Tag Archives: Life

How To Get A Little Better Every Day

wpid-IMG_20130522_075051_039.jpg

Sometimes it takes just the smallest shift in perspective to change how you go about your day and help jump start real change.

Everyone has something they would love to make happen, but most never take the steps to get there. They sit there day after day, unhappy with the situation but unsure if they could ever change it, so they do nothing. Maybe it’s because of fear, or not knowing where to start, or maybe it just feels like real change is too hard. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re working towards a goal, no matter what it is.

Maybe you want to be debt free or a size 4 and you feel like it’ll take you forever to get there. Maybe you want to declutter your house, simplify your life, or build a business but you don’t know how to even begin. All you can see is the huge gap between where you are now and where you want to be, you don’t see the thousands of steps that will help get you there.

You start to think one decision won’t matter in the long run because the task you’re looking at is so big. Today doesn’t feel very powerful when it could take years to get where you’re going. That’s when you start making bad choices, because if today doesn’t matter then the choices you make today are miniscule compared to the huge goal in front of you.

But what if instead today is all that matters?

Unless you’re in the waiting room about to have liposuction or have just won the lottery you’re probably not going to drop 3 sizes or be debt free by the end of today, but you can be in a little better shape than you were when you woke up.

You can choose to go for a walk, no matter how short, or to not spend $4 on a coffee, or to take one small bag of unused stuff off to donate. You can choose to do things that cause you to make just a little forward progress. Even if it doesn’t feel like it will make a difference at the time, it will.

All those little choices add up, and winning is almost always the result of being born Charlie Sheen making small intentional choices every day. You don’t have to make the right choice every single time, that could cripple anyone with indecision. All you have to do is make sure that the net of your choices at the end of today has made you a little bit better in some way.

Your life is the sum total of your days, which are the sum total of your decisions, and those days are going to pass regardless of how you spend them. You can either sit idly by and wish things were different, or you can use the time you’ve been given to change for the better.

You could…

  • Get out and go for a walk around the block. It may be a short walk, but it’s a lot farther than you would have gotten if you’d stayed on the couch.
  • Eat a little something before you leave the house if you’ll be gone for several hours, that way you won’t spend money eating out.
  • Put a $5 bill in a jar. Next time you have a $5 bill, put it in the jar too. Only put fives in the jar and see how fast it adds up.
  • Take everything out of one drawer, separate it and decide what goes back in the drawer. Get rid of the rest.
  • Read an article on something related to your dream. Google is a wonderful thing.
  • Want to start a business? Decide to do one thing every day to get started – read articles, find your domain name, set up a price structure.
  • When you run up on something in your closet that you don’t love or don’t wear much, take 3 seconds to take it off the hanger and put it in a donate/sell box.
  • Start planning a trip if your goal is to travel, even if you don’t have the resources to go yet. Doing the research will make it more real in your mind and give you a good idea of what you’ll need.
  • If you want to be a writer, start writing. Sit down for 20 minutes and just write the first thing that comes to mind.
  • Clean up. If you’re anything like me you’ll be more motivated and feel better at the end of the day if your space is clean.
  • Say no thanks to a commitment you don’t want to take on. Just one for now.
  • Say yes to something that scares you. Push yourself to go outside your comfort zone and see what happens.
  • Set up a budget so you know how much money you really have.
  • Take a class. One class on something you want to learn how to do. Or even smaller, just research and find that one class so you know what’s out there.
  • Do something totally unique to your dream or goal.

Incidentally, the majority of this post was written in my head while taking a short walk this cool quiet morning. More often than not I think you’ll find that one good choice leads to other things falling into place. I always feel more productive when I walk in the morning, I have more energy to make better choices, and I nearly always clear my mind enough to be much more creative the rest of the day. It’s worth far more than the few minutes out of my day that it takes.

All you really need to focus on right now, at this moment, is making one decision that will ensure that tonight you are just a little better than you were this morning. Not perfect, just a little better. Don’t worry about getting it all right, one day your choices will have become habits and you’ll be able to look back and see how far you’ve come.

You don’t have to sell your house, run a marathon or win the lottery to get started, you just have to start. One day, one hour, one choice at a time.

Advertisements

The Importance Of Not Knowing

Last Friday my schedule changed substantially. Through a series of events I gained 40 hours a week in which I can do anything I want for the time being. I can work on building up my freelance business, I can write, walk, and take care of the nagging things that pile up when you don’t have time to do them. I also lost a substantial amount of stress at the same time.

I’m excited about what’s to come, but I’ve spent the last few days decompressing and figuring out what my days will look like now. In a happy coincidence this was also the first weekend in a long time that we haven’t had too much to do, so we were able to really enjoy it. We went to yard sales and a birthday party on Saturday and did a whole lot of relaxing between that afternoon and Sunday. There was even some fun hanging out with friends and family, which was really nice.

