Feeling trapped

What you can do to help stop Coronavirus spread

I’ve had Coronavirus on the brain for a while. Ever since the news of the virus hitting Northern Italy hard, I scour the news sources, sometimes bleary-eyed for some new bit of informtion.

By now we all know we should:

  • Practice social distancing
  • Not gather in large groups
  • Wash hands with soap and water. If not available, use hand sanitizer.
  • Cough and sneeze in your elbow or a tissue.

With that in mind, the news is bleak.

But here are a few stories that have stayed with me and are a great reminder about what we’re dealing with.

The first is from Dr. Emily Landon from the University of Chicago Medicine.

Her message hits to the heart of our current situation and the frustrating reality that the best most of us can do is to do nothing.

She says healthcare workers around the world are doing their part to help us through the pandemic. Now, we need to do our part.

If you haven’t seen it, you can watch Dr. Landon’s March 21 speech or read the transcript at:

Chicago’s Doctor’s Blunt Speech About COVID-19 Hits Home

And this message from Craig Spencer, MD in New York who (via Twitter) implores people to stay home. He says, “You might hear people say it isn’t bad. It is….I survivied Ebola. I fear COVID-19.”

Read the full account at Doctor Gives Harrowing Account of Life on the Frontline for Clinicians Treating COVID-19 in New York

Get the facts

For information about COVID-19, what it is, and how to protect you and your family go to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website at Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do to help this crisis pass any faster except follow your state and local guidelines.

And be patient.

Take advantage of the downtime to:

Exercise.

Even if it’s a walk around the block, a short workout, or a dance party in your living room.

Get stuff done.

Pick up those projects you’ve been putting off. It can be hard to get motivated, but start small and keep at it. Little by little you can do a lot.

Get outside.

It’s a sunny 88 degrees as I write this. Outside in the shade would be good. And even when outdoors, keep your recommended 6-feet social distance.

Waste nothing.

Freeze food before it goes bad. Be creative with your meals.

Meet virtually.

We’ve resorted to live-video, group workouts and virtual coffee meetings using What’s App. It’s not the same as being there, but it’s better than going it alone.

Donate time and/or money

If you have the time or money, check with your local Red Cross to find your local chapter about how you can help. They may even have ways to volunteer virtually.

As always, a little gratitude goes a long way.

Reach out to others if you need a word of encouragement, a videochat, a roll of toilet paper, an egg…whatever.

Wishing you patience and health through this crisis.

Need some motivation to kick start your new project? Read What are you waiting for? on the blog.

axe throw

Deep thought for the day: Who are you?

My family and I were big fans of The Walking Dead a few years ago. It sparked some interesting discussion around what we would do in the unlikely event of a zombie apocalypse.

My son and husband went through a bow and arrow phase, then an axe-throwing phase.

It’s for fun and recreation, of course, but we also joked about it being great training for the Zombie Apolalypse.

We’d imagine banding together as a family to fight off zombies in a Zombieland or Shaun of the Dead way, not in a Night of the Living Dead or Walking Dead way. The latter being way too terrifying.

It’s a joke we can run a long way with, for sure.

But we’re not bomb shelter, doomsday preppers kind of people. We don’t have a closet full of canned food or MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat).

And although we kid about preparing for the Zombie Apolcalypse, it did raise some interesting discussions about what we would do in the event of an actual catastrophic event. 

COVID-19 pandemic is not the Zombie Apolalypse, but it has disrupted every aspect of our lives.

And it’s got me thinking about human nature and the way we humans act in times of uncertainty. 

The saying goes, We show our true selves in times of crisis. 

So the question is, who are you? (Matt Damon’s character asks the question in the movie Ford vs. Ferrari which I streamed this past weekend so I’ll just borrow it here. Great movie, BTW.)

Am I the type of person who’ll do anything for my family, including buying up all the toilet paper and clearing the shelves of hand sanitizer and masks so I can turn a profit on eBay?

Because I can make a nice profit and my family needs to live too. Supply and demand, baby. You need hand sanitizer, can’t find it, don’t mind spending $10 on something that costs me a dollar? Sold. 

