Are We There Yet?

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It’s Day 23 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge. Today’s challenge is to practice persistence. The way I see it, life is an endurance event. It makes sense to train accordingly.
At some point in any trip someone – maybe even you – is bound to ask, “Are we there yet?”  It can be as soon as you leave town or within striking distance of your destination.
Whenever the question is raised, the challenge is to stay engaged enough in the journey to recognize when the ordinary becomes the extraordinary (see Day 14), shift happens (see Day 20), and your accumulated small changes (see Day 13) add up to something significant.

Many years ago I attended a 12-week workshop based on Julia Cameron‘s creed for creatives,  The Artist’s Way. One lesson that really stuck with me was about creative u-turns and the tendency to give up just when a breakthrough is imminent.
The problem, of course, is that we can’t see that the tide is turning because we’re exhausted or discouraged. So just when a final push is required, we close up shop, declaring our future dreams futile.
With just 8 days left in our Get Stuff Done 1x 31 Challenge, I implore you to stay the course.  Put in the effort for no other reason than to say you did it. I know you may not fully understand how satisfying that will feel, but let me tell you from past finishes, it feels fabulous!
Yes, there may be circumstances that prevent you from going on. But if you are not in such a situation, then I encourage you to do what I suggested you do on  Day 12, just keep swimming.
The first time I did a 30-day blogging challenge, it totally kicked my butt. It also turned me into the blogging fool I am today and earned me the right to call myself a writer.
I can’t say what these 31 days are doing for you. I can only say I’m incredibly proud of you for coming this far, doing your best, and putting your own spin on things in order to make these challenges meaningful to you.
Today it would have been so easy for me to play and coo non-stop with my new puppy Ruby (see below), my nieces, and mom who came over to welcome her into our world. And to help Jake adjust to the tiny intruder in his dog world.
But it’s Day 23.  No, we are not there yet. But let’s finish this thing strong, shall we?
Leave your comments or words of inspiration in the comments below.
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Wag More, Bark Less

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It’s Day 19 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge and today’s challenge is to wag more,  bark less.  In other words, find more to appreciate than to complain about.
It’s easy to find things to complain about. Anytime anything doesn’t meet your expectations it can give rise to a rant, a slew of snarkiness, or a cadre of complaints. It can also deplete your energy, darken your mood, and convince you that the world is out to get you.
Wagging, on the other hand, can have the opposite effect.  The reason making a list of  things you are grateful for each day is so powerful is because it shifts your focus from suffering to celebrating.  You can’t feel grateful and irritated at the same time.
Given the choice between communicating with a chronic complainer or a person who consistently gives compliments, wouldn’t you choose the latter?
Sure, some things beg to be corrected. Hairstyles of high profile politicians, for example. However, as I mentioned yesterday, everyone is entitled to their own opinions and personal style. You do you and all that jazz.
Instead of complaining about politics I’d rather applaud Stephen Colbert’s comical interpretation of the day’s events. Finding the funny in what feels futile is a fabulous way to let go of what’s beyond my control.
I used to be a self-help workshop junkie so I know every training trick in the book.  One exercise I really enjoyed was the time a presenter had us working in pairs and telling our partner what we feared and what we loved.
The first go round we could only speak of what stressed us out.  You can imagine what happened to the energy of the room. Get people voicing their greatest stressors, biggest fears, and devastating disappointments and the energy plummets.
The second go round we could only share what we loved. As you might expect, the energy skyrocketed.

Turns out talking about what you love is incredibly energizing.  And that energy is contagious. Giving voice to what you love sparks the recognition of more things you love.

Before you know it, out comes the sun, rainbows and unicorns appear, and evidence that life is basically good (Day 9) is everywhere.
For the next 5-15 minutes, please tell whoever is in earshot what you love. If no one is around, email me at penny@wellpower.com.  In case you can’t tell, I love dogs!! 
In great anticipation of the newest member of our family arriving on Saturday, Miss Ruby O’Riley the red lab and I encourage you to wag more, bark less.
*She’s also the reason this post is so late.  We had to go visit her and all her brothers and sisters tonight.  Her sister Frankie is in the photo above.  Ruby is in the photo below with Bob.
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If you have something to wag about, please share it in the comments below or email me with it at penny@wellpower.com.
 
 

How Does Your Garden Grow?

