Here to the New Year in Good Cheer – Plan “J”

Joyful woman enjoying the winter snow .

We’re back with the Here to the New Year in Good Cheer challenge and “J” joins the alphabet plan of juxtaposing jangled nerves and jarred emotions with joy.

I hope your intermission was rejuvenating and you were able to juggle all the jobs that jabbered for your attention. A perfectly timed snowfall made mine just jubilant.

It was my puppy Ruby’s first experience with snow and needless to say, she was jolly by golly.  She jogged, jerked, jilted, jigged, jagged, jumbled, jostled, jolted, jutted, and jammed her way through the snow jungle before her.

She justifiably jeered at any attempt to distract her from judging where the snowballs would land so she could jockey for position before our other dog Jake (aka John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt) jumped in on the action. It was like a jumbo jamboree of chaos and confusion. Just where did that snowball jet to before disappearing?

How does this jive with your holiday happiness? Well, try not to get all jacked up and let your jingles get all jangled and jeopardize the juiciness just waiting for you to slip into like a jeweled jacket.

Take a jaunt to your favorite tea, coffee, or cocoa joint to jump-start your journey rocking around the Christmas tree.  (Just like me and Bob in this JibJab card.)

I’d love for you to share something that brings you joy in the comments below. Or you can share your favorite knock-knock joke as a warm up for Plan “K” tomorrow.

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The Story of My Life

 

Old vintage typewriter

As I was looking for Neosporin in the pharmaceutical aisle at Walmart to help heal the inevitable bites and scratches I’ve incurred as a new puppy mom, I noticed another frazzled mom next to me. After deliberating between a mind numbing array of decorative Band-Aids®, she carefully selected the Ninja Turtles from the shelf. That motion set an avalanche of boxes cascading to the floor.

As I reached down to help her place the Band-Aids® back on the shelf, I heard her mutter in exasperation, “the story of my life.”

I could relate. I’ve been feeling agitated for weeks and wondered what I had done to bring on the onslaught of overwhelm I’d been experiencing on all fronts.

When I got in my car to head home, the song “The Story of My Life by One Direction was on the radio.  Never one to miss a sign when I’m sure I’ve been given one (two references to “story of my life” in twenty minutes), I started to ponder the story of my life.

As a writer, I’m captivated by stories – and signs.  As a coach, I often encourage my clients to tell a different story, write a better ending, or dare to add a new twist to a tired story line.

Without realizing it, by creating and taking on the Get Stuff Done 1 x 31 Challenge, I was writing a new story. Even though it may not have seemed like a big deal, I was taking small, intentional actions every day that set a series of events in motion with consequences I couldn’t necessarily predict.

Some of these actions provided instant gratification. I donated clothes and switched out bulky plastic hangers for slim, velvet ones that instantly provided more room in my closet. Posting something every day allowed me to deliver on a promise and connect with my community.

I also got a puppy.  This is where things got interesting.  Like adopting a child or moving an aging parent into your home, the dynamics of our household shifted immediately.

There is a renewed sense of wonder, curiosity, playfulness, unconditional love and laughter in our home. There is also unprecedented chaos, an influx of puppy paraphernalia, additional expenses, the stress of teaching our old dog a new trick, and an edginess in my temperament that comes from sleep deprivation.

Writers call this an inciting incident, the conflict or change that leads the protagonist to begin the adventure that makes her story worth reading. It’s the challenge that forces her to discover her strengths, grow into her potential, and learn life’s most guarded secrets.

As part of my declaration that I am equal to the task of living this grand adventure, I decided to write down something every day that I will need on this quest in order to call my power back to me.  Name it and claim it, I say!

Like the Get Stuff Done 1 x 31, this daily practice has the potential to set sweeping changes in motion. What I intend to remember this time and want to warn you about is something Martha Beck describes in her blog as the Storm before the Calm.

I’ll sum it up like this. When you ask for things to change, things will change. But not in the calm, orderly, predictable way that allows you to continue life as you know it.  A new world order does not emerge without a little death and destruction – be it the death of an idea, a relationship, a job, or the way you thought it would be.

In making room for the new, what no longer serves you has got to go.

What remains is what you most need to move your life forward. When you get a glimpse of that, the calm returns amidst the storm and you know you are going to be just fine. Maybe even spectacular.

In my case I not only realized I didn’t wear half the clothes in my closet, I also realized I needed to revamp the way I do business – at home and at work. If my puppy wakes up at 5:30am, I need to go to bed before 11pm. If policies are not serving our students, I need to  do what I can do change them.

Ironically, the trick to telling the story of your life is to embrace the parts you’d prefer to eliminate. You are not your questionable decisions, bad luck, or the person who always picks the longest checkout line or looks for love in all the wrong places.