Hey, extreme circumstances, y’know?

These are not normal times, for sure. And what can any of us do about it? We’re just trying to make it through.

Before I judge that guy, I can look at my own actions. Am I acting in a responsible and ethical way?

I’ve been looking for a dozen eggs for a while. Haven’t found any. But the terrible thing is, I have about a half dozen. Why am I looking for something I already have?

The current situation: Mark and I have what we need even though it may not be exactly what we want.

Plus, we’ve ordered plenty of takeout in an attempt to do what little we can to help our local businesses. And so we don’t have to cook.

Those are little things.

Some people are doing big things. Health care workers, public servants and non-profit staff and volunteers who care help people in the community are at the front lines of this thing. They may have to make tough choices that affect lives and livelihoods.

Not me. My job right now is to do what I can, like don’t panic buy, follow social-distancing guidelines, and stay home.

That sounds so much less bad-ass than fighting off zombies, but that’s where we are.

We show our true selves in times of crisis, or said another way, as you pass the days with the current COVID-19 reality, consider the question: Who are you?

Interestingly, this is not the first blogpost in which I reference zombies : ) For another, read Violence in a zombie world

Affirmations featured image

Use affirmations to shift your mindset

I’m trying to get in the daily habit of using the most uplifting affirmations I have in my arsenal.

Why? Because they’re amazing!

When I feel sad, frustrated, discouraged, angry, or doubtful about life and things, saying this one, simple statement (affirmation) helps to shift my mindset:

I am brilliant, bright, and beautiful.

What exactly is an affirmation and why would I use one?

An affirmation is a positive statement you can say mentally or out loud, a statement that says what you want or who you want to be. Using affirmations is a way of claiming that thing for yourself, of putting your desire out into the Universe.

Lots of self-help books recommend practicing affirmations as a way of maintaining a positive mindset.

Shift the focus

This favorite affirmation works like magic to help me shift the focus from self-doubt to positivity. 

It’s something I say to shift my mindset, to remind myself that I am brilliant, bright, and beautiful.

The thing about this affirmation is that I don’t feel vain or braggy when I say it because it’s really not about me. I didn’t make myself brilliant, bright, and beautiful.

Which leads me to another one of my favorites: I am a miracle of creation. The force that guides the stars guides me too. 

Whether you call the “force that guides the stars” God or the Universe or Mother Nature or whatever, the idea is that I (imperfect me) am an amazing part of creation, no less than the stars. 

And so are you.

You are brilliant, bright, and beautiful. 

Sounds simple. Does it work?

When I feel unmotivated and down on myself and like I have nothing to offer anyone and I’m a screw up and my work is of no significance and tons of other negative thoughts that knock me down, these affirmations help lift me up.

I challenge you to give it a try when you feel discouraged or frustrated.

Say it with conviction: I am brilliant, bright, and beautiful. Repeat as needed. Let the words sink in until you feel them to your bones.

If these affirmations don’t quite work for you, find another one you like.

Here are some ideas:

  • I have all I need to create the life I desire.
  • Love is the answer.
  • I choose the path of courage.
  • Today is what I have and I will make the most of it.
  • I let go of all I can’t control. Not my circus, not my monkeys.
  • One day at a time.

Affirmation practice

Find one that works for you and then practice it.

Say it every day, several times a day if you can.

But at the very least, when you need a mindset shift remember to affirm yourself.

Remember that you are brilliant, bright, and beautiful. You are a miracle of creation. 

Shine on!

Stay focused

4 Strategies to keep you focused and get stuff done

I’ve been struggling to stay focused lately, or more to the point, struggling to not want to be distracted when I have stuff to do.

Squirrel.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about listening better. And, yeah, I’m working on it.

But focusing on being a better listener has made me realize my very self-sabatoging tendency to allow distractions to shift my focus.

I allow myself to be distracted by things, people, stuff, and, here’s the biggee, I tend to actually look for things to distract myself — stuff that sucks me in and keeps me from work/tasks/commitments that matter to me. 

Distractions abound. And when I’m bored, tired, out of my groove, or wanting to do anything other than what I’m doing, I look for a distraction. 

Squirrel.

