Doom & Gloom, Begone!

Doom and gloom - pessimist outlook on life etc.

It’s that time of year when things can get a little scary.  I’d like to say it’s because of Halloween, the one day where we dare to scare and frighten for the fun of it.

But the scarier stuff for me these days are things I seem to have little control over. Things like the political climate of nastiness and divisiveness in the country or the workplace, whether my team can win the World Series once in my lifetime, or how I can get my internet provider to do what they’ve guaranteed me every month for the past 6 months they would do, but still have not done.

On their own, any one of these things can put a kink in my otherwise cheerful disposition. When they all happen on the same day it’s enough to make me long for my days in the desert, wandering around with my canine companion, marveling at the simplicity of a solitary life unplugged.

While I default to the wisdom of the Serenity Prayer in the majority of cases, I do not do well with “it is what it is” when something clearly can be done.

I do not believe that the current environment is really the best we can collectively do. Partly because I know I can do better if I stay open, stay curious, and stay available to what is happening in the moment. And partly because we are smart and creative people.

We send people into outer space.  It seems like we can send elected officials to the White House who don’t polarize half the country.

If Century Link truly values my business, they would deliver on what they promised the first time instead of putting me on infinite hold, transferring me a minimum of three times, and still not addressing my concerns, making it necessary for me to repeat this torturous task every month.

Far from being a treat, this is tricky business. I can shut down quicker than a mousetrap when I get miffed. But over the years I’ve learned it’s my silence that comes back to haunt me, not the words I spoke truthfully, however harsh.

A few weeks ago I signed up for Martha Beck’s Integrity Cleanse. I suspected I was in for a serious smack down on my assumptions, but what I didn’t anticipate was the way my whole life would come under scrutiny.

Sure, the truth will set you free.  If it doesn’t kill you.

I’m by no means a chronic liar.  But I am a people pleaser and seem to need copious amounts of approval before I act on what I know to be true if it might ruffle some feathers or upset someone’s apple cart.

Ironically, what I’m learning from my Integrity Cleanse is one of the best gifts I can offer another is to ruffle their feathers or upset their apple carts if it is done with integrity and truth. As gratifying as it would be if you agreed with me, I get to see things from a different perspective when you don’t.

What I learned from watching The Cubs get to the World Series is there are just as many compelling stories and die-hard fans rooting for the other side. If they’ve made it to the playoffs, all these players have proven they are the best of the best.

Of course, I wear my lucky vest every night and go through any number of pre-game shenanigans in order to ensure the odds in our favor. But even when they lose, I learn something about myself.

Friday night was a case in point.  My day went exactly like Game 3 of the World Series. I had played defensively all week at work and then at 5pm on Friday I got a message from  my boss about a botched communication I thought I had cleared up on Thursday.  It was the equivalent of the bottom of the 9th, I had the winning run on base, and I struck out.

The good news is the Cubs get one more opportunity to turn it around. I have an opportunity to clear up the issue at work. I’ve already voted. And I can continue to call customer service until they get it right.

The doom and gloom that threatens to take over my mood and render me despondent, helpless, and hopeless will have to wait for another day. I have the ability to write my way out of despair and, as Maggie Kuhn says, “Speak the truth even if my voice shakes.

What about you? What scares you? What do you  do to catapult yourself out of doom and gloom and allow your truth to be voiced? Please share in the comments below.

truthjpg

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.

 

 

 

What’s New?

Concept of training. Wooden bookshelf full of books in form of m

It’s Day 11 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge. Today’s challenge is to learn something new.

No matter how old or young you may be, how much you think you know or don’t know, or whether you think there are any original ideas left to explore, as an educator I’m here to tell you there is always something to learn.

I know learning can be intimidating. Often the hardest thing for a student to do is to walk through through the doors of whatever learning institution he or she chooses. But doing so can change a life.

That’s why in order for me to teach, I must continue to learn. As a writer, it helps for me to be a voracious reader. To be an effective coach, I need to be willing to be coached.

TED talks are one of my favorite free sources of learning. I am a huge fan of these 18 minute entrées into the world of experts in every imaginable field. This is a luxury I would have never thought possible in my workshop junkie days when going where the gurus were was the only way to get the goods.

This month you can not only do the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge, but you can also take the TED ED Challenge.  These lessons can also be completed in 5-15 minutes, depending on how engrossed you get in the topic.  A new topic is presented each day in an animated short that brings the information to life in a very entertaining and educational way. (It has also prompted me to add “find funding for an animator, director, sound editor, script director, and producer” to my Get Stuff Done 1×31 list.)

