Category Archives: Self-improvement

“Good” and “Sweet”

There is an important distinction between what is “good” and “sweet.”

Good: “Good” actions are those that lead to enlightenment, improvement, positivity, growth, and love. More often than not, “good” actions are not “fun” things. We may need to have an unpleasant conversation with a friend about her addiction, arrive late to an important meeting because a stranger ran out of gas on the freeway, or pick up our dog’s poop to keep the neighborhood beautiful.

Sweet:  “Sweet” actions are those that are pleasurable: they make us feel excitement, short-term happiness, or arousal.

Understanding the difference between these two concepts is critical to personal growth and genuine happiness. When we cannot tell the difference between these two concepts, we misdirect our energy and waste tremendous amounts of time.

Deep down, we know when we are using “sweet” things (shopping, sex, drugs, alcohol) to fill holes in our other aspects of our lives, but giving “sweet” things up is difficult, so we close the door to our thoughts and continue on a pattern of destructive, anxiety-provoking behavior.

We may overindulge in food, becoming compulsive eaters who are addicted to the dopamine-rush of a fatty meal. We may zone out for hours every night in front of the television, without leaving time for friends, family, or self-improvement. We may spend prodigally to repress something that is bothering us: “Ugh, I should really nurture my relationship with my husband/read that fascinating article I’ve been putting off/clean my home, but I’m going to buy this instead.”

We can use food, television, and shopping like emotion-numbing drugs or we can use them to bring people together and nourish ourselves. If there is a hole in your life created by emotional or physical trauma, the only thing that can fill the hole is hard work on yourself (individually or with a loving professional). Using people or things to procrastinate putting in work on ourselves may be “sweet” in the short-term, but it is not “good.”

There are, however, many things in life that are both good AND sweet: savoring a delicious fruit (taking joy in the taste and nourishing your body), smiling with a young child, engaging in random acts of kindness, having sex with a loving partner, petting a dog (I’m sure the dog would also find this “sweet,” even though he may have no concept of “good”).

When we fill our lives with things that are both good AND sweet, we maximize our capacity for joy and pleasure.

Ask yourself: What am I doing in my life today that is only “sweet” and not “good?” How can I find more joy my “good” actions? Am I too concentrated on aspects of my life that are “sweet” or am I moralizing excessively and obsessing only over what is “good?” If I cannot identify what I can improve about myself, how can I gain insight into who I want to be?


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We are not meant to be perfect

“We are not meant to be perfect. God is perfect. We are meant to be whole.” -Jane Fonda

Forgiveness and acceptance are the hardest lessons for many of us to learn. But look what forgiveness has done for Jane Fonda; she is balanced, healthy, and beautiful at 74! Watch Jane Fonda talk about her childhood and the healing power of exercise and forgiveness.

How often do we hide parts of who we are because we are afraid that we will not be accepted as a “whole?” How many times have we devalued others for what we perceive as their flaws?

We are whole and complete and good as we are right now. Although we should always strive for self-improvement, that doesn’t mean we should be overly-critical and disapproving of who we are today!


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Motivation, Knowledge, Convenience, and the Environment

My blog has disappeared! I may be doing some re-posting across the next couple weeks before I start with fresh things.

In the meantime, I’m starting in with a green article I wrote for Yahooo! Associated Content. Hope you enjoy!

Most of us want to feel like we are part of the solution, many of us
are concerned about maintaining public spaces, and we care about
ensuring the preservation of worldwide plant and animal diversity.

So why is green living so hard? Maintaining an environmentally
sustainable lifestyle creates three problems: a problem of motivation
(we don’t ‘remember’ to make green choices), a problem of convenience (we would like to live ethically, but it’s hard), and a problem of knowledge (we don’t—and maybe
can’t—know which choice is the ‘greenest’). Proactive environmentalism
is about overcoming these problems.

1. Find daily reminders to live sustainably. Seeking out constant
reminders of why you should be living an environmentally sound
lifestyle can ameliorate the problems of motivation and convenience.
Find your niche: if you’re concerned about endangered species, a
desktop background featuring polar bears can serve as a salient
reminder of why the environment needs to be protected.

2. Eat less meat. Peter Singer and Jim Mason, in ‘The Way We Eat: Why
Our Food Choices Matter,’ advance daily problems in living an
optimally-ethical green lifestyle. Does eating organic foods really
prevent the use of pesticides? Would eating non-organic, local oranges
result in the burning of less fossil fuels than eating organic oranges
that were shipped from another country? The answers to these questions
can be more complicated than expected. One thing we do know is that
industrial farming of livestock often results in unregulated animal
cruelty, excessive methane production, and waste. Reducing meat
consumption is a big step in the direction of environmental
conservation. If you are still struggling with the problem of
motivation, provides (sometimes graphic) video motivation
for maintaining a lifestyle free of cruelty.

3. Connect yourself to readily-available resources that you can access
when you have a question about ethical and green choices. Even if you
can overcome the seduction of convenience and you keep up your
green-living motivation, educating yourself about environmental ethics can become
a full-time job. Calculators such as the Center for Science in the
Public Interest’s ‘Eating Green Calculator’ can aid in assessing your
environmental impact.

4. Eat locally. You don’t have to become a hermit to eat ‘locally.’
Many cities are now host to local establishments that specialize in
local foods and drinks. Another great resource for those more skilled
in the kitchen: farmer’s markets. Winter markets are held in most
cities, and a list of markets in your area can be found online through
LocalHarvest. Eating locally really means educating yourself about
your community, which can also connect you to people with similar
interests in green living.

5. Cook as many meals at home as possible. Preparing your own meals
helps keep you connected to the ingredients you are using. Touching
plastic and placing it in the trash, for example, is a very salient
reminder that you are putting something non-biodegradable in a
landfill where it will sit for years. You have much more control over
the ingredients when you purchase them yourselves, including choice of
environmentally-friendly vendors.

6. Buy a travel coffee mug. According to ‘The Recycler’s Handbook,’
Americans throw away 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam cups every year.
Preventing the waste of containers requires a bit of insistence on
your part: starting your order with “I have my own cup,” or asking for
a mug if you plan on an extended coffee-shop stay. Most major coffee
chains, and even independent coffee shops, offer a discount for
bringing your own cup. If you are willing to be really intense, bring
your own containers if you anticipate restaurant leftovers.

7. Exercise outside. There is a new movement among health specialists
touting the benefits of a return to nature, recently represented by
studies touting barefoot running. Exercising outside allows you to
breathe unfiltered air, and also saves on energy that would be spent
pumping heated or cooled air around a gym.

8. Walk. In addition to breathing fresh air, walking allows you to
look around at everything there is to loose if we don’t work together
to slow global climate change.

9. Avoid shipping unnecessarily. There are numerous hidden
environmental costs in online purchasing: the item has likely been
shipped multiple times, the product may be produced overseas, the
materials could be produced in countries with low environmental standards, etc. If at all
possible, buy items locally and choose slower shipping methods (that
often utilize boats and trains, instead of air traffic).

10. Make green friends. Befriending other people who care about the
environment is the first step in building a community of change.
Sharing information and local green establishment finds is mutually
beneficial. And at the very least, a green friend will be able to hold
you accountable to your pro-environmental lifestyle.

Living a sustainable life can lead to exhaustion in self-regulation or
it can lead to a positively reinforcing cycle of self-awareness and
community support. Keep up motivation, learn, make the right choices,
then spread the word.

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Filed under Ethics, Self-improvement, The environment and nonhuman creatures