How To Write Your Personal Manifesto

What is a Personal Manifesto?

A Personal Manifesto is list of what you believe and value. It’s not necessarily who you are now, or how you live your life now.

But it is your line in the sand. It’s the definitive statement of what you stand for, what you believe, and where you refuse to compromise.

It doesn’t have to be long. The shorter the better. Maybe 10 things.

Your Manifesto is the place where you say: Here is a written list of the qualities I value in people and the world. This is the kind of person I wish to become. I may not be there yet, but this is what I’m aiming for. 

How to Write Your Personal Manifesto.

Take out your notebook. The same one you’re keeping your Things I Love and Things I Hate lists and your Piles.

Give yourself an hour and scribble down some answers to the following questions:

1. Who do I admire?

2. What do I admire in the people I admire?

3. What do I admire in the marketplace as a consumer of goods and services?

4. What 1 or 2 qualities do I have that I wish my children, friends, or colleagues had?

5. How do I feel when I feel seen?

6. What makes me feel safe, secure and appreciated?

7. How do I want to show up in the world; how do I want to be seen?

8. How do I want to express?

9. How do I want to be known?

10. What do I want to be known for?

11. What would be the best thing someone could say about me in a eulogy?

List out all the qualities you admire in other people. Think back to a time when you felt seen and appreciated and remember what that felt like. Write it all down.

What kind of reputation do you want to have? What kind of legacy do you want to leave?

After you finish these questions, you will know a lot about who you are and what you stand for for.

Now look at your answers to these questions and pick out the qualities you want to emulate.

For example, say your answer to question number 3, “What do I value in the marketplace?” was, “I value reliability and courtesy.”

You might then make these qualities part of your Manifesto if you really feel strongly about them.

Be reliable

Be courteous

What if you answered Number 10 with, “I want to be known as someone who is open-minded and interested in lots of things.”

You could then add,

Be open-minded

Be interested

to your Manifesto.

These statements don’t have to be long. In fact, the shorter the better. And there don’t have to be tons of them. Maybe only 10 things.

Because your Manifesto is describing the way you want to be, not necessarily who you are yet, try to put the word “Be”  at the beginning of each item. Pretend you’re pep-talking yourself.

“Kath, be patient,” or, “I want to be patient.”

Make those statements into Manifesto statements by just taking the words, “I want to” out.

Be patient.

Here is my Manifesto.

Be human

Be calm

Be mindful

Make conscious choices

Seek flow

Extend your abilities

Engage with the world

Be kind

Express gratitude

Risk vulnerability

Restore yourself

You’ll notice that mine don’t all start with  “Be,” but they all start with a verb, or an action word like: make, seek, extend, engage, express, risk.

You’ll also note that each one is really SHORT. No full sentences. No details. This is really important because the shorter you make these statements, the easier they’ll be to remember.

You want each thing on your list to remind you to do something.

You want each thing to trigger an action.

It’s called a Manifesto because it’s what you want to manifest; it’s how you want to show up in the world.

Your Personal Manifesto is series of commands to yourself. It’s you telling yourself, reminding yourself, how you want to be.

Then Hang It Up

It’s really important to post this Manifesto somewhere in your house.


Because if you forget who you are, you can instantly refresh your memory. We all forget who we are constantly. We all make mistakes constantly because we are constantly forgetting what we believe and what we stand for. That’s why it’s so important to have this stuff written down and posted somewhere.

Also, if it’s posted in your house and you live with others, they’ll be able to read it too, and know who you are, what you stand for, and who you are striving to be.

Then, when you get into an argument, you can just say, “Refer to number 3 on my Manifesto” and save yourself a lot of explaining.

They might challenge you on it, or even call you on your shit, but that’s good.  Whenever you have to defend it, it becomes stronger.

Also: It’s very good to have people around who point out when they see you falling out of integrity. It’s not necessarily pleasant, but it keeps you honest in a good way. And if you  have children, it’s especially good for them to know what you stand for. Clarity breeds understanding and peace in the home.