Especially when the task is difficult, tedious, boring, or otherwise unappealing. That’s when I most want to look at/think about/read about something else, which keeps me from doing what’s most important to me.

Must stay focused, but….squirrel!

Recently, I’d been working on a blogpost when, for no good reason, I logged on to Facebook. I had no business there, no real purpose for going there other than to distract myself. All I wanted was a little diversion, just a quick glance at something else.

Well don’t you know, I got sucked into the Facebook vortex.

20 minutes later!…I finally pulled myself away and logged off.

And it isn’t just FB. I might pick up my phone to check the weather, but I end up reading news headlines and checking Instagram and maybe looking to see what’s showing at the movies. Or maybe I’ll just have some Valentines’ Day chocolate.

So, with a conservative estimate on a regular day, I can easily spend about an hour on stuff not in line with my priorities. 

7 hours a week. 30 hours a month. 360 hours a year. That’s 15 days. Of my life!

Time well-spent? 

Almost certainly not.

Someone once said: Time is our most valuable non-renewable resource. 

(I looked it up and according to Goodreads.com, it was Albert-Laszlo Barabasi in his book, Bursts: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do)

You are so right, Albert!

The clock is ticking, man.

And if time is my most valuable non-renewable resource then what am I doing wasting so much of it? 

I had to ask myself, how can I shift my mindset to help me stay focused on what I’m doing?

Here’s what I know: I get way more long-lasting satisfaction from completing something on my “To Do” list than from scanning news headlines, checking email, or mindless snacking. 

When I complete a task from my “To Do” list I know I’ve done what I set out to do and spent my nonrenewable resource on something that’s important to me.

And that sense of accomplishment has a snowball effect. It gives me momentum.

I’ve proven to myself that I can focus and accomplish what I set out to accomplish. (Honestly, even if it’s something as “boring” as doing the laundry. Not my favorite thing to do, but necessary, and now…done. Check.)

Here are a few strategies I’m using to combat my tendency to seek distractions to avoid important but difficult/boring/challenging/mundane tasks.

Have a plan

I work well with a “To Do” list and a calendar. On the calendar I mark my deadlines, some self-imposed and arbitrary, others imposed by others and firm, like April 15 tax filing deadline. 

By Sunday night, or at the latest Monday morning, I have a plan for my week. I list what I will work on every day. That’s my “To do” list. If for some reason I don’t get to something on my “To Do” list for that day, I push it back to the following day or earliest possible day. 

What works best for me is scheduling slightly more than I think I can do. And then I prioritize my list, taking into account any factors that may affect the schedule. 

I’ve been using this strategy for a while and I’m surprised how lost I am without a plan.

The other day I had nothing on my schedule except to spend the day with a relative. She got sick and had to cancel. I was left with my blank schedule board and I had to think for a few minutes about how to best regroup.

If you want to stay more focused, try writing a daily plan.

Be flexible

Things are going to come up, which is all the more reason to seize the day when you have the chance.

When you do what’s important instead of squandering your life away on stupid stuff that doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things, you’re better prepared for the unexpected.

It’s like money in the bank for a rainy day.

Set a timer

Depending on your work environment and level of potential distractions, I’ve found it very helpful to give myself a set amount of time to work on something on my list. 

Let’s say, for example, I have an idea for a blogpost. I know what I want to say and I’m ready to write. I set my timer for 30 minutes. 

Begin.

Everything’s great, I’m rolling along, but then I hit a snag. I get into the weeds and start questioning myself, doubting the validity of my message, and dozens of other things that sidetrack me. 

That’s when I’m most likely to start looking for something else to do or think about. 

But if I’ve set my timer, I’ve committed to write until my timer goes off. I know I can stay focused and write for 30 minutes, so I keep going.

Often, pushing through that yuck phase gets me back on track so when my timer goes off, I find I can go another 30 minutes. 

If 30 minutes seems too long, start with 10 or 20 minutes until you build your stamina, your “stay focused” muscle.

Set your priorities and purpose

When I worked as an elementary school librarian, I had so much stuff to do every day. Inventory, shelving books, ordering books, researching books to order, teaching classes, etc, in addition to the incidental interruptions like fire drills, staff meetings in the library, etc. There was no way I could do everything I had to do. 

