What Road Trips Can Teach you About Goal Setting

Remember the days where we used maps to plan our road trips? In order to get to our destination, we had to know where we were starting from. How do you know what direction to travel if you are unsure of your starting point and end target?

Personal productivity is very similar.

Set Your Destination

Often we see the end result of where we want to go.

  • Moms in Target who has 2 kids walking alongside the cart, not grabbing things off the shelves and whining.
  • The woman at the gym who runs twice your speed on the treadmill.
  • Photos on social media of perfectly organized pantries.

First of all, I caution you against comparing your insides with someone else’s outsides. Seldom does the presentation reality match up with the truth. The end results in the above examples, could be rooted in reality like this:

  • Target Mom may run her household on fear and those kids “know better than to act out in public.”
  • Treadmill gazelle may have an exercise addiction driving her to run herself into injuries or worse.
  • Perfectly organized pantries are seldom found in homes where people feel at ease grabbing what they want (think teenagers having friends over).

All of that aside, you may have a vision of where you want to go. Destinations are great, but it is not productive to start on the path without knowing where you are starting from.

“On any journey, we must find out where we are before we can plan the first step.” Kathy Boevink

Determine Your Starting Point

If we return to the map of our road trip, determining your starting point seems easy. But looks can be deceiving. The more granular your starting point, the more accurate your route can be. This is true whether we are using maps or a GPS to plan our route.

Let’s say for example, I decide my starting point is the name of my town instead of the street I live on. This will lead to two very different routes to my sister’s house. One is 30 minutes faster than the other – and when I am going to visit my nieces, every second counts. Drilling down to truly understand where I am starting from helps me not waste time getting to where I want to go.

The same is true with habit change. The more defined vision of where you want to go combined with the more granular idea of where you are starting from can mean the difference between Sustainably Productive (SusPro) habit change and habit change that fizzles out by week’s end.

  • Fizzle Out Habit Change: I want to bike more.
  • SusPro Habit Change: I currently ride 50 miles a week with my longest ride being 30 miles on Sundays. I want to increase that to riding 50 miles on my birthday in June so this week I will ride 33 miles on Sunday and keep the weekday rides short to make sure I can fit them in during lunch.

Or maybe this example resonates with you:

  • Fizzle Out Habit Change: I want to chill out and stop being crabby.
  • SusPro Habit Change: I have zero time where I am still. This week I will sit in silence for at least 1 minute, but no more than 5 on Monday and Thursday. I won’t try to meditate – if I can just be still that will be a victory.

The SusPro method starts with a vision of where you want to go and a granular look at where you are starting from. Now let’s talk about how you can determine where you are starting from.

Getting Started

The Sustainable You Time Tracker is a free resource that can help you determine your starting point. Simply download the tracker and set a timer to go off every 30 minutes. When the timer goes off, write down what you have spent the last 30 minutes on.

Don’t wait for a “normal” week – there is no such thing. You can learn from any snapshot in time. At the end of the week, take a look at what trends you see. Maybe you are surprised to see you spend 2 hours each day waiting at various points of the day. This time tracker is just information – do not use it to shame or blame. Identify patterns that are not serving you and make small adjustments.

Your Turn

Take a stab at tracking your time and let me know how it goes. I love to talk productivity with people so if you want me to take a look at your tracker you can email it to me at Susan@SustainableSue.com.

By |2021-05-08T06:51:56-04:00May 11th, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Making Adjustments

It is ok to change your mind – that is what making adjustments is all about. Sometimes your well-crafted plan to live a Sustainably Productive life does not work. There could be several reasons for this.

  1. Schedules change
  2. Priorities change
  3. Minds change

Whatever the reason – making adjustments is OK. In fact, making adjustments is encouraged. That is part of the Continuous Improvement work that is in the Sustainable You coursework.

At the start of 2021, I set a goal to do 90 minutes of yoga each week. I applied Sustainable Productivity principles and broke it down to do a 30 minute YouTube video 3 times each week.

