sketch of a beetle-like bug riding a unicycle

Questions for Reflection
and Discussion

 

chapter 1: know

chapter 2: glass

chapter 3: baby

chapter 4: gift

chapter 5: penny

chapter 6: waste

chapter 7: stitch

chapter 8: moss

chapter 9: gone

chapter 10: end

 


chapter 1: know

1.) How well would you say you “know thyself” at this point in your life?

2.) What’s one facet of yourself—habits, traits, motivations, emotions, thought patterns, etc.—that still feels like more of a mystery to you than a known element?

3.) This chapter covered a lot of ground. What is one specific concept that caught your attention and that you’d like to spend some more time pondering? Write it down, or if you’re in a group, consider sharing it aloud.

CHALLENGE: This first chapter poses its own challenge, but it’s worth repeating in hopes that seeing it again here, you’ll stop now and do it. Write down three things that are strengths or positive qualities you possess. Strip them down to this form: “I am ____________.” This may make you feel uncomfortable, but that’s why it’s called a challenge. And don’t ask others, “What do you think are my good qualities?” Take the time to work through identifying them yourself. When you’re finished, take that list with you for a week. Put it someplace where you’ll see it several times a day. And act on those strengths.

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chapter 2: glass

1.) Do you consider yourself an empathetic person? If so, is your empathy consistent or selective?

2.) How do you respond to the viewpoint that reading, taking part in or spreading celebrity gossip is a vice?

3.) Can you identify in yourself any “even-though” attitudes you have toward others? What do you make of the claim that such attitudes are an indication of egotism or self-righteousness?

CHALLENGE: For the next three days, cut out all forms of “stone throwing” you can think of (e.g., reading click-bait opinion articles about celebrities, roasting anyone on social media, gossiping with friends about anyone, etc.). Keep a journal during these three days, writing down every opportunity for “stone throwing” that presents itself, and whether you succeeded or failed with it. At the end of the three days, write down what you notice about how the experiment affected your empathy, relationships and overall state of mind.

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chapter 3: baby

1.) Having read this chapter, are you able to identify any babies you’ve thrown out (or been tempted to throw out) with the bathwater?

2.) Which scenario from the chapter best represents your tendency: to throw babies out with their bathwater (i.e., quitting or moving on from things too quickly), to hold onto dirty bathwater with no baby in it at all (i.e., sticking with things long after they’ve stopped bringing any joy or purpose), or to hang onto dirty rag dolls that should be thrown out (i.e., justifying bad situations rather than putting an end to them)?

3.) Based on your answer to the previous question, what is one area where you feel change is due? What is the worst you can imagine might happen if you made that change (paint the image in as much detail as you can)? What is the best you can imagine might happen if you made that change (again, paint the image in as much detail as you can)?

CHALLENGE: This is a mini choose-your-own-adventure challenge. Pick one. (Or complete all three if you’re feeling inspired.)

A.) In the next week, try doing something different at work, either by changing something about how you relate to others, or by identifying and learning something completely new (whether it’s related to your specific job title or not). Talk with a friend about how your experiment turns out and how it affects your feelings about your job or workplace.

B.) In the next week, do something completely new in a relationship that’s important to you. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just out of the ordinary for both of you. Plan it as a team. Then talk together afterward about any benefits, insights or challenges the experiment revealed.

C.) What is one change you’ve been considering making for a while? For the next week, make that change “on a trial basis,” knowing you can go back to the way things were afterward if it doesn’t work out. Mark the end of the trial on a calendar, then assess the trial on that date. Did it give you any insights or confidence to extend the trial, or even to make the change permanent? Or was there anything you discovered during the trial that you’d like to continue, even if only in part?

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chapter 4: gift

1.) How often do you think to yourself some version of “I’m feeling thankful right now for _________”? How often do you express this? How often do you express it in ways that go beyond the words “Thank you” or “Thanks”?

2.) Are there any gift horses you know you tend to look in the mouth? What insights do you have about this tendency after having read this chapter?