So I had to prioritize. I gave myself deadlines, did what I could, made daily lists, and tried to remember that, above all things, I was there for the students.

I tried very hard to keep my purpose in mind: Connect kids with books and foster a love of reading.

Every day was a challenge and I probably lost my cool a few times. (A few dozen times if you count lunch duty.) But I tried very hard to stay focused on what was most important.

Those strategies again

So when you want to stay focused and get stuff done

  • Have a plan
  • Be flexible
  • Set your timer
  • Set your priorities and purpose 

We can do more than we think we can, but only if we stay focused on the tasks at hand, set our priorities, and treat time as our most valuable nonrenewable resource.

Can you relate? Do you put off tasks you’ll know you’ll eventually have to do? Do you leave work that really matters to you for stuff that doesn’t matter to you much at all? What strategies do you use to get past it? 

No need for external validation

You are enough. External validation not required.

I wanted to write a post about the pitfalls of external validation, about how crippling it can be to feel like you’re not good enough unless other people say you are.

But when I started writing, the message got jumbled.

I got into a whole bunch of tangents about the difference between seeking feedback and craving approval from others. About how people can have their own agenda and think nothing of offering harsh criticism only to claim they’re “just being honest.”

But as I grappled with the idea of external validation, I realized that the real message is much more simple.

While all critique may have its truth, it’s not as important as the more positive, life-changing truth:

You are enough. 

I truly believe we all have gifts as varied and unique as we are. Each of us is in charge of our gifts and has a responsiblity to use them.

It may not seem like it, but you are enough.

You don’t need external validation, for someone else to say you’re good enough or to give her approval before you embrace your gift.

When we doubt we’re good enough and let someone else’s opinion drive our actions, we shirk our responsibility to our gifts. 

You are enough.

Sure, you’re a work in progress. We all are.

Learn all you can. Develop your gifts. Build yourself up by trying new things. Be okay with failing. Live fearless. 

You’ll need to be strong and determined to keep moving toward your dreams no matter what people say.

I’ll just say it again in case you forgot: You are enough

Live fearless.

They say the opposite of love is indifference and maybe in some forms of love that’s true. But when it comes to self-love and living your best life, I believe the opposite of love is fear.

Move past your fear and believe that you are enough.

Tuck the thought in your mind and in your heart and keep moving in the direction of your dreams.

For more reading on this idea, read How to ignore naysayers and other well-meaning people

Listen more, get more

What can you gain when you listen better?

As someone a long time ago once said, We have 2 ears and 1 mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. (According to Goodreads.com, Greek philosopher Epictetus said it about two-thousand years ago.)

2 ears, 1 mouth. Listen better. Sure. Sounds good.

Makes sense, even, but I’m afraid it’s not working out that way. Not for me, anyway.

I used to think I was a pretty good listener and included listening as one of my strenghts. I’m not sure what happened to my listening skills. 

I’ll give you an example of what I mean.

This is an actual conversation I’ve had with my husband:

Me: How was your day?

Mark: It was good. Busy, but good. 

5 minutes later

Me: How was your day?

Mark: You just asked me that.

Me: (deer in headlights look) I did?

Mark: Yes

Me: Really?

Mark: Yes

Me: What did you say?

Mark: (Long pause) It was fine.

Whoa. That’s pretty crappy. The problem was not that I forgot what he’d said.

No, the problem was I wasn’t listening. I wasn’t fully present even as I stood right there with him?

Why not? Was I asking a question because I felt the need to speak, to fill the silent space? I don’t know. 

But I know I can do better. I want to do better. 

The thing is I believe listening is one of the most fundatmental ways of showing love. It’s pretty basic really.

When we truly listen to another person, we’re fully present, body and mind, engaged in what that person is saying.

But why is it so hard to do sometimes?

There are many possible reasons.

Maybe we’re

  • thinking about something that happened earlier
  • formulating a response to what is being said
  • wondering when this person will stop talking
  • dying to check our weather app
  • itching to check new posts on Instagram (or Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

When petty stuff distracts me so much that I can’t listen well to someone I love, that’s a problem.

