Potterings Blog

Pottering around life's issues, a little digging here, some fertilizer there, pruning to stimulate new growth and generally cultivating people's potential to blossom. Your comments are always welcomed.  
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When Time Stands Still for You

I received an email with the link to an old man singing in a city street. He was singing one of the inspirational songs of our times  - “You raise me up”.  I was greatly moved by the song and his glorious mature voice.

 

But what moved me more – to tears in fact – was the spellbound expressions on the faces of some of the shoppers. I saw people entranced by what they were hearing, seeing and feeling. For those few minutes time for them had stopped.  The strains and stresses of their day swept away, their minds transported  to all that was good in their lives, their feelings and their hearts .

 

When an experience touches your heart, everything in your world stands still. Save for the feeling that you are in a state of being rather than doing, enjoying the person you love to be, feeling the way you want to feel, knowing that all you want is for this moment to go on and on.  

 

Of course it cannot go on.  The experience will end and your life will move on.  But the memory will last, a ripple of peace that will flow on through to everything else in your day and your week. 

 

These are the moments for which you were born and from which you truly grow, flourish and  blossom into the person of worth you know yourself to be.  

 

Let time stop for you momentarily right now while you click this link and absorb the experience so beautifully created by this wonderful man.

Unleashing the Power of Empowerment

I love that word empowerment. It gives me goose-bumps every time I feel I have helped a client feel empowered.  I don’t empower them of course…only they can feel empowered, usually by an “aha” moment that I have triggered in their mind.  I would see the word empowerment as really self-empowerment because it is a feeling and feelings are always generated within one’s own self. 

 

To me empowerment is the positive feeling you get when you are free to fertilize your natural talents with passionate interests - even better with positive like-minded people.  It's what human nature is all about... but life tends to get in the way.

 

Empowerment is an especially powerful word in the workplace.  Without it, an organisation is held back, the unlimited natural potential of its people being stifled and frustrated. Empowerment energizes everything about a business/team - productivity, commitment, innovation, staff stability and lack of conflict.  Stress is down, mental fitness is up and resilience abounds.  

 

I was once required to establish an information unit which included taking over the responsibilities of the reception staff. Prior to that they had always transferred most enquiries to a person specializing in the area of enquiry. If that person was out (which was often the case), they would arrange a call back.

 

I had sensed there was frustrated talent in the reception group. Nonetheless they looked at me aghast when I said from now on they are going to be responsible for providing answers to enquiries. As a team we worked out a process for the change and I encouraged them to use their experience in reception work to come up with ideas.  If I could see that an idea had holes in it, I responded with “what would we do if…?” types of questions and get them to work it through further. 

 

Within a few months the unit was humming along beautifully, using ideas and systems that the team had largely developed among themselves.  Callers and visitors to the organisation were now enjoying the services of a confident, efficient and incredibly helpful group of people.   They had bonded into a team who felt empowered to not only provide the service expected of them. Of their own volition, they took the meaning of service to a new level, such was their enthusiasm – even passion – to please customers and staff alike.

 

The power of empowerment is boundless.

 

If you feel the need for you - or your team - to enjoy a new surge of empowerment using my focus on the natural self, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. about a presentation, personal consultation or small-group workshop.

 

Trees and Life

Sometimes people ask me why I often use a significant tree (like the one on my home page) as a symbol of my lifestyle mentoring work.

 

A signficant tree such as this symbolizes so much of what I believe is the wonder of humans and human nature. The tree gains its growth strength and energy through a hidden roots system. As a rule of thumb any tree’s root system is one and a half times as deep and wide as it’s visible height and width. (think about that next time you see a majestically large tree).

The tree is a key foundation for the health of its surrounding ecosystem, above and beneath the ground providing shade, comfort, food and a home to so much of nature.

Most of our human natural resources, through which we gain our mental strength and energy are hidden and are far more extensive than is apparent to the eye. Our role in life is to look after the health and wellbeing of our human ecosystem.

 

We are indeed part of nature, not above it. That’s why when we get back to nature we feel so much at home.

That Tracks-Stopping Problem Might be the Problem You Had to Have

We all have problems, most of which we can solve without losing too much sleep. But every so often you are hit by what I call tracks-stopping problems – major life-changing problems that stop you in your tracks and make you think about the bigger picture of your life. Relationship problems, money problems, major health problems, major life shifts like retirement, or perhaps the loss of a loved one.

