Get started

Time to get to work. No excuses.

When I think I have good reasons for not getting stuff done it’s sometimes hard for me to admit I’m really just making excuses.

But no more. Time to get to work. 

No more excuses. 

I’m working on a new book. Non-fiction. It’s part commentary about aging and part memoir about my journey to menopause. 

The thing is, I wrote the first draft 3 years ago. 

I wrote it in hopes that my experience would help other women better navigate what can be a very confusing time. 

But then I put the manuscript on a shelf and left it there. 

For 3 years. (Did I already mention that?)

There are a few reasons I chose to get back to it:

  • I still think my story might help other women or at least give them something to think about. 
  • There’s value in the message. 
  • Re-writing/editing the manuscript is do-able, even if it may be difficult.

So I decided to get back to it and have given myself until April 2021 to publish. 

I made that commitment this past April, thinking, Oh yeah. That’s plenty of time. 

And just like that, 2 months have passed.

I have been working on it, but it’s pretty slow going. Even when I was stuck at home in COVID quarantine with no place to go, no people to see, and not much else going on, I chipped away at it very slowly. 

This has all helped me realize a few things about what I need to do to improve my results and meet my goals.

These realizations may help you, too.

Decide whether you really want to do it.

Projects kept on the “back burner” don’t get done. Of course it’s important to prioritize and you may have to shift things around now and then.

But if you really want to do that thing you’ve left on the back burner, you’re going to have to move it to the front burner eventually. 

I left my manuscript on a shelf in my office without looking at it. For 3 years! If it was ever going to be finished I had to pull it off the shelf, read it, and decide, Yes, I still want to do this. 

But this goes for anything you say you want to do. If you’re waiting for the perfect time to do X, and are just waiting for “someday,” it won’t happen because “Someday never comes.” 

It’s okay to change your mind about stuff you thought you wanted to do. But if there’s truly something you want to do, you have to decide to do it, then get to work.

Which leads me to my next point.

Make a plan. 

Time races by. It’s important to have a plan to do the things you really want to do. Even a loose plan is better than no plan. 

I find I work a lot better when I have a clear idea of what I’m going to be doing and when I’ll be doing it. And I have to write it down in a calendar, planner, journal. Something. 

I came across a journal in which I’d written my New Year’s goals several years ago. In 2015, I wrote that my physical fitness goal was to do 100 double-unders unbroken (double-unders are fast–you jump rope with 2 turns of a rope instead of 1).

That goal is funny to me now because I said I wanted it, even wrote it down. 

But I didn’t make a plan to meet my goal. 

Had I really wanted it, I would have practiced several times a week, gotten coached on the skill, set intermittent milestones throughout the year, so that on December 31, 2015, I had a good shot at setting up and knocking out a hundred double-unders with no problem. 

Didn’t happen. Not even close.

No plan, no good.

Give it time. 

If there’s something you really want to do that you’ve put on the back burner, take a peek at it now and then. Maybe you can’t be all in at the moment, but are there little things you can do here and there to prepare for when you can?

Most things take time and preparation. You may have to take a class, read up on the subject, do some research, start with trial and error. Expect it to take time.  

No more excuses.

Anytime I come up with “reasons” I don’t do what I say I want to do, even though some of those reasons may be pretty significant obstacles, I have to see them for what they are…excuses. 

Jim Rohn said, If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse. 

When I make excuses for not sticking to my plan or continuing to put things on the back burner, I have to ask myself, if I really want to do this, then what’s keeping me from doing it?

At that point I can begin to discover what obstacles are keeping me from reaching my goal. Often, it’s some internal obstacle stemming from self-doubt or fear. Or maybe I don’t really want it that bad. 

And that’s okay, too, because it frees me up to do the things I really want to do.

And…begin.

Now it’s time for me to plan my work and then work my plan. No more excuses. 

How about you? Is there something you really want to do but have put it on the back burner for someday? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Read more about setting goals on the blogpost: Create your vision and dare to dream big

Music

Music – The great escape

Music can change the world because it can change people. ~ Bono

Do you ever feel like sometimes you just want a little, tiny, minuscule vacation? Like the old bubble bath commercial catchphrase, Calgon, take me away.