And it’s not just hearing their words that’s important. It’s giving them my full attention. Listening, yes, but also seeing, feeling, and being completely present in the moments that make up my life.

I realize, for example, how quick I am to pull out my phone or think about pulling it out for no good reason. Major distraction.

Shifting focus

The other day, I held my 2-month old granddaughter in my arms while she slept. It was just us and the house was quiet, except for the faint squeak of the rocking chair I sat in.

I thought, Hey, there are tons of movies I’ve been wanting to watch. Maybe I can watch a movie. Or maybe I can listen to an audiobook.

But because I’ve been thinking about this whole idea of “listening” and what it means to listen and be fully present, I stopped myself, didn’t pick up my phone or turn on the TV.

It was so quiet. 

I just sat there and listened. To the quiet, to her breath, to her sigh. And the listening caused me to feel her more, her presence, the weight of her in my arms.

In that moment, I found myself overcome with immense gratitude for the amazing miracle I held in my arms. I prayed for angels to watch over her and for her protection, now and always. 

No movie or book could ever compare to the magnitude of that moment for me. I’ll always remember it as a gift, made possible by the power of listening. 

I know this to be true. And you know what? As wonderful and awesome as it was, I still struggle. It’s still hard for me to listen. 

This is something I have to practice every day, for myself as much as for anyone else.

Listening is an act of love. It connects us to the world, life, people, our surroundings. The Universe has something to say and if we don’t listen we could miss it forever.

Do you struggle to listen? What keeps you from being a better listener? I’d love to hear from you in the comments : ) 

Read more about listening (to yourself) on this post: Discover the value of your intuition

Love yourself

6 Ways to love yourself more

I saw this little plaque at a discount store and it has such a simple message: Love yourself

I thought, “Yep. I need to see this every day.” 

Because everyone knows it’s important to love yourself, right? Like, if you don’t love yourself how can you love anyone else, right? That’s what I’ve always heard.

But if you’re like me, you kind of say, Yeah that’s true. I agree.

But wait. Am I living that truth?

Do I:

  • Embrace the true meaning of the statement?
  • Even know what that means? What does “loving yourself” look like?
  • Actually practice it?

So if we look at what it means to love yourself, it could lead you to ask, what is love, anyway?

And then it gets so sticky and confusing and you think, love isn’t something I can label with a bunch of words and it’s not always the same, like I love my kids one way and I love chocolate another way, so of course, I’d have to love myself a different way. 

Maybe. 

But if you really believe it’s important to love yourself, then isn’t it worth taking the time to figure out what that means? 

The directive to love yourself is meant to be taken seriously, not blown off, like, Yeah yeah. I get it. 

In her book, You are a Badass (I know, I always mention this book), Jen Sencero ends every chapter the same way, no matter what the chapter’s about, every chapter ends with the words (you guessed it): Love yourself. 

I came to expect it, but still was like, I know, I know, love myself. 

But really. Love yourself. What exactly does that mean?

I don’t think it’s about doing more or less, I think it’s a way of being. 

Here are 6 things a person who loves herself does:

1. She is kind to herself.

We can be our own worst critic and our own worst enemy, especially when we compare ourselves to others. But someone who loves herself has compassion for her failures. She accepts that she’s not perfect and doesn’t act like everything she does and says needs to be perfect. She forgives her mistakes which makes her better at forgiving others. She contains her inner critic. She talks to herself as she would talk to someone she loves and values. 

2. She stands up for herself.

I’m always amazed when I see this in action. It seems so ballsy. I struggle standing up for myself, for sure, because I don’t want to offend people, don’t want to make a scene. But someone who loves herself knows she can stand up for herself without being rude or aggressive. She doesn’t allow herself to be used, taken advantage of, or treated like a doormat. She doesn’t expect people to read her mind so she speaks up, otherwise she knows she risks getting angry and resentful. And that’s not who she is. 

3. She sets boundaries.

This relates to standing up for herself, but it goes beyond that. She sets boundaries for her own well-being. That includes being okay with saying “no,” loving toxic people from a distance, and not feeling guilty when she does what she knows is best for her even if it may disappoint some people.  

