Begin Again

Ruby 2 069
So what do you do after 31 days of getting stuff done?
You begin again.
You get more stuff done. Just keep swimming. Or writing. Or working on your projects, relationships, fitness goals, wedding plans, dream vacation, degree, or whatever your thing may be.
Because life isn’t just a sound bite of the sensational or a slice of nice, consistent progress. It’s the whole enchilada. It’s a series of fits and starts. It’s one step forward, two steps back. It’s continuously changing the toilet paper roll.
I keep this Begin Again stone on my writing desk to remind me that no matter how many words I’ve written, every day is an opportunity to write more and improve my craft.
Just as you would never expect one meal, one night’s sleep, or one workout to fuel you for life, you can’t expect to do a difficult thing once (like a 31 day challenge) and be good to go indefinitely.

Challenges catapult you out of your comfort zone and into your evolutionary zone.

This is where things get interesting. This is where the ordinary becomes the extraordinary because you have become extraordinary in the process. You may not have noticed the transformation because it occurred in the context of your ordinary life.
But somewhere along the way, the discipline, desire, and doing became ingrained in your brain. Not doing what your new habits dictate now probably feels stranger than doing them did in the beginning.
I have to admit, on Monday I felt a bit like our new puppy Ruby feels when she goes in her crate and Bob or I disappear for awhile. Although my house, my hubby-to-be, and my dogs were happy to have my full attention once again, I was feeling some separation anxiety from this community we’ve created together.
So this morning when Ruby woke up at 4:55am, I decided to use her wide awake time to begin again and write. Ruby also informed me that she would like her own blog, Pinterest page, or Instagram account. Stay tuned for The Life of Riley (Ruby O’Riley). A zen dog with a blog, Pinterest page, or Instagram account.  🙂
Habits are fascinating things. They shape our lives for better or worse. If you’d like to learn more about them, here are a couple of resources I recommend.

If you participated in our Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge, I’d love to hear what new habits you formed.  If you didn’t participate but have some insights or experiences with learning new habits or breaking old ones, please share in the comments below.
 
 
 

Rhythm is Gonna Get You

Black metronome with guitar and several notes on the wooden background
 
It’s Day 30 of our Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge. Today’s challenge is to notice how rhythm plays a part in how you do things. This is a subtle but essential ingredient to be aware of in establishing the ebb and flow of your days. Not to mention your relationships with other people.
When I used to live alone and work from home, I didn’t notice rhythm much. For the most part, I moved at the pace of grace.  I call it the Goldilocks gait –not too fast, not too slow. Just right.
But when the firefighter moved in, with his lightening quick reflexes and urgent call to action impulses, I became acutely aware of the tortoise and hare situation we had on our hands. I also knew that rhythm was going to get us and lead to our demise if we didn’t learn to adjust to each other’s approach to getting stuff done.
I’m not saying we’re dealing with the sloth situation in Zootopia, but I’m sure it feels that way to Bob sometimes. On the other hand, because of slow and steady progress (1×31), the tortoise did win the race in Aesops’ famous fable.
I’m the first one to admit there are times when time is of the essence. There is a need for speed. The sooner the better. Fast and furious. Now or never. Life or death.
Just rapidly writing those words stressed me out a little.
Because what I’ve learned and what Erin Stutland has incorporated in her ingenious workouts is this.

What you seek, is also seeking you. What is meant for you will not pass you. Broadcasting fear or scarcity does not bring you peace or abundance. Consequently, my motto is to act with intention and do with deliberation.

If you’re not sure what I mean, experiment. Trying pushing yourself to do things at a faster or slower speed than you normally would. Try adding more things to your schedule or taking a few items off your list. How does this make you feel? Anxious? Irritable? Accomplished?
Sometimes we need to adjust our rhythm or our pace to work effectively with a team. Sometimes we need to adjust it when we’re touring with a group, taking a family vacation, involved in a special project, or participating in a Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge.
Some days you may not even know what leads to your undoing. For me, it usually comes down to time and space. I need breathing room and I need time to just be, create, observe, marvel, write, read, learn, laugh, and process what just happened. When I over-schedule myself or allow my world to get too cluttered, I get cranky.
You’ve just given yourself the gift of 30 days to discover how you get stuff done. With just one day left in our challenge, what do you really want to get done without pushing or forcing or “shoulding” on yourself?
I’d love to hear how rhythm impacts you and what your favorite thing about this challenge has been. Share your comments below or email me at penny@wellpower.com.
Oh, and don’t forget to add this to today’s playlist. 🙂
 
 

It's All Fun & Games

huskerdu
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.
concentration
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.