These things add to your character, inform your future decisions, and help you discover want you really want. But they do not define you. You are always free to rewrite.

If the woman looking for Band-Aids® had simply grabbed the first box she saw, I might not have realized she was a dedicated mom willing to endure a little overwhelm to make sure her kids’ “hurts stopped hurting.”

As Gandhi once wrote, “Your life is your message.”

What do you want the story of your life to tell?

 

 

 

 

 

Rocky Mountain High

 

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Today I’m trying my hand a flash fiction because as John Muir said, “The mountains are calling and I must go.”  Like six word stories, they pack a powerful punch in just a few words.  Here goes:

In the midst of a month of madness, she was plucked from the pressures of puppy parenthood and advising anxious students who only recently realized their imminent return to school required registering for and funding their education, and drove across the country to Colorado attend the nuptials of her fiancé’s  niece.

Despite the availability and legality of certain mind altering substances, the only thing she needed to experience a Rocky Mountain high was to walk among the aspens, breathe in the air, and respond to the call of the wild.

 

 

 

Begin Again

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So what do you do after 31 days of getting stuff done?

You begin again.

You get more stuff done. Just keep swimming. Or writing. Or working on your projects, relationships, fitness goals, wedding plans, dream vacation, degree, or whatever your thing may be.

Because life isn’t just a sound bite of the sensational or a slice of nice, consistent progress. It’s the whole enchilada. It’s a series of fits and starts. It’s one step forward, two steps back. It’s continuously changing the toilet paper roll.

I keep this Begin Again stone on my writing desk to remind me that no matter how many words I’ve written, every day is an opportunity to write more and improve my craft.

Just as you would never expect one meal, one night’s sleep, or one workout to fuel you for life, you can’t expect to do a difficult thing once (like a 31 day challenge) and be good to go indefinitely.

Challenges catapult you out of your comfort zone and into your evolutionary zone.

This is where things get interesting. This is where the ordinary becomes the extraordinary because you have become extraordinary in the process. You may not have noticed the transformation because it occurred in the context of your ordinary life.

But somewhere along the way, the discipline, desire, and doing became ingrained in your brain. Not doing what your new habits dictate now probably feels stranger than doing them did in the beginning.

I have to admit, on Monday I felt a bit like our new puppy Ruby feels when she goes in her crate and Bob or I disappear for awhile. Although my house, my hubby-to-be, and my dogs were happy to have my full attention once again, I was feeling some separation anxiety from this community we’ve created together.

So this morning when Ruby woke up at 4:55am, I decided to use her wide awake time to begin again and write. Ruby also informed me that she would like her own blog, Pinterest page, or Instagram account. Stay tuned for The Life of Riley (Ruby O’Riley). A zen dog with a blog, Pinterest page, or Instagram account.  🙂

Habits are fascinating things. They shape our lives for better or worse. If you’d like to learn more about them, here are a couple of resources I recommend.

If you participated in our Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge, I’d love to hear what new habits you formed.  If you didn’t participate but have some insights or experiences with learning new habits or breaking old ones, please share in the comments below.

 

 

 

Stop and Smell the Petunias

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It’s Day 26 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge.  Today’s challenge is to stop and smell the petunias.  Yes, I know the saying is “stop and smell the roses.” But since my puppy Ruby is particularly fond of petunias and is teaching me so much in a very short time, especially about taking breaks, I took some creative license with the saying.

Too often we look at interruptions as productivity killers, detours, excuses for our short little spans of attention. But sometimes taking a break to get up and walk around or sit down and relax, have a spot of tea, or nourish ourselves with a healthy snack or TED talk can cause epiphanies and unexpected pleasures.

I can easily spend my workday staring at a computer screen or piles of paperwork going over the same information in the same way.  But if I get up and walk around, move some tables and chairs, feed the fish, or water the plants, my energy shifts. By changing my focus for a while, the same situation looks different when I return.

One of my favorite things in my offices at work and at home is my standing desk. Because I spent most of my life as a fitness instructor, the biggest adjustment to life as a college administrator is the sedentary nature of the majority of my work.

To counteract this, I set up a makeshift standing desk where I can easily advise students and give them direct access to the information on the computer screen and hands on access to their information.

I also made sure we had a picnic table and bench outside so students and staff can get some fresh air, soak in the sun, and smell the lilies nearby when a change of scenery and perspective is needed.

I think in our hurry up and get it done world we’ve forgotten that there is a rhythm to life  There is an art to savoring the steps that get us where we’re going.

Today, take 5-15 minutes to do something deeply nourishing to your soul.  Maybe it’s reading that quote or poem from yesterday’s challenge (Day 25) or maybe it’s calling someone you love (Day 8) or maybe it’s arranging some flowers or fresh fruit and a bowl.

