Here to the New Year in Good Cheer – Take Your Time

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When I lived in Santa Fe, I used to housesit and dogsit for people. When a friend’s mother  passed away, she asked if I would stay at her mother’s house until she and her sister decided what to do with it.

This was no ordinary house. This was a gorgeous ranch with a guest house in one of my favorite places on earth. I was sure everyone was mistaken and I was really the one who had died because this was my idea of heaven. The days I got to spend in that home among so many beautiful things were unforgettable.

My friend’s mother was a remarkable woman who had crafted an astonishingly elegant life for herself and the friends, family, horses, and canines that kept her company.

One evening as I sat on the porch watching a spectacular sunset the idea occurred to me that I couldn’t hang on to this place or this experience any more than my friend’s mother could. The only thing I could do was fully appreciate the time I had there.

This is why I’m so protective of this time at the end of the year and seem obsessed with making sense of the year coming to a close.  I’m acutely aware that, as the classic Seals and Croft song goes, “We may never pass this way again.”

So I want to make sure I’m present for it. That I don’t rush through it in my desire to move on to bigger, better, faster, or flashier. I want to take my time and give it the attention a full year of my life deserves. I hope you’ll do the same with yours.

With that said, I’ll take you through the rest of the Year in Review template and tomorrow I’ll give you a different one to look at the year ahead.

What were the products that rocked your world? Every year there is at least one thing I wonder how I ever lived without. Usually it’s an upgrade or improvement to something I use every day. It could be as simple as a new electric toothbrush, slim velvet hangers, a new skincare product, or an app that reminds me to meditate, move, or feed the fish. What are those things for you?

Who were the people who rocked your world? Just as there are products you can’t live without, there are people who make it all worthwhile. It could be your yoga teacher, your rabbi, a rock star, a writer, your next door neighbor, Alexander Hamilton, or the dog-treat-dispensing bank teller. I was inspired by so many people that this will have to be a separate blog post for me.

What books, blogs, movies, music, concerts, conversations, or workshop/seminars/coaching programs/retreats changed the way you think and feel? The thing I like to remember is I am only one thought away from a new perspective and a few dance moves or dog walk away from a better mood. As much as I like to think about things, I don’t act on them until I feel something. Often times I need a nudge in the form of reading material, listening material, phoning a friend, or giving in to the unbridled enthusiasm of two dogs who think they are going for a w-a-l-k.

How did your relationships change or shift this year? Did you get engaged, married, divorced, have a baby, lose a loved one, start a business, hire a coach, fire someone, rekindle a romance, move to a new neighborhood, or retire from your job? When your circumstances change, usually your relations shift as well.

What health, fitness, food, or spiritual practices did you try, tweak, test out, or keep up this year? Maybe you took up archery or turned into a total foodie, much to your surprise and delight. Maybe you started a hip hop class or became a Buddhist. Maybe you did a 21-day cleanse or tried acupuncture. Or maybe you suffered a debilitating illness that turned your world upside down and forced you to do everything differently. How have these new practices defined you or allowed you to reinvent yourself?

What is the smallest change you made that had the biggest impact? Did you start meditating for 5 minutes in the morning or stop drinking soda? Did you start leaving love notes in your spouse’s lunchbox? Did you take up taekwondo with your kid? Did you give up lattes for Lent and never looked back?

And finally, what were your greatest contributions this year? Maybe you spent a Saturday afternoon being a bell-ringer for the Salvation Army. Maybe you took 3 carloads of career ready clothes to Dressed for Success. Maybe you sponsored a child, saved yourself and your children and left an abusive relationship, or fed some local families during the holidays. Whatever you did, make a note of it. It mattered.

Tomorrow I’ll look at what you want to call in for 2017.  But for today, take your time and tell me about your year in the comments below.

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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?

 

 

 

 

 

Begin Again

Ruby 2 069

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.

 

 

 

Rhythm is Gonna Get You

Black metronome with guitar and several notes on the wooden background

 

It’s Day 30 of our Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge. Today’s challenge is to notice how rhythm plays a part in how you do things. This is a subtle but essential ingredient to be aware of in establishing the ebb and flow of your days. Not to mention your relationships with other people.

When I used to live alone and work from home, I didn’t notice rhythm much. For the most part, I moved at the pace of grace.  I call it the Goldilocks gait –not too fast, not too slow. Just right.