4. She plays a self-love mental playlist. On repeat.

She replaces negative messages, both from the past and in the present, with messages that remind her she’s a miracle of creation. There’s no desire to be like anyone else because she has everything she needs to create the life she desires. She knows this, believes it, and lives it. 

5. She sets personal goals and works toward them.

Even if she has to set them aside for a time or other commitments take priority, she doesn’t forget them. She allows them to evolve as she does. The woman who loves herself knows the essence of her passions and pursuits. She knows she has gifts she is meant to develop and nurture so she gives them attention. 

6. She practices self-love.

It’s easy to fall into old patterns and habits so she knows she has to practice taking care of herself… in her relationships, her body, mind, and spirit.  

The master of self-love described above is not an actual person, but a super-strong, super self-loving fictitious character who is a culmination of some serious self-love habits.

Want to be more like her, but have some work to do in this area?

You’re not alone! 

But it’s okay! 

Because no matter where you rate yourself on the self-love scale (1 being “not at all”, 5 being “I’m pretty awesome. And that’s not vanity. It’s my truth.”) improving self-love is do-able. For some of us it may take more conscious effort and practice than for others. 

Practice treating yourself with compassion, patience,  and attention. 

These 6 traits are what came to my mind when thinking about how I want to love myself. Do you stuggle with any of these? Did I miss anything?

I’d love to hear from you! Let me know your thoughts, and additions or subtractions to my list in the comments.

For more on this topic, read It’s important to be good to others, but don’t forget to be good to yourself too.

Listen to this

“Becoming Wise” podcast offers morsels of wisdom

I was looking for a podcast to listen to, something short, but packed with insight. That’s how I stumbled on the podcast called “Becoming Wise”

The name intrigued me because, How do you become wise? And what is wisdom anyway?

But as I perused, I saw that the podcasts are short, around 10 minutes long, so they’re like morsels of wisdom, and feature big-idea people like Brené Brown, Seth Godin, and Desmond Tutu.

The last episode was published July 2019 so it looked like the podcast may be done, but I decided to give it a listen anyway.

Compassion changes everything

One segment title caught my attention: Compassion for Our Bodies. I thought, Oh yeah. Let me check out what they have to say about having compassion for my ever-changing, menopausal body.

The podcast host, Krista Tippett, introduced Matthew Sanford, an innovator of adaptive yoga who’s been in a wheelchair for 30 years, since an accident that killed his father and sister when he was 14 -years old.

Mr. Sanford says, “Your body, for as long as it possibly can, will be faithful to living. That’s what it does.” This from a man who has endured numerous operations and painful recoveries. He says of his experience, “My body didn’t ask to get hammered and break, and to have its spine shredded, and many bones broken. But it went, ‘Ok. Let’s regroup. Let’s go.’” He also says, “I look at places — skin on my body, old pressure sores and old stuff that happened — where you can see the skin is struggling to stay and hold. I don’t think, ‘It’s not holding, dang it.’ I feel like, ‘Man, it’s working as hard as it can.’

Whoa! How true! 

That philosophy is something I’ve tried to practice for a while now, but what a great reminder. The interview got me thinking, How can this idea help me as I age and my body changes and I’m less able to do what I used to do?

Mr. Sanford’s insight opened me up to have more compassion for my body and gratitude that it “for as long as it possibly can, will be faithful to living.”

How can I dislike any part of my body when it does nothing but work for me, even when I eat too much, skip my workout(s), or don’t get enough sleep?

The episode had me saying, Thank you, body. You’re amazing and wonderful and I’m sorry I don’t treat you like it sometimes.

A small bite of food for thought

If you’re looking for a small helping of something of substance, I recommend “Becoming Wise” Podcast. I like to listen to an episode and mentally chew on it for a while.

Here’s a sample of some other episode titles:

Courage is Born from Struggle with Brené Brown
Beauty is an Edge of Becoming with John O’Donohue
We Choose Our Own Tribes with Seth Godin
Healing Through Story with Desmond Tutu
The Everyday Gift of Writing with Naomi Shihab Nye
Evil, Forgiveness, and Prayer with Elie Wiesel

That’s quite a sampling, don’t you think?