 
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It’s Day 17 of Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge and today’s challenge is to plant the seeds of an idea, a project, a goal, or a grand adventure and watch them grow.
No one was more shocked than me (okay, maybe my parents when they came to visit yesterday) to find these zucchinis and cucumbers growing like crazy in the makeshift garden Bob and I rigged up a month ago.
Growing up on a farm,the rhythm of planting and harvesting has been a constant throughout my life. It should come as no surprise that what we planted and dutifully cared for has come to fruition.
What is surprising is how much joy these veggies give me simply because they exist. Their transformation from a handful of seeds stuck in the mud to these enormous, edible specimens is nothing short of miraculous.
Too often I’m detached from all the hands that make it possible for the food I eat to end up on my table. I love frequenting farmers’ markets but often opt for the ease of the big box store that sells the same stuff regardless of the season.
During the eight months of my training to become a certified eating psychology coach, I thought more about food than I had at any previous point in my life. I noticed how it is grown, manufactured to last longer, distributed, stripped of its nutrients,  and “enhanced” to be more appealing. I paid attention to how much food we consume, waste, destroy, and produce. I became acutely aware of how we use food not only to feed and nourish ourselves but also punish and condemn ourselves,  hide our feelings, or protect ourselves from relentless stress.
The fact that I am growing greens on my own makes me confident that I can do just about anything I put on my Get Stuff Done 1×31 listif I give it some respect and attention.
What about you? What seeds have you planted either consciously or unconsciously over the past few weeks or months?  What signs of success are showing up in your world?
If nothing comes to mind, use your 5-15 minutes for today’s task to think about what you’d like to grow in your garden. And by garden, what I really mean is your field of dreams.
(I realize I can get away with the Field of Dreams reference because I live in Iowa, but I really do want you to grow your dreams.  Or at least something you feel is as fabulous as I feel the zucchinis, cucumbers, and soon-to-be-ready tomatoes and peppers are.)
What have you grown from a spark into something spectacular? I would love to hear what you are growing or see pictures of your bounty. Share your favorite gardening hacks in the comments below or email me at penny@wellpower.com.
 

Everyday Alchemy

 
Union du Soleil et de la Lune sur champ d'toilesIt’s Day 14 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge. Today’s challenge is to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.
While you may not be spinning straw into gold or base metals into unlimited riches, you do have the ability to turn an ordinary experience into an exquisite event.
“Surely this will take more than 15 minutes,” you protest.
Let me just remind you how quickly you have transformed a child’s playroom into a castle, a jungle, a campground, or a pirate ship with just a few props and an ample imagination.
If you’ve ever planned a party, a product launch, a promotional event, or an evening with the in-laws, you know that it all starts with the intent to create something spectacular.
While you may not be able to pull all the pieces together in 5-15 minutes, you can start making a list or sketching out a mind-map or making some calls to reinforcements in order to start the transformation.
Amazon’s 24 hour Prime Day sale is an example of how you can transform an ordinary day into something extraordinary.  What started last year as a way to celebrate their 20th anniversary and promote their prime membership turned into a global event this year that transformed an ordinary Tuesday in July into the biggest sales day on record, outselling Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
Of course there were thousands of details that went into the planning, promoting, and executing of this event, but it started with the idea to make something out of nothing, which is what I’m suggesting you do.
Normally I would not encourage much ado about nothing, but sometimes you’ve got to make your own kind of magic just because you can.
Maybe you want to start celebrating Financial Freedom Fridays to see if you can go without purchasing anything for one Friday a quarter.  Or maybe you want to practice Meatless Mondays where you venture into vegetarianism for a month of Mondays. Or try Tell-a-New-Tale-Tuesday where you rewrite your story with the happy ending you know you deserve. It’s all up to you to decide what you want to do.
Get Stuff Done 1×31 was just a challenge I posed to a few friends last year. This year we’re all in this together and I’m amazed at what people are doing.
How can you turn an evening at home into a something special? How can you make a meal into a memory?  How can you transform a birthday celebration into a brand new beginning, regardless of how old you are? What do you need to alter in order to experience the extraordinary that awaits?
We’re all everyday alchemists. Share  your secrets in the comments below.
 

Stop, Drop, and Roll

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It’s Day 10 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge and today’s challenge is a variation on stop, drop, and roll.
I learned this fire safety drill early on in my relationship with Fireman Bob. I believe it was the first time I offered to cook him a meal.
“Should your clothes catch on fire,” he warned as soon as he witnessed my wizardry with the gas stove,“your response is to stop, drop, and roll.”
Of course this is no longer a threat now that I’m banned from the kitchen. But, the lesson stuck with me and today I’d like to adapt the stop, drop, and roll theory to our Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge.
I’d love for you stop for 5-15 minutes today and review your progress so far. We’re about 1/3 of the way through our challenge. Nothing builds on the excitement of a movement like momentum.
So grab your lists and let’s review your to do’s-to be’s- to have’s , listen to a couple of your playlists, take a peek at those pics you took to post your progress, and gather your evidence that the world is basically good.