Music does that for me.

And sometimes, one song can change everything and speak to me in a way that touches my soul. 

What gives a song that power?

Sometimes it’s a memory of the song or some nostalgia built around it, like Aretha Franklin’s “Think.” First of all, Aretha, Queen of Soul, that big, soulful voice. But when I hear that keyboard intro to “Think” my mind immediately shifts to Aretha’s killer scene in a neighborhood diner in “The Blues Brothers” as she sang in a pink waitress outfit and house shoes, made all the more memorable by the girls who jumped off their dining stools to sing back up.

As the song continues and she sings, “Freedom!” I’m dancing. I managed to channel my best Aretha singing “Think” at Karaoke last year. I butchered the song, but did my best Aretha pantomime. So fun.  

Deep thoughts put to music

Sometimes it’s the heart of a song that speaks to my heart, like “Closer to Fine” by Indigo Girls. It’s a catchy tune with great vocals and acoustic guitar, but for me, the song is about our search for truth and clarity and for some assurance that we’re on the right track in life, but there’s not one “right” answer.

It’s in the journey that we discover our truth for ourselves.  “The less I seek my source for some divinity, the closer I am to fine.” 

Timely reminder

One of my very favorite songs of all time is “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie, first released in 1979.

I know. It’s an old song, but it’s amazing and also, as I was reminded the other day, completely relatable.

I was cooking dinner, listening to music, when the familiar baseline came on: 

Doon, doon, doon, d’duhdoondoon.

Clap. Snap. 

Doon, doon, doon, d’duhdoondoon. 

Pressure. 

There’s a lot going on in the song, music swells, random lyrics:

Umboon, bah, bah, beh

People on streets. 

That’s okay.

And always goes back to the bass line: Doon, doon, doon, d’duhdoondoon.

Then around the middle of the song there’s a swell and overlapping of lines and sounds. 

And then goes to snapping fingers to the beat. Snap, snap, snap. 

Then the lyrics, “Turned away from it all like a blind man. Sat on a fence but it don’t work. Keep coming up with love but it’s so slashed and torn.”

Then another swelling of sound, drums, Freddy Mercury’s falsetto, guitars. 

And then one word rises from the chaos,

Love, love, love, love, love,

repeated in a rush, as if in a flash of revelation, like, Yes! That’s it! 

And then the lyrics that always gets me:

Insanity laughs and the pressure we’re breaking. 

Why can’t we give ourselves one more chance? Why can’t we give love one more chance?  Why can’t we give love, give love, give love?

It’s like a great release and simple answer to life’s pressure and the feeling that the world is closing in on us and there’s chaos and wondering how we can protect ourselves and our family and still be okay. 

And David Bowie sings in the rush of words

‘Cause love’s such an old fashioned word and love dares you to care for the people on the edge of the night and love dares you to change our way of (join voices and crescendo) caring about ourselves this is our last dance this is our last dance. (Slowly and more quietly) This is ourselves ….under pressure. 

Baseline. Snapping fingers. 

I think I love this song more every time I hear it.

When the music wells to the big ending it’s as if all the scattered thoughts and concerns — people in streets and good friends screaming let me out—and you feel the desperation and searching. All that stuff pushes down on you until the rush and realization: 

Love, love, love, love, love. 

This is our last chance, this is ourselves …under pressure. 

Whoa! Yes! This!

Mindshift through music

“Under Pressure” is pretty much the perfect song right now, a great reminder of our connectedness and the call for getting back to the basics of love, for each other, for ourselves.

Or maybe it was the perfect song for me to hear at that moment when I wanted to shift my mind from negativity and bad news.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or discouraged or have just had enough of all the “latest news,” put on some music to transport your mindset to a lighter level.

It might provide the perfect short but great escape and may even have a ripple effect of goodness you’re need right now.

For more ideas about how to lift your mood, read Tips to Shake Off the Blues here on the blog.

small acts of kindness

Words and actions reflect your “personal policy”

A recent encounter with a stranger at a Tuesday Morning store in my neighborhood reminded me of how important it is to be mindful of how our words and actions can affect others.

We’re still practicing social distancing where I live, but retail stores are opening up again and I couldn’t wait to stop by one of my favorite stores.