If you are comfortable with it, it would also be good to hang a copy of your Manifesto where you work. Put a framed copy on your desk. It will act as a subtle reminder to you of who you are, especially if you tend to fall out of integrity at work.

My Manifesto is hanging in my dining room at home and at my yoga studio. (I also have printed it in black marker on my yoga mat!)

The day I wrote it, I was on a mini-retreat in Ithaca, NY and had taken this picture with my iPhone of my tea cup on the windowsill of the place I was staying.


Then I used the Over app to superimpose my Manifesto onto that photo.


When I showed the resulting picture to G, she really liked it and took it to Walmart and had it mounted. This is how It looks hanging in our dining room:


I encourage you to do something like this. Write your Manifesto and hang it on the wall proudly.

What do you love? What don’t you love?

Okay, now I’m excited.

The blogger John, from Stories in the Struggle posted a Love/Hate Challenge. The deal is that you list 10 things you love and 10 things you hate, and then ask all of your readers and followers to do the same. I’m in, John!

This is the core exercise of my book. Making and keeping up these 2 lists was the  key to figuring out who I was, and what I needed to be doing in the world. I write about lists A LOT on this blog. A recent post about how you are what you love, can be found HERE. I think this is the very best thing a person can do. Because when you notice what you love and what you don’t love, in the noticing you are paying attention to your life.

And when you pay attention to your life, you discover who you are. It’s freaking magical.

Things I love (in no particular order)

  • Cedar waxwings
  • Sinking down farther and farther into the sand with each incoming wave.
  • The little spit sink and cup at the dentist.
  • Office supply stores.
  • Marching bands.
  • Ironing
  • A great white shirt
  • Unplowed snow
  • Pudding
  • Fountain pens.

Go here for a more comprehensive comprehensive list of all the things I love.

Things I hate (in no particular order)

  • Vacuuming
  • Inserts in magazines that either fall out, or you have to rip them out to read in peace.
  • Plastic cutlery
  • The warm feeling of dog poop through the plastic bag.
  • Parallel parking
  • Styro packing peanuts
  • February
  • Mother’s Day
  • The cereal at the bottom of the box.
  • The phrase “poster child.”

Go here for a more comprehensive list of all things I don’t love.

I am so amped to know what is on the lists of the people who read this blog! I hope lots of you will play.

Thanks, John!

The Top 10 Reasons I Am Grateful It Is Still Winter in March

The robins are back. The redwing blackbirds returned today. But there is still snow on the ground, and I am still wearing my down coat, and down gloves, and a wool hat.  The temps are not going above 40 degrees for the foreseeable future. The lake is still frozen.

Everyone is talking about it. Everyone is complaining and calling it the “unendurable winter.” Since we don’t live in Florida, we are allowed to say “climate change” and a lot of people are saying it.

So I decided to try to come up with 10 Reasons to be happy that it still winter. I enlisted G in this game, and here is our list.

1. We are saving a lot of money on sunscreen.

2. We can stay in the hot tub all night and not get “too hot.”

3. We have no guilt in indulging in Netflix marathons of “House of Cards.”

4. There is no hurry to go into storage and drag out the capris and the t-shirts and put away the sweaters.

5. Neither of us have finished our winter books, so we can sit by the fire and read without the pressure of feeling we should be doing something outside.

6. We both hate taking the cover off the AC unit and there is no reason to do that.

7.  Shoveling is great functional exercise.

8. Everyone knows you burn more calories shivering than sweating.

9. There are no mosquitos or  bugs.

10. We don’t have to worry yet about exposing our less-than-ready swim suit bodies.

What else can you think of?

Add in the comments. I’d love to hear!

We are what we love.

We are what we love. It’s as simple as that. If we do the things we love, we show our real selves to the world. If we show our real selves to the world, that will give us the best shot at living a happy life.

So try it.

Start making a list of all the things you love.

Include everything: people, places, states of mind, activities, food and drink, objects, times and seasons, nature and senses.

Nothing is too trivial.  If you love it, list it.

Dryer lint.

The little spit sink at the dentist.

