In addition to everything else that today may be, July 4th is also Day 4 of Get Stuff Done 1×31.
There is a lot of picnicking, parading, and playing patriotic music in the USA today. In sticking with this celebratory theme, today’s task is to create an anthem.
We all need an anthem, a fight song, a Get Stuff Done 1×31 battle cry.
If cleaning the pantry and putting up deck lights are on your list (oh, right, that’s my list), you may want to create an iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, Deezer, Google Play, Tidal, or Apple Music playlist to get your through the tasks at hand.
Just as the soundtrack to a movie is essential to evoking the emotions necessary to move the action along, having a playlist for your project, party, or potential road trip helps you sustain your momentum. The music also anchors the event in your memory.
I’ve been making “mixed tapes” and playlists since I taught aerobics in the 80s. Trust me, it’s never been easier or more exciting to mix music than it is today. If you have yet to discover the sonic sanctuary that awaits you at any of the above streaming music sources, take 5-15 minutes and check it out today. (Be warned, it may turn into an hour or all afternoon adventure.)
I know you’ve got the music in you. Tap into its power to propel you forward.
Here’s a little patriotic music in case you aren’t one of the 7 million people who have viewed this video. https://www.facebook.com/AnthemLights/videos/1434597926565706/
Share your ideas or recommend your favorite playlists and artists in the comments below.
Never fear, your Get Stuff Done 1 x 31 prompt is here!
Today we’re looking at the list you made on Day 1 and reviewed on Day 2 for the third time so we can chunk it down into doable deeds.
Remember on Day 1 when I said your list could include a couple “wouldn’t it be nice if...” items?
Well, despite your inability to get these items done in 15 minutes or less or even 31 days or less, there is a reason these things made your list. It’s the same reason they show up as New Year’s Resolutions every year. Against all odds, you still want to accomplish them.
Whether it’s lose 20 pounds, write a best seller, give a TED talk, start a garden, adopt a child, or donate your work clothes to Dress for Success, these things are possible.
They are, however, going to require a different strategy than the one you’ve been using for your New Year’s resolutions.
You know when someone says, “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” and they usually follow it up with, “It’s all small stuff?”
Well, the secret to any big project, dream, goal, or desire is to break it down into the small stuff. You will most likely not be able to achieve this goal by August, but you can be 31 days closer to it than you were in June. It’s up to you.
You’ve heard it a hundred times. Rome wasn’t built in a day. The journey of a thousand steps starts with the first one. The way to get impossible stuff done is to consistently take the smallest, easiest, least intimidating task on your road to Shambala. Then, one day, without even realizing it, you’ll be leaping tall buildings in a single bound.
So, get your list and let’s break it down.
- How many things on your list are absolutely intimidating?
- How many things overwhelm you just looking at them?
- How many things excite you?
- How many things are you looking forward to doing?
- How many things require an elaborate plan?
- How many things are neither dreadful nor desirable but just need to get done?
- How many things have to do with your health and well-being?
- How many things have to do with money?
- How many things have to do with relationships?
- How many things have to do with your business?
- How many things do you honestly feel you will do?
No judgment here. I just want you to be realistic about this challenge. If you don’t think you will do it, don’t want to do it, don’t have to do it, or don’t need to do it, cross it off your list. If you have no emotional incentive to do it, you won’t.
I don’t know about you, but in my world, more stuff gets done the day before I leave for vacation or on Friday afternoons between 4:30-6pm when my staff and students have gone for the weekend than any other time. I have written more since I’ve had a 40++ hour/week job than I ever did when I set my own schedule.
As much as I rail against deadlines and structure, nothing lights a fire under my feet faster than knowing I can no longer procrastinate, the buck stops with me, and I will pay the piper for dilly-dallying.
Which is why even though you have 11 other months to get stuff done, you and I are going to get stuff that matters to us done every single day this month.
Okay. Let’s review.
- You’ve made your list.
- You’ve checked it twice and uncovered your motivation.
- You are going to chunk it up, break it down, and take a small step or two on the most doable action items on your list.
For example, a couple of years ago, I got my groove back, lost those 20 pounds, and now have a lot of clothes that I hope to never wear again that are taking up significant storage space. I am determined to donate these clothes to the local Dress for Success organization this month.
The logistics of laundering, labeling, and lugging these clothes to the donation site an hour away on the second Saturday of the month from 10am-2pm are a bit daunting.
