As part of my final farewell to 2013, I wanted to share some of the things I do to let go of the old and bring in the new. I believe it’s very important to move through life with intention, and one of the ways I do this is to make a big deal out of certain things.
For this reason, I like New Year’s Eve. It’s a clear demarcation, not only that I need to write a different date on my checks, but that the wheel of the year keeps on turning. One of the most successful quotes I ever originated was, “And in a year, you will be a year older. Whether or not you go for it, a year will have passed. Will you regret it or celebrate it?” As a result of saying these words, I helped encourage two bachelor degrees, a military enlistment and a marriage.
Time passes. Move forward with intention.
Anyway, to say good-bye to 2013, I write an annual letter. I include it in my holiday cards to family and friends, in part to make sure I haven’t left anyone out of our life updates, and in part to recognize all that has happened to myself and my family. In my business, I write down all our accomplishments and share them with my team. We work very hard, and we don’t always take the time to recognize it. This is a good reminder to do so, and a great chance to thank the people who helped make it happen. (I also close out the books, but that’s not as exciting.)
Let go of 2013. The New Year doesn’t need extra baggage.
Going into 2014, I decided to change things up a little. I usually choose a theme for the year in retrospect. Writing my annual letter for this holiday season, I decided 2013 could best be described as “Epic”. Our growth as individuals and as a family exploded, not the lease of which was starting OmniConsultants. The difference for 2014 is that I’m choosing the theme in advance — “Celebration.”
The most worthwhile tradition is to plan for the New Year.
I intend to celebrate my life, my family, my clients, my work and all that I do as often as I can. I will make more of an effort to be grateful, show my appreciation, and be generous in all that I do. There are so many little ways to pause and appreciate what we have every day, and I intend to incorporate them. I think I will start early and go hug my kids.
What do you do to celebrate life? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments section below. Happy New Year, everyone!
Your space affects you.
My war with the dust bunnies has reached epic proportions, and with all the holiday activities, it’s become increasingly difficult to keep up. I just cannot focus on my Good Work (i.e. Heroic Good Deeds) when the piles of paper are falling over, there’s sticky notes all over the place and three used coffee mugs sit on my desk. Clutter in front of me clutters my mind, and I need both to be clear in order to save anyone’s day, including my own.
And I’m not the only one. Studies (like this one) have shown that when your environment is cluttered, you are less able to focus. You are
more distracted with competing visual cues, like multiple piles of paper, and less able to process information.
Look around. What do you see?
Do you have a room, a surface, a space where you can start fresh every day? Does it uplift you when you walk in? Or do you fear going certain places or starting up your computer because the mountains of to-dos and messages make you feel anxious and overwhelmed?
Whether your superhero headquarters is made of crystal shards or is in a cave, it’s important to set up a space of your own that supports your Good Work. It can be a spare room, a desk, or even just a shelf where you keep some of the tools of your trade.
This is more than just cleaning or organization.
There are many good systems out there for getting your “stuff” organized. You can start small, set aside a weekend or hire help to get things to the level of “maintenance mode.” That’s a great goal, but it’s a big project with a lot of steps to take. Go ahead and take the first step, but I also know that…
You need a safe, supportive space, right now.
If you don’t already have a space, choose one that isn’t frequented by everyone else in your family or office (depending on where you do the majority of your Good Work).
Remove everything. Put it all aside for now.
Dust/clean the surfaces.
Replace only the tools that you need every day, or for that day’s Work. (Everything else can go into a box or drawer for now. Trust me.)
Add a few things that inspire you, like a book, figurine or favorite quote.
Sit with it for a few moments, and check in with your response.
How does it feel? Can you breathe easier? Focus better?
Calendar an hour in the next week to go through the box or drawer that you put the non-urgent items into. During that hour you will papers & folders into:
Put only the “Need to do today” pile in your space and put the rest aside again. Then schedule time on your calendar to review those piles every week, prioritizing the new stuff and shifting everything that’s not urgent into the “month” pile. If something stays in the “month” pile for more than a few weeks, maybe you don’t need to do it at all. On the computer, you can use email folders, file folders, flags or reminders to prioritize your to-dos the same way. Then you are only working on what needs to happen “today”.
Many ‘experts’ encourage you to touch a piece of paper or an email only once. That would be great if we could always do that. But when you can’t, give yourself the space, physically and mentally, to do what you can.
Incorporate all your senses.
A friend of mine once said that whenever she needs to change her frame of mind, she vacuums. Something about it allows her to be calm and start on the next task. Personally, I have always had an association of fresh air and open space with the smell of lemon, so I use lemon juice cleaners in my work space. I also use task lighting and background music to put me in the right frame of mind. And if I’m feeling particularly anxious or have very little time to wind down, I turn on the chair massager!
Set yourself up for success.