This was great for the first 3 months of the year. Once the weather started getting nicer, I wanted to be outside and on my bike more. Now that I am vaccinated, I want to join my regular in person hot yoga class (exercising in a 100 degree room with a mask on sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?!).

But what about the original goal I set for 90 minutes a week? If I do 1 class in studio each week that is only 60 minutes. 2 classes in studio does not fit my budget or schedule right now. The YouTube video is not as inviting since I would have to be inside.

Non-Sustainable Productivity solution: Throw out the whole plan.

Sustainable Productivity solution: Make adjustments using the Continuous Improvement steps.

Step 1 – Record the result

This is an easy one if you have been using the Sustainable You Habit Tracker. If I look back at the last 2 weeks, I have a big ZERO for yoga.

Step 2 – Why this result

This step can take some tough love. A tool that can help to get to the root cause of the result is the 5 Whys. Start with the high level question: Why did I skip yoga over the last 2 weeks.

  1. I wanted to garden and ride my bike instead. Then ask why again (2nd why): Why did I want to garden and bike instead?
  2. A desire to be outside. Then ask why again (3rd why): Why did I want to be outside?
  3. The weather has gotten so nice. Ask why again (4th why): Why did I want to be out in warmer weather?
  4. It is pretty this time of year, so much to look at and do. The last (5th) why: Why is this different from yoga?
  5. I am bored doing the same routine and need a change of scenery. 

Once you get to that 5th question, you usually have a root cause that you can use to make your adjustment.

Step 3 – Adjustment

Throwing the baby out with the bathwater in not sustainable nor productive. Not doing yoga is not a productive way to improve my mental well-being or physical fitness. But continuing to “require” the 30-minute YouTube video 3 times per week is just going to make me crabby, which is not sustainable.

Enter the beauty of making adjustments. Here are a few that I am making for this week:

  • 1 yoga class in studio
  • 2 bike rides
  • Garden on breaks from work

Next weekend I can repeat these Continuous Improvement steps and see if any more adjustments need to be made.

Permission Slip

I can hear you thinking (or perhaps yelling at me through your device screen): BUT YOU SET A GOAL FOR THE YEAR FOR 90 MINUTES!!!

That is true. And you know what else is true? It is ok to change your mind.

If you go to the core of your WHY, then you can be true to your intention of creating a life you don’t want to numb out and escape from. HOW you create that life can change as you make adjustments.

Consider this post a permission slip to change your mind.

I want to create a life I don’t need to escape by calming my monkey mind and being physically active to reduce physical aches and pains. I can do that through yoga or time in the garden or in the bike saddle – or a combination of all three!

Your Turn

What isn’t working with your habits? What small adjustments can you make? I encourage you to try the 5 Why’s exercise to try to get to the root of the issue. If you need help walking through this or the Continuous Improvement steps, I would love to talk it through with you.

By |2021-05-18T08:48:07-04:00April 20th, 2021|Habit Change|0 Comments

4 Steps to Get Started

Eventually the winter will end and it will be time to get started. Last week we talked about NOT setting goals and I could feel the hard charging goal getters cringing while quickly deleting the post.

There was a time in my life where I was Goal Getter going balls to the wall while ignoring my empty tank of energy. My spirit was limping along. I am choosing to do things differently now by taking the winter to rest. Maybe you are too.

But eventually spring will come and you will be rested and ready to tackle a project, learn something new, or go after a new goal or two. I want to invite you to consider a softer, gentler approach to get started.

1 – Start Anywhere

If you suffer from analysis paralysis this tip is for you. There is no perfect way to begin. The only way to fail is if you never start at all. Begin somewhere – even if it is in the middle. Laura Vanderkam talks about this on her Before Breakfast podcast from July 29th. There are all kinds of starting points – just pick one, just get started.

