Setting goals: 13 questions before starting out

Before setting any goals for yourself, go to a quiet place to think. Make it sacred by your solitude. Ponder to gain understanding. Ask yourself these questions:

Is the goal your own?

Is the goal based on your values?

Is the goal achievable based on your personal strengths?

Is the goal attainable based on current skills you have or do you need other skills?

What does your inner voice say about your goal?

How do you see yourself reaching that goal?

How will you feel when you reach that goal?

Where will you write or announce your goal?

How will you share the vision of your goal and with whom?

How will you track your progress in reaching your goal?

How will you adjust when you need to change course or face obstacles reaching your goal?

When will you know you’ve reached your goal?

How ready are you to make your goal SMARTER?



Anxiety and you

Have you felt anxious at some point in your life?

Frequent worrier?

Have illness, being fired, feeling discriminated, unemployment, job searching, new job, moving to a new city— made you feel stressed and overloaded?

Have you had full blown panic attacks – chest pain, palpitations, sweating, shortness of breath and dizziness?

Is your anxiety becoming part of a cycle of doubt, worry, fear, inaction, paralysis, depression?

“You need some anxiety in your life and it’s there for a reason. It’s what motivates us to work and keeps us out of trouble,” says Dr. Tom Rebori, medical director of the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Center at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare in Illinois.

If anxiety is interfering with your daily life – disrupting sleep or concentration – it could mean that you have an anxiety disorder. New treatments and research offer good news: anxiety disorders are highly treatable.

Here are the four main anxiety disorders, plus tips and techniques to cope with them and learn to deal with them.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

In the last six months, have you spent half of the days worrying?

Excessive worrying — which interferes with daily life — also causes physical symptoms like low energy, sleep disturbances, muscle tension, sweating, nausea and difficulty concentrating.

Here are two ways of coping.

Keep a worry log so you see patterns and learn to replace negative thinking with another thought until you gradually change your inner dialogue.

Set up “worry periods.” Dr. Dave Carbonell at Anxiety Treatment Center in New York tells patients to set up two 10-minute worry periods every day where they can isolate themselves. By giving their full attention to the worry, it becomes boring because there’s not that much content to it.

Panic Disorder

Scared of losing control, that you’re dying or fearful that you’re going crazy?

Panic attacks occur in certain settings—a crowded mall, elevators. You can associate a situation with that reaction and start avoiding certain situations. Just because you’ve had a panic attack doesn’t mean you have panic disorder, though, unless you’ve had at least two unexpected panic attacks, followed by at least one month of concern about experiencing another attack.

Getting to understand what’s happening is key to treating the disorder: facing (not avoiding certain situations), accepting (not fighting the panic attack, but welcoming it), floating (relaxing through the anxiety without resistance, like floating through water) and letting time pass (knowing that the attack will pass).


Social phobias involve an intense fear of situations – usually social or performance-related settings – for fear of having a panic attack.

Specific phobias involve an excessive fear of an object or situation that causes anxious symptoms similar to a panic attack.

Social phobias are treated the same as panic disorders. For specific phobias, the common treatment is gradual exposure.

The first step is to talk about the fear to begin to understand that you won’t die or go crazy when in contact with object or situation.

Post-traumatic stress disorder

Whereas GAD patients worry about the future, PTSD involves worrying about something that happened.

PTSD is a condition where sufferers have been through some kind of traumatic experience. The symptoms are a heightened degree of arousal, nightmares or recurring thoughts, feelings of detachment, sleep problems, high startle response or jumpiness, flashbacks and depression.

Treatment is learning how to live in the present through relaxation.

Anxiety disorder symptoms can come and go. Yet it makes common sense to ease stress, eat healthier and exercise – lifetime habits that will help in the long run.

Set aside time every day for relaxing – use aPrayer, meditate, go for a mindful walk, enjoy a hot or naked yoga session, listen to music, soak in a hot bath – anything where you’re just being you.

For more information:

Edmund J. Bourne, The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, New Harbinger Publications: 2000.

Anxiety Disorders Association of America

National Institute of Mental Health


Patience, why now?