A woman wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat, sunglasses, and a light blue face mask that covered her nose and mouth, waited by the door.

“Are they open?” I asked.

She checked her watch. “They open at 10, I think. We got about 10-minutes,” she said through her mask.

Talking amongst ourselves

That’s how I came to be standing on the sidewalk in the shadow of the building on a hazy Friday morning. A few minutes later another woman walked up, she had a black mask pulled down over her chin. 

Standing a safe distance from each other, we got to talking about the current situation–COVID, quarantine, social distancing–and how happy we were that stores were opening again. 

The woman in the straw hat said she had just gotten laid off from her job but had not had any success filing for unemployment. “I’m 68 years old,” she said, “but I still want to work. The president of my company said they planned to recall part of the workforce, but said if you’re over 65…you should just stay home.” 

Even though her former employer’s leadership may not have explicitly said or meant it, the message she heard, loud and clear, was:

  • You, over-65-year-old people, are the problem.
  • We don’t want you back.
  • Go home and stay there.
  • It would be better for everyone if you just disappear. 

Sounds harsh, doesn’t it?

It would be easy to explain the company policy away and say, “I’m sure that’s not what they meant.” Maybe even assume she was being oversensitive.

Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t.

But what struck me is how policy—public, corporate, even personal—sends messages beyond words. It’s through our actions, how we live and treat others, that speaks volumes about what we value. 

What I learned about her in our short conversation that morning was that this woman is active in her church, sings in the choir and has lots of church friends. The quarantine has cut her off from all that. She lives alone and is ready to get back to life and get back to a job she loved.

But now they don’t seem to want her back because she’s over 65 and they seem to think people over 65 should stay out of sight out of mind. 

That impromptu, casual, social-distanced, sidewalk conversation left an impression on me. 

That company president’s words made this woman feel unvalued and irrelevant. He probably didn’t intend to leave that impression, but that was her takeaway.

I felt really bad for her. She loved her job and didn’t want to leave it and now she felt a real sense of loss at yet another thing being taken away from her.

The virus hasn’t changed our need for community and relevance and value. If this whole thing has taught us anything it’s that we need human connection and community.

And especially now, when people are more physically isolated, people need to know that they matter.

You and I may not be able to do a lot to help the current situation, but small acts of kindness can go a long way at this time of social distancing.

Here are a few small things we can do to build connection and community during this time of isolation.

Words matter. Choose them well.

It’s hard to be mindful of the power of our words even in the best of circumstances, but it may be even more important now, especially when it comes to interacting with strangers. It may not seem like a big deal to say “Thank you” to the grocery store clerk, but they’re not robots. Acknowledge them.

Phone a friend.

It happens to me all the time. I have a friend who’s been on my mind and I really want to call them, but every time I think about it, it’s too late, I’m busy, or it’s not the perfect time. When I finally stop putting it off and just make the call already, I’m always glad I did.

Encourage a fellow human.

You may not have many chances to encourage people in the current situation, but don’t be afraid to offer a kind socially distanced gesture of encouragement, like phoning a friend or neighbor, supporting a local eatery, or leaving a positive comment about a service you’re received.

Or go above and beyond to show you care.

One of my family members recently put care packages together for neighbors who live alone. All women. She delivered the packages the day before Mother’s Day with a note saying, We’ve been thinking about you. The gesture surprised them and brought a few to tears of joy.

What a brilliant way to show people they are loved!

The world could use more random acts of kindness right now. Need some ideas? Check out the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation website.

Be mindful of your actions and how they may be perceived.

A friend of mine recently made a run to a grocery store and even though her city leaders strongly encourage people to wear masks, she noticed half the crowd wasn’t. She didn’t feel safe being in that environment.

And when people don’t respect the call for social distancing, it makes me wonder, Do they just not care?

Still, what other people do and say is out of your control. The best each of us can do is to speak and act in ways that reflect our own “personal policy.”

Our individual policies in action

If you’ve ever worked for a company you love, their policies probably made you feel valued, like you mattered. They cared about whether you were there or not.

That’s highly motivating for people. And wouldn’t that be what you want your “personal policy” to reflect?