We also moved to the other side of the campground on Friday, to a corner spot with a bigger yard and a few trees, pictures coming soon. My office windows now look out over a creek, a gravel road, and a big open field… it’s awesome. Which is particularly nice because it looks like I’ll be spending a lot more time at this desk now. All in all it’s been a really exciting few days, and now I’m ready to get down to work.

I’m a planner. I like to plan out my day, my week, my trips, things to do on the weekend, the next 5 years, and well, you get the point. I can think of a million possible endings to anything.

The funny thing is, since we started this adventure, we really don’t know what’s going to happen next. We’re not entirely sure where we’re going to end up or what will change along the way. We know what we’re doing today, and I have some loose goals for the future, but there’s no definitive five or ten year plan. We may end up in a house again in that time, or we may stay in the Turtle for years to come. We may travel full time or we may end up taking lots of smaller trips. I don’t know what will happen with my freelance gigs, or this blog, or what other opportunities will come up along the way.

I’m starting to realize that there’s something really important about not having it all planned out. That realization solidified this morning when I read this short post by Jon Acuff about the unknown. He says that journeys where the outcome is already known are not adventures, they’re errands. And he’s exactly right.

Intentional change is important, and I think it’s something everyone should make a point of doing. Deciding where and who you want to be and taking the steps every day to get there. But at the same time I think it can be easy to become too focused on the life you’ve decided to create and miss opportunities to possibly create something even better.

We have a tendency to only dream so big. Even when the dream feels like it’s at the farthest reaches of your imagination it’s always possible that there’s something you couldn’t begin to imagine right outside the life you’re planning. It may be better or it may just be different, or it may be the same end result but the path you take to get there ends up being more scenic.

Not knowing allows you to say yes to opportunities you might have turned down because they aren’t part of the plan, it lets you veer off course and learn new things, correct your course when you realize something isn’t working. Not to mention there’s just something fun about now knowing what’s coming next.

It’s not an excuse to not do anything at all though, you can’t just float along hoping to end up somewhere great. Do things that energize you, things you love, every day. Always keep moving, but don’t worry so much about the destination.

Right now I have very little idea how things will look in a year, or between now and then, but the possibilities are really exciting. To get there I’ll keep designing, keep writing, keep trying to replace bad habits with good ones.

If you know exactly where you’re going and the steps it takes to get there that’s great, but leave some room for getting lost and ending up somewhere you could never have imagined.

30 Minutes To A Better Day… AKA Go To Bed Stupid

* I’m sending a ton of love to everyone affected by the bombing in Boston yesterday… I don’t know what to say other than that.

I want to be that girl that can work all day and stay up all night working towards my goals. I really, really want to be one of those people. In fact I was one of those people in college… I routinely stayed up until 2am studying playing Final Fantasy online, got back up at 6:30, worked all day, drove an hour to school, and got back home at 10pm. I’m a little tired just typing that out.

I sometimes still wish I was that way, I want to work my day job, do my afternoon chores, then spend the night working on my business. I’d stay up late and churn out designs and blog posts, thrive on very little sleep and wake up with my morning coffee, ready to do it all over again. Like a caffeinated robot. I know some of that goes back to my college days as a software programmer. That’s just what geeks do, we stay up late and live on Jolt cola. At least that’s what I thought back then.

Even today though, I constantly hear entrepreneurs and other people who do generally awesome things talk about working late nights, getting up two hours before the crack of dawn, working themselves to the bone while building a business and living their dreams. I have to ask, how in the hell do they function like that? Is that why those nasty energy drinks are so popular? What kind of health are these people going to be in here in a few years? Or do I just require an inordinate amount of maintenance?

Nowadays, I stay up till 10:45 one night and spend the whole next day exhausted, struggling to get even menial tasks done. I stay up late again that night because now I’m tired and bummed and starting to think very negatively about my whole situation, I obviously need to work harder. The next day, after two nights of staying up into the wee hours of nearly 11pm, I’m clinically depressed.

The day after two nights of this I’m convinced that a) I’m a talentless hack, b) I’m stuck in a desk job forever, because I don’t have the skills or motivation to improve my position, and c) my entire life is crumbling around me, plus I probably smell funny. I wish I were exaggerating… ask my husband. He strongly encourages me to go to sleep on time.

The funny thing is, I didn’t even realize what was happening at first. I honestly thought these horrible feelings were real, and that just made it worse. I would stay grumpy, negative, and just generally bummed out for several days, then finally wear myself out and have to go to bed earlier on night 3 or 4, and the weirdest thing would happen. The next day would be great. I would get stuff done, the design I’d been working on for days would just fall into place, and several times I even made a sale or gained some kind of acknowledgement that I really didn’t have any control over. I have to lay that last one off on karma… you get back what you put out there, I take care of myself and the universe rewards me.