But I desperately want to reclaim my storage space and I’m committed to donating these clothes to people who can use them.
The only way for me to get this done is to chunk it up.
Here’s what’s happened so far. Day 1 I read the article about Dress for Success. A week later I called to ask some questions. I talked to someone who told me to email a staff member who would help me set up an appointment. A week later I emailed that person to set up an appointment. Since appointment times are during my work day, I need drop the clothes off on the second Saturday of the month. Since that is coming up quickly, this week I need to pick out and label the first round of clothes to go. Taking all of them at once is too overwhelming since I’m not exactly sure what they will take.
Do you see how one item on your list may take all month? Five to fifteen minutes at a time.
Inch by inch, it’s a cinch. Yard by yard, it’s hard.
So, what’s on your list that you need to break down?
Does it make sense now why it was important to establish your why on Day 2? This isn’t easy stuff. If is was, you would have done it already. Knowing your “why” will get you through the “how“.
And remember, you’ve got the support of the group.
Share your questions, suggestions, ideas, or lists in the comments below.
Ho, ho, no! It’s not Christmas in July. But it is Day 2 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge and today we’re building on what we did on Day 1.
I trust you made a list of stuff you’d love to get done in the next 30 days. Remember the list doesn’t necessarily have to be reality based. It can be a wish list of sorts. However, I’m guessing a few things found their way on to your list that are not only doable, but may already be done.
Being the go-getter you are, I’d be surprised if you did not immediately do one thing just to cross it off your list. For that reason alone, I’m glad you joined the challenge.
Today we’re going to take a deep dive into what our list is all about. Call it what you will, a to-do list, a bucket list, a wish list, a grocery list, a laundry list, a just following the rules lists, you name it (literally).
I’m guessing many of you made a numbered list with a column called “To Do”. Okay, so a few of you went wild and created color-coded mind map. You maybe even jotted your list down on the back of a napkin. However you designed your list is perfect-o.
What I’d like you to do now is to expand your list and add two more columns to the right with the headings“To Have” and “To Be” so you end up with a total of three columns. You may need to start over so you have enough room.
Your new list should look something like this.
One of my favorite quotes by Michael Hyatt is “We lose our way when we lose our why.” Today’s challenge is all about uncovering your why.
To the best of your ability, see if you can figure out what all the To Do is about. Is the reason you want to get the stuff done in Column 1 so you can have something (Column 2), be something (Column 3), or both?
Hopefully this little adventure in list making helps you get clear on why you want to get certain stuff done. When the time comes to get it done, you’ll know what’s at stake if you don’t. Maybe it’s your reputation. Maybe it’s your self-esteem. Maybe it’s world peace – or your corner of the world. Maybe it’s the simple satisfaction of a job well done.
Whatever it is, find your motivation.
Since this may take longer than 15 minutes, you can just pick a couple of items on your list for the deep dive. Of course, if you have time, I encourage you to do them all.
If you prefer, talk this over with the friends you’ve recruited to join you in this challenge. Just remember to write down what you discuss, so you can make it happen.
Okay, have fun. Feel free to post your encouraging words below.
It’s that time of year again!
July is our Get Stuff Done 1 x 31 Challenge month.
“What is the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge?” you ask.
It’s a way to slowly but surely knock out those little tasks that gnaw away at your peace of mind. It’s committing to daily micro-movements that move the action of your life along at regular clip, without getting stuck in the doldrums.
“What do I have to do?” you wonder.
I’ll post a prompt here each day. You just have to read it. And act on it.
“Why would I do this?” you protest. “I’m already overwhelmed!”
Well, you don’t have to do it. But it’s fun. It’s free. It’s different. It only takes 5-15 minutes of your day. You’ve got support along with some built in accountability. And it feels really satisfying to get even the smallest stuff done.
Here are 7 Rules to Success for this challenge:
- The activity will only take between 5 -15 minutes… because who doesn’t have at least 5 minutes? (If you’re into it, feel free to spend more time.)
- You have to actually do it, not just think about doing it.
- Approach each day’s challenge with an open mind. (“Been there, done that” attitude does not lend itself to openness. Avail yourself to new twists on familiar themes.)
- Be present to the task at hand. Save multi-tasking for the other 23 hours and 45 minutes of the day.