What are the biggest and smallest items you’ve been able to accomplish in 10 days? Would you have done these things had you not been doing the 1×31 challenge?

You are inching forward, are you not? You’ve earned bragging rights so go ahead a tell someone or share with the rest of us in the comments below.
Yesterday I took some work clothes to Dress for Success, which was a big item on my list. On Day 5, with the help of Fireman Bob, I got the pantry organized. (The pantry is not off limits. No fire hazards there.)
Okay, this is where I’m taking creative license with the Stop, Drop, and Roll drill and changing Drop and Roll to Rock and Roll. I think you know where this is heading. That’s right. Dance party.
Remember on Day 7 when I asked you to do something for the health of it?  Just in case you didn’t get around to that, here is your chance. As they say, dance like no one’s watching. Play air guitar. Break out the roller skates/blades. Or do the hokey -pokey and turn yourself around.
Just do some small physical thing (like throw your arms up in a victory pose as I did  when my feet touched this exquisite red sand near Zion National Park) to celebrate your success so far. If that happens to be drop and roll, so be it.  Otherwise, rock on!
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Okay, here’s your playlist to accompany today’s post:
Celebrate Good Times – Kool and the Gang
Rock On – David Essex – or if you prefer the Midnight Special edition, click here.
Stop, Drop, and Roll – Safety Safety Song for Kids- This is fabulous… a stop, drop, and roll song! These kids are amazing and their dance moves are awesome.
It’s Still Rock N Roll to Me – Billy Joel
Rock Me Gently – Andy Kim – One of my all time favorite songs:)
Wagon Wheel – Darius Rucker
Rock Me Amadeus – Falco
Roll With It – Steve Winwood
Only Rock and Roll – The Rolling Stones

  • The fascinating thing with compiling these playlists is I’ve never watched any of the videos until now.  I usually just searched for the music on iTunes. It’s been quite entertaining to actually watch the videos. Hope you enjoy them as well. 🙂

 
Your suggestions are welcome in the comments below.
 
 
 
 

You're Not Getting Older, You're Getting Better

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It was the early seventies when I first heard a commercial for Loving Care reassure me, “You’re not getting older, you’re getting better.” At the impressionable age of 7 or 8,  I had high hopes of getting older and better.  However, it’s taken me decades to truly appreciate the wisdom of this bit of marketing.
Contrary to popular belief, getting older does not mean stepping off a cliff into an abyss of aches and pains, memory loss and incontinence, age spots and unsightly facial hair. These things may or may not come with the territory, but they definitely don’t define what I’ve come to see as this grace period I’ve grown into.
I went begrudgingly into my forties. I was attached to being relatively young, reasonably attractive, and readily available. I feared crossing the threshold into middle age would catapult me into oblivion. I assumed I’d immediately become invisible, undesirable, and unemployable.
That was not an appealing option.
The better option was to own my throne and step into a Queendom of my own making. The world needs more Kings and Queens, grown up men and women who know who they are, understand what they have to offer, and are not afraid to contribute to the well-being of the world. Instead of depending on the world to define them, who they are defines the world.
We live in a youth-obsessed society. Letting go of the goodies surrounding princes and princesses isn’t easy. We’ve all grieved our glory days. Yet every age has its upsides. Unfortunately, we tend to focus more on the downsides the further on down the road we go.
As founder of the Midlife MacGyver Movement and an enthusiastic advocate of Getting Your Groove Back, I’m here to put a stop to all the trash talk about aging.
As I settle into my fifth decade, I’ve never felt more confident about my ability to move about the planet, share my ideas, open my mind, inhabit my body, learn from those who are different from me, relax into the unknown, and trust my ability to handle whatever happens next.
I’m living the dream, albeit a very different one than I imagined when I was half my age. If someone would have suggested to my younger self I’d be living where I’m living, doing what I’m doing with the people I’m doing it with, I wouldn’t have believed them. And yet if I connect the dots, there’s no doubt I would be here now.
I recently read an article by Ramit Sethi called Why Successful People Take 10 Years to “Succeed Overnight.”  It caught my attention in part because I’ve always joked it’s taken me 40 years to achieve overnight success. And by “success” I mean the way I measure it these days. This, too, is very different than I would have defined it even a few years ago.
Sethi talks about the underappreciated power of sequence and using the domino strategy to take one small step.  Like dominoes, that first small step is followed by a little bit bigger step and so on, creating the momentum that can ultimately move mountains, or at least very large dominoes. He explores the invisible scripts that run and often sabotage our lives, and how the treadmill of disappointment can derail us right when we’re on the verge of a breakthrough.
If you’ve lived long enough, you’ll recognize where you’ve succeeded and where you’ve strayed. And if you’ve learned anything, you’ll know without a doubt, you’re not just getting older. Fortunately for all of us, you’re getting better.
Today I embark on another trip around the sun, chalking up another year to experience. Of the many things I’m grateful for, one is getting to show up in your inbox unannounced and share stuff that catches my fancy.
Thanks for reading and allowing me to do the thing that makes me feel the most alive and the most vulnerable.  Open a vein and let the words pour out.
 
