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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Here to the New Year in Good Cheer – Day 3 – Plan C

Curious Dog
It’s Day 3 of our Here to the New Year in Good Cheer Challenge.
I love the letter “C” because there are so many compelling action verbs beginning with “c” competing for today’s tip. We have create, collaborate, communicate, connect, catalyze, curate, caress, consider, commit, coach, consult, conspire, cook, coax, comfort, cuddle, climb, compose, craft, complete, continue, conquer, concede, compliment, contribute, calibrate, cushion, chill, celebrate, chuckle, change, challenge, chant, choose, captivate….
Since it’s complicated to pick just one action, I decided to go with an idea that will inspire continuous action. That idea is curiosity.
Just as this picture captures this sweet little pup’s curiosity, you, too, can benefit from cocking your head to the side and considering something you’ve never thought of before. Or at least not in this context.
The trouble with getting all cranky and crabby at this time of year is that need your sense of curiosity, wonder, and humor now more than ever. It’s the connective tissue that keeps you compassionate and civil when your instinct may be more combative.
So try this.
Every day from Here to the New Year, write down at least one thing you are curious about. Just thinking about it won’t do. Please write it down somewhere every day.
By the end of the year,  you’ll have 35 conversation starters should you happen to be stuck at the DMV or cousin Carol’s Christmas concert. Instead of complaining, connect with a complete stranger and see if you can curtail any criticism or cynicism by starting a captivating conversation about any of the things you are curious about.
I’d love to hear where your conversations lead in the comments below. And if you haven’t officially registered for the challenge, please do so here so I can send you your free Holiday Survival Guide and enter your name for the goodies I’ll be giving away.
“What could those clever concoctions be?” you ask.
Stay curious and continue to check in daily.  I’ll leave clues that will allow you to connect the Christmas cookie crumbs to some sweet surprises coming soon.
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Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor

Workers people group.
I’m not sure whose idea it was to declare Labor Day a national holiday, I just know I am forever grateful the idea was implemented. According to Wikipedia, some say it was Peter McGuire and others say Matthew Maguire. To me, they both sound like Midlife MacGyver. Go figure.
A well-timed holiday, like Labor Day after the first few weeks of the school year, makes me appreciate all the labor that leads up to it.
Last night, around the time I subconsciously start to stress about another work week, I relaxed into the realization that I have another day to go places and do things – even if it’s just to my deck to watch my puppy chase a hummingbird moth.
All work and no play makes me an edgy educator. I’m all for putting the petal to the metal when the project, performance, or people demand it. But I’m also a stickler for self-care and putting your own oxygen mask on first so you can assist those you set out to serve. You can’t do that if you can’t breathe.
Sometimes all you need to catch your breath is a little time off.
Other times you need full on engagement and involvement in something deeply meaningful.
The best way I know how to explain this is to share this except from David Whyte’s  Crossing the Unknown Sea. David is talking with his friend, monk, and mentor, Brother David.

“Tell me about exhaustion,” I said. He looked at me with an acute, searching, compassionate ferocity for the briefest of moments, as if trying to sum up the entirety of the situation and without missing a beat, as if he had been waiting all along, to say a life-changing thing to me. He said, in the form both of a question and an assertion: “You know that the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest?”
“The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest,” I repeated woodenly, as if I might exhaust myself completely before I reached the end of the sentence. “What is it, then?”
“The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.”
He looked at me for a wholehearted moment, as if I should fill in the blanks. But I was a blank to be filled at that moment, and though I knew something pivotal had been said, I had not the wherewithal to say anything in reply. So he carried on:
“You are so tired through and through because a good half of what you do here in this organization has nothing to do with your true powers, or the place you have reached in your life. You are only half here, and half here will kill you after a while. You need something to which you can give your full powers. You know what that is; I don’t have to tell you.”