We can do that every day by acting in a manner that reflects a policy of caring and kindness.

That was true before COVID-19 and will be true when COVID-19 is history. But now it seems even more important to take every opportunity to lift people up even in the small ways you can.

For more about the power of words, read Words Have Power on the blog.

I’d love to hear from you. What are you seeing and feeling as communities open back up?

Keep hope alive

Keep hope alive. We’ll get through this.

It’s easy to feel discouraged about the future sometimes, maybe feel a little down about things, especially at this time when the world’s been turned upside down. 

This COVID-19 pandemic is global, yes. But it’s also very personal. We’re each affected in our own, unique way.

Kind of what it would look like to look at Earth from space with a zoom lens and then zooming in closer, to the continent where you live, them closer to your state and town, then closer still, until you’re looking at you, your home, your family, your life.

It’s all different now than it was two months ago.

Then it all changed

It was a Thursday afternoon, March 12, and “social distancing” was just becoming a thing in San Antonio. My husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary by going out to breakfast and then to the movies. We noted how regular, reflexive actions, like signing a receipt, made us stop and think about the risk of “cross contamination.”

That was a little more than 6-weeks ago.

I miss going to the movies, miss meeting with family and friends. Miss holding my grandbaby.

Before this whole Quarantine thing hit us, I was so happy to be able to take care of her at least 2 days a week while her mom and dad worked.

But I, like many grandparents all over the world, have resorted to video chats. I haven’t seen her in person in weeks.

A few days ago I was moving toys and blankets from “her room” and felt overcome with sadness because I miss her so terribly. Miss holding her and talking to her.

She’s growing so fast and getting so big. I wondered, Will she remember me? What am I missing by not being able to spend time with her?

To ward off feeling discouraged and sad about the situation, I had to remind myself of a few things:

  • This is temporary.
  • We’ll get through this.
  • I can’t hold her, but I’m grateful she’s healthy and growing incredibly fast. 

Keep hope alive

If you zoom in into my quarantine life, you’ll see it’s somewhat unremarkable. Everything’s okay. I’m fortunate to have what I need.

I know not everyone does.

And I start to wonder about things:

  • Will life ever be the way it was before?
  • How will the world be different?
  • Will I have to be different in the way I live and interact with people?
  • Are we going to be okay?

I don’t know if anyone knows the answers to those big, important questions.

But I do believe we must not lose hope, that we must do our best to do what we can and know that we will get through this.

History reveals resilience

I remind myself that generations before me must have had similar concerns, people I’ve known in my lifetime who have lived through precarious, uncertain, and scary times. 

My grandmother’s generation, and even my mom’s generation. 

They got through their challenges. With great difficulty sometimes. 

My mom was born in 1937. She lived through WWII. She was a kid, but she remembers her dad going off to war. She graduated from high school in the 1950’s, the “Happy Days.” Then the not so happy days of The Cold War and Sputnik, the Civil Rights Movement, The Kennedy’s and Martin Luther King assassinations, The Korean and Vietnam Wars.

Surely my mom’s generation must have thought, “What is the world coming to?”

But my mom came from tough stock.

Her mother, my grandmother, born in 1918 lived through the Great Depression and WWII, watched as her husband (my grandfather) shipped off to serve in the US Navy in the Pacific. I can’t imagine the uncertainty she must have felt, but she did what she had to do to support her family.

From her home near downtown San Antonio, she caught a bus that took her out to work at Camp Bullis Military Training Camp, which at the time was way outside the San Antonio city limits.

That couldn’t have been easy for her. Her husband was away at war and she had small children at home. She must have had days when she struggled to stay hopeful about the future.

Reflecting on those troubled times and knowing they survived and thrived afterward helps me stay hopeful.

They got through it. We’ll get through this too. 

It’s okay to not feel okay sometimes

I saw a headline the other day meant for kids from their school counselors that said: It’s okay not to feel okay.

I think that’s true for all of us. We may have moments when we feel discouraged or doubtful, but we also have to believe we’ll get through this.

Here are some things you can try to help nurture that resilience and belief. (In the category of “Doing what I can”)

Keep your filter on

You may find you’re in much better spirits when you limit your news intake. There’s a lot of bad, sad, and discouraging news out there.