2 – Start Smaller

Do you think you have to be an expert before you can take up a new activity? Let’s take yoga for example. I often hear people say, “I can’t do yoga, I am not flexible.” First of all, there is more to yoga that who is most bendy. That aside, flexibility is not a pre-requisite to yoga. You are there to improve your flexibility (among other benefits). Start smaller than pro level.

Next I ask you to consider how you are defining “done.” You don’t have to do an hour of yoga each day to have a yoga practice. Start with 10 minutes once a week. Start with one pose each day. Think about what you want to do and cut that in half. You can build over time if what you are doing is working for you. Get started – small.

3 – Track Progress

What gets measured gets managed. While some of you may not love this tip (I am looking at you, Rebel Tendencies), tracking your progress can help you gain momentum when starting a new habit. If you have taken the Sustainable You course, you might use that tracker. You might have a tracker in your planner or as an app on your phone. It could be a tick mark on the back of the envelope your phone bill came in.

4 –  Be a Beginner

Have you ever watched a child experience something new for the first time? They are in awe of everything they experience with their senses, what their body can do, what the result of each action is. When do we become so fearful of being a beginner?

I was recently working on an embroidery project that I found in my mom’s sewing box after she died. It was a Family Circle pattern from the 70’s still in the envelope it was mailed in. There were some instructions that I just could not figure out – I skipped around in the pattern until I could not put it off any longer. I reached out to a craft group I am in on Facebook, and they didn’t know either. Paralyzed with not knowing the perfect next step, I decided to just embrace being a beginner with this step of the project and take a leap.

I think this flower turned out pretty great!

My perfectly imperfect first attempt at this stitch and interpreting crazy instructions from the 1970s.

Plus, this is art that did not exist in the world before I did it – imagine that! I could not be happier with the outcome. This might not be what the instructions intended, but it is my interpretation on it.
“The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those who sang best.”
Henry Van Dyke
What are you holding back on? Is it fear of perfection keeping you from getting started? Pick somewhere to start – even if it is in the middle. If that still feels wrong, make the step smaller. Consider tracking your progress. Embrace being a beginner – we are all beginners at some point. What a gift to continue to be able to begin again.
By |2021-02-09T09:45:43-05:00February 9th, 2021|Habit Change|0 Comments

January is Terrible for Goal Setting

Except for the fact that it is the start of the calendar year, January is terrible for goal setting.

Consider how Mother Nature treats winter.

  • Plants are dormant.
  • Animals hibernate.
  • Sunrise is later and sunset is sooner.

      This is 6th grade Susan. I cannot tell you how shellacked those bangs are. I never did really get the hang of a curling iron. Some might say puberty is a type of winter.

Why, in the middle of this dormancy, would we insist on setting Big Hairy Goals and setting up schedules and requirements to fulfill them? It literally goes against nature to do so.

Winter is a time for rest and recuperation. Go back to the example of plants – that dormancy does not mean the plant is doing nothing. Deep in the ground the roots are growing stronger and extending their reach to support the growth that will happen in the spring and summer.

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” Anne Bradstreet

In all of the Little House on the Prairie books, Laura talked about the cold winter days in Minnesota where nightfall came early. Sure they did what chores were required to survive, but in the winter, they hunkered down together reading, sewing or listening to Pa and Mr Edwards fiddle while they danced in front of the fireplace. They connected.

What if you also took that time to rest and recharge during winter in preparation for an active spring and productive summer and fall? Rest is so important that it is a component of each of the 3 pillars of Sustainable Productivity and is covered in each lesson in the Sustainable You course.

Here are a few ideas on how you can spend your winter differently since January is a terrible time for goal setting.

