With any project or goal that you set for yourself there are STAGES. There’s the BEGINNING when you are excited and your motivation level is on full-throttle.
There’s the END, when the finish line is in sight and the excitement you felt at the beginning of the project resurfaces.
And then there is the MIDDLE. Ugh! What I like to call the Messy Middle . . .
This is usually when your energy is low, the finish line seems nowhere in sight, and the project that you are working on seems like a big fat mess.
The bumps and hick ups reveal themselves. Problems arise. You may feel stuck and unsure of the solution for moving forward.
For starters, know this: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. What you are experiencing in your project/goal journey is PART OF THE PROCESS. This Messy Middle is an absolute.
While some Messy Middles are messier than others, there will always be a Messy Middle at some point.
It is the GETTING PAST IT that is up for you to accomplish. The Messy Middle is the Make or Break period. This is when you either decide that you will KEEP ON TRUCKIN’ or GIVE UP. Read More
[Disclaimer: This is an old post, refreshed for your viewing pleasure. The reason — (1) there are now many more readers who probably never saw this posting and (2) I am trying to fit exercise into my busy schedule this week. . . see the irony?]
I will be honest with you, talk of exercise used to make my whole body cringe. Exercise equated to pain, sweating, and reminders of just how out of shape I was. It also reminded me of all the times I started exercising, but then stopped. My problem was (and still is) finding the TIME to exercise.
I could (but won’t) give you a list of my excuses – and many are legit – of how I am too busy to exercise. Truth is, there are ways to fit exercise into your hectic life. You may need to make sacrifices (like sleeping in, my favorite!), but it is so worth it. You will discover a newfound sense of feeling accomplished, motivated, and stronger—physically and mentally!
Here are SOME TIPS that will allow you to fit exercise into your busy schedule:
My boys play sports year-round, sometimes several sports at one time, which equates to seven days a week of practices and games. Thank goodness for the “village” that helps shuttle my kids to and from practices.
Sometimes these practices require me to stay and wait (rather than just drop them off and then pick them up later) and when this occurs, I capitalize on this time. I designate those times to either WRITE or EXERCISE. If I am exercising, I am usually walking. Fortunately, soccer and lacrosse practices are often near a track that I can loop around. Exercising outside can be much more invigorating.
There are the hard-core disciplined types that do not like to be held accountable to anyone else’s schedule, but that is not me. I NEED to be held accountable. Right now, I am a member of Orange Therapy Fitness, which requires you to schedule classes in advance. Most of the times, it takes a mental pep talk to drag myself to class But, I do because I HAVE to—I am scheduled and will be penalized if I cancel last minute. It sounds harsh, but it works for me and gets me out of the house and to class. And truthfully, there hasn’t been a time that I regretted attending class. I always leave saying to myself: “I’m so glad I went.”
Not all exercise classes are as strict regarding no-shows, but they are still beneficial. Scheduled classes give you a DATE to SHOW UP with the expectation that you will be there. Put the dates/times of the scheduled classes in your calendar. Just like work appointments, your exercise class is an appointment that will put you closer to your fitness goals.
Dog owners take heart. Give your doggy that extra love he/she deserves. Rather than walking the bare minimum with your dog (meaning: dog did his/her “business” outside and so you can go back inside house), take the time to stroll for long, extended walks. After all, doggies need to exercise and stay in shape too.
Time-management is essential to maximize productivity, which means having an up-to-date calendar. I am a visual person, so – even though I do use electronic calendars – I need a tangible calendar that I can touch, feel, and SEE. This visual allows me to effectively plan.
It also shows me where I have openings. . .
Is my morning full or could I exercise before work?
What do my weekends look like?
Can I incorporate exercise into my already-scheduled activities?
The point is that a visual representation of your week can show you that fitting exercise into your schedule IS POSSIBLE. Once you know your openings, literally schedule that exercise into your calendar.
Does this sound familiar: “No TV until you finish your homework” or “No dessert unless you’ve eaten your dinner”? We expect this of our kids, but why not ourselves?
Television has the scary power of sucking you in. You may sit down to briefly unwind with television when you get home from work and find yourself sitting there for two – three hours. Why not change your mindset? Make television a reward for exercising rather than a replacement of exercise.
