What's the Plan?

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I ended 2016 very differently than I have most other years. Instead of going quietly into the New Year with as little fanfare as possible, I experienced a media blitz that had me working harder on my time off than I had at any other time throughout the year.

It was part of my whole alphabet plan to get from Here to the New Year in Good Cheer. It also allowed me to end 2016’s self-titled “Stretch Year” strong by catapulting me out of my comfort zone and consistently into the public arena.

Instead of building on this momentum and jockeying for position in the onslaught of self-improvement programs that January brings about, I retreated. In order to hear the still, small voice among all the shoulding and shouting, I had to get quiet.

As a college administrator, January rivals August as a “don’t mess with me” month. At least not until the students are registered, the faculty is prepped, the staff is informed, and we all get through the first few weeks of classes.

So I’ve resisted the urge to jump into every exciting new program that arrives in my Inbox as well as the temptation to launch my own signature program. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

There is a lot of buzz at the beginning of a New Year. It’s an excellent time to tap into the energy of a fresh start, a new beginning, a clean slate. As much as I wanted to ride the wave and see how far it would take me, I was starting to feel a bit frazzled.

So I asked myself, “What’s the workable plan for now?  What’s the next right step to move my life forward at a sustainable rate?” 

The answer? Plan my work and work my plan. This, of course, calls for a fabulous planner!

Last year I used Danielle LaPorte’s daily planner, which piqued my interest in planners. This year I decided to try out her weekly planner. Even though this planner works brilliantly for my creatively quirky mind, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Are there other planners out there I might also love?”

Oh yeah. Being organized is big business.

I researched and ordered a few planners that made the top  10 lists. One was the Inkwell 2017 planner. This could possibly be my new favorite planner because of all the fun extras like a habit tracker, mission board, lots of space for notes, colorful tabs, and some pockets in the back to store stuff.

The other was Nourished the daily planner for a well-fed life.  I loved the concept and it seemed like the perfect planner to help me be more deliberate and intentional with my meal planning and fitness tracking. It just arrived over the weekend, so I haven’t worked with it too much yet.

As much as I love  each of these planners and are impressed by the details that went into their design, ultimately I have to customize them so they track what I deem important. I need a place to ask the clarifying questions on a daily basis that are just as important to me as knowing where I need to be at what time.

For example, every morning it helps me to ask:

  • What is this day about? 
  • What wants to come forward?  
  • What needs to get done?
  • How do I want to feel?
  • What am I willing to do to feel that way?

Every evening it helps me to figure out:

  • Where was the magic hiding?
  • Where did I get tripped up, lose focus, fall out of integrity, or tell myself something that wasn’t true?
  • What was lost? 
  • What was found?
  • What were the HappyThankYouMorePlease moments?
  • What brilliant ideas surfaced?
  • What thoughts consistently hound me?
  • What do I need to sleep on and hope to gain clarity on for tomorrow?
  • Where did I excel?
  • Where can I improve?

The answers to these questions dictate my actions and determine what makes it on the next day’s agenda.

What about you? How much attention do you pay to your day and how does this attention or lack of attention affect your ability to achieve what you want to achieve?

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. you may want to craft your own “I Have a Dreamspeech today. Even if you don’t have any inkling as to how to achieve it or the specifics of what you truly want, just start by stating what you believe is possible. You don’t have to deliver it to anyone else. This is mainly to remind you of what matters and why.

Or, if you are avoiding resolutions or self-reflection the way year-round exercisers avoid the gym until February, that’s okay.  Just breathe in, breathe out, and go about your business. Let the dream, the purpose, or the vision find you.

One of my favorite mantras is, “What you seek is also seeking you.” Somehow the timing is always perfect. Trust wherever you are is where you need to be for now.

You’ve got a whole year ahead of you. Plan accordingly.*

I’d love for you to share your favorite planners and any tips or tricks for making 2017 your best one yet in the comments below.

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*P.S. –  There will no doubt be surprises and things you didn’t see coming in the year ahead.  Don’t forget to leave some room for the unexpected in your grand plan.  Keeps it interesting!

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Be Here Now

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It’s Day 31 of the Get Stuff Done 1 x31 Challenge. Today’s challenge is to be here now and savor the success of consistently doing something small but significant to move your life forward. That means before you rush into the next big thing, you take some time to articulate, enumerate, and celebrate all the stuff you’ve done in the last 31 days.

While I could go into detail about the impressive things you’ve accomplished, I’m going to share something I posted after last year’s challenge with a few extra insights from this year. This helps explain why taking on a challenge that catapults us out of our comfort zone and into our evolutionary zone is so significant.

The reason for doing anything that challenges us physically, mentally, emotionally, spirituality, financially or all of the above is because we forget what we are made of. We lose sight of our superpowers. The only way to reactivate them is not to just dream the impossible dream but actually do something about it.

While it may seem like trying something for a few weeks, twenty-one days, or a month  or two won’t change  a lifetime of bad habits, you may be surprised what a little forward momentum will do for you.

Here are ten terrific reasons to act on your desires and take on a time specific challenge.