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people complain they are bored. There is so much to learn, discover, and do. Why would you not use the day’s downtime to take advantage of the ample learning opportunities to plant seeds in your imagination?

Our biggest threat is not weapons of mass destruction but weapons of mass distraction.

Today I encourage you to cultivate the kind of creativity that comes with having a quiet moment, a curious mind, and the patience to contemplate the questions that have confounded great minds for centuries.

Work a cross-word puzzle. Solve a Sudoku puzzle. Doodle or sketch a logo for your 1×31 Challenge list. Animate one of these lessons. Write a reply to a perplexing question with your non-dominant hand.

Use that Wiggle Room from Day 6 to explore the unfamiliar and make unlikely connections between things that appear to have nothing to do with each other. Maybe you will stumble upon a solution to a problem that just needed to be approached from a different perspective?

Share what you learn in the comments below.

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Here are a few classics for your playlist:

What’s New, Pussycat? – Tom Jones

What a Wonderful World – James Taylor, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel

Inside Out – Trisha Yearwood, Don Henley

And here are just a few of my favorite TED presenters:

 

The Nuts Are Complimentary

bob and penny up close laughing

My all time favorite joke goes something like this.

A guy walks into a bar…

Instead of the usual grief, he’s hears, “Hi there, Handsome,”  “Well, aren’t you a breath of fresh air?”You work so hard, you deserve all the respect and success you have earned and then some.”  On and on it goes, everything he’s ever wanted to hear.

Imagining he must be dreaming, he says to the bartender, “What’s going on?”

The reply?  “Oh, that’s the nuts.  They’re complimentary.”

I love that joke for many reasons.  It’s funny, it’s clean, and like the nuts, it’s complimentary.

Who wouldn’t love to walk into a place where everyone knows your name and the very things about you that make you extraordinary, endearing, valuable, and lovable?

With this in mind I am on a mission to surround myself with things and people that complement my life. Easier said than done, of course.  But this is the impetus behind the relentless removal of that which does not spark joy.

In the past month I have deleted over 1,000 emails from my Inbox, 7 boxes of books, 9 bags of clothing, 3 boxes of pantry items, a truck load of miscellaneous garage and basement stuff, and I’m just getting started.

Although Bob is generally elated about this, when he saw me eyeing my shoe collection, he thought about calling my family for an intervention.

Shoes are sacred territory in my world.  If they went, he feared he might be next. But shoes, by their very nature, are made for walking. Bob is one of those complimentary nuts I want to keep around.

At this time of year I’m usually in full flower frenzy. This year, however, a clean sweep is in order.

My first clue that I had some cleaning to do was when my computer refused to function. Apparently it had been quietly accumulating updates and all kinds of miscellaneous clutter over the years to the point that my hard drive was full.

If it had been attempting to inform me of this all along, I didn’t pay any particular attention.  Freezing up and holding all my content hostage, however, did get my attention.

After a few choice words, I had to laugh at the literal perfection of this predicament.  After a year and a half of non-stop training, learning, and accumulating knowledge there was literally no place else for the download of information to go.  My cup runneth over.

Knowing how dramatically two dietary detoxes within a six month period could improve my health, I decided to apply the same principles to my home, my office, my bookshelves, and a few relationships.

Like changing my eating habits, changing my environment would require an undeniable reason to do so and a fool-proof plan.  These came in the form of a little book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up  and an understanding that in order for new things to come into my life, I must release what’s over and done with.

While there is a certain amount of melancholy that accompanies the letting go of unexpressed potential, there is great joy in surrendering to who I am now.  A quirky coach who can help people get their groove back. The only real requirement was that I do the work first and get my own house in order.

Although I have gotten my groove back, I still have some tidying up to do.  And if I do it right, I will free up enough room on my internal hard drive for life’s latest upgrade.

What about you?  What’s spurring you into action this summer?

Share if you dare in the comments below.

The Graduate’s Guide to Life

Promising Future

It’s that time of year when unidentified flying objects are most likely graduation caps.

Many, many moons ago I addressed my graduating class in an enthusiastic attempt to say something profound about what awaited us.  The truth is I had no clue.

What I know now is we’re always graduating from something.  A job, a relationship, a role, a stage of life. Regardless if we’d rather stay where we are, life is relentlessly nudging on us to the next thing.

Several years I self-published a book and designed a scroll for a few students I was mentoring called “The Graduate’s Guide to Life.”  The idea was to share life lessons learned along the way.