 

Tracks-stopping problems get you asking yourself whether or not you are on the right track in your life. The rush and bustle issues of the day get pushed into the background as you delve into the depths of your inner resources, feelings and life experiences. You call on every fibre of your inner strengths, your natural-born talents, skills and passions, driven by your long-established personal values.

 

In your self-searching efforts to deal with these sort of problems, only some of your inner resources readily come into play. Your years of dealing with the pace and pressures of life can bury much of your undeveloped talents, passions and the dreams of your youth.

 

Reviewing the bigger picture of your life demands your awareness of more than just the current picture. What did you love about your life before life got in the way? So many of my clients’ responses have centred around outdoor experiences in a natural environment, usually with family and good friends. Others had once enjoyed creatively expressing personal talents through diverse interests such as singing, music, arts and crafts, dancing and 'fixing broken things'. Often they prefaced their thoughts with “I’ve always wanted to…”.

 

This exercise didn’t just remind them of pleasurable experiences in their lives. More importantly it reminded them how good those experiences made them feel about themselves and about life. Past interests aren’t dead, simply dormant. You can always do them again. Whether or not you do so is irrelevant to the fact that the memory and discussion of them brings your natural self to the fore. You are reminded of who you really are and your pride in what makes you you.

 

Nature never wavers from wanting that inner person, with all your natural-born talents, passions and untapped potential to grow, mature, flourish and blossom. Painful life-changing experiences can be nature’s way of making you stop, look up and embrace the bigger picture of the life you are leading. You can turn it into an opportunity to re-visit, re-discover and re-assess the potential of all the positive strengths in your life. Every life-enriching interest and passionate experience you enjoy expresses your natural talents and brings your strengths to the surface.

 

In your daily hurry and bustle a major life-changing problem may be the only time you really stop and be forced to look towards your horizons. It could be the problem you had to have.

 

If you would like to work through this process in a positive, enjoyable and sensitively structured way, talk to me about my Lifestyle Review program for individuals or small groups.

The Natural Way to Curb Mental Illness

The best way to curb the growing incidence of mental illness is to build resilience.  Sounds simplistic but can you argue against it!?  Peter Wilson, chairman of the Australian Human Resources Institute, suggests in the Weekend Australian of June 20/21, that mental health problems are so extensive that “there is a good chance your workplace will experience a serious mental health episode”. Add to this the fact that excessive stress is probably the most costly and intrusive problem in modern business today and clearly it is time to do something to turn the tide.

 

Not that we can do a lot to get rid of stress. It’s a fact of life at work and in personal life.  So we need to look at ways of building the resilience needed to cope with stress and curb the incidence of stress-related illnesses. Nature’s answer is found in the enjoyment of a favourite leisure interest – anything that creatively expresses your natural talents and passions for the sheer enjoyment of doing so.

 

Such an interest is something only you can choose for yourself. That very fact gives you a sense of control over the activity (not having to respond to other people’s expectations), takes your mind away from your problems (and you may well see those problems differently after enjoying your leisure interest), energizes your mind to think more positively, raises your self-esteem, and lots more goodies (and I haven’t even mentioned the positive chemical effects on your brain because I am not expert in that area). 

 

What can do the employer do?  Simply encourage all staff to ensure they have at least one passionate leisure interest and to enjoy it as often as possible when they are not in the work environment. In a sense, have the bosses tell the staff to “get a life outside of work and the business will get more value out of them when they are at work”. 

 

And it doesn’t cost the business one cent!   But the resultant benefits will save the business huge amounts of money, not to mention reducing the counter-productive time spent on conflicts and their effects on daily productity. So then you gain increased ongoing productivity, greater staff engagement and more staffing stability. Now that's worth something!

 

Of course there is a lot more to it than that but that’s the essence of the People Gardener approach to managing stress increasing mental fitness and curbing the incidence – and huge costs – of mental illness issues on the workplace.   Let me know if you want to take this further.