Mallow cups.

Getting a letter in the mail.

The more things on the list, the better. Get subtle. Get nuanced:

Looking down at the ground from a plane.

The faces of kids in line to see Santa.

The smell of viburnums.

List it all out. List out at least 100 things. Keep the list on your phone and add to it as you think of more and more things. Add to this list for your whole life.

List out all the things you dislike or hate, too:


Parallel parking.


Try to get at least 50 things on this list. We are also the things we don’t like.

Why do this?

Because when you know what you love, you know who you are. You have self-knowledge. This self-knowledge allows you to make conscious choices about who you hang out with, what you do for work, and how you recreate.

If you know you love the outdoors and talking face-to-face with people (because you have these on your list) you’re less likely to take a cubicle job in a call center. You might not know what your ideal job is, but at least you won’t make that mistake.

Your list can function as your “true north.” You can consult it whenever you feel bewildered, or have to to make thorny decisions.

It is incredibly helpful to have a printed list of who you are, because even though we think we know these things, we forget. Then we get lost. And then we make really big mistakes from this lack of self-knowledge.

Mistakes which might have been avoided if we had just consulted our list. It’s like forgetting to get the milk because  you thought you’d remember. You should have put it on the list, dummy.

We frequently forget that we are a complex composite of all the random and incongruent things we love. We forget that if we want to be happy, we can’t forget the milk.

If our friends and our work and our fun activities are all aligned with the things we love, that is our best shot at being happy.

That’s why we need to put it on the list.  So we’ll remember.

list pic

13 Things You Should Get Rid of in 2012

I have started thinking about New Year’s Resolutions lately. Not that I am going to make any, but I am thinking about things that I would like to do, or see happen in the coming 12 months. Mostly I think of adding things to my life when I think of changing it, but sometimes it’s more interesting to think about getting rid of things.

I think I have managed to get rid of most of the following 13 things from my life for the most part, but it’s always good to be reminded of what does not serve. I really think that that these things Have. Got. To. Go.

1. The extra 13 pounds you gained during the holidays (and before). Fewer cookies, more cardio.

2. Grouchy people.  Get rid of them. If you are married to them or they are your children or your relatives you are going to have a hard time with this one.  One thing I do with grouchy, negative people is laugh at them.  Yeah.  A grump pretty much hates not being taken seriously and will avoid you or move out of your vicinity if you make light of their situation.

3.  Get rid of dirt, grime, filth.  Clean your space. Throw stuff out. Get a dumpster if that’s what it will take. Do this. It’s important to your mental health.

4. Get rid of your fear of hard work, fear of success, fear of failure, and of all the other scary (non-existent) monsters under the bed. Stop procrastinating.

5. Get rid of the idea that you are going to live forever, or that you are probably going to die at a very old age and that you still have a lot of time left to get your act together.  You don’t.  The days are long, but the years are short.  Make things happen.  Now.  Don’t defer doing what you always wanted to do.

6. Get rid of the idea that only big things count.  Everything counts, and just like Mother Teresa said, we can’t do great things, only small things with great love.  Get rid of the idea that there are “small things that don’t count.”  The smallest little act of kindness or consideration counts.

7. Get rid of the need to be thanked or appreciated for anything.  People don’t write thank-you notes any more.  (When was the last time you wrote one?) So don’t work for the nod. Do your job, or whatever you do, because you want to do it and derive pleasure from just doing it.  Nobody is going to give you a trophy just because you played, or tried your best.  Life isn’t Little League.  Stop expecting praise.

8. Get rid of laziness.  Start by never admitting that you feel lazy even when you do.  Never say the word lazy.  Banish it from your vocabulary.  Don’t call anyone else lazy either.  Lazy does not exist anymore.  Get rid of the whole idea of it.

9. Get rid of bored, too.  Once you’re past age 3, there is no excuse for bored. Once you realize that you are going to die some day, there is no more “bored.” Never be bored.  Bored is just a form of lazy and we kicked that one to the curb in number 8.