Health and Fitness

  1. Rest. This is not sleep, this is rest. Sitting without sleeping or distractions. Maybe all you can stand is 5 minutes. That is a good place to begin.
  2. Take breaks in your day. Because I work from home, I take a slow walk around the garden sometimes as a rest from work. My dad and I talked about this once when he was trying to quit smoking when he was still working as a school superintendent. He said he needed the timeout that smoking gave him. If he were to just go stand outside, people would look at him funny. But if he were standing there smoking, it was more socially acceptable. Let’s think about that – taking a moment to smoke is more socially acceptable that taking a moment to rest. Of course, some of that is our own perception, which is where my walk around the garden comes in. To someone else it might look like I am just surveying my plants, but I am not making my list of garden chores, I am just walking slowly in nature.

Mental Well-being

  1. Silence. When is the last time you sat in silence so quiet your ears almost hurt. The phrase deafening silence exists for a reason. I am not talking about meditation. Just sitting and listening to the quiet. Silence can satisfy a need for social, emotional, spiritual and creative rest.
  2. Rage. Imagine a mosh pit for one. This may feel counter intuitive to rest, but consider how heavy pent up anger is. Anger acts similar to stress. Having that rager can help your body physically process the cortisol and associated glucose so it doesn’t sit in your body.

Environmental Surroundings

  1. Create a restful space. I recently earned of the “Japandi” decorating trend and I am pinning and following it like crazy. This is the type of restful space I would love to have. I don’t have it now, but I can dream. Find what feels restful for you.
  2. Rest from screens. More than just turning screens off, help your eyes rest from those screens. Lower the brightness on your computer and mobile devices or experiment with blue-light-filter glasses to limit the blue light beaming from your screen.

Some of these suggestions might spur other ideas that resonate more with you. Maybe you need to make a list of how to rest. Get creative with your ideas and make them yours. Maybe your mosh pit is in your car. Maybe you sit in silence in your closet because it is more soundproof. Consider this a different type of goal setting – recharging and setting yourself up to tackle those Big Hairy Goals with a full tank.

I would love to hear how you rest. Comment below or send me a message on social media. In the meantime, rest up!

By |2021-01-29T08:49:19-05:00February 2nd, 2021|Habit Change|0 Comments

Goal Getting in the Grey

I won’t lie to you – it can be difficult to get excited about goal getting in the grey. Whether it is grey days of winter or grey areas of life. These can be a tough mountain to climb. 

I am not so good with grey areas of life – I trend towards bimodal thinking. My modus operandi has been that I am either hard charging through a training plan or sloth. You are either on my side or against me. I am learning a brand new skill or never taking a class again. Whirl winding through chores and errands or hoarders is setting up a visit to shovel out the piles.

It is EXHAUSTING.

The pressure is on in the new year to set resolutions and light the world on fire. Right after you made all the magic for your family at the holidays. Friend, you cannot light anything on fire with an empty tank.

It is EXHAUSTING.

Do you feel like this end of season amaryllis?

Listen to Your Mother

As we start a new year, I encourage you to consider the way Mother Nature works. Winter is a time of dormancy and hibernation. A short respite of 2 months before ramping up growth in March to bust onto the scene in April. 

If Nature has survived – even thrived – with these hours of operations for millennia, who are we to say our schedule should be different?

Reframe Your Goals

This is not to say that you should throw out any goal setting. This is where we redefine goal getting in the grey. Instead, you can reframe those goals for the first 8-12 weeks of the year. Maybe finding gentler, softer activities that support the end result you are looking for.

  • Instead of running through snow and ice or pounding away on the treadmill, spend a month or two exploring yoga to increase your strength and flexibility while maybe even healing that nagging hamstring injury.
  • Avoid struggling to restrict calories to continue your weight loss. Focus on mindful eating and creative meal planning during a time when fresh fruits and veggies are less abundant. 

Another approach could be to use the dark, cold weeks of shorter days to slowly ramp up your new goal to really hit the ground running in the spring. 

  • Spend time to declutter that spare room and set up your painting easel. Research upcoming classes and save up to buy supplies.
  • Curl up on the couch with your phone and liberally unsubscribe, unfollow, block, and delete. Get rid of everything that does not contribute to a life you don’t want to escape.
  • Explore the Sustainable You course and reveal a new way to approach habit change that sticks. 

