Unlock Your Life
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by Al Louis Ripskis
Author of Cutting Loose - From Rat Race to Dream Lifestyles and
Unlock Your Life - Using Breakthrough Discoveries in Brain Science & Psychology
Book-in-Progress, with the working title: Maximize the Life You Got!

To get a reply click Ask, summarize your problem, put LIFESTYLE EXPERT on Subject line in caps.

Dear Lifestyle Expert:
Okay, Al, for all I’ve read about you, you appear to be the world’s foremost lifestyle expert. And if you satisfactorily answer my question, I’ll jump on the bandwagon of your many admirers.
     I’ve moved to Washington, D.C. recently and find myself being sucked into the Washington workaholic culture: all work and no play. Now I’m not by temperament a workaholic, but my boss has made it clear that if I expect to advance, or even hold my job, she expects me work the same ungodly number of ours that my colleagues are putting in. What are my viable options? And don’t tell me find another job in DC – this is a workaholic town through and through.

Whether you decide to stay in DC or move elsewhere, the best way to beat the workaholic culture is to establish your own business. Become an entrepreneur. Now don’t get me wrong. Initially it's not going to be easy. I know: I work for SCORE as an entrepreneurial counselor. In the beginning, when you're establishing your enterprise you may have to put in as many or more hours than you are doing now. The big payoff comes in the long run: you are your own boss and eventually you can hire others to do the work, while you can play, travel or do anything else you’ll like.
     But get into something you enjoy doing. So that even if you have to put in the hours, it will be enjoyable and more like play than work. For true stories/case studies of how people did just that, you can order my book,

Book Titles

Dear Lifestyle Expert:
I liked the advice you gave to the people seeking guidance for picking the best cruises. Now what about us who find air travel to be intolerable. You know the problems, so there is no point in repeating them. If you are such a hotshot lifestyle expert, what do you have to tell us?

Four things: pick the right airlines, learn how to travel with a carry-on bag only, bring along a light, all-purpose notebook computer, and always have a Plan B. For details click Beating the Air Travel Gridlock.

Dear Lifestyle Expert:
Since the weather has been turning lousy, I crave to get away to soak up some sun. I’ve always wanted to go on a dream cruise or tour, but never did, because I never knew how to go about finding one. Do you know of any real great places to visit? Can you give me some pointers and recommendations? Any bargains out there? I’ll be most grateful.

Dear Lifestyle Expert. HELP!
One kid, a real hellion, ruined my last cruise. I would like to go on another cruise. But Al, you’re the lifestyle expert, how can I find a cruise that I'll enjoy and avoid the unpleasantness?

Yours and many similar inquiries prompts me to take a closer look into how to find your dream cruise while avoid getting burned. Due to the continuing overcapacity of the cruise ship industry, there are a lot of bargains to be had. So the short answer is: Get very clear on exactly what you're after. Is it adventure? Romance? Fun? Relaxation and unwinding? Change of pace? New scenery?
    Then choose the cruise line that is likely to meet your core objectives. Think structure, demographics and geography:
    Do you have the patience to tolerate long lines and waits? Are you okay with being one among thousands on a huge ship? Or is a sailing ship with a relative small number of people aboard more to your tastes? Who do you want for your sailing companions? Singles, marrieds, old, young, with or without kids? What places do you want to visit most? To check out the various cruise lines and the reviews by people who recently went on these cruises, go to sites such as CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews.
    Meanwhile, here are some places you might want to visit St. Thomas, Trinidad, and Barbados.

Dear Lifestyle Expert:
I have a question for you — what do you do about "too much to do and too little time???" Ha! Yes, Al, it's all GOOD stuff, it's all stuff I WANT to do. I really have cut back on my commitments, etc. But between work and school I'm really buried in "to do's" and I have a list of about 15 people I'm supposed to call... No joke!

Have you heard of the Pareto Principle: 80% of the value of all items is concentrated in merely 20 % of those items. Example: 20% of your clients generate 80% of your revenue. With that in mind, set up priorities and ruthlessly stick by them. And don't forget to reward yourself amply each day. That's why I call it the To Do & Reward Myself List.
        Now that’s the straight answer to your question. But maybe you enjoy and crave the excitement that over-commitment, disorganization and chaos generate. Or are you a consummate caregiver: feel obligated to meet other people’s needs, while neglecting your own. Bottom line: choose whether you want to be a Proactor and have active control of your life, or a Reactor who is bounced around by life, like a billiard ball.

