Never quit – live strong

Once in a while I encounter a story that is so encouraging and motivating I want to share it with everybody.

This summer holiday I read 2001’s ‘It’s not about the bike’ by Lance Armstrong, 7-time Tour de France-winner and fulltime cancer fighter.

It’s a real pageturner and it made me re-evaluate the topics of hope, endurance and courage in my own life.

Most of the quotes below are from his book.

Don’t ever quit

Lance’s mother, a single mom, raising her only child Lance, was working as a secretary. Lance sensed that she was underestimated by her boss and asked her one day: ‘Why don’t you quit?‘. Her simple but powerful answer was

‘Son, you never quit.’

So ‘Never Quit’ became Lance’s life adage.

When he was 25, the doctors discovered an agressive testicular cancer that had already spread to his lungs and his brain. He had 12 tumors in total and was given little hope to survive.

Hope

‘When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope? We have two options, medically and emotionally: give up, or fight like hell.’

He chose the latter. Lance went through a stunning 4 cycles of chemotherapy and brainsurgery, fighting like hell to LIVE.

‘Don’t let go, don’t give up hope
All is forgiven
You’re breathing in, you’re breathing in
We call it living’
(Switchfoot- Needle and Haystack life)

Believe

‘Anything is possible. You can be told you have a 90-percent or a 50-percent chance or a 1-percent chance, but you have to believe, and you have to fight’

His strength to survive was so great and he believed that he could beat cancer, and so he did.
Although surviving cancer depends on many things, like sheer luck, moment of diagnosis, and a lot of things we don’t yet understand, to believe that it is possible is crucial.

Jesus said in Matthew 19:26: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Lance’s wife at the time: Kristin (Kik) Richard was a christian and prayed.

Courage

‘ I think we are supposed to try to face it straightforwardly, armed with nothing but courage. The definition of courage is: the quality of spirit that enables one to encounter danger with firmness and without fear.’

In his book Lance says he even needed more courage to conquer the Tour de France title than to go through his cycles of chemo.

Joshua says to his mates in Joshua 10:25 “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. This is what the LORD will do to all the enemies you are going to fight.”

What are your enemies right now?

Endurance

‘Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever. That surrender, even the smallest act of giving up, stays with me’

‘So when I  feel like quitting, I ask myself, which would I rather live with? Facing up to that question, and finding a way to go on, is the real reward, better than any trophy.’

This is so profound and true, I hope, believe and pray that I will start living more like that, from this moment on.

With his enormous drive and endurance, Lance also won the Tour de France 7 times in a row in his newly gained life and started the Lance Armstrong Foundation, a foundation to help cancer patients and survivors of the disease with information, encouragement and raising money for research.

Unrealized capacities

‘The one thing the illness has convinced me of beyond all doubt- more than any experience I’ve had as an athlete- is that we are much better than we know. We have unrealized capacities that sometimes only emerge in crisis.’

In 1998, I was going through my studies to become a speech-language therapist. We had a professor: Wouter, who was always fiercely debating with one of his students: Kym, in order to stimulate her to further realize her capacities as a student. He would always provoke her to stretch her limits.

A few months later, he died of bowelcancer, being under the wrong impression for too long he had picked up some parasite in Tanzania, where he worked voluntarily with deaf children.

A few months later still, it was October by then, Kym too was diagnosed with metastasized ovary cancer. I saw her for the last time in January of 1999. She came to school, with a peaceful smile on her lips, a translucent complexion and a wig.
When she told us she was going to die, she had to comfort us. She was strong and we were shattered. Later, we all got the chance to say goodbye to her.

I was going through a depression at the time and asked her for advice. She said the same as Lance: ‘ If it is one thing that I have learned, it is that we are far more capable than we know, to cope with bad things that happen. Just remember you are way more powerful than you think you are’. A month later she died. I’ll never forget her wisdom and her grace.

When our class graduated the next year, we tied her diploma to a white helium balloon and send it to heaven.

‘We believe in life.
Your life.
We believe in living every minute of it with every ounce of your being.
And that you must not let cancer* take control of it.
We believe in energy: channeled and fierce.
We believe in focus: getting smart and living strong.
Unity is strength. Knowledge is power. Attitude is everything.
This is LIVESTRONG.’

– the LIVESTRONG manifesto
* or anything else negative: addictions, the past, self-pity, procrastination, negative self-image etc

We have only one chance to live our lives in this life on earth, I encourage you as well as myself to wake up everyday thankful and eager to make the most out of every minute, don’t quit, live strong.

For me living strong is:

Be focused
Be courageous
Be strong
Be hopeful
Be thankful
Be alert
Be productive
Be creative
Be positive
Be full of life
Be-lieve

If you want to know more about the Lance Armstrong foundation you can visit: http://www.livestrong.org or follow Lance on Twitter.