It may not feel like you are making progress towards your goals, but you are. Planning to plan. Setting up your environment for success. Considering a new way of doing things. This means change is happening within you.

Change that will eventually bloom into the success that you desire.

amaryllis

Amaryllis in all of its glory after it has rested all winter.

By |2020-12-26T08:12:17-05:00January 5th, 2021|Habit Change|0 Comments

Habit Change in 3 steps – In a Sustainably Productive Way

As part of their morning routine, Lucille and Bixby have a super fun game that we like to call Staircase Catch. She stands at the top of the stairs and drops her ball, which plunks down each step like a slinky. Bixby catches it at the bottom and tosses it back up to her. She catches it in her mouth, then repeats the process again. For hours if we let her. 

One morning the two of them played a bit, Bixby and I had coffee, then we all started our day as usual. Later that morning, I took a break from work to go downstairs and get a Diet Coke. This is the view. 

tennis ball on staircase

Now, to Lucille, this looks like so much fun. To me, this looks like a trip to the emergency room. The same scene can be interpreted different ways. The decision to leave the ball on the stairs can have significantly different outcomes. 

The same can be said about choices in our own lives. I agonize over decisions so that I can make the best choice because there could be so many different outcomes. I consider the pros and the cons, the return vs. the investment. “Analysis paralysis” is the pithy saying used to describe this. Ironically, often there is not a “best choice” when it comes to the decisions about our habits and routines. As long as we take any action at all – that is what matters. 

Let’s take a look at three ways to get moving on habit change.

Start Small

It is hard to completely revamp habits all in one go. Start small. Instead of setting a goal to go to the gym every day, go once a week. Instead of writing 2,000 words every weekday, if you have more time on the weekend, do your 2,000 words on Saturdays and Sundays. 

Sure it will take you longer to get to your end goal, but this is where we apply the idea of sustainability. We are not talking about fad diets and get rich quick schemes. I want to you to create sustainably productive habits. If you cannot stomach the idea of getting up at 5:00 am to go to yoga every morning – don’t do it! 

But you do need to do something. Make it small. 

Nope – smaller than that. It is hard, I understand. Sometimes it is hard to break it down smaller. How do I eat healthy smaller? If you would like to see a few examples, you can download what small sample changes I have been working on lately. I really do mean SMALL changes. But these are going to be sustainable changes for me.  

Once you decide on what, set your cadence. How many times a week do you want to do it? Great, start with half that amount of days. SMALL CHANGES. You can adjust later. 

Speaking of later – we need to pick a start date and an evaluation date. Not start and end dates – a start date and an evaluation date. 

Set Deadline

Let’s say your goal is to paint 3 days a week after work. You have made the goal smaller and picked 2 days to paint once you get home. Well done, you. Now set an evaluation date for 30 days from now. 

Go ahead – add it to your calendar, “Evaluate painting schedule.”

Then let fly your inner Picasso. For 30 days. No judgement, no changes. Paint for 2 days a week for 30 days – you have 8 opportunities!

After 30 days it is time to ask some questions. Keep this informal and short. Sit down for 5-10 minutes and ask yourself these simple questions

  • Of the 8 times I planned to paint, how many did I complete? 
  • What worked about this plan?
  • What did not work about this plan? 

Don’t expect magic unicorns to shit rainbows. You may not have knocked it out of the park this month. Creating and changing habits – that’s hard work. You will probably need to make adjustments. Maybe during your evaluation, you identified that you only painted for 3 of the potential 8 days. Asking what worked and what didn’t will help modify your plan. 

Do not automatically declare that your goal was wrong or you are a failure. Stay flexible, make modifications based on what you learned. 

