a lot of charlatans out there preaching "you are what you think." This is crass idealism that does little good and much damage.

                            The point of goal-setting, reviewing, rewarding, punishing, and affirming is to change one's thinking and behavior by forming helpful habits and eliminating harmful habits. The point is to build consciously new associations so that one is more likely to act in accordance with one's plans. I understand your point that either you have it or you don't. I won't be a major league pitcher in this lifetime. But if I sit down and say that I want to become more athletic I can then create a plan for doing that. I can give a friend $1,000 and tell her that if I fail to spend 1 hour in the gym three days a week for the next 3 months, she is to shred the money. If I do spend the requisite time in the gym she is to return it to me.

                            That won't get me a million dollar baseball contract but it will move me closer to my goal of increased athleticism. (Assuming that losing $1,000 would be a highly aversive event for me.)

                            I am sympathetic to your critique of modern corporate culture. I have my doubts about your romantic view of the "artist" opposing the corporations. Artists are just as co-opted by corporate dollars as self-help gurus.

                            There is a deeper critique. This is the claim that these attempts to control our own thoughts and our own behavior are actually subtle forms of oppression (see Adorno and Horkheimer, among others). We have at least two selves (as DA, among others has pointed out in GTD Fast) and one of them is dominating the other. The liberationist critique says that human freedom is diminished when we try to dominate our desires for short-term hedonism.

                            This is a critique not of corporate capitalism but of Western Civilization and, one could argue, of civilization overall. As I said, I am sympathetic with the critique of corporate capitalism. But I am sympathetic with the enlightenment/rationalist strands of Western Civilization.

                            I do think that it makes sense to work to find a better model of human flourishing. Human freedom will consist in developing technologies which reduce the need for human drudgery and increase the opportunities for us to achieve our long-term goals. Typically, people's long-term goals consist in creative self-expression and forming close personal bonds with other people. We could have an interesting debate over whether people find it important to dominate other people.

                            The larger point is that I believe that consciously changing the world is the what civilization is about. We can't really go back. We can destroy ourselves but we can't wipe out all of human history. So let's do what we can to set goals and then create the conditions that make it possible to move in the direction of achieving those goals.


                            • #15

                              I agree with everything you say.

                              My post was meant as an attack – preferably a left hook – on the “industry” that sold me the "you are what you think" snake oil. I still can't BELIEVE I fell for it!

                              I fully agree with what you said about artists being in thrall to the corporate world. It’s not a new thing, art galleries are full of the works of those who snagged the best patrons, and the commissioned works usually reflect something favorable about the patron.

                              I was referring more to the psychology of the artist. There is an old semi-serious gag that for every great book there is an unhappy childhood. If we “cured” artists by feeding them self –help material, would the work dry up? Can you walk through a crowd, listening for the signs of universal angst, and at the same time scout it for potential employees? A bit simplistic I know, but I used to dabble a little in poetry, and that was the first casualty after I discovered self-help books. Due to the commercial direction a lot of the books take, I very quickly categorized poetry as worthless and dropped it.

                              You’re right, we can develop good habits and get good stuff done through the use of self discipline, schedules, and measured targets. But the magic lamp claims that some guys make is just crazy. One website even warns us to against putting any limits on our imagination: as far as I remember it said that building a time machine was a goal worth considering. (OK, the reality is that someone might commit to a life time of study and in fifty years time have placed the first stepping stone on a path to some future possibility of a time-machine ; but why not SAY that?).

                              Thanks for the insight in Adorno and Horkheimer, neither of whom I have read. When you have young kids, you really being to notice how often people say things like: “he knows how to work the computer mouse: he’s going to be a computer programmer when he grows up”; or “he’s so expressive, he will definitely be on the stage when he grows up” … people just think up jobs for kids all the time. Are we just raising good employees? Or less constrictingly, do we instinctively look to see how our kids will become good contributing members of society (civilization)?

                              There are some snappy ripostes to Adorno and Horkheimer around the web, usually along the lines that you cannot have true freedom unless your have strong self discipline – I suppose they mean freedom from short term gratification, which enables you to get your hands on more substantial stuff.

                              You present a level headed attitude towards goal setting. It’s nice that we can say, for example, that it would be a good thing to develop a cure for Alzheimer’s. This is a clear need for the good of mankind, and it can be stated without all the goal-setting hoop-la. We already know most of the things that are worth doing, worth spending our time on. A quiet hour and a GTD mind dump will get most of them down on paper. You don’t need to imagine it’s Christmas morning in order to know you need to lose 20 pounds.

                              Doris Lessing writes beautifully about how we change from wildly optimistic kids into baffled and disillusioned adults in her novel “Shikasta”. Her explanation is imaginative and elegant, but at no point does she suggest that the process can be reversed. The charlatans would have us believe otherwise.