The Gift of 32.

“This is an important lesson to remember when you’re having a bad day, a bad month, or a shitty year. Things will change: you won’t feel this way forever. And anyway, sometimes the hardest lessons to learn are the ones your soul needs most. I believe you can’t feel real joy unless you’ve felt heartache. You can’t have a sense of victory unless you know what it means to fail. You can’t know what it’s like to feel holy until you know what it’s like to feel really fucking evil. And you can’t be birthed again until you’ve died.” ― Kelly Cutrone, If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You

Last week I turned 32. Thirty-two isn’t exactly considered a milestone birthday (even though I happen to think every birthday we’re lucky enough to celebrate should be considered a milestone:) so I’m not sure why I felt compelled to write a list of lessons I’ve learned or why they’re swirling around in my head begging to be let out. But here we are nonetheless…

I wrote this list with my children in mind…these are things I’d want them to know if I weren’t around to tell them myself. While it is my belief that we each learn lessons in our own time, as we experience life (otherwise what’s the point of the journey?!?) and not so much from a list or what someone else has experienced, I do hope this provides an avenue, or at the very least, serves as a conversation starter, in which to discuss the bigger, more important questions in life.

32 lessons I’ve learned in my 32 years:

  1. Every relationship in your life is a mirror reflecting how you feel about yourself. Chew on that for a moment. This one is BIG. And if you learn NOTHING else from these lessons know THIS: There is nothing that you have to do, or be, or achieve to be worthy of love. You are already infinitely precious and truly loved exactly as you are.
  2. Become a master at disobeying. But, of course, only after you’re out of your parents house. The world and those around you will often expect you to conform to their ideal of who you are. Older doesn’t always mean wiser. And others best intentions will not be always be in your favor. Ask the hard questions and live on terms that make sense to you.
  3. Love has a heart of its own. What else is there to say, really? ;) It just is, what it is. It almost never happens like (or when) we think it should. And it rarely makes any sense. Also, it is mostly true, especially in the beginning, what they say about love being blind. Your family and your friends do not need to be in love with the person you’re involved with, you do. While it will hopefully all mesh well, just know it is likely those same friends and family who will clearly see whether or not the person you love brings out the best in you. You know, while you’re too busy being happily blind. All kidding aside, I’ve found that love is almost always worth the risk. Just trust your intuition. It will rarely lead you astray.
  4. Expiration dates on friendships/relationships are ok. The question isn’t always how can you keep them intact, instead you should be asking how alive the two people in the situation are. Are you growing or stagnating? How can this experience bring more to the both of you? Sometimes growth as individuals necessitates moving on.
  5. Make sure to ask yourself if you’re truly emotionally and spiritually alive on a regular basis. You’re breathing, you’re alive! That’s great news. But how alive? Do you wake up excited…or are you “just trying to get through the day?” Getting through the day and surviving is ok, sometimes, but go on like this for too many days and there’s a problem. So many of us are unwilling to ask ourselves these questions because the answers can be scary. Checking in with yourself frequently will lead to fewer problems down the road. A rut can last a lifetime, if you let it.
  6. To understand what love is, you have to understand what love isn’t. Enough said. It is my greatest hope that you learn this lesson as quickly and as painlessly as possible.
  7. Get down to the root of self-love. Ohh, that sounds kind of dirty. Seriously though, most of us think we love ourselves but fail to pay attention to the thoughts running around in our head. Figure out as soon as you can what it means to truly love yourself.
  8. Allow receiving to be as gratifying as giving. There are two sides of the coin. Enjoy both. Admittedly, this is one I haven’t always been so great at. But the ability to allow yourself to be on the receiving end of anything (without feeling guilty about it) is an important quality to have.
  9. Grief and heartache work on their own timetable. And it never seems to work with yours. Let yourself sink into the emotions you’re feeling. It’ll be uncomfortable…but necessary for healing. As cliché as it sounds you’ll need to get comfortable being uncomfortable. It’s easy to mask the discomfort with other things (food, shopping, pick your poison) but don’t. Doing so will only prolong the process. There is no such thing as a quick fix.
  10. Relationships are perfectly imperfect. They are supposed to be containers for growth. For some reason we expect that it’s normal for our jobs, children, friends, etc. to let us down…but not our lovers. In expecting our love stories to unfold perfectly, we set ourselves up for unhappy endings. No one is going to “complete” you. In the best relationships, it is ideal when both people want (and keep wanting) to bring their very best to the table. Don’t wait or depend on the other person to do it first. Relationships are not tit for tat. Communicate what it is you need. Word hard at love. Love fiercely. Like anything worth having, don’t be too quick to give up on it. Aim to please. And forgive fast. Continually, check to make sure you’re still on the same page. But if you find that you aren’t, and one or both of you no longer want to be…if one day you find that it cannot be fixed, understand that’s ok, too. Be courageous in letting go, and know that lesson 11 was meant to be read at this time.
  11. Trust that what’s waiting for you is worth moving towards. Be willing to let go and steadfast in discerning when the time has come. This invaluable advice in business, love, and life in general. It likely will not be easy, in fact it will probably hurt like hell, but I’ve met very few people who say they wished they had stayed in “that job” or in “that relationship.”