3.) This chapter asserts “… it’s difficult to combat [an] attitude of entitlement. One thing is for sure: it won’t happen by accident.” Do you agree? What is one specific and realistic change you might make in your own life that would promote a more consistent mindset of thankfulness?

CHALLENGE: Purchase a pack of thank-you cards that contains perhaps 5 or 10 cards. Handwrite thank-you notes to as many different people as there are cards. Be specific regarding what you are thankful for. Then mail or hand-deliver the cards. Take note of your own process of writing these notes. Was it hard to think of people to write to? Did it get any easier as you went? Harder? How did you feel when you were finished?

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chapter 5: penny

1.) How do you think your own upbringing has affected your relationship with money and spending?

2.) Are there any emotional or mental “side-effects,” good or bad, that you believe can result from being money conscious? How about from not being money conscious?

3.) What is your reaction to this statement: “Instead of saying ‘I don’t have time’ or ‘I’m too busy,’ try saying ‘That’s not a priority for me.’”? What might your own choices regarding how you spend your time be saying about your priorities?

CHALLENGE: Choose one non-essential item that you buy regularly and calculate an estimate of how much you spend on that item annually. What else could you be doing with that lump sum of money? As an experiment, try cutting out the item you chose for a single week, keeping note of the cumulative savings daily. At the end of your experiment, put that amount of money toward something else (e.g., spend it on an immediate “treat,” add it to a special savings account, put it in a vacation jar, etc.). You earned it!

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chapter 6: waste

1.) Many forms and causes of haste were discussed in this chapter, along with the types of waste they can cause. Which do you most identify with? Can you recall a clear example of a time when haste caused waste for you?

2.) How difficult do you think it would be to adopt the “Three-Day Rule”? What are some specific areas in which a “rule” like this might help you avoid hastily saying yes to people and situations?

3.) Is there a relationship in your life that you may be wasting to some degree as a result of busyness (a form of haste)? What is one measure you could take to bring things back into balance with that person?

CHALLENGE: This quote from the chapter bears repeating: “…sometimes, the very best thing we can do when we’re in a hard rut is to follow those fleeting thoughts that tell us there is something beyond the drudgery of the cycle we’re in. Joy, surprise, curiosity—all of these are experienced spur of the moment, what some might call ‘whims.’ But that’s not haste. That’s living.” A great way to incorporate spontaneity into your day is to allow yourself to follow your natural curiosity—to find out more about something that pops into your awareness. Make a conscious decision to break from routine at some point during the next three days and to do something spontaneous. By nature, you can’t plan spontaneity; but you can plan for it. Perhaps set a couple phone reminders that simply say, “Are you allowing yourself to be spontaneous?” Once you’ve met that part of the challenge, tell a friend about the experience.

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chapter 7: stitch

1.) Had you ever heard “A stitch in time saves nine” before reading this chapter? If so, in what circumstance(s) have you heard it applied before now?

2.) The (still) true section of this chapter lists several “gloves-off” examples of areas where a stitch in time could save nine (e.g., study habits, weight gain, health issues, etc.). Did any of these particularly resonate with you? Did other areas in your life come to mind, places where perhaps stitching is overdue?

3.) Similarly, the not true section discusses some areas where we can tend to start stitching when no stitches are necessary (e.g., setting gossip straight, acting purely out of worry, trying to save people from their own consequences, etc.). Which of these did you most relate to? Did other areas come to mind, circumstances where you realize you need to stop trying to stitch things?

CHALLENGE: Stop as soon as you’re done reading this challenge and take immediate action on something you know you’ve left unstitched for too long already. This may be tending to a chore, apologizing to someone, setting up an appointment, or some other such concrete action. Understand that, depending on how long you’ve let this area go untended, the process of fully addressing it may require more than one easy stitch. But your action will leave one less of the “nine,” and set you on the path of positive change.

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chapter 8: moss

1.) How did you do with reaching back through five centuries and empathizing with “Desi” Erasmus? Were you about to see him as a real person? Whether you said yes or no, how might you benefit from an increased ability to empathize with people you don’t know and whom you’ll likely never meet? Are there any recent circumstances when you’ve been able to do this?

