Last month I set out in search of my stories.
It seems they had left me just when I needed them most. I was about to step back into the public speaking arena where stories make the story teller memorable, personable, approachable, and lovable. I had a lifetime of them. I had just forgotten what they felt like.
So I headed to the mountains. I headed back to a place I could reconnect with the girl wonder I once was when I left home in search of the Promised Land. Clueless and carefree, I lived creatively and connected the dots between one set of opportunities and the next.
Clearly I was living the dream. I just didn’t realize it at the time. I was worried about how I would pay the rent without a “real job” or how I would sell my next big idea without selling out. I housesat, dogsat, catsat, and taught fitness classes in order to support my writing.
Eventually I outgrew my gypsy lifestyle and got a job that gave me structure and enough security to continue the creative life on weekends and bank holidays. But lately the creative life has been demanding more and more of my time and attention.
So I consented to a trip.
Now we all know what happens when you give a moose a muffin, a mouse a cookie, a cat a cupcake, or a dog a donut.
Adventure ensues. Or in my case, more trips.
Suddenly my past wants to inform my future. Like walking a labyrinth, this time around I need to pay particular attention to the parts I missed the first time.
Because this time I am present. I know I am living the dream.
I get how incredibly lucky I am to have these stories to tell, these people to love, these places to visit. I get what a long, strange trip it’s been. And I’m especially excited to blog about it.
At the beginning of 2015 I did a 30-day blogging challenge with Jeff Goins that changed my course as a writer. Today I came across his 7-day blogging challenge.
While I’m not sure I will take him up on this challenge, it did prompt me to write today. Which is what our best stories do. They get us to do the next right thing to move the action of our lives forward.
So, what will you do today? What story are you telling yourself and those around you?
I’d love to hear your story in the comments below.
It’s Leap Day!
Following in Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes footsteps, this Leap Year I’ve decided to say yes to any reasonable opportunity to expand and grow, despite its power to terrify and send me into a full blown panic before, during, and after the opportunity.
For me this means doing anything that involves public scrutiny of my less than perfect performances. Whether those performances include speaking, leading, teaching, or seizing my fifteen minutes of fame, the moment I have an audience is the moment I doubt the dazzling idea that came to me in the shower and insisted I share it publicly. It’s the moment my heart beats faster, my mouth goes dry, and my voice gets a little shaky.
I’m determined to manage this and train my butterflies to fly in formation. I’ve pondered Eleonor Roosevelt’s suggestion to, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Because that idea instantly overwhelms me, I’ve amended it to doing one thing every month that scares me.
Because here’s what happens when I get too comfortable. When I finally do venture out into what I call my evolutionary zone, I have to summon up every ounce of courage and grit from my previous expeditions. If it’s been more than 21 days, I’ve more than likely lost my mojo and have to start all over again.
To save time and energy, I’ve decided to just keep putting myself out there. Instead of retreating back to the safety of base camp, I plan to keep climbing and set up temporary shelter at higher altitudes.
For example, last Friday I did something nine years in the making. I collaborated with a co-worker to present a session at our Staff Development Day. I know what you’re thinking. No big deal. You may have to do this kind of thing all the time.
The reason it was a big deal to me was because I used to train and speak to groups for a living prior to taking this job. When I put on my college administrator hat, I put away my stand-up comedienne/trainer hat and hoped the delusions of grandeur would subside.
Watching others do what I am perfectly capable of doing or, worse, witnessing people fail to do what needs to be done, catapulted me out my comfort zone. “Be the change you seek,” means nothing unless I act on it.
For me this meant volunteering to lead the kind of session I would like to attend on Staff Development Day. It also meant submitting a proposal a year ago to speak at Beyond Rubies, a fabulous women’s conference at Kirkwood Community College, this Thursday and Friday, March 3-4. (If you happen to be in Iowa, please join me Friday morning and learn How to Get Your Groove Back.)
I don’t do this for the money. In fact, there’s usually no compensation involved in these kinds of gigs. The payoff for me is who I become in the process of facing what feels like either a potential public execution (one that ends my career) or an evolutionary experience (one that moves me forward).
Who I become regardless of the outcome is a voracious reader, devouring anything remotely related to my topic. I become incredibly curious and open as I scout for examples to backup my theories. I become bold and daring as I try out new material on anyone who will listen, my dog and houseplants included. And I’m forced to relax and put all the things I’m preaching into practice so I align my words and actions and authentically walk my talk.
When I do that, something remarkable happens. I become the change other people are seeking and enthusiastically share my secrets. The nerves fall away, the worry about what might come out of my mouth disappears, and I am present, having fun, and connecting with the most amazing people.