  12. To understand the light you have to know the dark. The good tastes all that much sweeter after you’ve experienced the bitter. Life just works out that way.
  13. Fasting of any kind (particularly juice fasts) will cause you to literally go insane. Spiritual experience, my ass. Don’t try this at home, folks. There is a reason that throughout history people traveled to the desert when fasting. If I had to guess, based on personal experience complied data, I’d say that it was so their loved ones didn’t have to suffer through their insanity.
  14. You actually can eat just one. Buy into their marketing BS and you’ll likely have gained five pounds and a bad mood. Food is energy. And as the saying goes: “you are what you eat.” So choose wisely.
  15. When in doubt, pause, and listen. Unless it’s a life threatening emergency. In that case, act and/or call someone with credentials. Remember how important stillness and mediation is. If you aren’t able to sit in silence and be at peace with the quiet, you won’t be able to hear the answer when it comes.
  16. Have the nerve and self love to go on the journey. Following your heart takes courage. Be courageous. It will be worth it.
  17. Be a student of life. Never stop learning. Be open to considering that your way is not the only way. No one likes a know-it-all. They’re boring.
  18. Speaking of boring, don’t be. Have fun and have it…often. I’ve found that few situations call for complete and total seriousness. Unless you’re my pilot or surgeon, be silly. Laugh often. Play hard. Learn to be okay with being the butt of a joke. Because the plus side is…you’ll excel at comebacks. Comebacks are an essential skill in the game of life. Which could very well be a lesson of its own.
  19. Be the one who looks for the silver lining. Optimism is an incredibly magnetic trait. Almost everything has an upside.
  20. Know when to keep your mouth shut. Like I said, almost everything has an upside. Sometimes though, it will be important not to communicate that said upside…because you’re the only one who sees it. Know the difference between the two. A smile or a nod can do just as well.
  21. Always be empathic. Choose your words wisely and consider the appropriate time to use them. You will face situations where you’re uncomfortable standing in another’s pain. There will be times when there will be no “right” thing to say. Don’t tell them you know how they feel. You can’t. Don’t tell them you know someone who has faced this before and he/she did so and so. Don’t say something for the sake of saying something. Fill the uncomfortable silence by just being. Let them know you are there. There will be times when this is all you can do.
  22. When someone shows you who they are believe them. Pay attention. Like your mama told you: actions always speak louder than words. Second chances are ok but only if you’ve communicated what you will and will not tolerate clearly to begin with.
  23. And then trust. Trust that the right relationships/opportunities will be given to you because you have the wisdom to see them. In order to receive the best life has to offer, live with a sense of wonder. If you’re hurt (and you will be) you must be willing to try again. With an open heart. And an open mind.
  24. The most important relationship you will ever have is with yourself. You’re probably thinking I’ve repeated myself here. A few times. There’s purpose in my repetition. Self awareness is one the best gifts you can give those around you.
  25. Never forget…women have a different level of hormones surging through their bodies each and every day. This is important to know whether you’re female or not. In fact, it’s probably more important to consider if you’re not.
  26. Be on a first name basis with failure. If you never fail, how will you ever learn? Remember, all great innovators were at first failures. They simply kept trying. Behind every big hit or blockbuster movie there are usually at least a handful produced that weren’t. The media is quick to tell you about the success story but rarely will you hear about the blood, sweat, tears and “failed attempts.” This tends to keep a lot of people from trying again once they’ve “failed.” But hopefully not you. If you feel called to accomplish something, want to spend your time doing it, and you’re passionate about it (keep in mind there will be days when you aren’t and you wonder why you even bother, these usually pass) then don’t give up.
  27. Cherish those you love. Tell them often. Show them in a way that is meaningful to them. When in doubt, leave love notes in unexpected places.
  28. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. No is about as bad as it can get.
  29. Everything will make more sense once you’re a parent. I invite you to question why things are the way they are. I understand it’s a part of your growing up. Just don’t be surprised when this is my answer. And, yes, it is final.
  30. Never trust anyone who is unkind to wait staff. People show you who they are by the way they treat people they feel have nothing to offer them. This personality trait is magnified in restaurants.
  31. You do not need to be fixed. You are YOU for a reason. Most of us have our own moral compass and understand where we need improvement. Trust that you’re well rounded enough to figure out what needs fixing. Then, yes, be willing to change. Adaptability is absolutely necessary for growth. But please consider your values first. I pray that maintaining a sense of individuality is one of them.
  32. Rarely listen to critics. Everyone has an opinion and they’re more than willing to share it. Hell, these days they even give them out for free. Tune them out.
  33. I know I said 32 and hey let’s not get ahead of ourselves with 33. But, I’m an overachiever, what can I say. :) So…here’s one to grow on…I believe that everything comes back around to love. Giving, and loving until it hurts, as it turns out, will most likely not kill you. Just do it. This world seriously needs more of it.