John Kerry's Bicycle Riding

I took an interest in the news report today of John Kerry, US Secretary of State, being injured while on a bicycle ride during a break in official business discussions.   My interest was in the fact that Mr Kerry regularly enjoys such rides, apparently irrespective of where he is in the world at the time. It's important to note that while he would (normally) get physical fitness benefits from regular such rides, it also provides important mental fitness benefits.

 

The fact that he does it as often as possible in his busy schedule means he enjoys the experience and the good feeling it gives him. It switches his mind off the constant excessive stresses of his work. It goes further in that it switches his mind on to a positively enjoyable, mentally non-stressful experience of getting out in the open air doing what he loves.  Such experiences re-energize his mind and are clearly a major factor behind his resilience to more than cope with the highly demanding Secretary of State responsibilities.

 

I am aware of other public figures who create similar enjoyable experiences whenever their work allows. Examples are Mr John Howard, a previous Prime Minister of Australia who went for an early morning walk every day while in office,  Mr Richard Butler who led the investigations into weapons of mass destruction in Iraq adored going to or listening to opera.

 

Regularly enjoying one’s favourite leisure/recreational interests (mine is, choir singing) has a vital role in re-energizing and sustaining mental health and maintain the resilience to more than cope with the pressures of daily life.  If it's that important to people with the above sort of stresses and time pressures, its important for you and  me.

Boss There's an Invisible Me I Want You to See

Some years ago I wrote “The Invisible Me” encouraging individuals to revisit, appreciate and sometimes even rediscover the real self.  It's been appreciated by literally thousands either through the video version on my Home page, through You Tube direct at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kFSE9x042w or the written version on this site - click here to read it.

 

Perhaps this slightly adapted version of the poem would have value in your business team’s efforts to maximize team cohesion, engagement, creativity and commitment?  It’s something different to table at your next team-building meeting. 

 

Dear Boss….

 

There is a me you cannot see,

A me that even I can’t see,

The person I was born to be,

The life that burns inside of me.

 

Sometimes I like the fantasy of

A younger me I used to be,

A Peter Pan, forever free

To stay the person I loved to be.

 

You would see me differently,

Perhaps someone you want to see,

A portrait that you paint of me,

The person you presume I’d be.

 

Please accept the reality

There’s an inner me I long to free,

To be the person I was meant to be,

To express the person I know as me.

 

Your management responsibility

Is not to assume who I might be,

Don’t pigeon-hole the me you see,

or lock up my talents that set me free.

 

All staff are different, you must agree,

Unique in our talent and ability,

Each of us yearn for you to see

What we can do and give and be.

 

Boss, please accept my simple plea

that accepts you are you and I am me,

To each follow our passions and set them free,

So I can enjoy working with you, and you with me.

Enjoy Developing Naturally

Enjoy developing naturally - three little words that can make your life all it was  meant to be – a life chosen by you enabling you to become the person you want to be rather than be someone you think others expect you to be.

 

Enjoy – a natural experience that only you can create for yourself, perhaps your last bastion of free choice. The enjoyment factor is that energising emotion that drives you to be the best you can be at what you love to do

 

Developing – the process you choose that will satisfy your life-long hunger to become the person of worth you want the world to appreciate

 

Naturally – like every other creation of nature, you are born with natural talents that, when mixed with your life passions, enable you to grow, flourish and blossom to the potential you were destined to fulfill

 

Make Enjoy Developing Naturally your mantra for 2015.  It’s the naturally simple, life-expanding, personally-empowering process to employ in every situation you face – at work, home, play and in your community life. Feel free to browse my website for information on my extensive supportive resources. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.if I can be of help.

Life Work Balance - a Refreshing Perspective

A successful business colleague told me recently how he has now adopted a life work balance approach to life, as distinct from work life balance. Instead of a work first approach he now uses a life first approach with his work being just one - albeit still important - facet of life. He is now enjoying a healthy mix of prioritizing his work energies with opportunities he and his wife set aside to enjoy quality outings together.

 

This exchange gave me a new perspective on the meaning of the word balance - a word I never liked because we can never really balance our work time and personal time. What's different here is my colleague now has a more balanced perspective on the relative values of his work and his personal life in sustaining his health and wellbeing.

 

Life today is more about the perspectives we have on it than about the time we spend in it.

People - Still just a business cost?