Stop and Smell the Petunias

ruby 029
It’s Day 26 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge.  Today’s challenge is to stop and smell the petunias.  Yes, I know the saying is “stop and smell the roses.” But since my puppy Ruby is particularly fond of petunias and is teaching me so much in a very short time, especially about taking breaks, I took some creative license with the saying.
Too often we look at interruptions as productivity killers, detours, excuses for our short little spans of attention. But sometimes taking a break to get up and walk around or sit down and relax, have a spot of tea, or nourish ourselves with a healthy snack or TED talk can cause epiphanies and unexpected pleasures.
I can easily spend my workday staring at a computer screen or piles of paperwork going over the same information in the same way.  But if I get up and walk around, move some tables and chairs, feed the fish, or water the plants, my energy shifts. By changing my focus for a while, the same situation looks different when I return.
One of my favorite things in my offices at work and at home is my standing desk. Because I spent most of my life as a fitness instructor, the biggest adjustment to life as a college administrator is the sedentary nature of the majority of my work.
To counteract this, I set up a makeshift standing desk where I can easily advise students and give them direct access to the information on the computer screen and hands on access to their information.
I also made sure we had a picnic table and bench outside so students and staff can get some fresh air, soak in the sun, and smell the lilies nearby when a change of scenery and perspective is needed.

I think in our hurry up and get it done world we’ve forgotten that there is a rhythm to life  There is an art to savoring the steps that get us where we’re going.

Today, take 5-15 minutes to do something deeply nourishing to your soul.  Maybe it’s reading that quote or poem from yesterday’s challenge (Day 25) or maybe it’s calling someone you love (Day 8) or maybe it’s arranging some flowers or fresh fruit and a bowl.
Try not to think of today’s challenge as an interruption and immediately look only for a way to return to the task at hand. Think of it as divine intervention sent to support your present predicament.
As always, I’d love for you to share your epiphanies or aha’s in the comments below.
 
 

Shift Happens

Old Typewriter Keys
It’s Day 20 of the Get Stuff Done 1 x 31 Challenge.  Today’s challenge is to notice where things have shifted for you in the past 3 weeks.
Sometimes it’s a subtle shift.  Other times it’s the kind of shift that jolts you out of bed at 4am with the horrifying thought, “What have I done?”
What woke me at 4am this morning was the realization that by agreeing to add 8 pounds of puppy to my home, I was about to alter the course of my foreseeable future.
It also occurred to me that every time I embark on one of these challenges – whether it be a 21-day cleanse, a 40-day prosperity program, or a Get Stuff Done 1x 31 Challenge  – things shift. Big and small.  Just when I think nothing is happening.

There is something so convincing about showing up day after day no matter what that sooner or later, people pay attention.  Once you have proven that you can deliver on your promises, the universe can’t help but meet you half-way.

You may have outrageous expectations and delusions of grandeur that if you put in a little  time, you’ll get a lucky break and win big. And maybe you will.
But if Malcolm Gladwell is to be believed, you’re going to need to put in about 10,000 hours of practice before you achieve mastery.
That’s a lot of time to get discouraged.
It’s also a lot of time to learn and fall in love with the nuances of your craft.
Some things provide instant gratification.  Making your bed. Checking an item off your to-do list. Doing 15 or 50 pushups, depending. Preparing a delicious meal. Resolving a conflict. Getting a haircut. Scheduling an appointment. Writing a thank you note. Giving your dog a bone.
But some things mean more because they take time. You can’t lose 20 pounds in a day, train for a marathon in a weekend, or write your thesis in an afternoon.
Fortunately, most days don’t require you go the extra mile- or 26, if you’re determined to qualify for Boston like my friend Ann, who has justifiably earned her nickname, Annspiration. But by going even the extra 1/4 mile, giving just a little bit more than you think you have in you, those miracles are more likely to manifest.
Take 5-15 minutes today to contemplate what actions you’ve taken as part of this challenge that you may not have taken if you hadn’t played along. When have you gone the extra 1/4 mile and how far has it gotten you?
I’d love to hear what you discover.
Share if you dare in the comments below or email at penny@wellpower.com.
 