And Then There Was A Trailer…

“Chance favors the connected mind.” ~ Steven Johnson

If you follow me over on FB, you may have seen this post…

Have you ever worked with someone on something and found that person to be so amazing that you felt it was divine intervention (or kismet) that the two of met?!? THAT is exactly how I feel right now and I can’t wait to share what’s coming. P.S. Sorry…I myself kind of hate stay tuned type posts and I’m in no way trying to do that- I was more or less just saying how grateful I am to have found exactly the right, talented person. Kismet or divine intervention or whatever…well, it rocks. 

I was speaking of Lisa of Pixel Pixie Designs. I was introduced to Lisa via an email I received from Goodreads which featured several posts from an author chat in their forums. I had a very specific idea in mind of what I wanted in a book trailer for Bedrock…I just wasn’t sure how to implement it…so I sort of gave up on having one done. Then came Lisa. :) Immediately after writing her and receiving her response I knew I wanted to work with her. And she proved to be every bit as amazing as I thought she would be. Normally, I don’t read these emails so it’s pretty awesome that I did that day.

Anyway, check it out…

P.S. This video contains mature adult content and is NSFW or children.

Chin Up, Girl. Chin UP.

“I have spent a good many years since–too many, I think–being ashamed about what I write. I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction or poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent. If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all.” ― Stephen KingOn Writing

I’ve thought a pretty good deal about whether or not to post this….because in general I don’t believe in shedding light on negativity. The last thing I want is to add fuel to the fire. That said, I also believe that it’s important to set a precedent on how you expect to be treated. In the end, I thought about my children and how I’d want them to react if someone were treating them badly. And I’d hope that they would have the courage to not only stand up for themselves… but also for what they believe in. -B

This past week the world of author land (via the web) has been a relatively negative one. Which makes me pretty sad- because as a general rule I try and stay away from negativity and drama. But there are a few things in particular that I did want to address: I received my first few pieces of hate (e)mail. I’m not going to rehash or share what was said here…because in my opinion that would lend credence to it. I will say that it’s a waste of time sending me mean emails because I really don’t pay attention to what (hateful) people think of me. If one wants to send helpful critique… then by all means. Yes, my novel is dark (and some would even say twisted) which is why I’ve added a warning label- just about everywhere possible. It isn’t required reading material and as a consumer all major retailers have fairly generous return policies. As a writer, I stand behind my story. I do not read or respond to people writing for the sake of being mean.