Especially when you feel a little low but still want to know of important updates, pick 1 or 2 trusted news sources and check them once or twice a day.

Practice gratitude

Gratitude works wonders as a mindset shifter. Whatever your struggles and hardships, think of at least 1 or 2 things for which you’re grateful.

Pray or meditate

Many people I know practice a daily devotional that helps their spiritual and mental health.

Even taking a few minutes of focused breathing can help clear the mind.

Listen to music

Music can work wonders to lighten your mood. Find something you can sing along to. For me it’s music from the 70’s. (So weird how I know lyrics to songs I haven’t heard in years.)

Keep things in perspective

Remembering generations before us and how they got through tough times doesn’t change the reality of our current situation, but it can give perspective.

Aside from my mom and grandmother, who I mentioned earlier, here are a couple more stories along those lines.

This story about this Centenarian Survivor Of 1918 Flu Pandemic, Coronavirus Is Just Another ‘Problem’

And Queen Elizabeth’s Coronavirus Speech on April 5th. I found her words reassuring and inspiring even though I’m not British : )

Whatever your particular circumstances are at the moment, I hope you stay well and hopeful about the future.

We will get through this.

For more related to this topic, read Tips to Shake Off the Blues here on the blog.

How are you managing through these days of social distancing and self-isolation? Have any strategies for staying positive you’d like to share? Please post in the comments!

goals

What you can do now to help you reach your goals

You know things don’t happen by themselves, that your plans, dreams, aspirations, bucket list items, things you’ve always wanted to do…don’t just happen by themselves. 

Action is required. Your action. 

At times of uncertainty, goals may be the furthest thing from your mind.

Like now, when the world seems at a standstill and COVID-19 is affecting communities, families, and individuals directly, it’s easy to think, what I want is not important right now. 

Maybe your dreams and aspirations aren’t a matter of life and death, but that doesn’t mean they’re not important. 

And if you take action now, you’ll be in a better position to reach your goals when the Coronavirus crisis is history.

Here are some things you can do now:

Set your goals. 

Time goes and goes. Days turn to weeks and weeks to months and months to years…you get the idea.

If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do but have never developed a plan for how to accomplish it, there’s a good chance it’s a wish and not a goal.

What makes it a goal?

  • First, believe you can do it, even if it seems like it could never happen.
  • Then accept the vulnerability that comes with that big goal.
  • Next, and possibly most important, you must devise a plan to make it happen. 

If you take those first steps toward your goals, you’re on your way. If not, it may be just a wish.

Goal or Wish?

I’ll give you an example of something I used to want to do, but only ever wished it, like a dream, and never made it a goal. 

I used to, in a Walter Mitty kind of way, want to be a backup singer. I dreamed of doing the moves old school, like the Pips did for Gladys Knight. 

Never did it. Probably never will, but OMG that would have been amazing.

Either because I didn’t think I could, didn’t know how I would, or just didn’t have the courage to make it real, without a plan to make it happen, being a backup singer stayed a wish for me, not a goal. 

Now, the only backup singing gigs I have are in my mind as I dance and sing in my living room or on the occasional Karaoke night : ) 

Don’t let this be you!

Set your goals. It’s okay if they seem slightly out of reach, maybe even crazy and unattainable.

Then come up with a plan to make them happen.

If you’re not sure exactly what goals you want to set for yourself, you’re first step may be to dig deep and explore some ideas about what you’d like to do.

And try not to look at it as a test. There are no right or wrong answers and it’s okay if you start something and then find it’s not what you thought it would be. You’ve learned something in the process.

Have a plan to work toward your goals. 

Don’t keep them all in your head. Write them down, post them someplace, come up with a plan to meet them, jot down incremental goals in your calendar.

Find whatever works to help you keep them at the forefront of your mind. Break the steps into small, attainable goals to keep you from being overwhelmed and giving up before you start. 

Do what you can. 

These days of social distancing and sheltering in place are not normal. You may not be able to do everything you normally would, but you can still do a lot.

Reach out to people who you trust and who may be able to help or advise you about how to move forward. You may find there’s a lot that’s out of your control, but even if you can’t do everything you’re used to doing, there’s still a lot you can do. 