Every business is made up of people - managers and staff - who are the real self and the business person. It's tough to be both at once if the business is going to make a profit. But there's no escaping the fact they are always the same person.

 

TV's Australian Story on the Hawke era touched on the 1990 slump. It triggered widespread business decisions that the cost of staff was too high and should be reduced by sackings or outsourcing. There is plenty of evidence that, 24 years later, business still puts profits ahead of the people on whom the profits depend:

  • The Australia Institute promoted 19 November as 'Go Home on Time Day' because 2.8 million Australians are unsure what time they will finish work. That's equivalent to one in four workers juggling home life, child care and other commitments with an unpredictable work schedule
  • anything up to 70% of workers would change jobs tomorrow if they could do so
  • surveys continue to show a divergence of understanding between managers and staff about the working needs of staff
  • stress is now the number one cost in business but workers are still reluctant to talk about mental health issues at work
  • leaders still tend to be chosen for their professional skills, with people-skills being an optional extra.

What's the talk that your organisation walks when it comes to people-management?  

 

I can help. Give me a call on 0417 817 027.

The Vision of Gough Whitlam 1972

THE QUALITY OF LIFE -   extract from Gough Whitlam’s 1972 Election Policy Speech

 

“There is no greater social problem facing Australia than the good use of expanding leisure. It is the problem of all modern and wealthy communities. It is, above all, the problem of urban societies and thus, in Australia, the most urbanised nation on earth, a problem more pressing for us than for any other nation on earth. For such a nation as ours, this may very well be the problem of the 1980’s; so we must prepare now; prepare the generation of the ’80s – the children and youth of the ’70s – to be able to enjoy and enrich their growing hours of leisure.”

 

Thus began the development of Australia’s recreation profession – not the first country in the world to do so, as it was well established in the USA and elsewhere at that time. But Gough Whitlam’s 1972 election statement was a significant watershed for developing the modern leisure, recreation and sporting industry in Australia, not to mention the recreational enjoyment of parks, the arts and cultural services.

Australians of all ages and from all walks of life, from the Olympic sportsperson to the local walking club member are now benefiting from the work of thousands of trained recreation planners and developers. How much their efforts are helping to sustain and improve the mental and physical health and wellbeing of millions of Australians is now becoming increasingly accepted and valued.

Yes this is a personal matter to me…I was in the first group to graduate in 1976 from the Graduate Diploma in Recreation Planning established at the then Canberra CAE by the Whitlam Government. It gave me the professional training to structure my life’s passion of promoting the many personal growth and life-expanding benefits of expressing one's natural talents through a passionate leisure interest.

You can get an idea of what I mean by browsing my current business website atwww.australiaspeoplegardener.com.au

Thank you Gough Whitlam. May you rest in peace.

Written on the occasion of the passing of Gough Whitlam Prime Minister of Australia - from1972 to 1975 today at the age of 98.

How hard do you drive your car?

In your increasingly fast pace of life you put your car under great pressure to perform well. Regular refueling and servicing are essential to avoid any risk of running out of fuel - or worse, the frustration and inconvenience of breaking down in the middle of heavy traffic.

 

Similarly you put yourself under constant pressure to perform well every day.  You want to sustain the energy - particularly the mental energy - not just to cope but to have some in reserve whenever you have to go the extra mile.  

 

The last thing you want is your mental energy levels to run down to the point of burnout.  Nor do you want  to break down under pressure.

 

You regularly go to a service station to refuel and service your car.  Your personal energy service station is any passionate freely-chosen leisure experience, one in which you are in total control, enabling you to enjoy creatively expressing your natural talents for your the sheer pleasure of doing so. No one else can tell you how  to enjoy yourself. It's an experience you can access whenever you want, offering unlimited renewable energy for as long as want to 'fill up'.

 

Simply switch your mind off from your stresses and switch it on to the experience you want to create.  No time? Just keep checking your various energy gauges and you'll know when it's time to pull over and fill up.

 

When you get back into the heavy traffic, your mental engine will again be purring.  You are back in charge, knowing you have all the energy you need to drive, thrive and successfully arrive at wherever you want to be. 

Have You Passed Your Use-by Date?