Which brings me to the fire storm of press that author M. Leighton has received this week for taking her novel down because a few people couldn’t handle its dark content. I’m not inclined to judge this author or her motivations for un-publishing her work. I don’t know her but I can relate (a little) to how she feels. Putting yourself out there is inviting people to judge you. And it takes a certain type of grit not to give a shit- especially when their judgement is not in your favor. The thing about email, social media, and the internet is that it gives people a certain power. You can say (write) what you think while for the most part remaining anonymous. And because of this there are a whole crop of assholes out there just looking for an opportunity to utilize their newly found power. They say things they would never say to your face as though wielding a sword, waiting to stab the first thing that moves. It’s crazy. It’s the not funny- kind of funny. It’s sad. And yet their audience thrives on it. They feed on the drama of it all. As for me, I decided not to pay attention to it. I do however pay close attention to the energy I surround myself with- and it’s my belief that once you draw a line in the sand and let people know that you won’t tolerate their bad behavior… they get bored. And they do what bullies do… they move on to their next target.

So what I would say to M. Leighton (if she were a friend) is this: taking down your work but only after telling everyone it will be gone forever within the next two days…is going to seem a little bit overly dramatic to the general public. They will see it as a publicity stunt and one way you propelled yourself into the top 100. Unfortunately, there will surely be backlash in that, too. And it’s a choice you’ll likely regret. Because in the long run you’re letting your critics win. You’ll come to find for the very reasons that people wrote to say that they hated the book, will be the exact same reasons others love it. Either way, this decision as a writer is a personal one that is yours to make. And truthfully, it really isn’t right for me or anyone else to debate it. But don’t let temporary defeat stop you from doing what you love. Get back to writing. And chin up, girl. Chin UP.

“I don’t have time, energy, or interest in hating the haters; I’m too busy loving the lovers.” ― Steve MaraboliUnapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

Doing Less. Being More.

“We are most productive when we focus on a very small number of projects on which we can devote a large amount of attention.” ~Albert Einstein

I read something this morning that really stuck me: “Perfection is the enemy of everything. We all want it. None of us will ever get it. Even though nobody in the world has ever achieved perfection in their craft, we still believe that it’s possible for us. Even if it were possible, it’s not preferable. Perfectionism may look good in his shiny shoes, but he’s a little bit of an asshole and no one invites him to their pool parties.” LOVE IT! It’s such good, incredibly truthful advice….and yet so easy to forget, if we are not reminded.

I’ve recently been offered some amazing opportunities. And have unfortunately had to say no many of them. I’m not sure exactly what is going on here….is the Universe trying to tell me something? Teach me the power of saying no? The art of discernment? I’m not sure…I only know that the decisions have been hard. After all, I can be AND do all things, right?!? Sadly, the answer is a BIG FAT NO! I cannot. And neither can you. There is this myth floating around that we can do whatever we set our mind to. It’s like that commercial for women that tells us we need to go out get the bacon, bring it home, and fry it too. “The 24 hour woman.” It’s the myth that we can be all things to all people. This ideal that we can have it all.

The truth is that we can’t have it all. For me, I’ve found that “having it all” means having what it is that I desire-just not necessarily all of it, at the same time. Really, though this just means finding a handful of things that are important to me and focusing the majority of my attention on those. For example, I’ve been bombarded by requests and questions about why I’m not on Pinterest. I think (from what little I know) that Pinterest is great. But quite honestly, I do not have the time to devote to another “hobby” and even more importantly WHY on earth would I want to sign up for one more thing that leaves me feeling like “I’m not enough?” I’m not crafty enough, my kids birthday parties aren’t like so and so’s. And the list just goes on and on. This is my issue, obviously. But why take something on, just because “everyone else is doing it”? I’m not saying never to Pinterest, I’m just saying not now. And for those of you who are on Pinterest and love it, I think that’s great. I’m just sharing my personal story about trying to avoid the next “shiny” thing (distraction) that I’m told is destined to bring me closer to achieving my dreams.

I think too many people (myself included) make the mistake of adding to our plates with out stopping to remove something. It’s exactly like eating a meal. We can only put so much in before we start to feel sick, overwhelmed, and tired. We have to decide what we are going to put on our plate and what we are going to leave off. When we add something, it’s essential that we remove something. In order to make room. It sounds simple, yet so many of us fall into this trap time and time again , all the while asking “How DID I get myself into this?!?!”

I’ve recently decided to start doing less. While BEING more. You see, I’ve learned that my daily incessant busyness — too much to do and not enough time; the pressure to produce and tick off items on my to-do list by each day’s end — seems to decide the direction and quality of existence for me. But if I approach my day (and ultimately my life) in a different way, I can consciously change this out-of-control pattern. It only requires the courage to do less.