 
 
 

Small change

US Coins
It’s Day 13 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge and today we’re going to keep it short, sweet, and relatively simple. Today’s challenge is all about small change.
With a name like Penny, you might think I’m an expert on small change. Regardless of how hard times get, I’ll always have a “penny” to my name. As I assured my fireman, as long as you keep me around, you’ll never be penny-less. Lucky me. 🙂
But as you might suspect, I’m not talking about literal small change. I’m talking about the kind of small change you can make in 5-15 minutes that can make the most difference in the next hour, the next day, the next week, or the next year.
In our quest to accomplish the big stuff, we often overlook the small stuff that makes the big stuff possible.  I love this image and question by Hugh MacLeod of gapingvoid.com.

 “Where can the smallest change make the biggest difference?”

I subscribe to his free daily downloads of comically wise drawings. (You can, too, by clicking here.) I often print them out and put them in a place where I will see them throughout the day.
When I asked myself the small change question at the start of this challenge, the reply was surprisingly simple. “Change your screensaver.”  I kid you not.
I like to think of myself as open to change, but I can count the number of times I’ve changed my screensaver on one hand. Since I spend a considerable amount of time at or near my computer, this would make a noticeable difference.
Now every time I see a picture of the winding paths and roads I chose as my new screensaver, I am delighted because it reminds me of the journey I am on. These images spark my imagination and take me to places the familiar photos did not.
In anticipation of donating clothes along with several plastic hangers to Dress for Success, I bought some slim velvet hangers as replacements. Had I known these hangers would  free up valuable real estate in my closet, I would have purchased them years ago.
I have a history with finding the right hanger for the job that dates back to my days of managing a Pro Shop in Texas. So I’m not sure why it took me so long to discover these luxurious slim velvet ones. There is nothing inherently risky or even costly about switching hangers. Yet it’s totally transformed how I feel about organizing my clothes.
These are the kinds of small changes I’m talking about.  I’m all for discipline and delayed gratification. But sometimes instant gratification works wonders.
So, what will it be for you today? Discovering a new app to organize your lists? Getting shoe strings that don’t come untied when you’re walking the dog? Filling up a thermos with filtered water from home so you don’t need to buy bottled water?
Think about your most insistent issue.  What small change can you make to alter your interaction with it for the better? If you are stumped, ask a child. They often see the obvious and will give you an honest appraisal of the situation.
I’d love to hear what you come up with and decide to do today.  Share your solutions in the comments below.
 
 
 

Just Keep Swimming

 
Corals, fishes and diver
It’s Day 12 of our Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge. In honor of the first fabulous fish to join the newly established aquarium at my home away from home, Clinton Community College Maquoketa Center, today’s challenge is to just keep swimming.
Admittedly, not every day is going to be the best day of your life. But every day can be another day in paradise, if you choose to see it that way. It certainly is for our new fish.
Yesterday these fish were just a few in a sea of plenty in a pet store. Today they swim freely  in a 50 gallon tank with gadgets and gizmos a-plenty, and whozits and whatzits galore. Thingamabobs? They’ve got thingamabobs. And everything else under the sea. Okay, my tribute to The Little Mermaid ends here.
But my challenge to you is just beginning. Today I’d like you to think about where and how you are swimming along. What gadgets and gizmos do you need to get where you’re going? Who and what can help you find your voice, make your mark, meet your match, and own your throne?
We used to have a pool at my parent’s farm and I would spend every summer alternately cleaning the pool and swimming in it. I truly did have gadgets and gizmos galore to help me channel my inner Dana Torres  or  Diana Nyad and swim more laps each day in less time.
Sadly, the family pool is no longer around. Fortunately, the Internet is and these are the waters I swim in now. Surfing the web and casting my words out into the world to see what comes back is exhilarating.
Because what comes back is you! You, from around the globe with your glorious goals and good wishes, have joined forces with my Get Your Groove Back group and given me one walloping good reason to continue to dive into these uncharted waters.
Figuring this out together is much easier than figuring it out alone, isn’t it?
And just so you know it’s not always smooth sailing, let me share what’s kicking my butt about this challenge.
These days I spend every waking moment writing or thinking about writing, wondering how to post a video or where the photo I just downloaded is now located on my computer, mortified that I may have posted something with a glaring typo or two, unclear how to share the songs playing in my head, the books vying for my attention, or the latest blog post that rocked my world, or why I can’t seem to post anything before the day is almost over.  Yada, yada, yada.
All these concerns crowd around my regular job,  getting groceries, making meals, running errands, walking the dog, doing laundry, getting stuff done, and spending time with the guy who puts out fires. Even though the challenge increases the intensity of my life, it also infuses it with unprecedented urgency, meaning, and connection.
This is why it’s called a challenge. This is why it’s for a limited time. This is how we learn what we’re made of. And this is why we just keep swimming.
Here’s what Jen Sincero, author of You Are A Badass, has to say.