Hello Al:
How do you stay on track? My life is filled with fabulous distractions...for instance, today in my neighborhood there is a festival, a no-miss event, but there's something like this in my city every other day. And a friend offered me a all expenses paid vacation to British Columbia... Just last week, another friend offered me a spot on a boat sailing the Bay Islands off Florida. And then there's family all around and graduations and new relationships popping up... And then of course there's the crappy stuff like paying bills, IRS audits, and legal hearings... It's nice to have so many choices, but how does one get a major project like writing a book done with all this living to do?

What you are really asking me here is: "How can I have it all?" The short answer, and from my own experience, is: Zen satori. Outside of that, the conundrum you describe – overfilled lives – applies to practically everyone these days.
The "practical" solution? Instead of a Reactor be a Proactor. Decide on two or three top passions in your life and focus on them.
You mention writing a book. Is that a top passion? I know people who just relished the “glamorous writer’s life,” so they can play the social butterfly game to the hilt. For such dilatants getting a ghostwriter may be the way to go.
But for serious writers, and all others who want to regain control of their lives, I advise ruthless lifestyle pruning. Remember the Pareto Principle: 80 per cent of the value of all items is concentrated in merely 20 per cent of those items. That applies to everything, including relationships. Get rid of parasitic relationships and all those wasteful activities that don’t give good returns on time and energy invested.
And I’m not talking here about taking monastic vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. One can live the good life and be focused. That, by the way, is the one thing most notable people through history have had in common — they focused their passions. To use a metaphor from Unlock Your Life, being a Proctor is shifting from a cafeteria patron to being your own chef in the game of life.

Dear Lifestyle Expert:
I'm one of the 129 million Americans who is part of the overweight epidemic, but who doesn't want to become one of the 112,000 who dies prematurely each year as a result of overweight. That common refrain applies to me: I tried practically every diet and weight reduction and loss scheme out there, and it didn’t work. Oh, I did lose some weight initially, but eventually I regained it and then some more. I'm getting desperate, to the point of seriously considering bariatric, by-pass surgery. Should I go ahead with it?

Healthy weight management is not about diets, weight reduction plans or bariatric surgery — it's about living an enjoyable, healthy lifestyle. There are nine keys to achieving such a lifestyle. See Managing Weight Effectively. If you're overweight, the chances are that food has become the dominant source of pleasure for you. And the solution is not to reduce but actually increasing the total amounts of daily pleasure you get. But you need to shift the sources of your daily pleasures — from food to other means. You didn't tell me what your Body Mass Index is. Have you had a complete physical work-up to rule out genetic and bio-chemical factor? Bariatric surgery is usually a measure of last resort.

Hello Lifestyle Expert:
I have been trying to quit smoking for years and have tried and learned so many things in this process that I could probably teach a class in it — that is if I could successfully quit! In taking a personal inventory I realized for myself it had little to do with willpower. If I can't smoke, I don't want to wake up in the morning. Cigs makes all I have to do each day, o.k. I was encouraged by what I saw in the Web preview of your book, Unlock Your Life — the same idea I had come to on my own. I will be buying your book and thank you for helping the public help themselves!

You have come up with a critical realization that most people haven’t accepted yet — that one can’t rely on willpower to beat the nicotine addiction, manage weight effectively or make other major lifestyle changes.
        National Institute of Drug Abuse research reveals that of the 35 million smokers who attempt to quit smoking each year, “less than 7 percent ... achieve more than 1 year of abstinence; most relapse within a few days of attempting to quit.”
        Smoking, like overeating and alcohol abuse, is deeply ingrained within our brain’s powerful rewards pathways. It’s a losing proposition to attempt to override these extraordinarily powerful reward pathways through willpower and self-deprivation, as the 35 million smokers who tried to quit smoking found out the hard way, or the 129 million overweight Americans — part of the overweight epidemic — who continue to struggle with weight management unsuccessfully.
        Bottom line: Working against your reward pathways by depriving them is counterproductive. Applying “Reward Pathway Jujitsu” and rewarding yourself wholesomely are critical for shedding unwelcome habits and living a richer life. Specifically see “Replacing the Nicotine Addiction” in Unlock Your Life: a step-by-step Action Plan for beating the nicotine addiction while enriching your lifestyle.

Dear Lifestyle Expert:
I’m among the millions who is unemployed, and who has been actively searching for a job for the past 6 months. My situation is somewhere between bleak to desperate. This has been the worst period of my life. I networked and sent out tons of resumes, and have had only two live interviews. Fortunately we have been able to meet the mortgage payments so far, from my wife’s part-time job and from our meager financial cushion, which is about to run dry. Help! The wolf is at the door.