2.) Do you easily identify with either interpretation of “A rolling stone gathers no moss: the caution to settle down a bit in order to gain skills, knowledge or deeper relationships; the caution to keep living, growing, trying new things so that you don’t grow old before your time? If not, in the vein of the Muddy Waters song lyrics, do you find yourself somewhere between these two extremes? Or do you feel the current state of your “stone and moss” is just where it should be? And if the latter, has this always been true about you?

3.) Are there any specific choices you are currently facing where you’re having trouble “distinguishing the moss from the lichens”? What could you do that might bring some added clarity to that decision?

CHALLENGE: For this chapter, you have another choose-your-own-adventure challenge! Pick one.

A.) If you most identify as someone whose stone has been rolling too much lately, this challenge is for you. Other than necessary activities like school, work or the like, don’t go out this week. But don’t just scroll through social media or watch television by yourself. “Gather some moss” by inviting friends over for dinner, conversation or games; call and catch up with family members; do a jigsaw puzzle with the family. Choose something that adds real value to your down time.

B.) If you most identify as someone whose stone needs to roll more, this is your challenge. In the next week, choose three activities that you don’t normally do—and do them. Have dinner out or go bowling with a friend; take a weekend trip; spend some time walking in nature. Choose something that shakes loose the feeling of “the rut.”

C.) If you’re not sure where you fit with “A rolling stone gathers no moss,” or if you feel you’re at a good place with the amount your stone is currently rolling and the moss you’ve been gathering, this challenge is for you. We can all benefit from following our curiosity or trying something new, whether we stay home or go out into the world. In the next week, collect as many new experiences as you can: try some new foods or make a new recipe; learn a quick new skill; visit a store in town that you’ve never been to (even if you don’t need their wares or services); take a new route to work or home again. Simple or complex doesn’t matter; new is the key. When the week is up, reflect on how it felt to explore these new things.

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chapter 9: gone

1.) Did any specific circumstances, past or present, come to mind that you can now identify clearly as “dwelling”?

2.) How easy is it for you to truly let bygones be bygones, such that they no longer control present moments or your state of mind?

3.) I outlined my three-step process for letting bygones be bygones (as well as for dealing with regret and worry). What are your own go-to strategies for handling regret, worry or “dwelling”? Have you thought any new thoughts with regard to these things after having read this chapter? (If so, jot them down somewhere you can read them again in the future as needed.)

CHALLENGE: When you become aware that you are dwelling on something this week, make a concerted effort to try the three-step approach from this chapter:

  • Can I do anything about it right now? (If so, do it right now.)
  • Can I do anything about it later? (If so, write it down with a reminder, and do it at the next available opportunity.)
  • If you determine that you can do nothing constructive about the situation either now or later, let it go, reminding yourself each time it comes back that you’ve already allocated it to the “cannot control” bin. And then refuse it any more headspace.

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chapter 10: end

1.) How well do you do living in the present moment? Which culprits most often pull you from living fully in the present: regret, worry, resentment, nostalgia for times past, fear of the future, busyness, or others?

2.) Is it (or has it typically been) hard for you to let “good things comes to an end” in a way that feels healthy to you? What types of “good things” are hardest for you to let go when they end?

3.) What is your response to the Zen teaching of seeing every glass in life as “already broken”? What are some areas where this teaching might help you appreciate and embrace the present while being better prepared for the future?

CHALLENGE: Over the next week, practice the “I Am Here” strategy as much as possible. Pause what you are doing, breathe and focus on the good things about your present surroundings or circumstances. At the close of each day, jot down a short description of the places, times and circumstances when you applied the strategy throughout the day (e.g., when I was feeling hurried during breakfast; after meeting with my first client; during lunch when I started thinking about my upcoming test, etc.). For the sake of this challenge, try setting a specific goal for the number of times you’ll practice the strategy before considering the challenge met, perhaps 25 times. When the challenge has been completed, reflect on how this experiment worked for you. Is it something you might put in your “toolbox” moving forward? Did it give you other ideas for ways to stay present?

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