It took me too long to realize this cycle, as is the usual trend with me realizing things about myself. But now that I know how I function I can work with it.

I know that if I stay up past 10:30 I’m trading an entire days worth of productivity for an extra 30 minutes that night. Some nights I still make that trade, but I do it consciously, and I try not to do it often. I also know how to recognize the signs of self-neglect… if I’m feeling really negative or whiny I stop and think about what I may have done to cause it, then I give myself a pass that day – I get done what I can but I don’t push myself to do amazing things, because it’s not happening. That’s the hardest part for me still, realizing that my mood isn’t a direct reflection of external problems, but instead is a result of pissing of my body.

I also know that I feel better if I go for a run, a long walk, or do something equally active, at least 3 days a week. This usually takes me an hour or so, between stretching, warming up, cooling down, showering, and the actual activity.

I started out feeling a lot of guilt about taking the time to do that for myself instead of working… I have clients waiting on their projects, I should be focusing all my available time on that. I have things I should be doing for the business or around the house. Those things should take priority shouldn’t they?

Not quite.

It’s like the oxygen mask speech. You’re no good to anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself. That sounds so obvious and I’ve heard it a million times, but it’s not as easy to actually implement. It’s not easy to do something for yourself or feel like you’re putting yourself first, because in turn you have to put someone else last when you do that. But I can tell you from first hand experience: it’s very necessary.

Learn what your body needs to function at a higher level, take the time to take care of yourself, and you’ll be more efficient, happier, and turn out better widgets. Your widgets might not have anything to do with work but instead be how you take care of your family, it doesn’t matter. Whatever your widget is you’ll actually make up for the time you lost by functioning better.

I personally am able to work better, faster, and more efficiently when I’m clear headed and awake. Getting a good nights sleep and going for a run helps me be that way. Things go 100 times better for me when I do the things I know I should and listen to my own body. Not to mention that some of my biggest stumbling blocks have been worked out while running down a quiet road letting my mind roam.

I’m not perfect, this is something I’m still working on and I probably always will be to some extent, but I’m learning to recognize it and I’ve seen the rewards of doing the right thing.

Your thing might not be running, and you may function fine on 5 hours of sleep, but I bet there’s something you’re putting aside that you shouldn’t be. You may not even realize it… I didn’t.

I want to challenge you to pay attention to your moods and your patterns. Find what’s lacking, and make it a point to start being more intentional about including it in your day. I promise it won’t hurt a thing.

Why you should run like no one’s watching

I’m a running newbie… I’ve just recently started my own version of the Couch to 5K program, and I go out three to four times a week and train. I posted about it here, and I love it. It’s extremely relaxing to me, makes me feel like I’m doing something wonderful for myself, and gets me closer to my goal of one day being an actual runner.

That being said, I’m still in the very early stages of learning to run. I walk probably 75% of my trip, with spurts of running mixed in. I’m still figuring out my form, what stretches to do when, how my feet should fall, and how to breathe right so I don’t get light headed.

In fact, I just today succeeded in keeping my torso from twisting side to side and remembered to pretend there was a string coming out of the top of my head holding my body straight. So as much as I would like to call myself a runner because I’m making the effort to learn, there are times when it’s undeniable that I just look really silly.

I run on a public road, and even though there isn’t much traffic I probably see 4 or 5 cars during my run. Every time a car drives by I could stop running so that I don’t embarrass myself. The urge is definitely there. But I don’t, I keep going.

I keep going because I tell myself that it doesn’t matter what I look like – I’m doing something.

I keep going because every time I run I get a little better and a little more confident.

I keep going because I don’t want to edit myself to look better to someone else.

There have been times on this blog that I may not have written the kind of post I wanted to write because I worried that someone would think differently of me. I worried that someone I know might read it and laugh at me.

I do the same thing when I design something for a customer or to list in my shop on Etsy, I second guess myself and question my abilities. Sometimes to the extent that I talk myself out of publishing the post or listing the design. What if it isn’t good enough?

You know who doesn’t edit themselves? People who do things. People who become people. One of my favorite quotes lately is this one by George Addair.

Everything you want, is on the other side of fear.

If I edit myself, or you edit yourself, the only person we’re hurting is us. It doesn’t effect anyone else, but it keeps us from learning, growing, improving, becoming the people we want to be.

So I say we quit editing and start doing…

Blog like no one is reading.

Draw like no one will see it.

Build it like maybe they aren’t coming.

Run like no one is watching.

Do it for yourself, because really, what’s the worst that could happen?