Try not to think of today’s challenge as an interruption and immediately look only for a way to return to the task at hand. Think of it as divine intervention sent to support your present predicament.

As always, I’d love for you to share your epiphanies or aha’s in the comments below.

 

 

Shift Happens

Old Typewriter Keys

It’s Day 20 of the Get Stuff Done 1 x 31 Challenge.  Today’s challenge is to notice where things have shifted for you in the past 3 weeks.

Sometimes it’s a subtle shift.  Other times it’s the kind of shift that jolts you out of bed at 4am with the horrifying thought, “What have I done?”

What woke me at 4am this morning was the realization that by agreeing to add 8 pounds of puppy to my home, I was about to alter the course of my foreseeable future.

It also occurred to me that every time I embark on one of these challenges – whether it be a 21-day cleanse, a 40-day prosperity program, or a Get Stuff Done 1x 31 Challenge  – things shift. Big and small.  Just when I think nothing is happening.

There is something so convincing about showing up day after day no matter what that sooner or later, people pay attention.  Once you have proven that you can deliver on your promises, the universe can’t help but meet you half-way.

You may have outrageous expectations and delusions of grandeur that if you put in a little  time, you’ll get a lucky break and win big. And maybe you will.

But if Malcolm Gladwell is to be believed, you’re going to need to put in about 10,000 hours of practice before you achieve mastery.

That’s a lot of time to get discouraged.

It’s also a lot of time to learn and fall in love with the nuances of your craft.

Some things provide instant gratification.  Making your bed. Checking an item off your to-do list. Doing 15 or 50 pushups, depending. Preparing a delicious meal. Resolving a conflict. Getting a haircut. Scheduling an appointment. Writing a thank you note. Giving your dog a bone.

But some things mean more because they take time. You can’t lose 20 pounds in a day, train for a marathon in a weekend, or write your thesis in an afternoon.

Fortunately, most days don’t require you go the extra mile- or 26, if you’re determined to qualify for Boston like my friend Ann, who has justifiably earned her nickname, Annspiration. But by going even the extra 1/4 mile, giving just a little bit more than you think you have in you, those miracles are more likely to manifest.

Take 5-15 minutes today to contemplate what actions you’ve taken as part of this challenge that you may not have taken if you hadn’t played along. When have you gone the extra 1/4 mile and how far has it gotten you?

I’d love to hear what you discover.

Share if you dare in the comments below or email at penny@wellpower.com.

 

 

 

 

Wag More, Bark Less

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It’s Day 19 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge and today’s challenge is to wag more,  bark less.  In other words, find more to appreciate than to complain about.

It’s easy to find things to complain about. Anytime anything doesn’t meet your expectations it can give rise to a rant, a slew of snarkiness, or a cadre of complaints. It can also deplete your energy, darken your mood, and convince you that the world is out to get you.

Wagging, on the other hand, can have the opposite effect.  The reason making a list of  things you are grateful for each day is so powerful is because it shifts your focus from suffering to celebrating.  You can’t feel grateful and irritated at the same time.

Given the choice between communicating with a chronic complainer or a person who consistently gives compliments, wouldn’t you choose the latter?

Sure, some things beg to be corrected. Hairstyles of high profile politicians, for example. However, as I mentioned yesterday, everyone is entitled to their own opinions and personal style. You do you and all that jazz.

Instead of complaining about politics I’d rather applaud Stephen Colbert’s comical interpretation of the day’s events. Finding the funny in what feels futile is a fabulous way to let go of what’s beyond my control.

I used to be a self-help workshop junkie so I know every training trick in the book.  One exercise I really enjoyed was the time a presenter had us working in pairs and telling our partner what we feared and what we loved.

The first go round we could only speak of what stressed us out.  You can imagine what happened to the energy of the room. Get people voicing their greatest stressors, biggest fears, and devastating disappointments and the energy plummets.

The second go round we could only share what we loved. As you might expect, the energy skyrocketed.

Turns out talking about what you love is incredibly energizing.  And that energy is contagious. Giving voice to what you love sparks the recognition of more things you love.

Before you know it, out comes the sun, rainbows and unicorns appear, and evidence that life is basically good (Day 9) is everywhere.

For the next 5-15 minutes, please tell whoever is in earshot what you love. If no one is around, email me at penny@wellpower.com.  In case you can’t tell, I love dogs!! 

In great anticipation of the newest member of our family arriving on Saturday, Miss Ruby O’Riley the red lab and I encourage you to wag more, bark less.

*She’s also the reason this post is so late.  We had to go visit her and all her brothers and sisters tonight.  Her sister Frankie is in the photo above.  Ruby is in the photo below with Bob.

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If you have something to wag about, please share it in the comments below or email me with it at penny@wellpower.com.