Approach with enthusiasm.

Winston Churchill once said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” 

Think about it. Why would you want to work toward something you’re not excited about? When I was working on my first book, I had days when I felt not even an ounce of enthusiasm about what I was doing. Those were long and dark days, perfect for giving up. 

What a different experience to approach with enthusiasm. I felt a greater sense of accomplishment when I met my daily goals, felt greater compassion toward myself and my work, knew I was in it for the long haul, and felt more determined to finish. 

Doing these things:

  • Setting goals
  • Developing a plan
  • Doing what you can
  • Approaching with enthusiasm

are simple first steps you can take now to help you build momentum toward reaching your goals.

I don’t believe it’s End of Days. We’ll get through this uncertain time, but it’s a good reminder that none of us has forever to do what we always thought we would do.

Action is required. Do what you can now to move you closer to your goals.

Need some inspiration to get started on setting your goals? Check out If not now, when? on the blog.

photo by ruby montalvo published on strong-woman.com

Reminder: You can’t control anyone but yourself.

We all know this if we really think about it, but sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves…you can’t control anyone but yourself.

What other people do/say/think is out of your control. 

So why do I let people bother me?

I know it’s not helpful or productive and wish I could let stuff roll off my back and not be bothered by what people say/do/think, but it’s hard. 

As the comedian Sebastian Maniscalco – says, “I like to be bothered.”

Allowing myself to be bothered by what other people do forces me to take my eye off the ball. 

It changes my concentration and energy. 

I try to not be bothered. Really try. 

The other day I was sitting in a Jason’s Deli for breakfast and, as you may know, Jason’s Deli’s main serving time is lunch. The place was hopping with dozens of workers in red shirts prepping catered lunches for delivery and prepping the salad bar, dining room, and sandwich station for customers. 

I had my journal and some reading material to keep me busy. There was a hum to the place as everyone did what he or she was supposed to be doing, each to his or her own task.

Except one guy who sat across from me on the other side of the dining room. He wore a Jason’s Deli shirt, looked to be about 40 maybe, and sat sideways at a table by himself watching videos on his phone. Loudly.

As I mentioned, the place hummed in preparation for the lunch rush. Everyone had something to do. Except this guy. 

I wondered what he was doing and why he was the only employee who didn’t seem to have anything to do. Was he not on the clock? Was he waiting for a ride? What? And why did he have to play his video at top volume? Headphones, dude! 

I looked around for the manager, not so I could report the guy, but out of curiosity. Had he seen this guy sitting around doing nothing but watch videos while everyone else was busting his or her butt?

But if the manager had seen the guy, he clearly wasn’t as bothered as I was.

This video-watching-on-high-volume-without-headphones guy totally changed my vibe. He irritated the heck out of me. 

But wait! That’s not what happened at all. 

What really happened is… I let him get to me. 

His actions were out of my control. Reporting him to a manager could have influenced the situation, but would that have been worth it to me?

The reality of the situation was:

  • I don’t know why he was loafing around in the dining room. 
  • Yes, the video blaring on his phone was obnoxious, but big deal.
  • He wasn’t hurting anyone. Just annoying the hell out of me.
  • I could have wrangled my own thoughts better. 

Controlling myself vs. controlling others. 

I couldn’t control him. Not even my stink-eye glances got his attention. I let him get under my skin and throw me off balance.

And I didn’t even know the guy, although that doesn’t matter either. 

It can be infuriating when someone you know and love behaves/thinks/says things you wish you could change. 

But you can’t do that either. 

Influence? Maybe. The best you can hope to do is influence that person. 

I imagine I have a similar effect on people at times.

Life will be sweeter if I remember this

I can’t control people, what they do or what they say, I can’t control what happens, I can’t control the weather. 

All I can hope to control is my reaction to those things. And I must do my best to react in a manner in line with who I am and who I strive to be every day, to be compassionate, loving, and patient. 

So pretty much the opposite of how I reacted to that poor guy who apparently was losing his hearing and had to play his phone so loud they could hear it in the parking lot. 

: )  

For more on this topic, read Be the gatekeeper of your joy

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

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.