Many people have told me that a crisis, such as yours forced them to "stop coasting,” and has been one of the best things that ever happened. It forced them to stop being reactors and come to grips with what they really wanted to do with their lives.
        That's why I won't give you advice on how to find another job, because what makes you think you won’t be eventually downsized from that job as well? Read about the person below, who was downsized 4 times in 5 years. The real question that you have to address first is: "What would I like to do and how do I want live for the rest of my life?" Then, what is your total financial situation? What are your family assets, debts, potential obligations and retirement prospects? Any children of college-age or younger? By the way, just remember that there is nothing in their birth certificate that obligates you to put them through college. The notion that every child needs to go to college is patently absurd. Take a good look at how the Paul and Linda Jauncey in Cutting Loose, chapter 3, educated their children, while sailing their 43-foot boat from England to Australia. Also, remember that the richest entrepreneur of our age, Bill Gates, dropped out of college.
        After you pull together all the pertinent facts, family powwow may be in order. But be prepared to get out of the box. Conduct a brainstorming session. What if you sold your home, pulled out your equity and moved into an apartment? To further help spark options, read how the other two-dozen people profiled in Cutting Loose found their dreams and downsize-proofed themselves in the process.
        I realize that when you’re facing a potential mortgage foreclosure, that what I have just suggested might sound like I’m telling the guy who is up to his armpits fighting alligators that he should have drained the swamp. But you'll have to to deal with these underlying issues eventually, unless you want to be fighting those alligators for the rest of your life. And now you have more incentive than ever to do it.

Dear Lifestyle Expert:
I've been downsized from 4 jobs in the last 5 years. And I have had it. How do I regain control over my life?

You certainly have plenty of company. Millions of Americans have been downsized since 1979 and are in the same boat as you. More people dread losing their careers, pensions and homes, and winding up in near-minimum wage, dead-end jobs for the rest of their lives, than they fear al Qaeda. To get an acute sense of what it's like working at such a job click on Staples, where I share my actual experience. To find out how two dozen people got control of their lives by quitting the rat race and downsize-proofed themselves, see Cutting Loose - From Rat Race to Dream Lifestyles. And you can start by clicking on the "Introduction: The American Dream Is Dead! Long Live the New American Dream!"

Dear Lifestyle Expert:
I've read both of your books, Cutting Loose and Unlock Your Life. Both have such a wealth of information that a friend recent stumped me when she asked me to explain to her the books’ basic themes. Can you help me out?

Gladly. I thought you'd never ask. Cutting Loose: You don't have to be rich or famous to discover and live your dream lifestyle and downsize-proof yourself in the process. The two-dozen normal, ordinary people like you and me, whom I profiled in that book, demonstrate how they did it, and how you can do it as well.
Unlock Your Life: Becoming a Proactor is critical. Then, by using the latest discoveries in brain science and psychology, and getting out of the self-deprivation, “no-pain, no-gain” mind-set, you can shed undesirable habits and implement your dream lifestyle pleasurably.

Al Ripskis:
Just what qualifies you to be a Lifestyle Expert?

Twenty years of surveying, interviewing and helping thousands of people transform their lives. Not as some detached, theory-bound academic, but as an active participant who lived many of the lives I profiled in my books. When I advise people on how to find their dream lifestyles, downsize-proof, lose and keep off weight, quit smoking or deal with depression, ennui and being stuck, I also share my own experiences: how I personally dealt with these situations in my own life. For more information click Meet the Author. The Lifestyle Research Questionnaire, has been the keystone of my research. Cutting Loose – From Rat Race to Dream Lifestyles and Unlock Your Life – Using Breakthrough Discoveries in Brain Science and Psychology are the results.

Dear Lifestyle Expert:
It seems that the crux — the sine qua non — the indispensable ingredient of your system for change is being a Proactor. But which comes first the chicken or the egg? If a person were a Proactor already would he or she still need your system?

You got it right on the first count: one needs to become a Proactor to achieve permanent lifestyle changes. But that is just the beginning. Getting past the defenses that keep one stuck in an undesirable lifestyle is the next step (Chapter 1). And by the way, getting from a Reactor or Victim to a Proactor isn't such a big deal once you learn how your brain really functions ("The Modular Brain: How Our Minds Really Work," Chapter 3) and use the Cortical Integration process (Chapter 7) to make the transformation.

                                                        Copyright © 2010 Al Louis Ripskis

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