Use your lunch hour to exercise, even if that means just taking a walk outside. Make a pact with yourself—if the day is beautiful, go outside and enjoy it. A few laps around the parking lot or work site will not only help boost physical fitness, but also your mental fitness. Stepping away from your desk, taking a break, and walking clears the mind—making you more productive.
Taking the time to exercise is often overlooked – just as taking time with your significant other can be. Your kids’ practices, school events, and activities are often the top priority, which often short-changes the one-on-one time you share with your spouse or loved one. How about making a date to work out? Go for a walk, run, or hike together—fit in a joint-exercise that provides the freedom to TALK.
Get your steps in creatively by taking the longest route possible whenever you are on foot. Whether that is when you are doing errands or making your rounds at work. If you are parking your car, do so in the farthest spot away. Rather than taking the elevator, take the stairs. If walking or biking somewhere is just as easy as driving, do so. Use your tracker as your gauge and motivator.
Life does not come with a guide book. It is filled with choices and the need to make decisions. Should you take that new job offer? Is the person you’re dating really right for you? Should you move into that new house?
Don’t you wish someone could just TELL YOU EXACTLY what you were supposed to do with your life? If only there was a step-by-step playbook guiding — no, scratch that — directing you on each and every decision you needed to make with the GUARANTEE that things would work out perfectly.
Those darn choices are never sure things—what happens if you make the wrong decision? It could all go terribly wrong . . . right?
THE GOOD NEWS is that most things can be fixed or changed. You be may be stumbling along doing things that later SEEM like a complete waste of time. You may be kicking yourself thinking: “I should have known better.” But trying things, experimenting, and assessing your results are all a part of life.
LIFE IS ABOUT LEARNING. This learning is what LEADS you to the RIGHT PATH.
My mom just sent me an article with quotes from Steve Jobs. Reading through them, I realized that most of his quotes confirm the importance of listening to, respecting, and following your heart. And as an instinctual person who relies on their gut A LOT, I wanted to expand on that concept—listening to your GUT * HEART * YOU . . .
Is that the right thing to do and if so, why? How can you listen to your heart and truly know that it is your heart talking?
To start, it is important to note . . .
1) One choice does not fit all.
This is a tough one to realize. What is the right thing for one person, may not be the right thing for someone else.
Years ago, I had a friend provide an analogy when I was heartbroken over my breakup with an old boyfriend. She used six powerful words: It was not a good fit. As she said, “What you needed and what he could provide did not fit–and vice-versa. It doesn’t mean either of you are a bad person; you just didn’t fit with each other.”
I didn’t like that advice or analogy–not at first. It was when she elaborated that things clicked (I will paraphrase her words): “You see a shirt you like. At first sight, it appears to be something that would look good on you. But, you try it on and the size is wrong. It is too large (or too small) and it doesn’t fit. It doesn’t mean that it is a bad looking shirt or unfashionable. It just didn’t fit you. But it will fit someone else.”
This insight was two-fold: (1) yes, what is a good choice and decision for one person, doesn’t mean it is a good choice for you. Everyone is different. (2) You sometimes have to TRY ON the decision to see if it works or not. And if it doesn’t work/FIT then that is okay. Now you know. It is THEN that you are able to determine what it is that you DO want.
2) Take time to be quiet.
It is when you are quiet and have removed yourself from the chaos that you are able to HEAR what your heart is telling you. Go for a walk in the woods, spend alone time in nature–these are some of the ways in which you can clear your head and reflect without the influence of outside factors. It is easy to let other people’s hopes and desires for you affect your decisions. It is in this deep reflection that you can determine if what you are hearing is your heart—or others’ opinions.
3) Listen to body signals. Your body is smarter than you might give it credit. When you are about to make a decision, how do you feel? Is there a pit in your stomach, do your palms break out in sweat, do you have a feeling of dread? Or, do you feel pumped with adrenaline or excitement? Your body is receptive to your intuition and will often react accordingly.
4) Trusting your heart does not mean you will be 100% doubt-free.