Six years ago I spent seven glorious days in the Lake District with David Whyte and an amazing group of individuals who had traveled from various continents to spend their mornings in quiet reflection with the great poet and their afternoons in a moving meditation, soaking in both the beauty of the place and the sacredness of the spoken word.
Having this extraordinary experience with an incredible group of people in a gorgeous location was possible because I had spent years preparing myself for precisely this kind of opportunity. Even if I didn’t know that’s what I was doing at the time.
No time, no energy, no money, no relationship, or no experience is ever wasted if it prepares you for your next adventure.
The next adventure for me is diving into a new project that will help me create experience products as opposed to information products and deliver them in a very real and rewarding way. You’ll be experiencing more of this in the next 8 weeks.

You can allow yourself to burn out or you can ignite the light that can only be lit from within.

Do whatever it takes to stoke that fire. Read some books. Watch some videos. Attend a workshop. Go to the mountaintop. Head to the beach. Work out. Take a nap. Nourish yourself with food, family, or friends.
What you may discover is this:  the fruit of your labor is often the labor itself. And doing the work – the work that only you can do – is indeed worth celebrating.
I’d love for you to share the work you are celebrating in the comments below.
 
 
 

It's All Fun & Games

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It’s Day 28 of the Get Stuff Done 1 x 31 Challenge.  Today’s challenge is to boost your brain power with some memory games.
Every Sunday morning when I was a kid we’d go to my grandmother’s house after church.  Once there we’d watch cartoons, All Star Wrestling, and movies that none of us kids understood but introduced us to the likes of Mae West, Laurel & Hardy, Abbott & Costello, Mickey Rooney, The Three Stooges, and others.
I was too young to know the the cartoons were sexist and violent, the wrestling was staged, and the movies were classics, but I did remember the commercials. Especially the ones selling games, cereal, cigarettes, shampoo , showing us the consequences of littering, and asking us to take personal responsibility for preventing forest fires. 
What I remember most was a game called Husker Du.  The advertiser would always announce in a booming voice, “Husker Du! Do you remember?” I had no idea what the game was about. I just loved repeatedly asking with my brother and sister in my own impressively loud voice, Husker Du?
Clearly, the advertising worked. It was “sticky” as Dan & Chip Heath would say. Forty years later I still remember it. Slick trick for a memory game.
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I also used to love playing Concentration at home to mimic the game show I’d faithfully watch on TV. I knew early on it was important to focus, remember, connect the dots, and make connections that might otherwise be overlooked.
These days, of course, there’s an app for that.  Games like Lumosity, NeuroNation, Brain Metrix, and FitBrains are just a few examples of websites and apps to train your brain.
While you can easily get through one of these challenges in 5-15 minutes, the real challenge is to not spend an hour or two once you get started.
But even if you did, it’d be good for you. It’s too easy to let our brains be lulled into a trance by all kinds of incoming and unquestioned media.
Take time out today to think for yourself, test your memory, and give your brain a run for the money.  As another ad I remember warned, “A brain is a terrible thing to waste.”
I’d love to hear how you train your brain and keep your wits about you.  Share, if you dare, in the comments below.
 
 
 

Say What You Need to Say & Do

Lets do this
It’s Day 27 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge.  Today’s challenge is to say what you need to say to whomever you need to say it to in order to do what you need to do next.  Do you need to move on, get over it, get on with it, set things right, set things in motion, start a revolution, or continue your evolution? Then let’s get to it and go do it.

Saying what you need to say liberates you to do what you need to do.

Granted, conversations of this nature usually take more than 5-15 minutes.  But you can take a small action step and identify which conversations need to take place and with whom, get clear on your talking points, or schedule an appointment with the person in this amount of time.
Because I’m a lover of words, I’m hesitant to say actions speak louder than words in every situation, because the right words at the right time can change a life. However, during our Get Stuff Done 1×31, I’m also about making a case for doing the stuff that moves your life forward. That requires action and, sometimes, doing difficult stuff.
I admit I love to talk my way all around my issues rather than face them head on because doing so would most likely result in a confrontation. I like to avoid these at all costs. However, the greater cost is that the issue continues when I’m perfectly capable of putting the kibosh to it by daring to do what needs to be done, which often starts with saying what I need to say.
As much as I call on my inner badass to get stuff done, harnessing her potential takes some serious practice on my part. That’s why I’ve devoted an entire month to getting stuff done. And by Day 27, I’d like to think we’ve practiced enough that we can confidently carry out today’s challenge.
I’d love to know what you need to say or do and how that will set you free to move on to the fabulousness that awaits.