There are many times in our lives when we wonder if we have passed our use-by date. Not that we necessarily feel ready to retire or die. Usually its a feeling that things are not as they used to be, you're perhaps not feeling as effective as you were, or people are starting to treat you differently. You start to wonder if it's time to move on to new pastures, change jobs, retire from elite sport, buy a new home, re-explore your passions...or some other transition that is coming into your mind as you read this.

 

As kids we were told we were probably having growing pains. This is a bit like that. Something shifts within the mind, making you feel a little uncomfortable, out of sorts, not sure what is going on or why. Like having an alkaline tablet to settle the stomach, you'd like an 'aha!' feeling, a new awareness that settles the mind so you can purposefully move forward to whatever is next in life for you.

 

Sometimes the feeling is more concerning than usual. It could be a feeling that the workforce isn't serving your emotional needs the way it used to.

 

Be concerned but not alarmed. Far from meaning you are on the way out, it's a very healthy sign that you are actively searching to re-invent yourself in a small or not-so-small way, re-calibrate the direction of your life, learn something new, meet new people...any one of a hundred possibilities.

 

As the old saying goes, when the student is ready the teacher appears. Is this a "keeping me awake nights" issue for you at present? Would you like to learn a sensitively-structured process for working it through?

 

I'd be interested to get your feedback (no obligation of course). You can comment below or email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Live Smarter Not Harder

To work smarter, not harder has been a popular catchphrase. Now, in this era of dramatic nd continuing increases in the pace of life, prolonged excessive stress and overwhelming changes in technology, we need to think about living smarter not harder.

 

How can we live smarter than we do now? Time management was once the answer. But that doesn't work when we try to fit more and more into an inflexible limit of 168 hours a week. What is suffering is the energy output all this pressure is demanding that we burn.

 

Burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism and detachment and feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment. Symptoms can include chronic fatigue, sleeplessness, depression, anger, feelings of apathy or hopelessness, lack of enthusiasm to help clients, increased irritability and pessimism.

 

Like a car we need to regularly refuel our supply of mental energy before the mind burns out and the symptoms of burnout start to appear. Like a car also, it is not enough to simply stop and rest. Active refueling of new mental energy is needed. 

 

I advocate what I call the "switch off, switch on" approach. Switch the mind off the energy-burning, stress-generating experiences by switching the mind on to any personally-chosen leisure pursuit that you thoroughly enjoy for its own sake and which takes your mind of your problems for a while.  How often and for how long? It's not about the time it takes but about the effect it has. You can deficit-budget energy - a few minutes of a pleasureable interest that is totally your choice can keep you going for hours. Done regularly it can change your whole approach to life and build a strong resilience base.

 

Now you are living smarter not harder.

 

Click here for an in-depth paper on the benefits of the 'switch-off switch-on' approach to Workplace Mental Health and Safety.

The battle to stay mentally healthy

 

The world is fighting a war against the rise of mental illness. The battle to stay mentallly healthy is just as tough because there is much more to mental health than simply the absence of mental illness.

 

Youl know what you can do to stay physically healthy – whether or not you do them is another matter.  But what can you do to stay mentally healthy ?    With the help of some of my subscribers I have compiled a list of some useful indicators of the extent to which you can demonstrate mental health/wellness.

 

Examples such as:  

  • having at least one passionate interest outside of work
  •  .
  • mixing with positive like-minded people with whom you share a non-work creative interest
  •  .
  • having a diversity of relationships networks - not just in business
  • .
  • feeling you have adequate control over your life decisions
  • .
  • doing things that help other people feel valued

Click here to read the full list and take the opportunity given there to add to the list.

Are You Different at Work?

One thing I learned in public speaking was to be the same person on stage as you are when you sit in the audience. Listeners want to hear your unique perspective and experiences in relation to the topic.  How much is this the case when you are on the job at work?

 

There is:

  • the natural you who sees the world through your eyes and
  • the expected you who presents to others according to their needs.

How much does your business allow/encourage you to be your true self, expressing your natural talents, passions and potential (within the requirements of the business)? Realistically, the ideal is a harmonious mix of expressing the real you and the expected you.

