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 2 – Plan B

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It’s Day 2 of our Here to the New Year in Good Cheer challenge. Leading the charge for today is the letter B.

Today’s tip comes from Dan Pink’s book To Sell Is Human.  It was also inspired by my trip to the pool for a swim on Wednesday.

Become buoyant.

Buoyancy is the quality that allows you to stay afloat amidst a sea of negativity, rejection, discouragement, heavy traffic, crowds, or whatever brings you down.

Reciting the work of a leading researcher on positivity, Pink describes buoyancy as the “calibration between two competing pulls: levity and gravity.”

Levity is that unseen force that lifts you skyward, whereas gravity is the opposing force that pulls you earthward.  Unchecked levity leaves you flighty, ungrounded, and unreal.  Unchecked gravity leaves you collapsed in a heap of misery. Yet when properly combined, these two opposing forces leave you buoyant,” says Barbara Frederickson of the University of North Carolina.

I don’t know about you, but I span the emotional spectrum from levity to gravity every day. Sometimes every hour. Calibrating these pulls can take some practice. Pink suggests three things to help cultivate buoyancy.

The first is to practice interrogating self-talk such as “Can I figure this out?” as opposed to emphatically affirming self-talk like “I’ve got this!” Questioning if something is possible or doable opens you up to more creative options as to how to get it done.

The second is to allow yourself a proper ratio of positive to negative thoughts or comments (3 positive to 1 negative is where people seem to flourish) as you attempt to figure it out. Reality checks keep your dreams grounded. Humor does wonders as well.

And finally, an optimistic explanation of your results – no matter what they are – prevents you from playing the victim or taking rejection personally. That will help you get up and do it again. Amen.

Today as your emotions bubble up, remember Casey Kasem’s tagline, “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.” 

Be sure you don’t miss a day of  our Here to the New Year In Good Cheer challenge by signing up here. This allows you to pick up your Holiday Survival Guide and other goodies as we go.

I’d love to hear your comments below.

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The Antidote to Overwhelm

I may have bitten off more than I can chew.

I signed up for three different coaching programs that each demand their own Herculean effort to complete and for one month, October, they all overlap.

I certainly wouldn’t have planned it this way had I been in charge of the master plan.  But often times one thing leads to another and several doors fly open at once.

The seemingly innocent challenge I took up in January to write 500 words a day for 30 days set me up for a year of upping the ante. I figured if I could do that, I could do just about anything.  So I started doing stuff.

By showing up, being accountable, and being visible, brave new worlds have opened up to me. When the information is so valuable, so life-changing, so timely, it doesn’t make sense to wait until it all fits nicely into my schedule.  Such is the case with my coaching programs.

And here’s what I’ve discovered about overwhelm.  The antidote to overwhelm is not giving up, but engaging in something whole-heartedly, completely, passionately.  Right now I have to fire on all cylinders in order to keep up.  From what goes into my mouth to what comes out of it, I’m acutely aware of the impact on my energy level.

Although it’s easy to complain, the only thing I really have to do is prioritize. Daily. Hourly.  This means giving up bad tv and carbs and regularly working outside my comfort zone. It means going the extra quarter mile. It’s really not a bad trade considering what I’m getting in return.

It’s a bit paradoxical.  When I have no energy, the last thing I think about is adding more to the mix.  However, if I add an experience that is so compelling, so enticing that I am leaning towards it, it has the ability to energize all areas of my life.

My guess is you’ve had a similar experience.  If not, the next time you feel like throwing in the towel, try picking up a project instead.

Whether it be something as simple as challenging yourself to get more steps each day than the previous day for 7 days in a row or organizing your parent’s love letters or creating a guest blog post, see how your new interest infuses your day with enthusiasm, curiosity, and a sense of adventure.

Be sure to give yourself a time frame that pushes you out of your comfort zone but not over the edge. Knowing that the project will last “x” number of days or weeks adds the urgency that tends to dissipate when there is no due date.

It is also incredibly helpful to have someone to hold you accountable who might also be doing the same thing or has been there, done that, and is willing to coach you through it.  In my coaching programs I have either a team or peer coach to check in with and that has been invaluable.

Certainly there are things we must do for ourselves.  But there are many things we shouldn’t do without support.  We have the collective wisdom of the ages at our fingertips.  Accessing it has never been easier.  As Barbara Sher said, “Isolation is a dream killer.

In a few months I will be launching the online course (Read It & Leap! ) I am creating in one of my coaching programs.  In it I share several secrets about taking small leaps to move you into a life that is the antidote to overwhelm – an engaged, inspired, involved existence.

If you’d like to know more about it, email me with the word Leap! in the subject line and I will be sure to let you know when I roll it out.

In the meantime, I’d love for you to share your antidote to overwhelm in the comments below.