It is very common to have doubts once a decision has been made. You may find yourself second-guessing yourself down the road and wondering, “did I make a mistake?” This often happens when the newness and/or novelty wears off. If things do not go exactly as you thought it would, it doesn’t mean that your decision was wrong. It could be fear creeping in making you question your decision(s).
This can happen EVEN when the RIGHT decision has been made.
This is when you have to re-examine in a quiet space; listen to your heart and body. Picture how you would feel if you quit or changed your mind? Do you feel sad (making you realize that you want to KEEP with your decision) or do you feel relieved (making your realize that another change is in order)?
Regardless, always remember that failure is only for those who do not try. ONLY YOU can know what is truly best for you.
[Disclaimer: While the following post is geared for writers, the message can be applied to anyone working on their goals. Simply replace the word ‘writing’ with ‘your goals’.]
If I had to name one of the most important factors for being a successful writer, it would be this . . . write and write consistently.
Writing is a craft and to become better at it – like most things in life – you have to work at it CONSISTENTLY.
And if a novel is something you are striving to complete, this is particularly true. I can attest to that fact! I’ve spent the last two years working on two novels (yes, two – long story for another day) and what I am about to share is what I’ve observed WHEN I HAVE WRITTEN CONSISTENTLY and WHEN I HAVE NOT.
I will start with the basics . . .
WRITING IS A MUSCLE. The more you work at it, the easier it becomes. Two of my goals for this year are to finish my novel and to work out regularly. In making this happen, I have found out the hard way that stopping makes it so, so, so much harder to start again. Read More
Last year, I created 52 Healthy Habits that were designed to invigorate the mind, body, and spirit. It was my way of getting healthier, fit, and feeling happier with life. I even created a Healthy Habits Assessment sheet to help me stay on track. Click here to download a free copy. One of these habits is having an “Attitude of Gratitude” and seeing the best of a situation.
This habit is an easy one for me . . . some days. . .other days, not so much.
When I was ten or eleven years old, I broke my arm and spent three weeks in the hospital lying flat on my back while my arm was in traction with pins. I was unable to stand or sit up; I had to use a bedpan (awkward) and nurses had to give me sponge baths (also embarrassing). It sounds awful, but honestly, I had so many family and friends visit me (usually bearing gifts) that I almost felt spoiled. (Okay, almost.)
I, by nature, am a shy person. Or, at least I was as a young girl. This shyness often contradicted my adventurous side that loved trying new things and taking risks.
My parents couldn’t believe it when their shy little girl declared that she wanted to be an actress—only I didn’t use the word “actress”; I said that I wanted to be “a star”. I subjected my family to plays written and acted out by my best friend and me. A personal favorite was called “Dead Flowers” which illustrated (by dance) the evolution of flowers, with their death in the winter and new blooms in the spring. (Oscar-worthy for sure.)
I pursued acting throughout school (even briefly in college), but eventually changed my vocational direction. My acting days, however, were not in vain. They taught me some very valuable lessons—lessons that have helped me push past my fear.
BECAUSE FEAR CAN BE PARALYZING. I know this for fact. I struggle with fear (think anxiety on steroids), but you know what? EVERYONE has fear at some point in his or her life. It is how we handle the fear that matters.
Let’s start with the basics. . . my mom would always tell me that FEAR stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. Remember those shadows that would creep across your room at night when you were little? I do! I was convinced that those shadows were monsters or ghosts. Fear consumed me, keeping me awake. My False Evidence were the shadows, which in hindsight, were actually produced by the headlights of passing cars. There were no ghosts, even though they Appeared Real.
My stint in acting involved small parts (and sometimes larger parts) in elementary, high school, and college plays. Looking back, there is one thing that I always remember. . . the FEAR. This fear would be especially dominant when I was waiting in the wings, about to head on stage.
“I can’t, I can’t, I can’t,” I would say to myself. My hands would sweat, my heart would pound fiercely. It was panicky fear and it would grab a hold of me so tightly. It took everything out of me to push myself out onto the stage.
How did I do it? I would picture myself NOT going out on stage. I would visualize the awkwardness that would transpire with fellow actors having to deal with my absence. I would see the play being ruined. I would then counter that with the old adage “The Show Must Go On” and convince myself that in order for the show to go on, I had to go on.