- Have fun with it. Judging, criticizing, or censoring yourself – or me! – takes all the fun out of it.
- Post your responses, reactions, or results in the day’s comments. It’s more fun when everyone contributes!
- Enlist a friend or two or twenty to join you. This will definitely boost your accountability and your popularity as leader of the pack.
The truth is you don’t get stuff done at all once. Overnight success is often years in the making. Your life moves forward decision by decision, action by action, thought by thought.
For the next 31 days, let’s move the needle on our mojo measuring devices so that by August 1, collectively we can feel as accomplished as all get out.
Yesterday I did something I never do.
I accompanied Bob on a business trip to Des Moines. I am usually the one attending the meetings since I love to attend writing and coaching conferences in fabulous places across the country. Bob, not so much. So I went for moral support.
While Bob spent the day learning about the latest governmental regulations imposed on his business (which explains his reluctance), I spent the day writing and hanging out at the pool.
At 10am on a Thursday, the pool was perfect. I had the place to myself. Was I in heaven? No, Iowa.
My plan to follow up my laps with a floating meditation evaporated as soon as a mother with a newborn, a toddler, and their adoring aunties arrived.
My disappointment over forfeiting the sanctuary of sunshine, water, and wispy clouds was quickly replaced with delight as the little guy’s glee spilled over onto all of us.
Even I began hoping his mom would hurry up applying the sunscreen so he could get in the pool and we could all share the adventure with him.
Because his mom was busy setting up the scene with towels, toys, and string cheese, the auntie brigade* took over. As one auntie burped the baby, the other auntie hopped in the pool and prepared the way for the boy named Brock to fulfill his most ambitious dream of the day.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the water.
He was a vision, standing there in all his glory, complete with water wings, a swimming diaper, a confident victory stance, and a superman cap.
He looked ready.
He seemed willing.
He was perfectly able.
His auntie was ready to catch him.
I was ready to catch her.
The step was right in front of him
He refused to jump in.
What looked like an epic adventure from a distance must have seemed like an ocean of uncertainty and utter terror up close. Suddenly, he wanted no part of it.
The devoted auntie cooed encouraging words and suggested he enter the pool by a less intimidating set of steps inside. He reluctantly agreed.
Together they emerged from the mysterious passage where the indoor pool joined with the outdoor pool. Brock was fine to be in the water for a few minutes. Then he needed a drink.
So he got out, secured his sippy cup of milk, and from the safety of the deck, took a strategic sip every time his auntie mentioned getting back in.
I watched this all unfold as the perfect metaphor for the great adventures and creative endeavors any of us attempt.
Sure, some of us can jump right in, knowing the shock of going from one set of circumstances (like being dry, hot, safe) to an entirely different set (like being wet, cold, and having to stay afloat) will only be temporary.
Most of us can easily get ourselves fired up and ready. But then, like Brock, freak out when faced with the enormity of our adventure. Bridled with the burden of our potential, we hesitate, procrastinate, dilly dally, drink, distract, and delay until we talk ourselves right out of the thing we’ve pledged allegiance to.
You are familiar with terror of embarking on your biggest adventures, are you not? Failure looms larger than any semblance of success. What if you find out you are not equal to the task or not worthy of your dreams?
But what if you find out the water is just fine? What if you discover it’s even more magical than you imagined? What if you discover the secret to the success of any adventure, project, or performance is that when you are present, you are absolutely okay?
If you can stay in the moment and breathe, you are more than equal to the task. If you trust that you can handle anything in the moment and not abandon yourself, you are wonderfully worthy.
This doesn’t guarantee that the path before you will never terrify you again. It only guarantees that you are gathering the grit required to risk, to dare, to dream, to desire, and to do it over and over again.
Failure is a given at some point. Just like paying up front and in full is usually required in the beginning. Eventually you’ll come to see the wisdom in this.
Once you’ve made a splash, jumped in, gotten wet, and lived to tell about it, you are qualified to continue on your quest. And encourage others on theirs.
So, carry on, my brave souls. And, might I suggest, you have a little fun? Because really, the water is fine. It’s even better when you join in.
*I read about the auntie brigade in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Committed. She beautifully describes the auntie brigade as consisting of those of us who have chosen not to have children but are deeply committed to being aunties to everyone in need. Personally, I love being a part of the auntie brigade!
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.
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!
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.
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!