“So often, we pretend we’ve made a decision, when what we’ve really done is signed up to try until it gets too uncomfortable.”

Somewhere around now, you might be tempted to think this was fun while it lasted but you’ve got other fish to fry (just please don’t mention this in front of the fish).
Stay the course. Just keep swimming.  How you do anything is how you do everything. You quit now, you quit every time you get bored, overwhelmed, or irritated.
This is where it gets interesting. This is where the daily dares start to become healthy habits. I’m asking for 1 x 31, not 31 x 1. This is where the magic happens.
Share your fears, frustrations, breakthroughs, or epiphanies in the comments below.  Or email them to me at penny@wellpower.com.
Say hello to my little friends….
[wpvideo YmEZlyt9]
 
 
 
 

Gather Evidence of Good

Summer 2016 017
It’s Day 9 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge. Today’s task is to gather evidence that the world is basically good.
You know how when you purchase a copper colored car and suddenly you notice copper colored cars everywhere? Well, it could be that there is a sudden influx of copper colored cars on the road, but it’s more likely that your reticular activating system has now put copper colored cars on its radar of important items.
Your reticular activating system is a small part of the brain with a big responsibility. Its job is to filter through the infinite amounts of incoming information and determine what is most important for you to know to stay alive and reach your goals.
The reason you need to know about this is so you can harness its power to help you gather evidence that the world is basically good, life supports you, and you have ample resources  ready to help you achieve whatever it is you are willing to commit to.
You already know there is more than enough evidence to convince you the opposite is true.  All you need to do is turn on the television, read a newspaper, look on the Internet, or relive a few of your favorite failures to “prove” it.
But today I challenge you to do the opposite. Counter every negative with a positive. For every insult you hear, offer a compliment. Should someone slam a door in your face, open one for someone else.
I guarantee you this will be challenging. 
But it will also be uplifting. And if you write it down in your optimist’s journal or take pictures of your findings as I suggested earlier this week, you will be blown away by all the goodness gathering around you.
Don’t believe me?  Just try it.  Make it a game. Give it a go. Actively seek out the silver linings.
It’s all in the way you choose to see, hear, or experience something.

As they say in metaphysics, “What you focus on expands.”

So let’s focus on the fabulous, shall we?
Leave your evidence that the world is good in the comments below and/or send me your suggestions for today’s playlist.
 
Here’s one that’s on mine.
Tell Me Something Good – Rufus and Chaka Khan – Gotta love the groovy outfits!
 
 

Picture It Done

Old vintage camera
It’s Day 5 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge.
Today’s mission, should you choose to accept it, is to picture it done. It, of course, being the most insistent thing on your Get It Done 1×31 list.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the first thing about photography. You don’t need fancy equipment. If you can take a selfie, you can do today’s task.
All you need is a way to gather evidence that you can, indeed, get stuff done.
It’s easy to forget the many decisions, mistakes, educated guesses, hunches, and hallucinations that get you to the Promised Land.  How many times have you accomplished a goal and moved right on to the next one without taking a single second to savor your success?
This will not happen on my watch. Not this month. This month you will share the love!
The thing about to-do lists is that they never really get done.  You may be able to cross everything off your list on Tuesday, but by Wednesday you already have another list waiting.
So give yourself a break.  Or in this case, give yourself some proof that you are evolving and moving steadily towards your goals.  Even if they are moving targets.
Here’s what I’d like you to do.
Knowing what we now know about anthems (thanks to Day 4), feel free to turn the following statement into a little jingle along the lines of the chorus to Beyoncé’s Single Ladies song. (If you liked it, then you shoulda put a ring on it).
 If you did it, then take a picture of it. (Sing it with me now.) Let me repeat….It being the most insistent thing on your Get It Done 1×31 list today.
This way you will have solid evidence that you have not only done what you set out to do, however small, but you’ve done it consistently.
A picture is worth a thousand doubts about your ability to get stuff done.
By the time you have taken a picture of at least 31 things you’ve done this month, you may never consider yourself as a slacker again.
Feel free to post your pictures in the comments below.