This may sound easy, but doing less can actually be very hard. Too often we mistakenly believe that doing less makes us lazy and results in a lack of productivity. Instead, doing less actually helps us savor all that we do accomplish. In time and with practice, we learn to do less of what is extraneous, and engage in fewer self-defeating behaviors, so we craft a productive life that we truly feel good about.

I believe that if we can fully own the notion that “we are great, just as we are.” And really let it seep into our mind and body, into our bones, it will make all the difference. We are each born with all the wisdom and imagination we need; we just sometimes need help and a reminder to return to our senses and get out of our own way. Sometimes we just need to let it sink in that nothing extra is required.

The truth is you have everything you need; just let go of whatever distractions, fears, and busyness might be hampering you. It really is that simple. Allow yourself to think and feel and live that way. Acting from this place results in greater composure, and when we act with composure, we are more effective. Now, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t lessons we need to learn and areas that we need to grow. It just means that we already have what we need inside of us. The answers are inside. Sometimes, it just takes the courage to realize this.

We know deep down that every life has great meaning, but the meaning of our own can often be obscured by the fog of constant activity and bad habits. By recognizing and changing these beliefs and behaviors, and we can once again savor the ways we contribute to the workplace, enjoy the sweetness of our lives, and share openly and generously with the ones we love. Less busyness leads to appreciating how sacred (and truly short!) life is.

It’s strange but for me doing less has lead to more love, more effectiveness and internal calmness, and a greater ability to accomplish more of what matters most — to me, and by extension to others and the world.

I encourage you to take a look at your schedule, your calendar, and really evaluate how much the things on there mean to you. How important are they? Are they allowing you to live the life you deserve? Do they bring you joy? Or do you just do them because you feel you have to? It’s what you’ve always done. Have these things (tasks) become so routine you rarely notice anymore? I challenge you to take a look. Start doing less. It will allow you to be so much more.

“The way you create any outcome in your life is to hold the vision of your deepest desires. At the same time, though, you must honestly and accurately assess your current situation and how it relates to your greater vision. By doing this, you engage tension between what is and what can be. This tension is the primary creative force behind the manifestation of any outcome. It’s as natural and powerful as the force of gravity”.~ David Emerald

Why Are You Here?

“Let others lead small lives, but not you. Let others argue over small things, but not you. Let others cry over small hurts, but not you. Let others leave their future in someone else’s hands, but not you.” —Jim Rohn

Why am I here? And what am I here to do? I know these are age old questions. But I think about these things a lot. Also, I recently re-read A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle which got me thinking even further. I wonder how many of us actually know our life purpose? And what would happen if we did?

I truly believe that the farther away we are from knowing these answers, the unhappier (and less successful!) we tend to be. I think not knowing makes us feel restless. We go through life lacking contentment.

That said, if I asked you why you’re here, on this planet, at this time, would you have an answer? Do you know what your life purpose is? Does it guide you?

Here’s a hint: It’s Bigger Than Your Goals!

Your purpose transcends your goals. It goes beyond what you do for a living. It’s the big picture. It answers the question, “What are you here to do?” It’s inspiring, engaging and clear. It creates a feeling of significance. A focus for your life. Identifying your purpose enables you to choose what to give your time, energy, and attention to rather than being sidetracked by distractions.

I think in finding your purpose there are three critical things to start with: knowing who you are, why you’re here, and what you want.

As an added bonus, now that I know what I’m here to do, I’ve learned to say, “no” to things that aren’t aligned with my purpose.

You may be wondering, “How the heck do I get clear about my life purpose? That sounds like a massive undertaking!”