 

It seems reasonable to suggest that, within the above provisos, the more you can express your true self, natural talents, skills, passion and potential, the greater the likelihood the workplace culture will reflect: 

  • low ongoing negative stress levels
  • reduced staff conflicts and the time, money and unproductive effort that goes into resolving staff conflicts
  • low levels of staff turnover
  • increased creativity and innovative thinking
  • expanded range of talents, skills and abilities applied to achieving corporate goals, and
  • increased potential to win “Great Place to Work” awards.

We are always our natural, unique self wherever we are and in whatever we are doing, at work, home, play or in community life.   The more a business respects that fact and its potential in advancing its aims, the greater the chance the business and its people will together grow, flourish and blossom.

 

How different are you at work? I would love to have your views, either in "Comments" below or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Happiness is the journey, not the destination

 

There has been lots of global research done on 'happiness'- a very vague term, I prefer 'contentment'.

 

An anecdote arising from this research goes like this: A rich western person says "how unhappy the poor people in undeveloped countries must be with no money".  People in undeveloped countries are saying "how unhappy the rich people must be with all their money problems".  

 

People in those undeveloped countries typically have their extended families around them, their needs and expectations are far less than ours and they have less of the western culture of wild fluctuations between deep peace and extreme stress.


It's all relative to valuing what you have rather than what you want. We still say far too much "I will be happy when...". Happiness is the journey, not the destination.

 

Money isn't Part of Nature's Way

Perhaps it’s because of the work I do, but lately I seem to be reading a lot of stories about top executives who are deciding there is more to life than making money. The latest was particularly notable - a male American workaholic CEO who spelled out his decision in detail in a blog to his staff around the world!  His blog made big news in no less than the Washington Post

 

We are only 14 years into this crazy 21st century of exponentially increasing pressure, stress, change and pace of life.  The effects on people are really starting to kick in.  Add to this the ever-increasing social pressures on us - expectations of ourselves and especially of others that our role in life is to make lots of money, buy a bigger car and generally staying ahead of the Joneses.

 

It’s not nature-al.  One thing that will never change is the fact that we came into this world to be our natural selves, develop our talents, pursue our passions and enjoy life’s journey until the day we leave the world.  As part of nature we bear and rear children, nurture their growth and development and enjoy mixing with our own and like-minded others.  Happiness is the journey, not the destination.

 

In the long run nature wins out, even if it just takes us out when we have run our race.  Perhaps the words of that American CEO indicate a growing recognition that, money isn’t part of nature’s way. It simply complicates life, often distracting us from what makes life truly worth living.

Shattered Dreams

 

Buried in the ashes and horrors of the downed MH17 lie shattered not only the lives of almost 300 human beings but also their individual dreams, hopes and plans.

   

Each of those passengers - from the most experienced to the smallest child - was an emotional person, unique in human history in terms of his/her array of talents, abilities and passions. We shall never know what untapped potential they might have achieved. 

 

We are each a work-in-progress in making our respective unique contributions to our communities, our families and our professions.  We are all empowered by our differences.

 

If we can learn anything for ourselves from this tragic episode, it is the fact that we are still here to continue using our talents and passions to make a difference in the world, as much as we can, to as many as we can and for as long as we can.

 

What leisure interests will ease your stress?

What’s a good leisure interest to manage your unique form of work stress (or other stress)?  More often than not (but not always), it is good if the leisure interest provides an opposite experience/environment to those you normally experience in your work.  Here’s some examples of what I mean:

 

                  Work environment                                             Leisure Interest

Mental

Physical interest

Physical

Mental /intellectual/spiritual interest

Noisy

Quiet

Involves lots of people

Solo interest

Urban

Natural area, urban or rural

Using your mind

Using your hands

Highly structured/bureaucratic

Do your own thing in your own way

Indoors all day

Outdoors

Have to be nice to everybody

Be nice to yourself

 

Get the idea? Of course it doesn’t always apply but it should always be a totally different experience/environment to that in which you work or experience other regular forms of stress.  It should be an experience that transforms your  mind, body and spirit from the stress situation to one totally of your own free choice, totally within your control.

 

My definition of a good leisure experience is one you freely choose to pursue simply for the sheer enjoyment of creatively expressing and developing your natural talents to a satisfying extent. Whether it be a physical, mental, intellectual, social or spiritual experience is entirely up to you.

 

Helpful?  Then you would find my flagship book “Enjoy Being You” very much to your liking. Only $4.95 for the e-book version.