Self-care means what it says on the tin.
Anna Bianchi

The intention to care for oneself comes with a couple of problems. What’s nourishing keeps changing. Yesterday’s solutions don’t work, except when they do. Plus you have to be present for self-care to do its magic.

A woman once called me, exasperated, from her front porch. She had banished herself, she said, and didn’t plan to return to her house until she found her way back: inside her skin, in the present moment.

Practice: Notice what you think of her decision.

How closely does that assessment parallel how well (or poorly) you take care of yourself?

Related practices: Done, Authentic, Walking Companions


The biggest reward of all, for pledging $10,000 or more, was no reward and no mention of your name.
Kickstarter campaign for the Marina Abramovic Institute

Doing something good without anyone else knowing about it is high risk. The risk comes from the way you end up feeling. I have done good deeds anonymously and gotten higher than a kite — and I have done them and ended up feeling nonplussed, bewildered, or foolish.

But the practice itself can be addictive. At the very least, looking for opportunities to do something constructive suggests that you have heroic potential. Which you do, of course. We all do. Anonymity then becomes a question of personal style: where and how you experience “the biggest reward of all.”

Practice: Experiment. Get someone a coffee, a car or a college education without them knowing. If anonymous giving suits you, enjoy!

Related practices: Work, Permission


There are days when you need ferocious action, and there are days when you need a new detective story and a chocolate.
Kerry Greenwood

And, I would add, there are days to be grateful for the tiniest hint which is which. Need states are partly fact and partly fiction, which makes them hard to figure out.

Practice: Identify a small step that feels like it could clarify what you need. Write one blistering letter (you don’t have to mail it). Take one bite of chocolate (it needn’t contain sugar). Take action, but keep each step small. Repeat until you have done something that, in retrospect, turned out to be nourishing.

Related Practices: Self-Attack, Authentic, “As it turned out”


Time plays like an accordion in the ways it can stretch out and compress itself in a thousand melodic ways.
Julia Glass

woman with accordion
Ed Conn

Practice: Identify a rate of speed you particularly enjoy. Then track which experiences allow you to spend more time moving at that rate.

You probably know some of them already; others may surprise you. (One gear up from a saunter is my current preference.)

Related Practices: The Compass and the Clock


I never wanted to read another war novel again, and I never did.
Bob Dylan, describing All Quiet on the Western Front

Optional soundtrack for this practice: “End of the Line” by The Traveling Wilburys

Practice: Identify something small or large that you feel done with. Naming it may be enough or you can escalate to telling someone.

If that goes well, enact done: Stop answering the phone when you-know-who calls. Stop doing damage control for your heedless spouse— be done with whatever it is you want to be done with. It’s allowed.


The problem is not us. The problem is the problem.
                 Steven Pressfield

This is true enough, but hard to hold onto. When a problem resists solving, we are left with the need to do something — and attacking ourselves provides the illusion that we are. When you tell yourself “If I worked harder (or something similar), I wouldn’t have this problem,” you have resorted to self-attack.

Practice: Ask yourself to notice when your attention shifts from the problem and how frustrating it is, to feeling frustrated with yourself.

Related Practices: No Easy Jobs, Intensify to Identify


“I don’t like to work,”says Marlowe in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, “but I like what is in the work — the chance to find yourself.”
                 Tools of Titans, Tim Ferris

NPG 1985; Joseph Conrad by Percy AndersonNational Portrait Gallery, London

You may or may not like to work, or like the work you do, but Marlowe’s words ring true: Work provides an opportunity to find yourself.

Practice: Enumerate the things that work has taught you about yourself. When you get to a stopping place, add one more.

Discuss the qualities you like with a friend or colleague. Ask about theirs.

Optional: Consider grieving the qualities you don’t like.  “Finding yourself ” includes finding selves you regret.

Related practices: No Easy Jobs, Play


1a:  worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact <paints an authentic picture of our society> b:  conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features <an authentic reproduction of a colonial farmhouse> c:  made or done the same way as an original <authentic Mexican fare>

2:  not false or imitation :  real, actual <an authentic cockney accent>

3:  true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character <is sincere and authentic, with no pretensions>
    Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate(r) Dictionary, 11th Edition (c)2016 by Merriam-Webster, Inc. (

Practice: If you know where you stand in regard to facts, reproduction farmhouses, Mexican fare and cockney accents, consider advancing to definition 3.

It’s the hard one, requiring as it does both awareness and action, as well as a tolerance for surprise: Who knew you had it in you to do that?


With everything perfect, we do not ask how it came to be.

25Paul den Hollander

Pain and disappointment lead us to ask “Why?”,  but not something we find perfect. Asking seems counterintuitive, even ungrateful. But ask. Please ask.

Practice: After a wonderful moment has passed, investigate it. What was the light like, the sound, the aroma? Who else was present? How did it resemble previous wonderful times?

Such information allows you to create  more times “with everything perfect.”

Related practices: The Only Spring, Alert Emptiness


You do not need a sabbatical or a grant to write a book.
                 Brian Doyle


Nor anyone’s permission to do a whole host of things. At 89, Doris Haddock, pictured above, decided to walk from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. to publicize the need for campaign finance reform.

Practice: Asking yourself “What do I lack permission to do?” may not work.

Sneakier, and more effective, is urging others to do something they hesitate to do: play the harmonica or run a marathon; get a gizmo that works in theory to actually work, and then patent it. Give enough other people permission for long enough, and a pattern will emerge. That’s what you need permission to do.

Related Practices: No Easy Jobs, Please