It’s really not as huge as it sounds. Here’s a process for you. 5 Steps to Clarity:

  1. Identify your UDQs. My what?!? I’m talking about your unique, distinctive qualities. Qualities such as curiosity, integrity, commitment. To get these, think about how you’d describe yourself. Or perhaps qualities that others have pointed out to you. If you’re stuck, ask a few friends what they think your distinctive qualities are. As part of a planning process I used for this year, I did this. It was quite interesting to see how others perceived me, and how similar and different they were from my own perceptions.
  2. Consider the impact you’d like to have on the world, and on those you interact with. How will people and the world be better off as a result of your having lived your purpose? Dream about this a little. Or a lot, actually. Imagine it happening as if you are watching a movie.
  3. Make a list of as many action verbs as you can think of. Try each one on. Circle those that get you excited, that speak to you. Then narrow it down to two or three. Examples of action verbs might be such things as build, motivate, educate, defend, discover, communicate, share, produce, work, explore, and improve.
  4. Figure out who you’re here to impact or help. Remember, we’re going for clarity here. Be as specific as possible.
  5. Combine your work in the first four steps into creating a Mission Statement. Play with the words. Combine them in different ways. Write down your purpose, go off and leave it for a while, then come back to it. Is it simple? Clear? Easy to understand? Does it inspire and excite you? Even better, does it give you goosebumps? Remember, this statement can (and should) change. Often times, the more we grow (and the clearer we are) the bigger our vision and therefore mission becomes.

When you have your statement complete, post it where you will see it. Carry it with you. Take it out, look at it, and think about it each day. It will provide you with inner guidance, direction, and focus. And I believe wholeheartedly that it will lead you to everything that will support it. At the very least, it will give you the permission to say, “no” to the things that don’t.

Put Your Blinders On

“The healthiest competition occurs when average people win by putting above average effort.” Colin Powell

Racehorse trainers use blinders because they believe that blinders keep the horse focused on what is in front of him, encouraging him to pay attention to the race rather than other distractions, such as crowds. Additionally, blinders are commonly seen on driving horses, to keep them from being distracted or spooked, especially on crowded city streets.

In the past, I’ve certainly made the mistake of taking “my blinders off.” I’ve allowed myself to get distracted. I’ve taken my eye off of the prize. And I’ve spent energy on things (and people ) that didn’t deserve it. In the process, though, I’ve learned major lessons. But that’s what growth is right?!? It’s making mistakes and learning from them. Course correcting just as soon as you realize you’re off track.

That said, I’ve learned a few things lately due to what I’ll call “growth experiences.” The outcome has been that I realized I have to “put my blinders on” and stop worrying about what others think. Or what they are doing. Personally, I don’t think it is entirely possible to completely stop caring what people think of us, and I don’t think that is such a bad thing. We are social creatures and this is how we learn. Still, it’s essential not to spend too much energy worrying about other people’s motives or agendas. It is a waste of time. Also, when you compare yourself, it takes energy away from focusing on YOUR dreams. Worst of all, it can make you doubt yourself. And that’s the opposite of what it takes to live confidently. It’s SO important to compare yourself only to your personal best. This will allow you to stay focused.

Below I’m going to show you how I learned to “put my blinders on”, stop comparing myself to others, and how I became genuinely happier in the process.

I learned (and/or re-learned) these tips. Perhaps, they will help you:

Stop trying to be someone you’re not. – One of the greatest challenges in life is being yourself in a world that’s trying to make you like everyone else. Someone will always be prettier, someone will always be smarter, someone will always be wealthier, but they will never be YOU. Don’t change so people will like you. Be yourself and the right people will love you.

Quit spending time with the wrong people. – Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you. Never, ever spend time with someone who continuously overlooks your worth. And remember, it’s not the people that stand by your side when you’re at your best, but the ones who stand beside you when you’re at your worst, that make all the difference.

Don’t over think it. – Don’t think too much or you’ll create a problem that wasn’t even there in the first place. Evaluate situations and take decisive action. You cannot change what you refuse to confront. Making progress, trying new things, and growing involves risk. Period! You simply can’t make it to second base with your foot still on first.

Refuse to compete against everyone else. – Don’t worry about what others are doing better than you. Concentrate on beating your own records every day. Success should be a battle between YOU and YOURSELF only.

Do not allow others bring you down to their level. – Refuse to lower your standards to accommodate those who refuse to raise theirs.

Take a break. – The time to take a break is when you don’t have time for it. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting. Sometimes you need to distance yourself to see things clearly.

Quit blaming others for your troubles. – The extent to which you can achieve your dreams depends on the extent to which you take responsibility for your life. Plain and simple. Plus, when you blame others for what you’re going through, you deny responsibility, and in the process you give others power over that part of your life.

