My To-Do list is long these days: final edit of my first novel, cover design, figuring out how to independent publish, home, and family, etc.
I have a lot going on. It seems like a lot of people do.
How are you? Oh, busy, busy.
There’s so much to do, so much to learn. We keep our heads down and keep working and pushing forward. And there’s always more to do. Sometimes it’s too much.
We feel beat down and done. Overwhelmed, frustrated, and exhausted by our busyness.
But wait! There’s a magic fix for that state of overwhelm (you may already know this).
A moment of gratitude works like magic to boost your mood from overwhelmed to grateful. Try it.
Take a moment.
Think about what you have, from people to the necessities like food and shelter and time.
Take a moment of heartfelt, sincere, focused gratitude for what’s right in front of you and in your heart.
Repeat as necessary.
A moment of gratitude boosts my mood and helps me feel like everything’s going to be okay.
What’s not okay is being so wrapped up in my busyness that I take my blessings for granted. Gratitude helps me build a bridge and get over myself. And it reminds me: Life is fragile. Nothing is guaranteed.
Yeah, gratitude is awesome. And humbling.
I know this, but sometimes I forget. Maybe you do too.
I hope you benefit from the reminder.
At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. Albert Schweitzer
Have you ever felt like you were fumbling along just trying to figure things out and hoping for the best? Like you don’t know what the heck you’re doing. Parenting is a lot like that, or taking a leap of faith without a net.
If you missed my previous post about being flexible, click here.
And now tip #2:
When you feel overwhelmed and you’re not sure which way to turn, connecting with people who’ve been where you are can help. Why not learn from their experience and insight?
Connect with people who’ve been where you are.
There are a ton of ways to do it. So many avenues and platforms — YouTube videos, Podcasts, Blogs, MeetUps, Facebook groups — and new ones popping up every day.
It takes time and energy to explore what might help or at least to disregard what won’t work for you. Consider it an investment toward your well-being.
Here are a few things that work for me.
Read a book
This is pretty much my go-to.
When I was going through a divorce a lifetime ago, I felt overwhelmed and lost.
I did then what I do now — looked for a book to help guide me through it. And there were a bunch, but from of all the books I read, the one that helped me the most was a book called “Crazy Time”. The cover was red. (I looked it up. The author is Abigail Trafford)
Of all the books I read during that time, Crazy Time helped me get through that rough patch of weeds. It gave me perspective and understanding and gave me hope that I’d get through it.
I recommended the book to people I knew going through divorce, but it may not have helped them like it helped me.
Sometimes we have to be like Goldilocks and keep trying until we find the one that’s just right. No doubt there’s something out there that’s exactly what you’re looking for.
Listen more and be open minded
In education, teachers share “Best Practices” – what’s worked for them and how they do it.
Potential mentors are everywhere. Listen to people who share “Best Practices”. You may pick up some great info or at least get ideas about what might work for you. Be open minded.
When you’re stuck in the weeds and you have no idea how to get out you may be tempted to shoot down every idea and think of every reason it won’t work. But the reality is if you want something different you have to do something different.
Use what works for you and develop your own “Best Practices”. Expect a few misses but keep the faith.
Mentors, Masterminds, MeetUps and More
There are a gazillion opportunities to benefit from another person’s experience both in person and online.
When I decided to go gray I found a Facebook group called Going Gray and Loving It. Women shared their experiences and posted pictures through their different phases of growth. Riveting news, I know, but those women helped me get through those rough days when I hated my gray hair and thought about diving back into the dye.
Pick a platform – blog, video, social media – and start looking for a group or individual who sounds interesting to you. Peruse articles/posts/videos. You’ll be able to tell right away if they’re a good fit. You may follow them for years or just for a little while, like the Going Grey group was for me. That’s fine.
However you decide to connect with people who’ve been where you are, remember:
People want to help.
Don’t isolate yourself. Reach out to connect with people who can help you get through life’s rough patches.
There’s a way out of the weeds. If you know there’s someone who can give you directions, why not hear what they have to say?