I also highly recommend:
It’s not about the bike‘ his story of surviving cancer and winning his first Tour
and its sequel: ‘Every second counts‘.
Both available at Amazon.com

If you want to leave a comment to me or tell me your story please do so in the comments section below or on Twitter.
Thanks a lot!

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Clear your head with GTD

In September of 2006 I had my first encounter with GTD: Getting Things Done, through Father Roderick who was raving about it on his podcast the Daily Breakfast — now The Break.
As you may know Getting Things Done is a great productivity system invented by David Allen.
So, I decided to buy the audio book: Getting Things Done, the Art of Stress-free Productivity on iTunes and I devoured it!
I always used to feel so swamped with tasks mundane as well as extraordinary that I always felt out of control and lagging behind on everything.

In his latest book Making It All Work David Allen says: ‘the mind is a great servant but a terrible master’; if we hold on to everything inside our own mind we’re going to end up being in a state of information overload-mode. That’s where GTD comes in.

Here’s a short outline on what GTD is, how I use it and how it changed my life *blink* 🙂 :

1. Capture

Capturing anything and everything that has your attention.
I do this by carrying around little notepads with me all the time: one for quotes, one for to-do items, one for nice English phrases I come across for my blog. Every day I put all of it into my in-tray. Of course I also have my email inbox brimming over with lovely amorphous stuff screaming at me: ‘Decide what I mean to you!!!’

2 Clarify

Defining actionable things discretely into outcomes and concrete next steps.
The contents of my in-tray go into my system:
I have a few choices:

  • Is it actionable?

Yes:

  • Will it take me 2 minutes or less?

Yes:

  • Do it!

No:

  • I put it in Nozbe, which is my task/project manager

My non-actionable items like quotes or other pieces of information go into my Evernote account

3. Organize

Organizing reminders and information in the most streamlined way, in appropriate categories, based on how and when you need to access them
My actionable items I further organize within contexts:
@ Computer
@ Home
@ Phone
@ Read
@ Martin (my hubbie)
@ Toast (actions I can still do when I feel exhausted)
@ Waiting for

@ Someday Maybe
That way I don’t have to dig through a big pile of actions and look for e.g. all my calls if I have a phone handy. It saves me a lot of time.

The next, very important step is to pick your Next Actions from your lists of Actions: a Next Action is  the one concrete next actionable item for a project. This is critical!
For example, a lot of people have actions on their list like:
craft party hats for my rabbits (too big, it consists of multiple action steps)
or even worse:
rabbit party hats (very vague)
It’s key to break that down into concrete steps like:

  • look up on the internet: party hat for rabbits ideas (@ Computer)
  • draft designs for rabbit party hats in sketchbook (@ Home)
  • make a list of materials you need (@ Computer)
  • look them up in your cabinet (@ Home)
  • go buy new materials (@ Errands)
  • craft the actual rabbit party hats (@ Home)

So ‘look up on the internet: party hat for rabbits ideas‘ is the next action for project ‘craft party hats for my rabbits’.
In Nozbe, I can star that item so it stands out from the rest.

I can also link my actions to Projects in Nozbe. A project in GTD-jargon is something which takes more than one action-step to complete.
A project can be:
Craft party hats for my rabbits
Organize rabbits’ birthday party
Draft Rabbit book proposal
Research designer clothes rabbits

My non-actionable items go mostly in Evernote:
I scan a lot of things and put them in Evernote.
These are a few of my favorite tags (I have 75 in total!):
quotes
prayer
tweets
funny pics
important docs
declutter tips
checklists
scans of my photobooks

I also have a physical alphabetical archive system. At work I have this awesome filing cabinet with plain hanging folders labeled with my super-duper Dymo label maker — another great asset for GTD-affichonados. Still working on getting one for my home too. At present I have a stack of alphabetically arranged envelope-folders.

It is a dream of mine though to go (almost) entirely paperless.

4 Reflect

Keeping current and ‘on your game’ with appropriately frequent reviews of the six horizons of your commitments (purpose, vision, goals, areas of focus, projects, and actions — If you are just starting out with GTD, it is fine to just figure out Projects and Actions, the rest will come later.)

The idea is to do a Weekly Review of your system consisting of:

  • Getting clear

Go to inbox and in-tray zero, do a brain dump.
This usually takes up so much of my time that I now decided to get clear the day before I do the Weekly Review.