Stay Flexible

This is where folks will give up or water down their dream instead of staying flexible to meet the overall intention of what they were trying to do. Remember sustainable productivity is about finding what puts wind in your sails and doing it in a way that fits into your life today. In a way that you can repeat for the foreseeable future. You may need to make some changes in order to meet that sustainable productivity goal. 

Here are some ways to do that:

Start

Once you have identified what tweaks to make in your process, decide what change you want to start. Just one – keep is small and sustainable. Maybe you planned to paint for 1 hour after work 2 days per week. After 30 days you have identified what is not working about this plan is that you spend 25 minutes of your precious 60 minutes setting up your supplies and work space. 

What you may choose to start is to set up in the morning of painting day. Then all you have to do when you come home is paint – which is the whole goal. 

Stop

Perhaps during your evaluation you found that by the time you came home, fed the dog, checked the mail, and changed clothes you lost your painting mojo. What you may choose to stop doing is checking the mail and changing clothes. Stopping those 2 things will streamline the process – feed the dog and paint. You can get an apron or old button down shirt to put over your clothes to protect them if needed. Maybe you change into painting clothes before you even leave the office!

Continue

This is often a hard one for people. We have to admit that maybe we are doing some things right. If you cannot identify one single thing you are doing right and need to continue, I will offer you a gimme. Continue the schedule. Until you hit the goal 100% for 3 cycles (90 days), continue your cadence. In this example that means painting 1 hour a day for 8 days will be the target for cycle 2. Set your next evaluation date for 30 days from now. 

Don’t automatically declare that you are lazy and have no willpower because Netflix lured you to the couch on 5 of your 8 painting days. Maybe you sat down to check the mail and inertia just took over. It happens. You may need to alter your surroundings or order of operations to fit this new lifestyle you have. This Start – Stop – Continue exercise will help you identify and make those alterations.

Now, I hear what some of you are thinking: That’s all well and good if you know what you want to do! I get it. You might be feeling like you are living in black and white and an overall feeling of blah, but don’t know what is causing it. If this is you, I would like to invite you to use the Sustainability Checklist for a few days to help identify what is and is not working for you. 

Let me know how these tools are working for you. Were you able to identify your start, stop and continue? What surprises did you find when you used the Sustainability Checklist for a few days? 

By |2020-06-19T16:54:21-04:00January 6th, 2020|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Meh. I reached my goals: the truth about setting goals

I met my goal, and I am not ok with it. 

I love December because I can look back on my goals and the way I spent my year. Then I can celebrate the victories and plan for changes to what I wasn’t celebrating so much. In a future post I will share my celebrations. This post is about what I want to change because I met crushed my goals, and I am not ok with it. 

For the last five years I have set reading goals through Goodreads. Every year I bump up the number of books a little more. Some years I do a reading challenge to try to expand my reading list. I scour lists of Best Reads to add to my To Be Read list and try to keep up with what everyone else had read and loved. Then at the end of the year, Goodreads summarizes the number of books and pages I have completed this year. 

2018 reading goals
Last year I started 188 books, but finished 163 books. I keep a separate list of books I abandoned so I don’t accidentally try them again. More on that in this post.

There are a couple reasons why I am not excited about crushing this goal. While reading may not be your thing, I wonder if some of these reasons will resonate with how you are feeling about your goals. Don’t just consider the goals you hit – maybe you sabotaged your goals because you saw some of this sooner than I did. Either way, I want to talk about a different way to think about goal-setting, or the lack thereof. Let’s dig into it. 

1 – Now I have to raise the goal

We are all familiar with the idea of fear of failure. Most likely we are experienced at fear of failure. That cold clammy feeling when we think about everyone we are letting down when we cannot come through on the expectation or promise. But what about its wicked step-sister, Fear of Success. 

The idea behind fear of success is that when we reach a goal we have to immediately keep improving. I was a varsity athlete in college. At the end of my freshman year I was handed a list of goals I was to reach before returning to campus in the fall. 

  • A certain time for the mile run.
  • A number to hit for body weight and a more strict number for body fat.
  • Several targets for lifts in the weight room (bench press, squat, etc.).  