In a previous blogpost, What to do when you feel stuck in the weeds I covered some tips to help get you through those times when you feel unfocused, overwhelmed, or off-track. That’s what I call being in the weeds. The tips:
Connect with people who’ve been where you are
Find a process that works for you
Trust the process
I’m going to expand on each of these tips over the next four weeks starting with Tip #1 to help you stay on track:
Better bend than break. ~ Scottish Proverb
That’s pure wisdom.
But it’s so hard to be flexible sometimes, isn’t it? Being willing to bend when you’d rather not. Especially when bending makes you look weak or worse — wrong. It’s hard to give it up. Maybe it’s pride. Or maybe it’s the uncertainty about what to do next, an oversight or a misunderstanding.
Here are a few thought to help you be more flexible:
Check your stubborn streak.
I come from a long line of stubborn individuals and the wide stubborn streak of a few family members in particular have become legendary. The old description “stubborn as a mule” sums it up well. You can’t push, pull, coax, or persuade a mule to move if he doesn’t want to move.
Maybe we’ve all been there at one time or another. (I know I have.)
But it’s important to check your stubborn streak so you don’t lost your senses:
Can’t hear suggestions
Don’t want to talk about the situation
Can’t see any other way than your own
Stubbornness makes you unreasonable.
It’s easy to get off course and stuck in the weeds when you’re in that state of mind. And you run the risk of making things more difficult for yourself.
Refusing to budge won’t get you anywhere. Better to check your stubborn streak and consider giving in.
And just a quick aside, I don’t think stubbornness is all bad. There are times when you have to stick to your ideas and principles. But that’s more about being strong and determined. There will always be naysayers and people who don’t believe in your vision. In those cases, by all means, dig your heels in and get ready for all that lies ahead.
Be open to learning.
You may know a lot about a lot of things, but no one knows it all. The best kind of teachers are those who learn from their students. If you consider people who are gracious and humble, they are open to learning from others.
Thinking you know it all is a sign of weakness. Approach things with a beginner’s mindset. Be like a child who’s mind is like a sponge, eager to learn all you can.
Swallow your pride.
We are rarely proud when we are alone. ~ Voltaire
It took me a long time to learn this hard-fought lesson: A person who hangs on to her pride can’t be flexible. Pride destroys. Relationships. Careers. Happiness.
I read a children’s picture book about the man who invented television Philo Farnsworth. I’d never heard of him. His is a tragic story. He was brilliant and creative, but he wasn’t willing to work within the patent system in place and fought for sole credit of his inventions. He didn’t die alone, but struggled with depression and alcoholism toward the end of his life.
When I first read his story he struck me as a tragic hero who’s fatal flaw was pride. I can’t help but wonder what his life might have been had he been more flexible and willing to share the credit for his invention. (I’m telling you the short version of his story, of course.)
But the bottom line is this – Pride kills lots of things: relationships, careers, health.
I know it’s not always easy. Most of us have to work at it, I suppose. (Some of us have to work at it more than others.) But a little flexibility goes a long way toward personal and professional happiness.
So know yourself and your tendency to be stubborn, a know it all, and prideful. (Gee, they sound terrible when you say it that way.) They’re flexibility killers. And happiness killers. Give them up.
Yogi Berra famously said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”
I agree with that. You have to have a goal.
But that’s just the beginning. There’s more to it than that.
When I first started writing, all I knew was that I wanted to write a book. I thought I wanted to tell a particular story, but when I set out to write it, it turned into a different story, and that turned into something else, and then I wondered how I’d ever get it done when I was lost at the beginning.
It felt like I was in the weeds and it was frustrating and discouraging. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find my way out.
But I did.
Here are some things that helped me and they might help you too if you ever feel stuck in the weeds:
My first plan didn’t work. Neither did my second. I don’t think my third did either. It was disappointing. At first I felt like I’d wasted time and energy on those first attempts. But then I realized they weren’t a waste at all. I learned from them. And I still have a lot of learning to do, but now I know better than to panic when things don’t work out like I thought they would. Now I know that a little flexibility goes a long way.