There are a total of 37 episodes. Happy listening!

For more reading on the blog about “Aging” read Getting older and how to be okay with it

For more information about Becoming Wise or Krista Tippett’s other work, go to The On Being Project at onbeing.org.

If you have a chance to listen, share your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

Create your vision and dare to dream big.

Create your vision and dare to dream big.

You’ve probably seen the saying on a t-shirt or maybe a coffee cup: dare to dream.

It’s a directive meant to inspire each of us to imagine what is possible, to visualize the thing that, if it weren’t for lack of money or abundance of fear, would keep us excited about getting up every morning. It’s that thing that would give your life purpose and drive you forward.

Does your big dream get you in the gut? Almost make you want to cry when you envision how incredible it is?

If it doesn’t, it’s probably not big enough.

What’s your vision?

I’m reading a book right now called The 12 Week Year. The subtitle is Get more done in 12 weeks than others do in 12 months. It’s a book designed to help you reach your goals by having shorter deadlines for yourself and coming up with a plan of action toward your goals.

The entire program begins with setting your vision. And this is where I got stuck. I thought I knew what I wanted and have been very fortunate to have accomplished some big personal goals in the past few years, like writing a book, one of my lifelong dreams I wouldn’t have thought possible five years ago. Now I’ve written two novels and publshed them myself.

While I feel good about that accomplishment, The 12 Week Year has helped me see that my vision was incomplete.

The truth, I realized, is that I’m holding myself back from bigger dreams.

Because writing and publishing is not enough. I want to connect with people through my writing. That’s something entirely different.

But how can I make that happen?

The problem is when I think about what I have to do to take the next step toward my goal, I feel Resistance pulling me down. I mentally whine and come up with all kinds of reasons it’s going to be awful.

The truth is I don’t know much about it but I know I probably won’t be good at it. It’s too much to learn and I hate it. (Can you tell I have a teensy bit of negativity about it?)

But I realized (thanks Coach Kathleen!) that in order to get what I really want and do what I really want to do, I have to change my mindset about this thing I feel I don’t know anything about, don’t want to do, and it’s gross and I hate it. It begins with an “M” and ends with “keting.”

This realization was kind of a breakthrough.

My big dream requires I do something I’ve been avoiding….commit to connecting with more people by putting myself and my work out in the world, otherwise known as “Marketing.” My own limited beliefs about this thing are blocking me from moving toward my big goals.

In a recent coaching session, my coach helped me see that I am holding myself back. I had a major lightbulb moment (even though people, including my husband, have tried to tell me this for a long time) and saw how my negative attitude was keeping me from moving any closer to my goals.

“Marketing” is a powerful tool I can use to help connect with people.

That was a major mindshift.

Because my big dream, what I really want to do in this life, is to encourage people, to help people realize their dreams matter. To offer an encouraging word, to be a glimmer of light through inevitable dark days. To be a voice of kindness and encouragement, a voice that urges, Don’t give up.

When I was writing my first novel I had days when I was so full of self-doubt I wanted to quit. My husband encouraged me every day to stick with it. His encouragement made all the difference.

On page 1 of the 12 Week Year the author says, “I agree with Stephen Pressfield, author of the War of Art, that most of us have two lives: the lives we live and the lives we are capable of living.” (Click here for a link to my thoughts on The War of Art.)

It starts with a dream.

So dare to dream big.

Don’t wait. Set aside some time (no kidding) to visualize the life you’re capable of living without thinking of reasons it could never happen. Because it’s important.

What could you do? Who could you help? What impact could you make on the world, your community, people you know, people you may not know and may never meet?

Dare to dream. And don’t hold back. Dare to dream big.

Can you relate? Or would you like to share your vision/dream? It’s scary, I know, but I’d love to hear from you! Let me know in the comments : )

Why you can’t seem to get started (and what to do about it)

Why you can’t seem to get started (and what to do about it)

When you know you want to do something and you’re not sure exactly what that something is, how you would do it, or if it would work, it can be really easy to think it to death.

