1. Avoid Temptation.

In the Renaissance, Magdalen Herbert used to say that "as our bodies take in nourishment" from the food we eat, so our souls are nourished by our daily activities. Nurture your inner life by limiting exposure to consumerism:

• Cut down on aimless shopping. Don't wander through shopping malls for recreation.

• Make a list of what you need. Group errands together to spend less time shopping.

• Stop watching commercials.

• Stop reading mail-order catalogs.

• Stay off Internet shopping sites.

2. Stop Measuring Yourself by Others' Standards.

Honor your own needs and values. Don't let people's demands control you. Letting others tell you who you 'should' be traps you in endless rounds of draining behavior. Take a cue from William Shakespeare. Enjoy your friends' company but don't waste time in mindless socializing. Living excessively, many Renaissance dramatists never reached their prime, dying in their late twenties or early thirties. Christopher Marlowe was reportedly killed in a tavern brawl and Robert Greene died from gluttony and alcoholism, while Shakespeare enjoyed his friends but also honored his gifts, balancing his life with time to write. Like Shakespeare, you are a creative original with your own unique gifts, here to share your life with others, not surrender to them.

3. Don't Keep Doing Something if You've Outgrown It.

Throughout this book, you will read about Renaissance men and women who knew a valuable secret: throughout the changing seasons of our lives, the only way to make room for new growth is to 'prune' away activities that no longer serve us.

Has something you once enjoyed become an obligation?

If this activity is only draining time and energy from your life, STOP doing it. Free up time for what you really care about.

4. Stop Hurrying.

Rushing is an epidemic in our culture. People dash off to work at 'rush hour,' react to one deadline and demand after another, and race through their days with what meditation teacher Eknath Easwaran has called the "hurry sickness." Rushing puts our bodies and minds into chronic stress, depleting our energy, undermining our health, and making us less effective. According to research in the Harvard Business Review, rushing undermines your creativity.

As you release unnecessary activities, you will have less reason to rush from one thing to the next. But because — your body has become accustomed to running in high gear, downshifting takes conscious effort. Whenever you catch yourself hurrying, tell yourself to SLOW DOWN. Take a deep breath, release it, and look around. Take another deep breath, release it, and return to your activities at a more natural pace.

5. Go On a Media Diet.

The average American watches at least four hours of television a day, nearly thirty hours a week. We turn on car radios or stereos automatically, and many people walk around 'plugged in' to cell phones and iPods. When do we listen to our own thoughts?

Studies have shown that the more TV we watch, the lower our morale and self-worth, and that excessive use of screen technologies — TV, videos, and the lnternet — can damage children's developing brains. Parent Coaching Institute founder and CEO Gloria DeGaetano advises parents to limit children's screen time and encourage more reading, play, exercise, and exploration.

Cutting down on distractions means exercising control over your environment, choosing whether to turn on your radio, TV, stereo, and other media or enjoy silence and communion with your own thoughts. Each household needs to set its own limits. Some of my friends have raised their children with no TV in the house. Others set limits on TV time and spend one night a week doing something together as a family. My husband and I keep our small TV in the closet and take it out only when we want to watch something.

6. Deal with Unfinished Business.

Unfinished business (UB) nags at you, prevents clarity, blocks your creativity, and fills your mind with clutter that churns around incessantly. Getting UB down on paper will get it out of your mind while helping you take positive action.

• Make a UB list. List each item of UB and one action you can take to address it. For example:

— Repair the garden gate: get parts at the hardware store.

• Sign up for Pilates class: call the community center.

• Get a birthday gift for a friend: visit an art supply store.

• Check your list daily, updating it by reviewing what needs to be done, recording actions and completions.

• Mark off each completed action with a check mark and date of completion.

• Recognize that you don't have to do everything. Cancel some UB you decide not to pursue with an X and your decision date.

This list will help clear your mind while keeping track of what needs to be done. It also creates forward momentum. I often find myself spontaneously taking action to complete a UB, then checking it off the next time I look at my list.

7. Eliminate Energy Drains, people or situations that exhaust you and pull you away from what you really care about.

• Draining Relationships. When you're around energy drains, you feel exhausted by their crises, chaos, and demands. These people invade your boundaries and lay their urgent problems at your feet, dragging you away from your own chosen path.

• Draining Activities. Energy-draining activities such as envy, excessive interest in other people's business, and gossip can be harmful to others while wasting your time, draining your energy, and blocking your creative growth. This week, begin noticing what drains your energy and take action.

• Set healthy boundaries. You are here to fulfill your destiny, not become a receptacle for chronic complaints. When someone launches into a litany of complaints, ask, "What are you going to do about it?" change the subject, or curtail the conversation.

• Don't get caught up in envy. It can poison your mind. If you find yourself envying someone else's accomplishments, tell yourself, "That's great that ____ did that. I can fulfill my dreams, too."

• Don't gossip. It's amazing how much time we spend talking about others, usually unfavorably. Make it a point not to talk about other peoples' business. When someone tries to engage you in gossip, change the subject; ask how that person is doing instead.

Diane Dreher in Your Personal Renaissance