I made some rookie mistakes on Friday because it had been awhile since I had presented. I was aware of them, my co-presenter was aware of them, and maybe even my friends in the audience caught them. But no one let on. Everyone acted as if attending the last presentation on a Friday afternoon was a seamless segue into a well-deserved weekend.
This Leap Day you have an opportunity to say “yes” to new beginnings. Or you can say”no” to what needs to end. Name and claim, tame, or reframe whatever you want to bring into being. Then do the one thing that’s scariest of all – act on it.
I’d love to hear about your leaps in the comments below.
Time and space have always presented a particular challenge for me. In theory I know I’ve made several trips around the sun, but depending upon the day or the circumstance, I can feel anywhere from age 9 to 90.
When I’m feeling older and wiser, I want to travel back in time to tell my younger self to stay curious and to allow the answers come in their own time. I want to reassure her that she will find what she’s looking for in the most unlikely places and what is meant for her will not elude her.
Lately, however, my younger self wants to tell my mature self a few things. Specifically, my past self who spent the majority of her time teaching fitness classes in gyms, studios, and corporate fitness facilities wants to remind my present self how to be at home in my body.
A couple of years ago, I decided that in order to do my best work, I had to be my best self. This meant getting myself in shape – physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, spiritually, you name it. I was determined to get my groove back and set out to do just that.
Because I had lost my groove gradually through a series of habitual, unconscious choices over the course of a decade or two, I had to get it back through a series of intentional, deliberate actions on a daily basis.
I spent half of 2014 and all of 2015 educating myself about nutrition and how to properly nourish myself and others. I became a certified eating psychology coach and guided a few friends through a purification process that left us all feeling fabulous.
But feelings are fleeting. Taking it to the next level in 2016 for me is about embodying. It’s about getting out of my head and fully inhabiting and listening to my body.
A brief glance at a photo of me in legwarmers and tights back in the day made a new approach to getting physical necessary.
I found my motivation in Erin Stutland’s Shrink Sessions. She has combined the words of wisdom it has taken me a lifetime to master with physical actions and movements that ground these concepts in muscle memory.
Her workouts, Soul Strolls, and meditations are incredibly empowering. One day it occurred to me that Erin is who I wanted to be when I grew up. Or at least who I wanted to be when I was her age.
As I reflected on my early fitness career, I realized I had been very much like her.
In a surreal Back to the Future moment, I marveled at the perfection of finding this soul sister across time and space and allowing her to train me (without even knowing I exist) in the present for the future that awaits.
Listening to Erin’s mantras on my iPod as my dog and I stroll along the snow covered trail, I think about the technology and infinite intelligence that connects us and delivers perfect messages at precise moments to the people who are poised to act on them.
The kicker is we may never know the positive impact we have on each other. That’s why it’s both courageous and imperative to put our work out in the world for its own sake.
We live in incredible times and the abundance of information, education, and inspiration at our fingertips is staggering. There are experts ready, willing, and able to guide us through any transformation we care to experience.
The amazing thing is when we look outside ourselves for help, we often get to see own brilliance mirrored back to us in others whose future or past resembles our own. It’s easy to project greatness and success onto someone else, declaring we would never have the discipline, the talent, the chutzpah, or the support to do what they have done. But we can’t recognize something in others we don’t also have in ourselves.
This year don’t hesitate to call on your past self, your future self, or your alter ego to help you evolve into your best self. Then stay tuned as to who shows up to collaborate with you.
What words of wisdom might you have for your time traveling self? Share if you dare in the comments below.
Bill Gates said, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”
At the end of every year I spend a couple of weeks trying to capture the essence of the previous twelve months. After that, I name and claim what I hope to create in the following twelve.
Every year definitely has its own flavor, but without some kind of summary that can easily bring the challenges and breakthroughs to mind, I can lose sight of how far I’m come, how much I’ve been able to contribute, or the overarching themes of any given decade.
I can also lose sight of how much time is passing without any progress towards the big, hairy, audacious goals I claim to equate with the meaning of life – at least my life.
This year I thought it would be fun to create an infographic of 2014. Doing so each year can keep me on track as well as eternally grateful and often humbled.
The talented designer Amanda Burton at LIttle Miss Mrs creates these cards and newsletters. Because I could only use a limited number of words and events, I had to choose them wisely and strategically, sometimes as code for something else.
For example, I never say “what not“, but it’s the favorite word of the youngsters in my life. Including it includes them. “It’s good to be Queen” refers to a significant shift I experienced participating in my Eating Psychology coaching program.