Share if you dare in the comments below.

And by all means, add this song by John Mayer to your playlist.

Get A Quote

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It’s Day 25 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge. Today’s challenge is to find a quote, a poem, or a saying that inspires you and commit it to memory.
It can be something short like, “Fleas. Adam had em.” Or something long like the Gettysburg Address or the The Man in the Arena quote by Theodore Roosevelt that has served as the foundation for Brené Brown’s work on vulnerability and leadership.
You may already have a quote that you know by heart that has served as a beacon of light during dark times. Or you may know some famous words that have gotten you to the finish line or helped you complete your degree. Undoubtedly these encouraging words have inspired you to do what you needed to do, when you needed to do it.
Like an anthem or a playlist (see Day 4), quotes and poems transport us to a place of possibility. A place where we can do, be, or have all that we’ve been striving for.
I love to  find a quote or a poem, type it up in the font that captures its essence – or find it on Pinterest– and print it out, and then put it in a place where I’ll come across it when I least expect it.
For example, I have Zen pictures and quotes scattered about my desk drawer, my sock drawer, my glove compartment, my laptop bag, my pencil case, my wallet, and my luggage. I purposefully forget where I put them so when I do come across them, I’m delighted to discover a moment of Zen.
Today I came home to find a package on my step that was held together by packing tape that declared, “You are adored.”  It really didn’t matter what was in it after that. Just seeing that message on the outside made me feel adored.
Inside I found a few magnets to adorn my refrigerator. They quickly became the catalyst for today’s post. (Because I can’t write about my new puppy every day.)
Because you are getting a lot of stuff done 1×31 this month, I’ll leave you with this quote from Mike Dooley.

“The one thing all famous authors, world class athletes, business tycoons, singers, actors, and celebrated achievers in any field have in common is that they all began their journeys when they were none of these things.”

Take 5-15 minutes today to look up a quote or poem and commit it to memory.  Like knowing at least one clean joke, knowing this can make your world a brighter place.
Share your favorites in the comments below.
Don’t know any great poets?  May I suggest David Whyte, Heidi Rose Robbins, Mary Oliver, Hafiz, Rumi, Derek Walcott, or Pablo Naruda?  Or you could read one of Roger Housden’s Ten Poems series of books that introduce you to various poets.
 
 
 
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Create in the Middle of Things

Getting stuff done badge
It’s Day 24 of the Get Stuff Done 1 x 31 Challenge. Today’s mission, should you choose to accept it, is to create in the middle of things.
One of the most important things I learned when I trained with Eric Maisel as a Creativity Coach, was that in order to get anything done, I had to learn to create in the middle of things.
Most creative types yearn for great expanses of uninterrupted time when we can meet our muse in our well-stocked studio and produce the masterpiece that has been patiently waiting for the perfect moment to arrive.
The problem for most of us is that moment never arrives. We’ve got things to do, bills to pay, mouths to feed, puppies to play with, and daily demands that do not allow for sabbaticals, leave of absences, long weekends, or even a day off.
So what do we do? Abandon our creative aspirations?
Heavens, no!
We create right smack dab in the middle of it all.
Arrived early to your eye appointment?  Start sketching. Have to wait for your kids to finish swimming lessons? Create an outline for your ebook.  Dinner won’t be ready for 40 minutes? Dive into your drumming lessons or get out that guitar.
Life hardly ever offers up a perfect stretch of time for you to indefinitely do what you love. Even if it did, I suspect you’d be alphabetizing the canned goods or cleaning the bathroom before you’d face the blank screen or empty canvas.