#1 – Focus is required.

Whether it’s 3 days or 30, knowing you have a finite amount of time to achieve certain results definitely clears your calendar of any unnecessary clutter or distractions and allows you to focus on the goal at hand.  If you think you have all the time in the world to work on your website, draw up a will, or lose twenty pounds, that’s how long it will take. If you have a timeline, a plan, and a schedule that’s non-negotiable, you’ll get down to business.

#2 – Resources rush to the rescue.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” The universe will meet you halfway but you have to take the first step.

When you are committed to the challenge, synchronicities occur. From random songs on the radio to books that fall off shelves to old friends who suddenly call with the exact information you need, assistance is all around you. Tune in to it.

#3 – Activation energy is unleashed.

In her TED talk, Mel Robbins talks about “activation energy” or the energy required to overcome the inertia you will experience when faced with the physical reality of changing your behavior.

Whether that’s throwing off the covers and getting out of bed a half hour early to write instead of hitting the snooze button or walking away from the chocolate chips crying out to you from the cupboard, conquering the gravitational pull to old habits will most likely be the hardest part of your challenge.

#4 – Next steps are revealed.

The great thing about taking the first step is that in order to get anywhere, you have to  take another. You do not have to know where it will lead or how long it will take to get there. You only need to pay attention and take the next step when it is revealed. Attempting to blast through all of the steps at once is not only incredibly destructive but hides the treasures that can only be found in navigating  a tricky terrain. (See Day 13)

#5 – Perfection is not an option.

The quickest way to learn a something is to fail a few times. Just like getting lost helps you find your way the next time, failing is a sure fire way to help you continue to refine and define your reason for wanting to master a skill or challenge.

You don’t know what you don’t know when you begin. But you get leaner, fiercer, and smarter as you gain experience. Or you soften, become more compassionate, and wise.

As most people training for a marathon will tell you, they are not in it to win it. By qualifying, participating, and completing, they achieve something beyond winning.

You are not taking this challenge to become perfect.  You are taking this challenge to become more of who you know you can be.

#6 – Expect the unexpected. (See Day 29)

At some point during the challenge, something will surprise you.  Whether it is something you learn about yourself or an opportunity that presents itself, your efforts will be rewarded when you least expect it.

#7 – Freedom comes through discipline.

One of Gretchen Rubin’s Secrets to Adulthood is, What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.” The biggest lesson I’ve learned from any challenge I’ve completed in the last year is this. Freedom comes through discipline.

Discipline makes those hundreds of decisions that could derail you so much easier to make. You just say no. Not for the next 21 or 31 days or however long it takes.  Doing what you need to do every day instead of once in a while or when you feel like it makes all the difference.

#8 – You are capable of more than you imagined.

Until you activate your superpowers, you don’t know you have them. Until you do what you say you want to do, you’ll never know you can do it. And so much more.

One of  Danielle LaPorte’s truthbombs encourages us to “Love the necessary hard work.”  While it may be difficult to believe in the beginning, you will come to respect this advice. Once you have walked through the fire, felt the heat of the challenge, and come out on the other side, you will not only understand the wisdom of these words, you will be an example of them.

#9 – You are not alone.

While it may feel like you are the only one making the supreme sacrifice of giving up junk food, bad tv, or online shopping in order to achieve your physical, mental, spiritual, or financial goals, you are not alone. Support groups abound. Find others who are doing what you are doing and learn from them. Someone a few steps ahead of you can tell you what’s coming and help you prepare for it.

Just when I would tell myself I could skip a day or doing this didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, one of you would leave a comment or like the post. Then I’d remember that how you do anything is how you do everything. It mattered a great deal that I kept my word, did what I set out to do, and never stopped believing it mattered.

#10 – Nothing succeeds like success.

The reason today’s challenge is to be here now is because success is fleeting. Savor it. Write down what worked. Write down what didn’t or work you could do instead. I would dearly love for you to share those things with me, so I can do better as well. But if you don’t share them with me, please share them with someone.

By tomorrow you will most likely be on to something bigger and better and forget what made this challenge so challenging. Crossing the finish line is huge! Raise your arms up above your head in the victory pose and definitely add this song by Jason Mraz to your playlist. Or put on the theme song from Rocky.

Remember this quote by A.A. Milne.“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” 

You have just proven what you are capable of and no one can take that away from you. Let this experience fuel your next big adventure.

Thanks so much for completing this challenge with me.  I’d love your feedback in the comments below or email me at penny@wellpower.com.

 

Get Stuff Done 1 x 31

 

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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:

  1. 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.)
  2. You have to actually do it, not just think about doing it.
  3. 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.)
  4. Be present to the task at hand. Save multi-tasking for the other 23 hours and 45 minutes of the day.
  5. Have fun with it. Judging, criticizing, or censoring yourself – or me! – takes all the fun out of it.
  6. Post your responses, reactions, or results in the day’s comments. It’s more fun  when everyone contributes!
  7. 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.

 

Jump In! The Water's Fine

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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

And….

He hesitated.

He stalled.

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!