It was an internal dialogue, similar to many that I still have whenever I am faced with something causing my anxiety to skyrocket. Whenever I have those waiting-in-the-wing moments, I ask myself, “What will happen if I don’t?” And you know what? That image is always more frightening.
Another question to ask yourself is: What is the worst thing that will happen if you DO try? Hmmm…let’s see. You may embarrass yourself, you may do something wrong, you may even be fired (gulp – I know, harsh). BUT. . . with every one of those scenarios chances are that they’re all much better options than giving into fear. Take the firing scenario and picture yourself giving into the fear and not trying. Chances are you would still be fired for not trying. Again, the outcomes are always worse when you give into fear.
Acting in simple terms is faking a persona. It requires taking on a role. You’ve probably heard the phrase: “Fake it until you make it.” I exercise that phrase A LOT (and I mean A LOT). There are so many times when I feel afraid, like a fraud, or as if I don’t know what I am doing.
Those are the times when I JUST DO IT, taking a deep breath and jumping in. I do fake it with a lot of stumbling and mistakes along the way, but eventually I make it. And faking and making it with mistakes is so much better than not trying at all. So go for it and FAKE IT UNTIL YOU MAKE IT.
None of the above is easy, especially when fear is wreaking havoc on your brain and body. That is when DEEP BREATHS are necessary. Whenever you feel the all-consuming anxiety, close your eyes and take deep breaths. Breath slowly in and exhale out.
Meditation is such a great tool to help with this. And for those who have never meditated or think they can’t do it, let me say this: I am not an expert. I am not even sure I do it correctly.
My meditation involves allowing myself to sit in a quiet space, where I relax, listen to and focus on my breathing, and try to rid myself of any thoughts (and that is tough for someone like me with an over-active brain). Even if you don’t think you are doing it correctly, trust me, the quiet and relaxed time will refocus your energy into a mindset that can conquer fear.
Whenever I am working through my fear, preparing myself for what (SCARY?) thing lies ahead, I repeat my mantra silently in my head. My mantra is a Bible verse (you can find what works for you. Trusting God is definitely what works and helps me!). My verse is:
I totally believe in its truth. Regardless of your religious beliefs (or non beliefs), a mantra is helpful to push you forward.
In Gone with the Wind, the characters Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara try to drive a horse-drawn carriage through a battle area that is engulfed with flames. The horse becomes frightened and refuses to move forward. In other words, the horse gives in to his FEAR. What does Rhett do? He covers the horse’s face with a blanket so that he cannot see the flames. The flames are still there, but because the horse cannot SEE the flames, he moves forward.
Use this analogy with your own goals and keep your blinders on. SEE yourself achieving your goals and stay focused on that final outcome. Do not look around. . .BLINDERS!
My last step for overcoming fear is this. . . JUMP! That’s right. As Nike would say, “Just Do It.” Such insight in three little words.
Do not waste more time thinking about the “what ifs” and do not allow yourself to be controlled by your excuses.
There is a saying:
“Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”
While the originator of this quote is up for debate (I’ve read that it came from Mark Twain, Confucious, and even Marc Anthony), the meaning behind it is profound. Profound and — well — harder than it seems.
First of all — How many people know with certainty what job is truly going to make them happy?
And if they do, how many are actually doing it?
I have been pondering that a lot lately. I know that WRITING and exploring CREATIVITY is what I want to do full-time. That IS where my passion lies. And honestly, while I do a lot of writing with my job, I have been debating the future of my writing career path.
But, let me take it back a step. I did not always know that writing was where my heart was (even though it was always something I always just did). I didn’t always know what I wanted to do “when I grew up.”
And honestly, I think most people don’t JUST KNOW . . . at least not right away.
There are probably a lot of people working in a job that they like — and they are probably really, really successful at it. BUT, it is not where their passion lies.
You may be in a stage in your life where you are questioning your life’s mission. You may be a recent college graduate trying to figure out your vocational direction. You may even be someone working in a job that you do not enjoy and are contemplating switching career paths. Regardless of where you are in your life, I DO believe it is important to know what brings you joy. After all, life is so much more enjoyable when you are – well – enJOYing it.