During a recent session with a client working to reconnect with himself, he reminded me of the value of patience when he said, “Eternity is going to be such a long time, I might as well learn to be patient now!”

And René, the Salvadoran house painter who paints apartments in my building and is known for his speedy yet professional work, said to me in the elevator “It’s ok, I can go to the eighth floor. I have time,” as he pushed the button to my floor and waited until I left to push the button to the floor where he was working. I thanked him for being a life saver today by reminding I have time.

20131011-131114.jpg Do you hit the door close button in the elevator to hasten your way up or down?

Do you refresh your email every few minutes to see if you’ve gotten the message for a follow-up interview?

Do you have it within you to wait until the mud settles and the water is clear?

Do you really expect self-help books, lose weight-fast diets and get-rich schemes to really work in one day, two weeks or 30 days?

Do you rush in as the doors open to the subway car or do you hurry by an open door as someone is leaving?

Do you get annoyed when the person in front of you has more items in her cart than the maximum for that checkout?

Do you expect a reply immediately to an email just because you’ve sent it at the speed of light?

What are the small things in your daily life that can help you to be patient?

Do you have the patience of a saint or like watching drying paint?

Do you stop and ponder?

Don’t let life get your goat

My favorite rabbi/painter, Jonathan Blum, takes an offbeat and humorous look at life through his colorful works that feature whimsical animals – like goats, ostriches and cats dreaming of oranges.

You can find him – always cheerful – at art festivals, street fairs and his brick-and-mortar studio gallery in the very happening Park Slope section in Brooklyn, where he’s spent his last 13 years.

If you get a chance, go meet this charismatic, inspirational and fun-filled man at his upcoming street shows:

Sunday, Sept 29th, 11-6pm, Hoboken Art and Music Festival.

Saturday, Oct 5th, 10-6pm,
Art on the Avenue,
Mt. Vernon Ave, Alexandria, VA. Go see the rabbi at booth W 70 between Del Ray Ave and Custis Avenues.

Downtown DC Holiday Market
Friday, Dec 13th through Monday, Dec 23rd. 12-8pm everyday.
National Portrait Gallery/Smithsonian Museum of American Art on F Street between 7th and 9th Streets NW. This exceptional market features vendors changing every week and live music throughout the day.

You’ll also find Rabbi Blum’s works weekends at DC’s Eastern Market, which is still one of his favorite places in the country. It’s a food/art/craft/antique/flea market located at 7th St, SE on Capitol Hill. About 4-6 times a year, the rugged rabbi visits DC and makes cameo appearances at Eastern Market!

And, yes, he is still accepting holiday commissions!

jonathan blum portraits
285 5th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11215
By appointment and Sundays 12-6 pm
To find him: (917) 855-6564!


Goat Farm, oil on monoprint collage, 42″ x 42″ (2003).

Where does your compass lead you?

Where is your compass – physical, mental, emotional, financial, moral – pointing?

Back in the late Nineties, I worked for a company that managed U.S government projects in developing counties to increase their agricultural output – promoting export-led growth in countries where agriculture represented, and still does, the largest portion of economic activity and gross domestic product. Products like the quinoa on your supermarket shelf; once a nutritious staple for Andean folks who now can’t afford it or can’t buy it.

The company’s logo was a crude plowing field shaped into its corporate initials. As it grew, a designer revamped the logo into a stylized compass rose, which combined the creativity of a Spirograph design and the Arab influences of a region that would later produce a company president and chief financial officer.

The compass, with a big letter C, had a curiously placed little triangle pointing up – North. In development, North always seemed better. Post-industrial. Modern. Developed. The South, a host of isms and a proverbial game of catching up or leap frogging. Oddly this north-south distinction applied within Western economies where North is industrial, faster paced, progressive. The South, agrarian, traditional and slower paced in language and thinking.

About the same time I had undertaken a spiritual exercise in the first decade of new century, I had a rare opportunity to view a world map compiled in 1602 by Jesuit missionary to China, Matteo Ricci. Displayed at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, the 400-year-old map was being shown publicly for the first time in North America after fetching a purchase price of USD1 million, the second highest price ever paid for a rare map.

