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?

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor

Workers people group.

I’m not sure whose idea it was to declare Labor Day a national holiday, I just know I am forever grateful the idea was implemented. According to Wikipedia, some say it was Peter McGuire and others say Matthew Maguire. To me, they both sound like Midlife MacGyver. Go figure.

A well-timed holiday, like Labor Day after the first few weeks of the school year, makes me appreciate all the labor that leads up to it.

Last night, around the time I subconsciously start to stress about another work week, I relaxed into the realization that I have another day to go places and do things – even if it’s just to my deck to watch my puppy chase a hummingbird moth.

All work and no play makes me an edgy educator. I’m all for putting the petal to the metal when the project, performance, or people demand it. But I’m also a stickler for self-care and putting your own oxygen mask on first so you can assist those you set out to serve. You can’t do that if you can’t breathe.

Sometimes all you need to catch your breath is a little time off.

Other times you need full on engagement and involvement in something deeply meaningful.

The best way I know how to explain this is to share this except from David Whyte’s  Crossing the Unknown Sea. David is talking with his friend, monk, and mentor, Brother David.

“Tell me about exhaustion,” I said. He looked at me with an acute, searching, compassionate ferocity for the briefest of moments, as if trying to sum up the entirety of the situation and without missing a beat, as if he had been waiting all along, to say a life-changing thing to me. He said, in the form both of a question and an assertion: “You know that the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest?”

“The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest,” I repeated woodenly, as if I might exhaust myself completely before I reached the end of the sentence. “What is it, then?”

“The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.”

He looked at me for a wholehearted moment, as if I should fill in the blanks. But I was a blank to be filled at that moment, and though I knew something pivotal had been said, I had not the wherewithal to say anything in reply. So he carried on:

“You are so tired through and through because a good half of what you do here in this organization has nothing to do with your true powers, or the place you have reached in your life. You are only half here, and half here will kill you after a while. You need something to which you can give your full powers. You know what that is; I don’t have to tell you.”

Six years ago I spent seven glorious days in the Lake District with David Whyte and an amazing group of individuals who had traveled from various continents to spend their mornings in quiet reflection with the great poet and their afternoons in a moving meditation, soaking in both the beauty of the place and the sacredness of the spoken word.

Having this extraordinary experience with an incredible group of people in a gorgeous location was possible because I had spent years preparing myself for precisely this kind of opportunity. Even if I didn’t know that’s what I was doing at the time.

No time, no energy, no money, no relationship, or no experience is ever wasted if it prepares you for your next adventure.

The next adventure for me is diving into a new project that will help me create experience products as opposed to information products and deliver them in a very real and rewarding way. You’ll be experiencing more of this in the next 8 weeks.

You can allow yourself to burn out or you can ignite the light that can only be lit from within.

Do whatever it takes to stoke that fire. Read some books. Watch some videos. Attend a workshop. Go to the mountaintop. Head to the beach. Work out. Take a nap. Nourish yourself with food, family, or friends.

What you may discover is this:  the fruit of your labor is often the labor itself. And doing the work – the work that only you can do – is indeed worth celebrating.

I’d love for you to share the work you are celebrating 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.

Stop and Smell the Petunias

ruby 029

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.

 

 

Are We There Yet?

nio con maleta en la carretera

It’s Day 23 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge. Today’s challenge is to practice persistence. The way I see it, life is an endurance event. It makes sense to train accordingly.

At some point in any trip someone – maybe even you – is bound to ask, “Are we there yet?”  It can be as soon as you leave town or within striking distance of your destination.

Whenever the question is raised, the challenge is to stay engaged enough in the journey to recognize when the ordinary becomes the extraordinary (see Day 14), shift happens (see Day 20), and your accumulated small changes (see Day 13) add up to something significant.

Many years ago I attended a 12-week workshop based on Julia Cameron‘s creed for creatives,  The Artist’s Way. One lesson that really stuck with me was about creative u-turns and the tendency to give up just when a breakthrough is imminent.

The problem, of course, is that we can’t see that the tide is turning because we’re exhausted or discouraged. So just when a final push is required, we close up shop, declaring our future dreams futile.

With just 8 days left in our Get Stuff Done 1x 31 Challenge, I implore you to stay the course.  Put in the effort for no other reason than to say you did it. I know you may not fully understand how satisfying that will feel, but let me tell you from past finishes, it feels fabulous!

Yes, there may be circumstances that prevent you from going on. But if you are not in such a situation, then I encourage you to do what I suggested you do on  Day 12, just keep swimming.

The first time I did a 30-day blogging challenge, it totally kicked my butt. It also turned me into the blogging fool I am today and earned me the right to call myself a writer.

I can’t say what these 31 days are doing for you. I can only say I’m incredibly proud of you for coming this far, doing your best, and putting your own spin on things in order to make these challenges meaningful to you.

Today it would have been so easy for me to play and coo non-stop with my new puppy Ruby (see below), my nieces, and mom who came over to welcome her into our world. And to help Jake adjust to the tiny intruder in his dog world.

But it’s Day 23.  No, we are not there yet. But let’s finish this thing strong, shall we?

Leave your comments or words of inspiration in the comments below.

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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.