And while I won’t address HOW TO MAKE THAT PASSION HAPPEN (not yet, at least), I will share some WAYS that will help you determine what brings you the most happiness and what might be your professional calling.
So let’s get started on the figuring it out part.
Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.
– Robert Collier
I have big goals this year, and I have to admit: I am struggling with the process—the process of getting this blog off the ground, writing my books, and getting fit.
The process is taking longer than I like.
The process makes me question and doubt.
The process is tempting me to quit.
The process would be so much better if I would just. . .
It is an easy thing to be stuck in the process and wallow in self-doubt.
As Jeff Goins, a best-selling author, speaker, and blogger states in many of his webinars, “It is not a matter of IF; it is a matter of WHEN.”
Our timing will come. We will succeed. Sometimes we just need some reminders of the essential ingredients to success. For example . . .
It’s been a LOOOONG week and if you’re like me, you want nothing more than to veg on the couch tonight with a good movie.
Looking for a good flick to watch—one that will move you to tears, inspire you, and make you feel uplifted? Or, how about a good family movie?
The following movies are not New Releases–in fact, you might call some of these ‘classics’. They are, however, ‘feel goods’ and some of my favorites when I need to — well — feel good.
Each of the following movie clips were selected for its pertinent message. I hope that you will check out the movies (if you haven’t already) or — at the very least — watch the clips below. Enjoy!
Bright Light Living is about my a-ha moment. Sometimes you can hear or see something repeatedly, but it just doesn’t register – I mean truly register – until you are ready to receive its true, impactful meaning . . .
I am a middle child who lived a middle-class type of life. My mother raised me to be content and thankful for what I had. As she would say, “There will always be people who have more than you, but there will always be people who have less than you. Be thankful for what you have.”
I took that to heart.
Christmases as a young girl often involved my friends and I going to each other’s houses to inspect Santa’s generosity. We were always excited about the new loot and eager to share each other’s toys. Many times I would hide some of my toys. Not because I didn’t want to share, but because I didn’t want to show off. To me, it seemed as if Santa had favored me more abundantly with gifts and I didn’t want my friends feeling badly.
I hid my gifts.
I am the middle child surrounded by two brothers. Being the only girl meant that I was different than them—more emotional. They would tell me that I was too sensitive. They would tell me not to be such a girl, to stop crying.
I saw my sensitivity as a downfall.
I was average in a lot of things, but not exceptional in anything. I made the National Honor Society, played sports, was a cheerleader, was in school plays, and had friends. Somehow I always seemed to “make” whatever I tried out for. But, I was never the Most of anything. I was not Valedictorian (or even close), not Most Popular (or even close), not Best Looking (or even close), not a sports MVP (or even close). . .you get it, I was a great all-around (average) person. I took that to heart.
I accepted my average status.
I would be in the company of intellects and feel inferior, remaining quiet because I didn’t feel as if I had anything of value to contribute. I would hear stories of my friends who were making more money or had more prestigious jobs and I would remind myself that I was not in it for the money.
I felt less than.
My parents passed down to me many of their great qualities; I consider myself a good (average) mix of both of them.
My father was an engineer for NASA who received his doctorate from George Washington University. He passed to me his strategic thinking and organizational skills, but unfortunately not his exceptional brain. My mother was a top sales leader in Mary Kay; she is now a well-respected life coach. She exudes positivity and charisma; people are and were always drawn to her. She passed along to me her positivity, creativity, and belief in goodness. If only she passed to me her charisma.
I paled in their shadows.
That is my early story.
We all have one. A story of what shapes our belief systems and perceptions of who we are and what we think the world has to offer. Our early stories are often what sets our perimeters and establishes our limitations—our self-imposed limitations. For me, it was the limitation that I was good enough to feel like a fraud, so therefore I was never great enough. My perimeters dictated that I should always try things, but only with small expectations of success. I expected average success.
I had two favorite songs from my early Sunday school days. The first: “We Are One in the Spirit” and the second: “This Little Light of Mine.”
Both songs shaped my belief system and influenced who I wanted to be. I wanted to be an example. I believed in being kind to everyone so that they could see God’s love through me. I would let myself shine in that regard. I would shine in goodness . . . but not greatness.