Creating something out of nothing is terrifying. Resistance and profuse procrastination are part of the process.

You have to coax your creativity into action whenever you can. Then you’ll be able to call upon it at will and it will readily respond.

I love to write. It’s my raison d’être. But writing consistently for this many days in a row requires me to be incredibly disciplined, determined, and dedicated to my craft. Because of that, writing doesn’t disappoint and often delights me.

Most days I feel like I have invisible allies encouraging me to simply sit down and put pen to paper or stand at my treadmill desk and put my fingers to the keyboard.

That’s when the magic happens. That’s when the world starts to make sense. That’s when the ideas hanging out in my head find their way to you and, hopefully, spark something new in you.

Find 5-15 minutes today to do that thing that only you can do.  Maybe it’s tell a certain story to your kids or grandkids. Maybe it’s making a meal that the whole family loves. Maybe it’s designing a badge on Canva like the one above so you have a way to show off your progress.

Whatever it is, create it when you might otherwise check out or default to Facebook or the TV or solitaire on your phone.

Right now, right in the middle of everything else you have going on, create something.  And if you dare, I’d love for you to share it 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.

 

Obsolescence or evolution?

Vintage typewriter and phone office
As I reached for the last couple of pumps from the only mousse that makes my hair look thicker than it is, I lamented the inevitable obsolescence of almost every product I love, from shoes to health care products to television shows. My Body Full™ instant bodifier has been discontinued, leaving me to begin the quest for more magical mousse.
I know this is nature’s way of preventing me from staying stuck in the last millennium. But after searching high and low for products that work for my particular makeup, I wish my favorite things would stick around longer. Kind of like how I wish swim suits would be available in stores during the summer.
I like to think of myself as an early adopter, one who is quick to embrace new ideas, try new technology, leap and learn to fly on the way down.  But the truth is, when things change so quickly and so often, it’s hard to get my bearings.
In theory, I love the idea of apps that make my life easier. In reality, if I can’t find my phone,  I won’t be able to find the list I organized and color-coded and filed under such a clever name I can’t even remember it.
I make supreme efforts to set myself up for success. Yet I’m easily distracted by all the bells and whistles that guarantee it. By the time I get all these systems in place, I’m too perplexed to do the actual work. (Learning curves can last a lot longer than one might think.)
This morning I embraced the idea that creativity coach Eric Maisel taught me a long time ago.  I simply must create in the middle of things. There is really no other way around it if I want to get anything accomplished or, in my case, written.
Life is too messy or busy or random to declare, “These are the only conditions that I can birth this baby” – whatever this “baby” may be.  As we all know, babies have been born in taxi cabs, bistros, and barns. And these babies have gone on to do great things.
So I will complete the blog post I started when I still had mousse. I will also renew my WordPress site for another year and update the look of it while I’m at it.  I’ll write another chapter for my How to Get Your Groove Back course. I’ll write before I book a flight and hotel room for next weekend.  I’ll write in between unclogging the shower drain, potting some plants, walking the dogs, enjoying a camp fire, and attending a graduation party. Because this is how life guarantees I continue to evolve.
I am incredibly curious about any number of things. In order to fully explore them, I have to cultivate the conditions for them to take root. This means continually letting go of things, ideas, relationships, products that are heading for obsolescence, whether I think it’s time or not. It means taking the time and making room for what matters most.
All any of us have to do is look through a high school yearbook to realize the wisdom in letting go of what we once believed to be fashionable, cool, or important. I’m not sure any of us could have predicted the path that brought us to where we are today.
Maybe it’s that mystery that motivates us to keep tossing our caps in the air year after year as we transform inevitable obsolescence into ongoing evolution.
Promising Future
My best advice to 2016 grads?  Resolve to evolve. You’ll figure out the rest along the way.
Feel free to share your best advice in the comments below.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Read It & Leap

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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.
Happy leaping!
I’d love to hear about your leaps in the comments below.