10. Get rid of all your slovenly health habits.  Really people, floss.  I’m serious about this. Brushing your teeth doesn’t count.  Brushing your teeth doesn’t do a damn thing except make your mouth feel pretty.  There’s still garbage dumps worth of crap between each tooth.  Floss.

11. Get rid of other bad habits, too. Like eating on the run, or in front of the TV or computer.  Eat as much as you want, just don’t do anything else while you’re doing it and then just watch as those 13 pounds we talked about in number 1 disappear.

12. Get rid of anger.  Stop getting angry. It doesn’t help you or the person you’re angry with.  Ever.  Instead, develop your non-violent communication skills. There is a book that will help with this.  Get it, and start learning how to think in terms of identifying your needs and trying to get them met with the help of others.  And if you can’t?  Give up on them.  Seriously.  Take my word for this.

13. Get rid of complaining.  Complaining makes you a living breathing crap magnet.  Don’t complain anymore and walk away (actually, run) from chronic complainers.  If they don’t have an audience they’ll stop.  They really will. You can even try making a game of this. This book tells you how.

And finally (this one is just for me), Get rid of your need to hand out unsolicited advice or  tell people what they should get rid of on your blog.

It’s annoying.

5 Things To Do While You Figure Out What You Want to Be When You Grow Up

I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up until I was 51 years old.

When I finally found “my thing” it wasn’t the thing I thought it would be, and it certainly wasn’t anything anyone would ever pay me to do.  But by that point, I didn’t really care about money.  All I really wanted was to know.  I wanted to know finally, definitively, and without a doubt what I was put on this earth to do, before I left it.

The day it dawned on me, the day I figured it out, that was the day I discovered such a deep, rich vein of contentment, happiness and stability within myself that I’ve been feeding off of it ever since.

Now I’m growing and evolving and learning to play this game of life for some really serious points.  No more dinking around. No more hand-wringing and wondering.  And what a relief it is, let me tell you.

When you finally know what you want to be when you grow up, this rock-solid self-knowledge allows you to even “settle” and take a job “just for money,” without any qualms, because you finally know what your real work is, and you don’t have to worry about being mistaken for a checker at Wegman’s, for instance, or a barista at some coffee joint.   If people ask you what you do for a living, you can tell them your job title, but then add, “But what I really am is a (fill in the blank here) which in my case was “a writer and a teacher of yoga.”  And smile.


Soon after I became certified to teach yoga at age 51, I found a little space to rent, just to see if I could get anyone to practice with me. It was a risk, for sure, but now, miraculously, I have a sweet little studio and every week a whole bunch of people come and practice with me. I’ve been consistently making the rent doing what I was put on this earth to do for the last 7 years.

Before I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up though, I must have read every book written about how to find your “vocation” or “calling.”  But it wasn’t until I started actually doing things, these 5 practices specifically, and doing them consistently, even religiously, over the course of a few years, that everything started to fall into place.

These practices will give you that all-important “self-knowledge” I was talking about. And I guarantee, you won’t find your vocation until you gain some measure of that.

So, if you still don’t have a clue about what you’re supposed to be doing with this “one wild and precious life” of yours, start with these 5 things.  They were the keys that unlocked everything for me.

1. Make Lists

Actually, 2 lists. In the first one, list all the things you Love/like.  In the second one, all the things you Hate/dislike.

Why do this? Because the act of listing these things will bring you into sharp focus. You might not know what you want to be when you grow up yet, but at least if someone asks: “Who do you think you are?! At the very least you’ll be able to say, “Well, I am a person who prefers chocolate over vanilla, and baths over showers.”

I keep my lists on  That way I can edit them and even share them with others if I want.  You can check out my “Likes” list here. And my “Dislikes” list here.  Remember too, that your lists are an ongoing project and will evolve and change over time, just like you, so keep adding to, and subtracting from them as you think of things.