  • Getting current

Review (Next) Action lists (by context), calendar, Waiting For list (one of my most helpful lists), Project list, any relevant checklists.
Use these as triggers for new actions.
Also mark your Next Actions (in my case with a star)

  • Getting creative

Review your Someday Maybe-list. (This is a list with all the things you might want to do some day but not now, like taking singing lessons, learning Greek, writing a book about rabbits etc…) and lastly:

‘Be creative and courageous: any new, wonderful, harebrained, creative, thought-provoking, risk-taking ideas to add to your system?’ (David Allen – Making It All Work)

However, this Weekly Review is the toughy for me, the bottleneck in my system, because the Weekly Review you should do — well — weekly, and that’s where I fall through the cracks…
I’m still working towards making it a real Weekly Review, because I’m convinced that I won’t dread it as much as I do now and I will be — as David calls it — Captain and Commander a lot more (i.e. being ‘on’, ‘ in flow’ or ‘in the zone’).

5. Engage /Do!

If you have defined good concrete next actionable items for your projects and arranged them into contexts, it would be a piece of cake performing them.
Unless, that is, you go numb to your own lists, like I do a lot of the time, and you resist looking at the lists altogether 🙂

But if you are really flowing with all the steps you will start to experience ‘a mind like water‘, ready to respond perfectly and appropriately to every stimulus, not overreacting and not underreacting. You will be free of distraction, stress, strain; no undue energy will be spent; you will gain power, focus, flexibility, clarity and openness.

I must say am definitely feeling more in control, more focussed and more clear since I have been using GTD.

If you read all the steps it may seem like a lot of hassle to go through, but once you have set up the system, it actually frees up more time for creativity and productivity and don’t we all want that?

If you have any questions or comments regarding GTD, please leave a comment below. You can also follow me on Twitter.


Also take time to listen to the GTD virtual study group podcast by awesome host and productivity coach Tara Rodden Robinson or @ Context, an interview series with people using GTD, also by Tara Rodden Robinson. You can follow her on Twitter too.

The Little Way

Therese de Lisieux (2 January 1873 – 30 September 1897) is one of the greatest Saints from the 19th century. She received a very early call from God to be a Carmelite nun, which she was from her 15th till her 24th year, when she died a tuberculosis-death.

She was also called by the modest name of The Little Flower of Jesus, emblematic of her humility, her purity and her simplicity.

“Our Lord has deigned to make me understand that by simple obedience I shall please Him best”

I am very intrigued by her short but Jesus-seeking and –loving life of simple spirituality and servanthood.

Therese felt all along that she was destined to become a Saint and this is what she said about it:

“Instead of being discouraged, I concluded that God would not inspire desires which could not be realised, and that I may aspire to sanctity in spite of my littleness. For me to become great is impossible. I must bear with myself and my many imperfections; but I will seek out a means of getting to Heaven by a little way – very short and very straight, a little way that is wholly new.”

The depth and novelty of her spirituality, called the theology of the little way has inspired many believers around the world.

In Wikipedia we read about the Little Way:

Thérèse is known for her “way of confidence and love”[44], commonly known as “The Little Way”. In her quest for sanctity, she believed that it was not necessary to accomplish heroic acts, or “great deeds”, in order to attain holiness and to express her love of God. She wrote,

“Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.”

So the little way for Therese didn’t consist of being martyred for Christ’s sake, but instead of  dying to her flesh, making sacrifices daily, leading a holy everyday life to please her beloved Lord of Lords: Jesus Christ of Nazareth and to love others as herself.

“Now I have no desire left, unless it be to love Jesus even unto folly! It is Love alone that draws me.”

She performed hidden acts of kindness for her Sisters, for which only Jesus could praise her.

She led a very simple life among her Sisters, she prayed, she worked; she struggled everyday struggles of dry spells in her spirituality, doubt, fear, irritation with her Sisters. But she always came back to Jesus to walk with Him.

At last I want to mention the Little Way approach to prayer. This is what she said about it:

“For me, prayer is a movement of the heart; it is a simple glance toward Heaven; it is a cry of gratitude and love in times of trial as well as in times of joy; finally, it is something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus. . . . I have not the courage to look through books for beautiful prayers…. I do like a child who does not know how to read; I say very simply to God what I want to say, and He always understands me.”

In this blog I want to encourage you as well as myself to look for that little way to lead a holier life.

I am inspired by Therese to live a holier life, by:

  • praying from my heart directly to Jesus
  • performing simple acts of kindness to people
  • living a more sober and simple life with less posessions and desire for materialistic things
  • letting go daily of pride and striving to be humble
  • being pure and be myself
  • not gossiping

The pursuit of a holy life is such an adventure and I want to take you along.


I want to thank Father Roderick @  http://fatherroderick.sqpn.com/ and Gretchen Rubin @ http://www.happiness-project.com/ for telling me about Therese’s book: The Story of A Soul through them.