 
 

The Adventure Begins

Bright Pink Sky with Adventure Quote
There was an unusually large crowd at the airport at 5am on Thursday morning. Although I knew it was my day to travel, I didn’t know I know it was also the day local veterans were traveling to Washington, D.C. as part of the famed Honor Flight.
Even though we were headed in different directions, we all had to get through security at roughly the same time. Consequently, I had several opportunities to practice my stress management skills as the media descended upon these war heroes and threatened to derail my imminent departure.
Having been the last one to board a plane in the past,  I knew what the walk of shame to my seat at the back of the plane felt like. I had no interest in experiencing it again.
Despite being a seasoned traveler, getting from here to there still unnerves me. There are many things I could do to become a better traveler. Pack less. Arrive early. Bring snacks. Have a travel buddy. Take sedatives. Stay home.
The very act of traveling means I surrender control of most things with the exception of my attitude. And I can only control that when I stay present and positive.
Thursday’s journey led me through fog in Iowa, snow in Denver, and rain in Texas. Someone had mistakenly taken my seat on the first flight. This set off the equivalent of a Chinese fire drill for the rest of us scrambling to find our assigned seats.
All of the iTunes purchases I had diligently transferred to “the cloud” were apparently stuck there, waiting to be downloaded, and were unavailable to me when I was literally in the clouds wanting to hear them.
Because I depend so heavily on my playlists to transport me to my calm and quiet place, this discovery was especially disconcerting. Fortunately, I had a few meditation apps on my phone and could listen to those as we lifted off and landed.
When things fail to go as expected I can get cranky or I can get creative.
About a week before I travel, present, or do anything outside my comfort zone, I start stressing out. About a day before lift off,  I’m downright difficult and berate myself for thinking the trip, the talk, or the big event was a good idea in the first place. The truth is by this point I’m terrified, so I’m a tyrant.
But once I get to the other side, I’m deeply grateful I had the courage to leap into the unknown. For instance, Austin was a damp and gloomy place when I arrived. Because I’ve lived in Texas, I know how quickly the weather can change. And let’s face it. It’s Austin – capitol, creative mecca, home to SXSW and all things techy. What’s not to love about Austin – even on a rainy day?
When my Uber driver arrived 5 minutes after I called like clockwork and charged me $10 for the usual $35 cab ride, I realized most adventures are worth the effort required to arrange them. When the hotel let me check in at noon instead of 3pm, I knew the tide was turning. When I managed to walk around town for a couple of hours and not get lost, my confidence returned.
Suddenly the sun came out and dried up all the rain so I headed to the pool. When someone came up to me and asked, “Penny?“, I knew I was not going to be friendless for four days. An old UNI alum who I hadn’t seen since the 80s was here to attend the same coaching workshop with Martha Beck and her wonderful wayfinders that I was.
When I think about the day I might have had if this were my normal Thursday, I doubt I would have had much to blog about. At 4:30pm when I wrote this and had been awake for well over 12 hours, the day’s biggest adventure hadn’t even begun.
At 6pm I met 30 new friends from across the country when we all attended Susan Hyatt’s Girlfriends Gone Wild dinner party.  No one could believe the story of the unexpected reunion with my college friend or the fact that we were both dressed similarly and wore almost identical leopard shoes.
I’m sure I’ll have much more to blog about in the next 72 hours. In the meantime, let my adventure spark one of your own.  I’m here to tell you, contrary to what fear tells you, adventures are the antidote to whatever ails you. Let them begin!

Six Secrets to The Art of the Start

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!