Ricci’s map included pictures and annotations describing different regions of the world; Africa is noted to have the world’s highest mountain and longest river. North America mentions “humped oxen” or bison, wild horses and a region named “Ka-na-ta.” Ricci was the first Westerner to visit what is now Beijing in the late 1500s. Known for introducing Western science to China, Ricci created the map at the request of Emperor Wanli.

The map measured 12 feet by 5 feet and was printed on six rolls of rice paper.It showed Florida as “the Land of Flowers.” For the first time, China was placed at the center of the world map – thus displacing Jerusalem and the Holy Land from their primacy.

Later, after joining a global men’s organization championing integrity, accountability and self-awareness, I became acutely aware of the importance of the compass as each session of our group peer counseling began with the NEWS: a physical and verbal recounting of the multicultural importance of the cardinal points. In opposition to each other. East is East and West is West and never the twain…

And now in every man”s hero or warrior journey, does North-South axis represent highest and lowest points of journey and East-West the separation of the ordinary and special world of the journey?


Erotic energy and male figurative art

The naked and the nude.

Langage cru. Langage cuit.

Is today’s man threatened or aroused by erotic depictions of the male form?

The Vitruvian Gallery in Washington DC, addresses the need of male and erotic energy in a one-of-a-kind space for artists to draw, paint and show uninhibited and primal works.

In SMUT, the gallery’s current show, Pennsylvania-born graphic artist J. Eric Goines showcases his academic training. Yet he reveals himself as slightly pervy painter and sketch artist.

The one-man show features Goines’s recent oeuvre, which culminates a year-long project working with the Vitruvian Gallery Men’s Sketch Group and the NDG, also based in the Vitruvian Gallery space.

Goines’s passionate paintings and drawings of the male form draw from the classic and erotic vernacular, revealing his energetic closeness to the model.

Voyeurism, fantasy role-playing and fetish-gear rule in a world of idealized bears and musclemen — topics featured in the African-American artist’s blog, “Sex. Politics. Art. Cuisine.” In a digital age of manipulation and mechanical and technological reproduction – as Walter Benjamin called it – artists such as Goines are going back to basics: the beauty of the male form, paper, charcoal, pencil and ink.

The work is a raw yet depicts DC models by an artist who honed his skills drawing at the gallery almost every week.

Goines is a “wonderful man,” says Vitruvian Gallery owner Larry Hall “and an important part of our sketch sessions…he makes it to every session he can, sometimes twice per week.”

Regardless of model type or physique, Goines gets some great drawings from poses lasting 20 minutes or less.

Find out for yourself what happens when the artist defies studio conventions and see Goines experiment with the titillating question, “What if model and artist were both naked?”

Opening reception:

September 21, 2013
4:00-10:00 pm
Vitruvian Gallery
734 7th street SE, Second Floor Washington DC
Metro: Eastern Market


Planning: a tool that’s right for you

Planning is an extraordinary tool.

Yet it often takes a lot of effort in the initial phase since you are basically starting to “initialize,” “reprogram” or “reboot” your brain to respond with behaviors that move you closer to your goals.

Imagine if every self-help, motivational and diet book came with an easy goal plan to do whatever’s recommended in the book, you would be a better manager, employee, people-person, entrepreneur, leader, leaner, thinner, healthier and better dressed, groomed, grounded and balanced.

Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson, author of Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals and “Nine Things Successful People Do Differently,” the most popular and commented on Harvard Business Review blog post in 2011, suggests contingency or if/then planning – is a successful way to reach your goals.

Connecting the if – situation you’re going to act on – and the then – specific action you’re going to take – duplicate the language of the brain, “if z, then y.”

When added to SMARTER goals, contingency planning contributes to succeeding in short-term goals and establishing a foundation for other successes.

How do you define success?

Why are you pursuing the goals you are pursuing?

How are your goals really satisfying your basic human needs for belonging (relatedness), competence and autonomy?

Let Joe the Life Coach help you with transitions, important life aspirations and goal planning! One step at a time. Call 202.328.7414, Skype to sandpdc or tweet @aprayerdc.