You can buy The Story of A Soul by St. Therese de Lisieux on Amazon or Bol.com (for Dutch readers)

6 Ultimate lists of 2009

Yes people, it’s that time of the year again! Lists time. Hurray! 🙂

Today I took some time off to write my review of the year 2009 and I thought it would be fun to make a few lists, to remind myself of the fun I had last year and to inspire you to read and listen to:

Here we go:

Top 12 of the best christian books I read in 2009:

  1. The New International Version of the Bible
  2. Henri Nouwen – The way of the Heart (audiobook)
  3. Pete Greig – Red Moon Rising
  4. Pete Greig – 24/7 Prayer Manual
  5. Adrian Verbree – Est (Dutch)
  6. Henri Nouwen – Gebeden uit de stilte (Dutch translation of: Cry for Mercy)
  7. Jos Douma –  Geworteld leven (Dutch)
  8. C.S. Lewis – the Screwtape Letters
  9. C.S. Lewis – Surprised by joy (audiobook)
  10. Francine Rivers – a Lineage of Grace
  11. Jos Douma- Jezus aanbidden
  12. Norman Geisler and Frank Turek – Ik heb te weinig geloof om een atheist te zijn (Dutch translation of: I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist)

Top 10 of the best mainstream books I read in 2009:

  1. David Allen – Making it all Work
  2. Leo Babauta – Zen to Done (e-book)
  3. David Allen – Getting Things Done (the art of stress-free productivity) (audiobook)
  4. Lisette Kreischer en Merel van der Lande – Veggie in Pumps (Dutch) (about an ecofabulous lifestyle)
  5. Migon Fogarty – Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty tips for better Writing
  6. Dirkje van den Nulft en Marianne Verhallen – In de weer met woorden (Dutch)
  7. Jim Loehr and Tony Schwarz – The Power of Full Engagement (audiobook)
  8. Rita Emmett – the Procrastinator’s Handbook (audiobook)
  9. Jodi Picoult – my Sister’s Keeper
  10. Corinne Gouget – Wat zit er in uw eten? (over E-nummers)

Top 7 of the best blogs I read in 2009:

  1. Zen Habits – Leo Babauta (about productivity, simplicity, habit change, living a balanced life)
  2. 6 Changes – Leo Babauta (about habit change)
  3. Ccgforum’s Weblog – Wim Gelderblom (Dutch) (about complementary medicine)
  4. Weblog Jos Douma (Dutch) (a pastor’s blog)
  5. Live, Love & Believe – Remmelt Meijer (Dutch)
  6. Cute Overload (about cute animals)
  7. Spotted by Locals – London cityblog by locals

Top 6 of the most promising blogs I subscribed to (not read them yet) in 2009, but that I’d like to read in 2010:

  1. Write to Done – Leo Babauta (about blog writing)
  2. Unclutterer: Daily tips on how to organize your home and office.
  3. mnmlist.com – Leo Babauta (about minimalism)
  4. Lifehacking (about tips and tricks to make your life easier)
  5. ProBlogger Blog Tips – The Blog (about blog writing)
  6. Copyblogger (about blog writing)

Top 10 of the best podcasts I listened to in 2009:
(Go to www.itunes.com (or www.itunes.com/nl) and download your free copy of the iTunes store and subscribe to all the podcasts you like for free)

  1. Daily Audio Bible (going through the Bible in a year)
  2. Breakfast with father Roderick (talk show)
  3. HTB Sunday talks (from the holy Trinity Brompton church London)
  4. Christian audio podcast morning and evening with CH Spurgeon (devotional)
  5. GTD virtual study group
  6. Grammar Girl’s quick and dirty tips for better writing
  7. @Context (interview series about people using GTD)
  8. the Catholics next door (talk show)
  9. the Biggest Loser fan podcast (talk show inspired by the Biggest Loser television series, about weight loss, inspiration and motivation, pursuing a balanced life, even if you don’t want to lose weight)
  10. Prayer from the Taize community

Top 10 of the best music I listened to in 2009:

  1. family force five – dance or die
  2. fighting instinct – Back to you
  3. Sela – Live in Utrecht
  4. Gotee hits album
  5. Gotee acoustic album
  6. Trinity – Cada Dia
  7. Salvador – Aware
  8. Sela – Gloria
  9. Taize music
  10. Fee – we shine

Have fun checking them out.

I have a few questions for you:

  1. what is your favorite book of 2009?
  2. what is your favorite music of 2009?
  3. did you read any blogs or listen to any podcasts in 2009? Do you have any tips?

And do let me know if you checked out some of the tips I gave: books, blogs, podcasts or music.

I’d love to know your take on it!

Best wishes for 2010!!