Fast-forward to a few years ago. . . I was driving to work and “This Little Light of Mine” for some reason popped into my head. I started singing it. I then reached for a notebook given to me by my mother. The book opened up to a poem my mother had placed inside by Marianne Williamson—Our Deepest Fear. I was familiar with the poem, but had not given it the credence it deserved until that morning. That morning, her words touched my heart and resonated with my soul. In a nutshell, her poem tells us not to dim our lights. As she writes, “as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
It was in that moment – when two reminders of SHINING OUR LIGHT came to me almost simultaneously – that I truly understood. That was my A-ha moment.
God does not want us playing small or average. He wants us to shine bright. He wants us to be confident, full of belief and hope; to live without fear or limitations. He wants us to soar.
We are not hurting others by being great, wonderful, and fabulous. Instead, we are blessing those around us. It is this light that attracts.
I had not been living the best version of me. I was holding back, allowing childhood perceptions to dim my light.
This A-ha moment – my moment of clarity – adjusted my view of who I was and how I should live my life:
I was someone who was grateful and appreciated the good in things.
I realized that hiding my gifts and talents was not only hindering me but others as well.
My sensitivity is a blessing allowing me to be intuitive, insightful, and compassionate.
I am a risk taker who tries things; someone who has the fortitude to pick myself up and learn from my failures.
I am my own unique person. What I am is enough.
We are all enough. It is up to each of us to believe in and truly take to heart the truth of that statement. Rather than holding ourselves back because we feel inferior, not smart or qualified enough, too loud, too sensitive—too much or not enough—we must amp up our light rather than dim it.
Do you remember when stereograms (like the one above) were really popular? Stereograms are photos containing hidden 3D images that reveal themselves when the viewer focuses his/her eyes in a certain way. I remember going to the mall and seeing photos of stereograms like the one above for sale.
I would stare and stare and try to have the hidden, 3D image come forward. It took me a while to get the hang of it, but once I did, the easier it became. I figured out the technique.
I would have to relax my eyes and almost get into a trance-like state. Anytime that I tried to force the image to appear, the less likely I was able to see it. It was a matter truly letting go and relaxing.
Why am I writing about stereograms? Because it is the best analogy that I can use to describe my writing process. For me, I have to just get into the zone by relaxing my eyes and thought-process. The more I try to force my writing, the less successful I am to have words come.
This relaxation is extremely difficult to do when I am caught up in the hectic schedule of my life. I am literally a sponge and take in so much from my environment such as frantic and nervous energy. My brain can feel like it’s in overload and if I don’t give myself a chance to decompress, I feel as if I am in a constant nervous state of chaos. And well, you can bet that writing is the last thing that I am able to do.
I write this to emphasize the need to STEP AWAY and FIND TIME TO RELAX with deep breaths that release the stressors of the day. This is not an easy thing to do when you find time is limited. I am a victim of this. With work, my long commute, the boys’ crazy sports schedules, we are always on the go.
I am having to ask myself: “What can I do differently? How can I fit in this much-needed relaxation?” Click here to read more on this.
If you are looking to tap into your creativity–whether that is writing, painting, designing, or building something–find time to relax. Truly LET GO and surrender yourself to what you are trying to create.
Sports players often say that they are “in the zone,” which is another way of describing this creative process. Create while being in the zone. Let go and allow the momentum to flow. And it WILL!
Where you able to see the airplane in the stereogram above? Were you able to relax and not strain your eyes? If so, then practice this technique with your own creative project.
The above is an old blog posting, yet I felt compelled to share again. This, to me, is the epitome of the creative process.
My writing comes in spurts–sometimes I can become so engrossed in my writing that time seems to slip away. Other times, writing becomes a chore with each word a struggle.
However, my admiration of others’ creativity is never waning. I admire their ability to CREATE, DO, MAKE MAGIC HAPPEN. Their work seems effortless.
How do you channel the CONSISTENCY? For me, it is finding the time.
Writing can often be difficult. It requires the right combination of concentration and free-form thinking—the perfect oxymoron.
My best writing seems to come when I PLUNGE IN and JUST WRITE—not worrying about grammar, plausibility, or even what others think. Allowing the words to be dictated by my heart.