There are still a few edits left to make on this version but I wanted to share it with you before the first month of the New Year escaped. Maybe it will inspire you to create one for yourself or your family?
I was talking with a friend who was describing his life as being on hold for the past three or four years. Anyone who has been on hold for three or four minutes can imagine how excruciating three or four years might feel. Everything he tried from seeking new employment to moving to a new city to looking for love seemed to get a resounding “no” or “not yet” from the universe even though his biological clock was ticking at an alarming rate.
I could relate, having spent more than a few years wandering around the desert in what seemed like a perpetual pause. It wasn’t that I didn’t have dreams. It wasn’t even that I didn’t have the time because by all accounts, especially my bank account, that’s all I had.
What I didn’t have was structure, a strategy, or accountability. I had a grand vision for my future but I had no plan for how each day could lead me anywhere but into temptation. Like a tumbleweed, my daily course was determined by whichever way the prevailing winds blew. I was definitely in what Gretchen Rubin calls drift or “the decision you make by not deciding, or by making a decision that unleashes consequences for which you don’t take responsibility.”
The good news is most detours eventually lead us back to the beaten path, often with insights we’d never have gleaned if not for the detour. Now that I have a lot of structure and accountability, I often lament my lack of free time for creative pursuits. I remembered the long days of limbo and wondered why in the world I didn’t write more, do more, or accomplish more.
But those days by their very nature evoked a kind of analysis paralysis. I couldn’t see the gift of “the pause” then because I was so desperately confused about my overwhelming underachievement, my lack of monetary resources, and the enormous burden of potential. I was so focused on what wasn’t working that I couldn’t see what was and take full advantage of it.
Listening to my friend, I started thinking about what I know now that might help someone in a similar situation take the kind of action that would pull him or her forward with purpose and passion.
Here is what I came up with.
1 – When in doubt, begin. You don’t know what you don’t know. So start immediately and find out. You do not need a lot of money to begin. In fact, at this stage of the game, if you have too many resources, you’ll probably squander them. Because you don’t know what you don’t know, you won’t yet know what or how to properly invest those resources.
What you need is an idea, the courage to act on it, and someone to hold you accountable for doing what you say you’re going to do. You must connect with other people. If you are too timid to get out and meet people, start with a virtual community. Don’t simply stalk. Talk. Connect. Contribute. No one knows you are there until you give yourself away.
2. Begin again. Every day you will need to recommit to yourself, your project, the changes you want to make, the action you need to take. This may be easy when the project is new and fun and you are getting some positive feedback. Regretfully, this will not last. One day you will wake up and convince yourself none of it matters. It does. Begin again.
It may feel like you are taking baby steps or managing micro movements that are getting you nowhere. It may even feel like you are losing ground. Backing up is sometimes necessary to gain the speed you need for takeoff. You simply must begin again. And then again and again. Each time you begin, you start from a different vantage point. You gain more experience and perspective.
3. Start where you are. Do what you can with what you’ve got. You will always have a reason to postpone the start if you wait for everything to align before you dare to act. Don’t miss the gift of today by waiting for the perfect someday. Lean times are the best learning times. They teach you about what’s essential. Then creativity kicks in and help you figure out how to get it.
4. Get fit. The same factors that contribute to an effective fitness program contribute to the success of any program. Strength, flexibility, and endurance are essential to taking an idea from inception to execution. You have to summon your strength for the many times things don’t go as you would like, which will be daily, possibly hourly, at the start. You also have to stay as flexible as possible since your idea will and should undergo many incarnations as it evolves and adapts. And you’ll need to pace yourself and build your endurance so you can manage your time and energy over the long haul.
5. Manage your expectations. Beginning is hard. Beginning again is harder. Starting where you are and getting fit take a real commitment. Once you’ve worked through these steps you may be more than a little anxious to see some results or at least see the light at the end of the tunnel. Do not set yourself up for disappointment by assuming you know what success should look like and when it should arrive. That blinding light could be an oncoming train. Don’t get derailed by thinking it should have been your ticket out of oblivion. Resilience is a key quality to have in your toolkit. We are a society obsessed with overnight success and Cinderella stories. Yours is not a fairy tale but a love story, an adventure story, a comedy and drama where all parts of you embark on a hero’s journey. Expect the unexpected.
6. Get ready. Gather your wits about you. While it may look as if nothing is happening, you’re simply experiencing that grace period when you can fly under the radar and make mistakes without anyone really noticing. Use this grace period to figure out who you are, what you want, why you want it and what you are willing to do, sacrifice, contribute, give up, allow, and accept so when the world comes knocking at your door, you are ready to let them in.
If you have some secrets that you’d like to share about the art of the start, please add them below!