But when the firefighter moved in, with his lightening quick reflexes and urgent call to action impulses, I became acutely aware of the tortoise and hare situation we had on our hands. I also knew that rhythm was going to get us and lead to our demise if we didn’t learn to adjust to each other’s approach to getting stuff done.

I’m not saying we’re dealing with the sloth situation in Zootopia, but I’m sure it feels that way to Bob sometimes. On the other hand, because of slow and steady progress (1×31), the tortoise did win the race in Aesops’ famous fable.

I’m the first one to admit there are times when time is of the essence. There is a need for speed. The sooner the better. Fast and furious. Now or never. Life or death.

Just rapidly writing those words stressed me out a little.

Because what I’ve learned and what Erin Stutland has incorporated in her ingenious workouts is this.

What you seek, is also seeking you. What is meant for you will not pass you. Broadcasting fear or scarcity does not bring you peace or abundance. Consequently, my motto is to act with intention and do with deliberation.

If you’re not sure what I mean, experiment. Trying pushing yourself to do things at a faster or slower speed than you normally would. Try adding more things to your schedule or taking a few items off your list. How does this make you feel? Anxious? Irritable? Accomplished?

Sometimes we need to adjust our rhythm or our pace to work effectively with a team. Sometimes we need to adjust it when we’re touring with a group, taking a family vacation, involved in a special project, or participating in a Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge.

Some days you may not even know what leads to your undoing. For me, it usually comes down to time and space. I need breathing room and I need time to just be, create, observe, marvel, write, read, learn, laugh, and process what just happened. When I over-schedule myself or allow my world to get too cluttered, I get cranky.

You’ve just given yourself the gift of 30 days to discover how you get stuff done. With just one day left in our challenge, what do you really want to get done without pushing or forcing or “shoulding” on yourself?

I’d love to hear how rhythm impacts you and what your favorite thing about this challenge has been. Share your comments below or email me at penny@wellpower.com.

Oh, and don’t forget to add this to today’s playlist. 🙂

 

 

Say What You Need to Say & Do

Lets do this

It’s Day 27 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge.  Today’s challenge is to say what you need to say to whomever you need to say it to in order to do what you need to do next.  Do you need to move on, get over it, get on with it, set things right, set things in motion, start a revolution, or continue your evolution? Then let’s get to it and go do it.

Saying what you need to say liberates you to do what you need to do.

Granted, conversations of this nature usually take more than 5-15 minutes.  But you can take a small action step and identify which conversations need to take place and with whom, get clear on your talking points, or schedule an appointment with the person in this amount of time.

Because I’m a lover of words, I’m hesitant to say actions speak louder than words in every situation, because the right words at the right time can change a life. However, during our Get Stuff Done 1×31, I’m also about making a case for doing the stuff that moves your life forward. That requires action and, sometimes, doing difficult stuff.

I admit I love to talk my way all around my issues rather than face them head on because doing so would most likely result in a confrontation. I like to avoid these at all costs. However, the greater cost is that the issue continues when I’m perfectly capable of putting the kibosh to it by daring to do what needs to be done, which often starts with saying what I need to say.

As much as I call on my inner badass to get stuff done, harnessing her potential takes some serious practice on my part. That’s why I’ve devoted an entire month to getting stuff done. And by Day 27, I’d like to think we’ve practiced enough that we can confidently carry out today’s challenge.

I’d love to know what you need to say or do and how that will set you free to move on to the fabulousness that awaits.

Share if you dare in the comments below.

And by all means, add this song by John Mayer to your playlist.

Peace Out

Hope Concept

It’s Day 18 of the Get Stuff Done 1 x31 Challenge.  Today’s challenge is to find the place of peace within yourself and just reside there for 5-15 minutes.

It’s hard not to be upset, frightened, disturbed, angry, or uneasy about what’s happening in the world right now – from politics to police to poverty to a plethora of man-made and natural disasters. If there wasn’t something weighing heavily on your heart, I’d wonder what world you were living in.

Using violence to end violence never seemed like a sane solution to me. Practicing peace to create peace seems infinitely smarter.