This amazing thing you want to do might be the best idea ever. You may be talking about it, and even planning it out in your head, but you’re never quite ready to take action, never ready to do like Nike says and “just do it.”

I get it. It’s hard to take action when one minute you think it’s the best idea ever and the next minute you’re thinking: Maybe it won’t work; people will think it’s stupid; Yeah, right. Me?.

That’s resistance holding you back.

And at the heart of resistance is fear … fear of rejection, ridicule, failure. (“Resistance” is wonderfully addressed in Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art. Click here for book review.)

Fear plays a tremendous role in what we do and a huge role in what we don’t do. Instead of getting started and taking action we think about it and consider it over and think about it more and in all that time of thinking, we do nothing.

Here’s an example. I’ve had this blog for a few years. It’s changed a lot in that time, especially as I’ve shifted my focus to writing novels. In the Spring of this year I got very involved with my second book, A Song for Love and was in the revise/edit mode for a while, wrestling with the manuscript. I felt like I really needed to focus on that, which I did.

Maybe that was an excuse, but I stopped blogging and focused on the rewrite and publishing. I published the book and then, instead of getting back to the blog, I started another project.

It’s hard to admit this, but I’ve been thinking about this for months and every time I started writing a blogpost, even if it was in my head, Resistance shut me down. I’d think, I don’t have anything important to say. And besides, who cares what I say? Do my thoughts even matter?

I wanted to get back to it and I thought about it a lot, but no idea was good enough, so I did nothing.

I’ve thought about my inaction a lot (too much actually. That’s one of the pitfalls of being an analytical person.) and thought maybe what I’ve learned from this most recent experience can help someone else.

These are a few lessons that helped me and may help you, too.

Get started already!

I often wonder which is harder–starting or finishing? It depends, I suppose. But I do know that you’ll never finish if you don’t start. And you have to start from where you are. It’s okay if you have to start small. Little by little adds up to a lot.

Aim for progress over perfection.

Most first attempts are awkward and far from perfect, but don’t let that stop you from working to improve. Celebrate your victories and all you’re learning along the way.

Nothing says commitment like action.

Thinking about and planning your way toward your huge, audacious goal is important and necessary, of course. But at some point, you have to stop talking about it and DO IT!

Give yourself a chance.

This idea is a little harder to communicate, so please bear with me, but it relates to the notion that whatever it is that you feel like you want to do was put in your heart for some other purpose. In other words it’s not really about you. In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield talks about resistance and how something flashes in your head, you get an idea, and then you get a surge of resistance that just makes you think, Oh that’s a stupid idea and you kill it before it has a chance to come alive. He gives the example of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, those first four notes, Duh, duh, duh, dah. Three of those notes were the same. That must have seemed silly on some level. He could’ve said, That doesn’t even make sense. But he didn’t do that.

Not convinced?

I was watching a story about the creation of the soundtrack to the movie, Jaws. When John Williams first presented his idea to for the soundtrack, Steven Spielberg thought he must have been joking. It was only two notes … Duunn, nuh, Duuun, nuh. It wasn’t until they matched those same two notes with the film of the circling, man-eating shark, that they were like, Holy cow! It’s perfect!

The Jaws soundtrack became iconic. It still is. You hear those two notes in that sequence, Duunn, nuh. Duunn, nuh, and you know that means something bad’s about to go down.

So the point here is that even though you may not think you could create something as amazing as Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony or the soundtrack to Jaws, no doubt, neither did they.

So what are you waiting for?

Stop waiting for the perfect moment. Identify what is holding you up and keeping you from taking action. Then please put those reasons, excuses, and obstacles aside and start were ever you are. Take the first step because that is the only way to gain momentum, to move forward. You never know where it will go and what you can do.

Time is relentless. It just goes and goes. Think about this: If you take action toward your goal today and do a little something every day toward your goal, how far would you get in a week? A month? A year? Crazy, right?

Now, think about not acting and what it will be like a year from now when you look back and think about today, this very moment as you’re reading this. Will you be saying, If only I would’ve started. Where could I be now?

Cue “Jaws” soundtrack and get moving.