2.  Play A Daily Game of Freeze Tag

Remember Freeze Tag? If someone tagged you, you had to stand like a statue until someone “unfroze” you?  Yeah. So here’s what you do: you take a timer and set it for 10 minutes.  Sit down in a chair and don’t move a muscle for 10 minutes.  When the timer goes off, you’re “unfrozen.”  If you do this every day, you will know what you want to be when you grow up very, very soon.  Some people call this “meditation” but you don’t have to.  Just sit down, shut up, and don’t move for 10 minutes (minimum) every day.

3. Make More Time For Stuff You Like To Do.

(Unless the stuff you like to do involves passively staring at screens.) Watching football on TV, or playing on Facebook doesn’t count.  Make less time for screen-staring, and spend more time building a rock garden, or an ultralight plane in your garage. Sew a quilt or write a novel. Make a complicated new recipe or train your dog for an agility competition.  It doesn’t matter if nobody will ever pay you a dime to do this stuff, if you love to do it, you need to build in some serious time in your life to do it.  Don’t neglect what you love.  Remember: What you love is who you are.

4. Find a Body Practice You Can Do Consistently, And Do It.

Run, walk, do tai chi, practice yoga, bike, hike, swim–it doesn’t matter. Just make sure it’s something you can do in all kinds of weather, and without a lot of equipment, and without a partner.  You don’t have to do it every day, just most days.

5. Streak Something.

Find something you can do every day and do it.  Build a streak.  You might even make your body practice your “streak thing,” thus taking care of # 4 and #5 in one fell swoop. I have had “yoga streaks” and “workout streaks” and “writing streaks” and “meditation streaks.” I have a 103 day writing streak going on at this very moment.  Doing something every day, no matter how small, insignificant or silly it might seem, builds stamina and endurance and discipline. It will make you proud of yourself.  It will make you stable.  And when the streak ends (which it will, inevitably), you can start all over again, or streak something else.

It wasn’t until I started making and tending my lists, sitting still every day, carving out time for the things I loved to do, moving my body, and building up long streaks of discipline, that it all  fell into place for me.

I wish I had started doing this stuff sooner. It would have spared me a lot of “path errors” and saved me thousands of dollars in books. You should really try it, especially if you are still wondering who you are, and what you are going to do with this “one wild and precious life” of yours.

If you start today and keep at it, I’ll bet in less than a year, you’ll know what you want to be when you grow up.  And when you do, write and tell me what it is, okay? I’d love to hear.

(This is a short excerpt from a book I am working on called “How To Win The “Well-Lived Life” Badge For Your Tombstone or Urn.”))

What I Believe (a partial list)

My all-consuming project these past few months is this Manual of Me I’ve been putting together.  The idea behind this is something akin to Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations in which he wrote down things in order to keep reminding himself of what he believed, what he stood for.  His Meditations were never meant to be published, but to be a place where he would write, and by writing, practice himself.

What I find happening with me, is that I know things about how I am, and how I roll, and what cures me when I get whacked out, but I tend to forget these things.

I know who I am and what I stand for, but sometimes…I forget.  Thus, the need for The Manual.

Today I uncovered a piece I started a while ago that desperately needs to be added to. It’s an “I believe” exercise I did for Zee.  I think it’s something that’s important to do, and to keep doing…  So here it is, a work in progress:

I believe…

I believe the key to a vibrant life is kale.

I believe in stories. I believe I can change mine.

I believe I can only go as far forward as there are people standing behind me.

I believe travel transforms.

I believe that I am about 78% brave.

I believe in the power of the meditation cushion.

I believe in the power of persistence.

I believe in the power of expressed gratitude.

I believe in the wish-power of birthday candles.

I believe in the power of flowers.

I believe every day whispers a little secret in your ear and that’s why you need to meditate (so you can hear it).

I believe a long hot bath can cure anything.

I believe there should be a chilled bottle of champagne in the fridge at all times.

I believe work is the question.

I believe sleep is the answer.

I believe when you find happy, inspiring people you should move next door to them.

I believe if you step on a crack, nothing at all happens to your mother.

I believe if you walk long enough everything will figure itself out (solivtur ambulando).

I believe in the predictive powers of groundhogs.

I believe in holding hands.

(to be continued.)