I worked my ass off that summer. Before going to my maintenance crew job, I lifted every day at 5:00 am. I got off at 3:30 pm and played basketball or ran or both until 8:00 pm more days than not. Weekends were filled with various tournaments or working a second job in a sporting goods store. I carefully planned meals and ditched my favorite Dairy Queen M&M Blizzards. Alcohol was not even an option.

I returned to campus, crushed all of my goals. OK, not the mile time – I squeaked by on that bad boy. But I reached it. To this day I still remember how proud of myself I was that fall. 

I met with my coach at the end of the pre-season expecting celebrations. Instead I hear: Good, now we know what you are capable of so we can set some real goals. 

That summer schedule took everything I had. And it was deemed not “real goals.” Crushing my goals crushed me. I had an intense schedule that I could barely sustain and now I was asked to significantly add to it.

Now, upping my reading game is not as soul crushing as sitting in that office hearing about my “good start,” but as I was looking ahead to my 2020 reading goals I started getting that familiar voice in my head.

  • What will I give up to make this happen?
  • How will I fit it all in?
  • What can I drop off the life schedule to get this done?

Its READING, guys! I refuse to let one of my favorite things in the world become something that squeezes out life. I will not be bumping up 2020 expectations just because I hit my 2019 goal. 

But there is another reason I am not increasing my goal. 

2019 reading goals
This year I started 168 books, but finished 143 books.

2 – What does this goal cost me?

If we return to our Young Susan basketball player analogy, it becomes clear what I exchanged. When I was a sophomore my boyfriend was so mad that I missed him playing baseball in semi-state playoffs that he cheated on me with one of my biggest rivals from our school’s biggest opponent, then dumped me while I was playing in a national tournament. Then my senior year I skipped all graduation parties and many friends’ open houses to travel to tournaments out of state. 

It may not seem like a big deal now, but to a teenage girl it was devastating. 

The parallel for me now is what am I not doing so that I can read for the sake of raising my goal. And this one was the clencher for me. When I read I am in the zone. Checked. Out. I am in Three Pines. Or playing Quidditch. I am right there with the gone girl on the train in the window

What I am not doing is:

  • Connecting with my people
  • Crafting something of my own
  • Writing words that might resonate with you
  • Engaging with nature to restore my own soul

I have decided I am not ok with this trade. While it may seem productive – read more, nature will always be there! It is not sustainably productive. I cannot maintain this every increasing number while abandoning other interests and passions. 

For a couple years I have needed to check out and numb to difficulties to get through a rough patch, but I feel myself coming out of that and into a new season. Reading is not going to go away AT ALL. Now reading will find its right sized place for this new phase of life for me. It is going to get to become a hobby that is sustainably productive instead of a competitive obsession that I have to hard charge forward with, consequences of what I am leaving behind be damned!

Do you have a goal that just feels tiring to keep expanding on? What would it feel like to maintain, reduce, or even abandoned it? What if you deemed yourself good enough – just as you are today?

By |2020-06-17T17:16:05-04:00December 30th, 2019|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Following our dreams: The dream, the lies, and the truth

The Dream

I have wanted to write a book for as long as I can remember. In elementary school there was a Young Author’s contest. Let me tell you about the blood, sweat, and tears that went into my submission. Pete the Pencil was a MASTERPIECE. It had humor, alliteration, and illustrations. It had a story line of Pete’s ongoing shenanigans. It had a Gillian Flynn-esque twist (spoiler alert – PETE WAS KILLED) and the ensuing chaos. 

Child's handwriting sample

I have no idea who won, if I won, if anyone even mentioned liking it. What I do remember is creating it. Cutting the paper and choosing the artistic “sideways” (i.e. landscape) layout. Laboring over the illustrations with my box of 32 crayons cursing the fact I did not have the pimped out 64-count box with the sharpener. Rough drafts on paper so I would not mess up the illustrations with misspelled words, updated storylines (that crafty Pete was always throwing me a curve ball), or janky 8 year old handwriting. I still feel the heart swell and stomach drop of placing the finished masterpiece on my teacher’s desk. It is how I anticipate leaving The Girl at college will be next year.