Setting up your space is also really important for specific tasks. An excellent way to be and feel prepared for a meeting, a call or a project is to set your space up in advance. Take at least five to ten minutes to gather your notes and tools, open the necessary files, and move everything else out of the way. Then sit in your space for a few moments and think about your desired outcome. Are you looking to participate fully? Finish a project that’s been dangling over your head? Get a new client or partner? Setting a clear intention before you begin will focus your actions and your mind.
Doing your best work every day is demanding, so make it easier by creating an environment that supports the best you!
How do you set up your space? Share your ideas with our community in the comments section below.
Where Do We Get Such Wonderful Toys?
Lately I’ve been contemplating my superhero toolbelt. Superheroes that are not born with the gift of flight or superspeed definitely benefit from a well-stocked utility or toolbelt. So I was thinking, what do I carry close at hand to help me move forward, even when times are tough?
Why do you need a toolbelt?
Let’s say you’re in the middle of a great conversation, making an awesome connection, when someone comes up and interrupts, and whoops!—before you know it, the conversation has veered into a whole new direction. How do you keep a momentary glitch like that from ruining your whole evening, or worse yet, keep you from making the authentic connection you were headed towards?
Perhaps you’re in a rough spot financially, lost a job or contract, or just can’t seem to get ahead. You’re taking all the actions you’re supposed to, and yet you’re not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. You’re trying to be patient, but how do you keep a good attitude?
And the big one, what about good, old-fashioned stuck-ness? Your relationships aren’t where you’d like them to be, your forward momentum has slowed to a crawl and everything you do feels like you have to slog through a foot of mud to do it. Help!
What do you do when you don’t know what to do?
Anything! Something! It’s true. Before you spiral down into the cycle of feel bad—do nothing—feel bad, stop where you are and take a compassionate look at yourself. What do you notice? Is your heart racing? Are you completely unmotivated? Totally exhausted? Pay close attention to your emotions, as they are the indicator lights on the dashboard of your current state. Even if you don’t know *why* you’re feeling a certain way, acknowledge where you are. The first step of any intervention is awareness.
Now that you’ve checked in, you can choose to grab the appropriate tool from your toolbelt and address the problem. Or not. Emotions themselves are not good or bad. It’s a question of where you want to be. If you want to change your mood or your current state, reach for your tools.
What’s on your toolbelt?
I’ve been working on my toolbelt for years, and I’ll bet you have, too. It’s the kind of thing that you can add to, with every single life lesson. You may call it something else, but you have strategies and coping mechanisms you pull out when necessary. Let’s name a few of the things you can pull out to stop a vicious cycle:
Find the humor
Visualize a positive outcome
Breathe deeply/meditate/pray/relax — even five minutes can turn everything around
Write a letter to someone that you may or may not ever send (especially a love letter!)
Look at pictures/cartoons that make you smile
Make/listen to a playlist of songs that always lift your mood
Set boundaries (as discussed here
Keep a gratitude journal, and write in it!
You may have some other tools I haven’t even thought of! Write down all the things that make you happy someplace where you can easily refer to it. Pull out a tool — or two — whenever you want.
You control your attitude.
I know. You’ve heard that before. And it is so much easier said than done. But at the end of the day, or week, or in that moment, who suffers if you wallow in a dark place? Yep. You. You could choose to stay there, but why?
I know it’s tough sometimes. Trust me. I’ve been there. My life lessons have added to my toolbelt, and I’ve noticed some fundamental themes. These are my “4 Ps,” each of which is represented in one way or another in every single tool I use:
Patience — The sun will rise, the sun will set. And repeat. Just breathe. Find good things to distract you from thinking about waiting. Like…
Persistence — Keep doing the “stuff”, the little actions every day that will move you forward. No matter what, in a year, a year will have passed. That should give you some…
Perspective — What was the biggest heartbreak you experienced in school? How did it feel at the time? How does it feel now? Are you at…
Peace — Have faith that you are doing what you’re supposed to be doing, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now. You have lessons to learn, growth to experience and wisdom to gain.
Oh, and Practice. I guess that’s 5 P’s, because I keep practicing every day, using my tools to be the kind of superhero I want to be. Even when I fall down, no matter how many times I fall down, I get up again. And I know you do, too.
What’s on your toolbelt? Share your favorite tools in the blog comments section below, and we can all add to each other’s toolbelt!
The Secret Ingredient
I started this newsletter last week with the idea of going back to the basics. I wanted to remind you how the choices you make every day fundamentally support or dismantle the life you want to lead. Healthy foods, consistent physical movement and getting enough sleep are key to your well being. Period. Without these ingredients you cannot thrive, let alone be the superhero you strive to be. I thought that talking to you about the most basic building blocks of self care was the best thing I could share with you right now.
Then I jumped out of an airplane.
Don’t forget to breathe!
It was my nephew’s 18th birthday, and he wanted to do something that was “all him”. He has had more than his share of challenges in life, so reaching adulthood was a cause for celebration for all of us. I am so proud of him for all his growth in striving to be more and more independent every day. So I agreed to go skydiving with him.