Although I offered these ideas in hopes of saving them the heartache, trouble, and consequences of making questionable decisions, these were precisely the things they needed to experience to grow their own brand of wisdom and confidence.

As an educator and avid reader, I like to learn as much as I can from as many different sources as possible. But nothing beats experience.

When I used to do corporate trainings, I’d often rely on the experts instead of myself.  I’d repeat what the gurus were saying without fully embodying the message.  This left me feeling like a fraud. Although the desire to educate was coming from a genuine place, the message wasn’t authentically mine.

I contrast this with the work I am doing now with my Eating Psychology Coaching and How to Get Your Groove Back classes. I have spent the last year immersed in this material and used my own body as an experiment to put this information to the test.  I have made major lifestyle changes so I can speak from experience and understand what clients are going through.

The results are profoundly different and I have never felt more on purpose or in tune with my life’s work. It’s also taken me a lifetime to get here.

Which leads me to my favorite words of advice to any graduate and one of my favorite songs.  Always trust your cape. (Even when it feels like an invisibility cloak.)

You see, I believe we each have superpowers. Despite protests and denials as to what these might be or how to activate them, I know you secretly know how, when, why, and where to best put them to use.  Maybe it won’t be for years, but one day you will have no choice but to claim them.

In this day of constant comparison, it’s easy to get caught up in the fear of missing out.  Of thinking you’ve missed the boat, missed your chance, missed your time to shine. Of convincing yourself that you are somehow not worthy and will never have the skills, smarts, looks, or advantages that someone else has.

Trust me on this. Your life is unfolding exactly as it should in order to gather the necessary experience.  You can and will need to course correct as you gain more clarity.  You are worthy, you matter, and you have something to contribute.

Never stop graduating.

Don your cap and gown – or cape as I like to call it – and celebrate.  Then go fearlessly where life is calling you.  The world really does need your gifts.

The Antidote to Overwhelm

I may have bitten off more than I can chew.

I signed up for three different coaching programs that each demand their own Herculean effort to complete and for one month, October, they all overlap.

I certainly wouldn’t have planned it this way had I been in charge of the master plan.  But often times one thing leads to another and several doors fly open at once.

The seemingly innocent challenge I took up in January to write 500 words a day for 30 days set me up for a year of upping the ante. I figured if I could do that, I could do just about anything.  So I started doing stuff.

By showing up, being accountable, and being visible, brave new worlds have opened up to me. When the information is so valuable, so life-changing, so timely, it doesn’t make sense to wait until it all fits nicely into my schedule.  Such is the case with my coaching programs.

And here’s what I’ve discovered about overwhelm.  The antidote to overwhelm is not giving up, but engaging in something whole-heartedly, completely, passionately.  Right now I have to fire on all cylinders in order to keep up.  From what goes into my mouth to what comes out of it, I’m acutely aware of the impact on my energy level.

Although it’s easy to complain, the only thing I really have to do is prioritize. Daily. Hourly.  This means giving up bad tv and carbs and regularly working outside my comfort zone. It means going the extra quarter mile. It’s really not a bad trade considering what I’m getting in return.

It’s a bit paradoxical.  When I have no energy, the last thing I think about is adding more to the mix.  However, if I add an experience that is so compelling, so enticing that I am leaning towards it, it has the ability to energize all areas of my life.

My guess is you’ve had a similar experience.  If not, the next time you feel like throwing in the towel, try picking up a project instead.

Whether it be something as simple as challenging yourself to get more steps each day than the previous day for 7 days in a row or organizing your parent’s love letters or creating a guest blog post, see how your new interest infuses your day with enthusiasm, curiosity, and a sense of adventure.

Be sure to give yourself a time frame that pushes you out of your comfort zone but not over the edge. Knowing that the project will last “x” number of days or weeks adds the urgency that tends to dissipate when there is no due date.

It is also incredibly helpful to have someone to hold you accountable who might also be doing the same thing or has been there, done that, and is willing to coach you through it.  In my coaching programs I have either a team or peer coach to check in with and that has been invaluable.

Certainly there are things we must do for ourselves.  But there are many things we shouldn’t do without support.  We have the collective wisdom of the ages at our fingertips.  Accessing it has never been easier.  As Barbara Sher said, “Isolation is a dream killer.

In a few months I will be launching the online course (Read It & Leap! ) I am creating in one of my coaching programs.  In it I share several secrets about taking small leaps to move you into a life that is the antidote to overwhelm – an engaged, inspired, involved existence.

If you’d like to know more about it, email me with the word Leap! in the subject line and I will be sure to let you know when I roll it out.