I kept writing in high school. For the school paper, for the yearbook. In pages-long heart wrenching missives to my closest friend and boys who broke my heart. It was before the time of email, social media and apps that make all that heartache disappear 15 seconds after opening the message. Thank God, because those were also masterpieces. Artistic works of teenage heartbreak. How do I know? I also wrote drafts of those, many of which I found in notebooks years later when my parents moved and started turning over boxes of “treasures.” I am sure you have some of these boxes too – baby teeth, a Cabbage Patch kid, teenage heartbreak letters and dried Homecoming flowers. Oh the angst packed into a sturdy Jim Beam box!

As part of my career I have written newsletter articles, technical instructions, and corporate C-level communications. I like words. I love words! And I always wanted to share my words with others. The list of people I had shared this goal with was very short: my sister and my husband. At one point I let a co-worker friend in on this secret goal I had to write a book.  But that was about it. No plans. No actions.

The Lies

It was easy to put off inquires from Bixby. I would be lamenting the lack of creative pursuits in my life and he would supportively ask, “What about writing? You want to write a book – how is that coming along? How can we make that happen for you?”

And oh, reader I would tell him how that was happening, yes I would. I would explain that after I did EVERYTHING for him and the kids ALL DAY LONG and repeated the process EVERY SINGLE DAY, the last thing I had energy for was to think about writing a book. Perhaps if I had HELP around here, I would have realized my lifelong dream a LONG TIME AGO. They were crushing my dreams. 

Ahem. The memory of this is so uncomfortable I want to scoot my chair away from myself.

It is so easy to blame other people for where we fall short. To hide behind our martyrdom. To use excuses that are not even true as the reasons we have not braved being vulnerable and pursuing dreams and goals. I mean real talk – let’s debunk these lies I was telling about My People blocking my book writing. 

Lie #1 – I did EVERYTHING

False. Paul cooks dinner, I don’t. He walks the dog every morning, sometimes I tag along. 

Lie #2 – ALL DAY LONG

False. I go to bed before everyone else so Paul often fields homework, signature, and crazy last minute requests. The kids are teenagers so the truth is they rarely come out of their rooms so there is no risk of them needing anything all day long. 

Lie #3 – EVERY SINGLE DAY

False. We share custody of the kids so they are not even in our house EVERY day. 

Hyperbole so easily aids in the drama and fear. And that drama and fear keeps us in our ruts and patterns. Then a decade goes by and nothing has happened. If nothing changes, nothing changes. 

The Truth

I left the job where I worked with the person that held my authorship secret goal, and we recently connected over lunch to catch up. I was carrying on about wanting more, desiring creativity – I wanted to write a book even!

“Yes!” she said, “I remember you saying that 10 years ago.” 

Ooof. She did not mean it unkindly, she is Candadian – they are never unkind. But she is a truth teller. And boy I needed to hear that truth. It was definitely kinder than my high school basketball coach’s “encouragement” when I was indecisive: “Shit or get off the pot, Susan!” But it still packed a punch. 

Julie’s words have haunted me since. Haunted me into action. Since that fateful chat, I have:

  • Started this blog
  • Written about things more personal than someone else’s mediocre book.
  • Put up money to join an online writing community
  • Scheduled writing days into the calendar and honored that writing time

Time is going to pass whether I am writing or not. Am I willing to let another 10 years go by having a desire out there and not fill it? No, I am not.

What about you? What goals are you sitting with? Do you have a truth teller in your camp that can help you get moving? Why do you think you have not taken the first step?

By |2019-11-13T06:18:08-05:00November 13th, 2019|Mental Well-being|1 Comment

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