I know many people who have gone skydiving and most have loved it. I wasn’t really worried about safety (although I did find myself telling people I loved them more than I usually do that morning).
We signed all the paperwork, waited our turn, and got suited up with our tandem instructor. Then our plane took off. Every time my nephew looked over at me, you can be sure I had a reassuring smile on my face. Once in the air, I never considered changing my mind.
Talk about commitment.
I got nervous after the first person jumped at 9,000 feet. We were going up to 13,000, and I kept thinking about all the things the instructor had told me to do — Where to put my feet, when to move my hands, how to breathe. Was I going to remember it all? What if I did it wrong?
And then I was falling.
There was no going back, no changing course. I had made a decision, and in the most concrete way possible, could not undo it. So I completely surrendered myself to the experience. For the first time in a long time, my mind got quiet as my whole world condensed to focus on that ‘now’ moment.
Everything was so small below me. All the fields looked like an exercise in learning my shapes — squares, rectangles, trapezoids. All these man-made divisions drawn around the curving rivers of nature. The crops had the textures of a fuzzy quilt. The cars looked like Hot Wheels. If there were people down there, they were just dots on the paper. Then I got it.
It’s all about releasing fear.
Talk about perspective. Not my insecurities, my failures or what I imagined people thought of me mattered in that moment. There was nothing about how I define myself or what I do or don’t do that seemed all that important. I had jumped. I was doing something that not everyone could do, and as much as I love my nephew, I was doing it for me. The secret ingredient isn’t something you put in. It’s something you strive to keep out, let go of and release — fear.
Odds are you will survive the fall, so why not jump?
So I encourage you to jump. It can be speaking up at a meeting, volunteering to lead a project or deciding what you’re going to do with the rest of your life, but I say go for it. Do it and have fun with it. Maybe even flap your arms a bit.
Oh, and I’m still serious about the getting enough sleep part. Don’t even mess with that.
How did you get past your fears? Tell me about your “jump” in the blog comments section below, and let me be inspired by you!
Ask, Tell and Let Go
Have you ever found yourself totally overbooked, running from place to place, frenetically addressing your to-do lists and/or calendar obligations? How do you feel when that’s happening? Personally, I get very anxious, less likely to make thoughtful decisions, and more likely to be short with my loved ones. I’m also more likely to compromise my immune system, and during flu season this can be the nail in the coffin.
Even if you’re faster than a speeding bullet or can fly to your next appointment, every superhero needs to be realistic on how much they can do on any given day. One of the ways you can do this is to set boundaries for yourself and others.
We all have limits.
Even if you time travel, we all have just 24 hours in each day. The good news is that you get to choose what you’re going to do for every single minute of those 24 hours. You get to make sure that you have the work/life balance you want. You get to set aside enough time to move your projects forward. You get to learn just how long things take, how much travel time is necessary and how much thinking and planning time you need to achieve your goals. Prioritize your commitments to not over-extend yourself, and you will get better at allocating your time.
And of course, you don’t work in a bubble. You interface and interact with others, and as you coordinate your schedules and efforts, you may come across situations where a teammate has small children, a huge project due or a stressful situation in their life. And you? You want to help. So when these people reach out, of course you say yes.
There are ramifications to being a Yes-aholic.
If you are one of those people who always say yes, I bet you saw yourself when you started reading this post. You know how it feels to be pulled many different directions at once, trying to do it all, and being hard on yourself when you fail.
Saying yes all the time is a recipe for self-destruction. Not only are you making it more difficult to give your best to each obligation, but you’re setting yourself up for constant stress, which is a huge drain on your body and a known factor in most major illnesses. Are you really helping people when you are killing yourself?
Set realistic boundaries.
First, recognize that other people need you to set boundaries. No one wants to abuse you, stress you out or build resentment. You are doing them a favor by being realistic. If you can’t do everything for them, they will figure it out. That doesn’t mean you can’t be gentle, it just means you will be compassionate to yourself at the same time.
Communicate your needs and limitations without blame or guilt.
State how a request feels to you using your communication tools like “I statements” and “rephrasing”.
And if it gets personal, stick to describing where you’re coming from and how you’re reacting.
If you are able to, try to offer other solutions.
At the end of the story, stick to your “no”. You aren’t doing anyone a favor by doing what you don’t want to do.
Be proud of taking care of yourself
To be honest, setting boundaries can be hard at first and something I continue to work on constantly. Thinking that superheroes should be able to do more than the average person has taught me the lesson of boundaries the hard way. I would like to support you in being present and focused on what you’re doing 100%, each and every time. The first step is to ensure you are not distracted and stressing yourself out by overcommitting.
It does get easier with practice. I promise.
I challenge you to say “No” to one thing in the coming week. When you are doing it from a place of self-care and honesty, you honor both yourself and others. And you make it more likely you will be able to save the day another day!
Share your experience of successfully setting a boundary in the comments section below. Can’t wait to hear from you!