Connect with people who’ve been where you are
People want to help. Look for a book or blogpost, video or podcast from them. Find someone you resonate with. It may take a while. Keep looking. You’ll know when you find the person(s) whose message you need to hear. We all need encouragement to battle confusion and self-doubt. It helps to hear another person’s experience if only to boost your belief that if they did it, you can do it.
Find a process that works for you
Ask five different people how to do something – write a book, lose weight, get in shape, plan a trip, find a new job – you’re bound to get five different answers. Some writers outline every scene before writing a single word. Others start writing with a simple idea. Do your research to help you find a process that works for you.
Trust the process
Even when you have a roadmap to get where you’re going, you’re bound to face unexpected challenges along the way. Weeds. Don’t let them stop you. Make adjustments and regroup if necessary, then keep moving forward and don’t give up.
Once you know where you want to go and you’ve set your sights on a goal, keep these things in mind. Try one or more of these things to help you get out of the weeds and get back on course. You can do it!
Have you ever felt like you’re on someone else’s path? Like you’ve bought tickets to a movie and gone into the dark theatre only to find out you’re in the wrong movie.
Wonderful. Now what do you do?
You have a choice:
Stay where you are and watch a movie you didn’t intend to watch.
Gather your things, and go look for where you belong.
For a while now, I’ve felt that way about this blog.
It’s taken me a while to realize I’m watching someone else’s movie.
How it started
I started blogging to share a message: getting older doesn’t mean you have to stand by and watch your body fall apart, that staying active and eating nutritious food can help keep you strong and feeling good. I wanted to encourage women to take care of themselves in body, mind, and spirit.
Mindset Monday started when I realized that a lot of what keeps us from staying healthy and taking care of ourselves is our attitude. We get bogged down in our own fear and negativity. So, to help people get started on the right track for the week and toward a more positive mindset, Mindset Monday was born.
And then I veered off track by making the message too broad as if I was writing for everyone instead of women who want to age well.
I thought I needed to get back to my original focus — To speak to women who struggle with aging and all that goes with that, encouraging women to age well, to embrace life’s changes, to find the joy in new roles, to help build each other up.
And I’ve tried doing that for the past few months.
But that doesn’t feel quite right either and I couldn’t quite figure out why and what to do about it.
After much deliberation, I think I finally understand the root cause of my difficulty:
I’ve tried to deliver a message that I think people want to hear rather than simply saying what’s on my heart and letting the message speak for itself.
It’s like not allowing yourself to answer a question because you’re trying to say what you think the other person wants to hear. It doesn’t work and it’s exhausting.
So, it’s time for a re-shift and re-focus.
For starters, due mostly to some admin issues, starting in May I’ll no longer be using strong-woman.com.
Instead, I’ll be transitioning from strong-woman.com back to my original domain rubymontalvo.com.
Next, after much thought and deliberation, I’ve decided I’ll blog about my own story (I wanted to help women get healthy so I started a business, quit my school librarian job, but then realized what I really want to do is write so that’s what I’m doing.) and what I’m learning along the way. If you don’t know my story, you can read a more complete version here.
I hope you’ll find the stories interesting. And maybe some of what I learn can help you too.
If my story resonates with you and you still glean value from the message, I hope you continue reading.
My path isn’t crystal clear, but I’ll stick with it until I figure it out. For now, I’m planning on self-publishing my first novel, A Song for Jessica, in June 2018. You can read what it’s about here.
I have a few more steps before I get to that point so I’ll keep you posted. If any of it can encourage you on your journey then I’ll count it as a success.
So the Mindset Monday message for today is:
When you realize you’re on a different path than you intended, you have to make a choice to stay where you are or look for where you belong.
You may have to try different things before finding what’s just right, like Goldilocks.
Nothing worth doing is easy. There will still be struggles, but you can figure it out. Don’t give up.