In the meantime, I’d love for you to share your antidote to overwhelm in the comments below.

Live and Learn

When asked why I write, my answer is always the same.  I cannot not write.  Like eating or breathing, writing is essential to the way I metabolize life, the best way I know how to make sense of it.

I also love to read.  Reading has taken me places I could never get to on my own.  Reading makes me feel less alone, less quirky, less peculiar and more compassionate, more human, more adventurous.

Sometimes I read a line or passage so beautiful or eloquent it stays with me and shapes my entire day, month, even years.  Knowing that the right words at the right time have so much power, I couldn’t think of a better super power to have than wielding words.  Okay, an invisibility cloak would come in handy.  Especially after wielding the wrong words. 

Many years ago I read  Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg.  I was also reading The Artist Way by Julia Cameron.  These books became my bibles, turning my life upside down and setting my writing mission on fire.  Because both of these authors lived in or around Santa Fe and Taos, I decided I must live there as well.  Clearly, the muses gathered there.

Santa Fe is a creative mecca.  My love affair with the landscape and the culture and the people who find their way there makes it the home of my heart.  I did some major healing there and often pine after it the way one pines after the great love that got away.

But I also agonized over every aspect of my life there.  I struggled financially, I had my heart broken more times than I care to recount, and my career floundered.  I was determined to make my living as a writer but I was drawn more to the mountains than the blank page. Housesitting gave me a place to stay, but it didn’t provide a paycheck, insurance, or a benefits package beyond being young, healthy, single, and free to pursue whatever dream of happiness I could mortgage my future on.

But bills have a way of coming due and even detours eventually lead us back to the beaten path. I returned to the Midwest  and reinvented my writer’s life around a “real job” and a solid foundation that has allowed me the freedom to attend blogger conferences, pursue coaching certifications and online business schools, and occasionally take a trip back to my old stomping grounds or discover new ones.  

Last week Bob and I took a day trip to Madison and made a stop in Mt. Horeb, home of one of my favorite eating establishments, The Grumpy Troll and a one of a kind shopping experience at  The Duluth Trading Company.  We happened to walk by a bookstore and in the window was a new book by Natalie Goldberg called The True Secret of Writing.

As you might imagine, I love bookstores.  Quaint, locally owned corner bookstores are especially dear to my heart because they are so rare now.  So I made a beeline into the store, snatched the book out of the window, and told the owner how this writer changed my life and prompted a move to The Land of Enchantment.

He then shared with me how he moved from New England to Wisconsin and how content he has been living in the land of happy cows and cheese and trolls.  Mt. Horeb is overrun with trolls. As their website claims, it’s the troll capital of the world, right off the troll way.

Books create instant relationships, a safe gathering space for ideas to mingle.  The same can be said for movies, music, video games, weekly television series, or fantasy football leagues.  We’re all looking for a connection, a way to relate to each other on some common ground that might eventually lead us to the uncommon ground where we really get to know ourselves.

So this morning I was reading from The True Secret of Writing and just like when I read Writing Down the Bones, I was so moved by the words that I jumped out of bed and started writing.

This morning’s topic was determination and how we all hunger for certain things and how that hunger, that heat, that disturbance continues to pull us forward to become more of ourselves.  Honestly, the need for continuous quality improvement in my life often gets on my own nerves.  Enough, already.  I’m tired.

Then I got a glimpse of  Jake, our throw-the-ball, throw-the-ball, throw-the-baaaalllll brown lab, who relentlessly pursues whatever ball has not managed to end up in the Maquoketa River.  He is my determination role model.  I refuse to roll over and play dead.

As long as I’m here, I have work to do, words to write, universes to explore.  So I get up, get over myself, show up on the page, and practice writing.

 Writing allows me to make ideas real, dynamic, interesting.  It amazes me that I have lived this long and can still discover something mind blowing every day.  I just have to stay curious and open and engaged. Easier said than done.

So I’ll leave you with this excerpt from The True Secret of Writing.  May this help you stay connected with your desire to initiate whatever change you are longing to make whether it be sustaining a twelve pound weight loss or communicating honestly with your spouse or children or coworkers or completing a degree, a 5k race, or a good book.

First we admit in our heart of hearts it’s something we sincerely want.  And then we move toward it.  Sometimes we fail for a week, a month, a year, a decade.  And then we come back, circle the fire.  Our lives are not linear.  We get lost, then we get found.  Patience is important, and a large tolerance for our mistakes.  We don’t become anything overnight.” – Natalie Goldberg, The True Secret of Writing

I’d love to hear what you hunger for.  Share if you dare in the comments below.