I used to call myself the Queen of Calm. Wellpower, the company my business partner and I started, was all about relieving stress, creating calm, and bringing balance back into the lives of our clients. We made audio tapes, gave a lot of talks, and traveled the country hoping to restore health and wellness to the lives of anyone who would listen.

Maybe we were ahead of our time. Wellness was not nearly the craze it is now. Or if it was, we had no way of connecting to the world of wellness the way we all can now.

But I have to wonder.  Even with all these tools at our fingertips – apps that monitor our activity, blood pressure, calories, steps, and online support groups and exercise instructors available 24/7 on our phones and computers – are we any less stressed?

The simplest yet most difficult thing to do is to stop doing. Or as those who meditate like to say, “Don’t just do something…sit there!”

I know this may seem like the opposite of what I’ve been preaching for the last 18 days. But as you’ve heard me say before, doing anything from an emotionally charged place of panic or reaction is not likely to get you the results you want.

Yes, there are times when taking immediate action is called for.  When it’s not, putting yourself in a self-imposed time-out can bring about world peace, at least your corner of it.

Remember your park from Day 16? Go there.

Especially when you’re chomping at the bit for revenge, retaliation, or retribution of some sort. Go there when you’re outraged, when you’ve come undone,  when you want nothing more than to make someone else pay for the pain you feel.

On the other side of your primal passion, deep conviction, and unshakeable belief about any issue is someone feeling the exact opposite about the very same thing. And it could be someone you love.  It usually happens in every election that the people in my family cancel out each other’s vote.

But I vote anyway. And I encourage them to do the same.

You can stand firm in your own beliefs and still allow others to stand in theirs.

We all have a right to our own opinions. But I like to believe there is a place where none of those opinions matter.  I think Rumi said it best.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense.”

So, my friends and even my foes, peace out. We’re all doing the best we can with what we’ve got.

Like Sonny had Cher, I’ve got you, babe. And I wish you peace for as long as you can possibly stand it.

Small change

US Coins

It’s Day 13 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge and today we’re going to keep it short, sweet, and relatively simple. Today’s challenge is all about small change.

With a name like Penny, you might think I’m an expert on small change. Regardless of how hard times get, I’ll always have a “penny” to my name. As I assured my fireman, as long as you keep me around, you’ll never be penny-less. Lucky me. 🙂

But as you might suspect, I’m not talking about literal small change. I’m talking about the kind of small change you can make in 5-15 minutes that can make the most difference in the next hour, the next day, the next week, or the next year.

In our quest to accomplish the big stuff, we often overlook the small stuff that makes the big stuff possible.  I love this image and question by Hugh MacLeod of gapingvoid.com.

 “Where can the smallest change make the biggest difference?”

I subscribe to his free daily downloads of comically wise drawings. (You can, too, by clicking here.) I often print them out and put them in a place where I will see them throughout the day.

When I asked myself the small change question at the start of this challenge, the reply was surprisingly simple. “Change your screensaver.”  I kid you not.

I like to think of myself as open to change, but I can count the number of times I’ve changed my screensaver on one hand. Since I spend a considerable amount of time at or near my computer, this would make a noticeable difference.

Now every time I see a picture of the winding paths and roads I chose as my new screensaver, I am delighted because it reminds me of the journey I am on. These images spark my imagination and take me to places the familiar photos did not.

In anticipation of donating clothes along with several plastic hangers to Dress for Success, I bought some slim velvet hangers as replacements. Had I known these hangers would  free up valuable real estate in my closet, I would have purchased them years ago.

I have a history with finding the right hanger for the job that dates back to my days of managing a Pro Shop in Texas. So I’m not sure why it took me so long to discover these luxurious slim velvet ones. There is nothing inherently risky or even costly about switching hangers. Yet it’s totally transformed how I feel about organizing my clothes.

These are the kinds of small changes I’m talking about.  I’m all for discipline and delayed gratification. But sometimes instant gratification works wonders.

So, what will it be for you today? Discovering a new app to organize your lists? Getting shoe strings that don’t come untied when you’re walking the dog? Filling up a thermos with filtered water from home so you don’t need to buy bottled water?

Think about your most insistent issue.  What small change can you make to alter your interaction with it for the better? If you are stumped, ask a child. They often see the obvious and will give you an honest appraisal of the situation.

I’d love to hear what you come up with and decide to do today.  Share your solutions in the comments below.