The Eighth Annual Address Book Challenge

address book
What work could be waiting for you in your address book?

The Address Book Challenge

Every year at the beginning of the year, I like to challenge myself to look through my contacts list. This used to be a physical address book, but now I do it on my phone or computer. 

I like to do The Work of Byron Katie. It’s how I discover more about my own thinking and how I learn more peaceful ways of acting and being in this world. The challenge is to look for someone I could write a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on so I can do The Work. 

The Work is like looking in a mirror. You start by looking at someone else, and you end up seeing parts of yourself that you never saw before. 

Daily Life Provides Lots of Mirrors

Normally, I’m not digging through my address book to find people to do The Work on. Life gives me everything I need day-to-day, but sometimes I like to look in less obvious places. That’s why I enjoy the address book challenge.

Here’s how it works. I scan through my address book just looking at the names that I see. As I scan over each name I pay attention to the emotional barometer inside of me. Reading some names makes me feel happy, or full of love. Other names bring up fear, or anger, or a feeling of powerlessness. 

With other names, I don’t feel much of anything but I notice that I want speed up and pass over them quickly. Maybe there’s a little feeling of insecurity there. 

I Notice All of These Feelings ​

As I read, I pay attention to my internal experience. I may not read through my whole contact list, or maybe I will read through the whole thing once to get an overview. But at some point, I choose one person that is bringing up some kind of uncomfortable feeling. 

Note that sometimes I’ve actually deleted a person from my contact list but I know “they are still there.” It’s possible to use that person even if they no longer have a place in the actual contact list.

Once You Find a Person, Get Still for a Moment

What are the emotions that come up for you as you hold this person in your mind? What are the images and memories that come along with that name? This may not be comfortable to do as the old stressful emotions begin to surface.

Sometimes, I’ll write down what I’m finding free-form: the emotions, and the old situations and images from the past. This is the brainstorming phase. I’m just gathering all the emotional data that is coming up with this person. There may be many past situations that begin to surface for one person. I just write down whatever comes up.

Then, when the brainstorming is over, I pick one situation, maybe the one that holds me back the most from being peaceful with this person. And I write down the details of what happened in that situation, where it happened, what they did, etc.

And I Write a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on Them

I hold the stressful situation and write down all of my stressful thoughts about the person on a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet. Or if I’m feeling guilt or shame instead of blame, I’ll make a list of thoughts starting with “I should have…” or “I shouldn’t have…”

Either way, I end up with a list of stressful thoughts I can now question with the four questions and turnarounds of The Work. And as I question these thoughts on this old situation from someone on my contact list, I often start to see a more peaceful version of my story. 

My heart often becomes a little lighter, and my address book feels lighter too. There is often one less piece of baggage that I’m carrying, and new insights for how to live more peacefully in the future.

I Invite You to Try it Out

If you like to do The Work, take the address book challenge with me this year. Just for variety, start the year by doing The Work on someone from your address book instead of using the normal “what life brings day-to-day” approach.

By the way, you’re welcome to use this approach for writing worksheets during my online course, The Work 101, starting Jan 13. I’d love to have you join us to go deeply into learning and doing The Work in that course.

Have a great week,

“I encourage you to write about someone—parent, lover, enemy—whom you haven’t yet totally forgiven. This is the most powerful place to begin. Even if you’ve forgiven that person 99 percent, you aren’t free until your forgiveness is complete. The 1 percent you haven’t forgiven them is the very place where you’re stuck in all your other relationships (including the relationship with yourself).” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

Further reading: Can I Write a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on Myself?