Stop focusing on what you don’t want to happen. – Focus on what you do want to happen. Positive thinking is at the forefront of every great success story. If you wake up each and every morning with the thought that something wonderful will happen in your life today, and you pay close attention, you’ll often find that you’re right.

So….how about you? How do you stay focused? Please feel free to share below.

Where’s the joy?

“Enjoy yourself. It’s later than you think.” ~Chinese Proverb

My Grandma was finally discharged from the hospital yesterday and was moved to a rehab facility. Yay! While I was visiting her at the rehab facility yesterday evening, I met and struck up a conversation with her 93 year old roommate. In a matter of a few hours, I’m pretty sure that I heard (most of) her life story. And, oh my, was it interesting. She told of being born in 1919 in Savannah Georgia and what her life was like. She spoke about driving an 18 wheeler, cross country. She’s only about 4 feet tall! Her husband, at one point, became a trucker to support the family, and she’d ride along with him. When he got too tired to drive, she’d take over. She spoke of the highlights of her life and some of the lows too. I truly loved hearing her story. And I’m pretty sure she loved telling it.

While I was there the nurse would come in and help them with different things and at one point helped with their bathroom business. It was at this point, I started thinking about what losing our independence must feel like.

Then, I started thinking about just how fast life can pass us by, if we’re not careful. Later, as I was leaving, I noticed the twins former pre-school next door to the rehab hospital and thought of how ironic it is, that they are there, next to each other. Beginning of life. And end of life. So very much similarity in them both.

As I was thinking about this, it REALLY hit me, how very short our time here on earth is. If the average life expectancy for Americans is 78.1 years, that means I’ve almost used up half of my time here. That is, if I’m lucky enough to live to be “average.” Wow.

Once this sank in and after hearing how much joy this lady had in her life and how grateful she is to have had it, I realized that I need to live with more joy. I need to really enjoy my time here. I need to move about my day feeling joyful. I mean, overall, in life, I’m incredibly happy with how things are going. I know that I’m incredibly blessed. But can I honestly say that I move through each day with joy? Do I feel joyous on a daily basis?

I have to admit, usually, the answer is, no. Having five children, with three of them still being so dependent on me, I find it SO hard to really appreciate the menial tasks and to be in the present moment with them. There are always so many things to think about, so many worries about the future, about getting everything done. Time feels like the enemy and most days I feel like I’m in a constant battle with it.

For example, while I’m giving them a bath or putting them to bed, often times, my mind is racing into the future, thinking about what I need to do next. I try and enjoy this time, because I know, I’ve already lived through this, and understand that time with them when they are little is fleeting. Soon enough, there will be no more bed time stories, no more “just one more kisses”, no more sweet heads of freshly washed hair that fit just perfectly in the crook of my neck. They DO grow up. Yet, I know all of this, and still, I rush through these moments, wondering how quickly I can get done.

That said, following my experience yesterday, I realized a few things need to change. In order to start living more joyfully, I need to be fully present, focused on the now, on the task at hand. The future will take care of itself.

I’m a huge fan of Dr. Wayne Dyer and I believe he offers some insight here : “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” This made me think of a quote I once read: “Work is love made visible.” I know I need to do today’s work with more love, more joy. This way, when I’m dead tired at the end of each day, and I’ve given all of me that there is to give, I won’t be tired from having worked. I will be tired from having loved.

The question is how do we choose joy? Below are a few tips and ideas I think can help:

  • Whenever possible, say yes to what gives you energy. And no to what drains you. Do what you love to do. Work in your “sweet spot.” Plain and simple. Everything else is worth saying no to.
  • Hang out with other joyful people. And refuse to commiserate. Bad moods are contagious. For example, I’ve noticed that 80% of the Facebook status updates I see lately are negative. People whining and complaining. While I have to be on FB for work, and I throughly enjoy seeing what people I know are up to, I’ve really restricted my usage to what MUST be done and closely monitor who I associate with.
    “The simple but true fact of life is that you become like those with whom you closely associate – for the good and the bad.” – Colin Powell
  • Take 10 minutes for yourself. Carve out time. Make time. You see, I’m pretty good at hiding from my kids. Yes, homework needs to be checked. Dinner needs to be made. Laundry needs to be folded. But these tasks will all seem more do-able (and possibly even enjoyable) if I’m calm and have a clear mind. Sometimes, at our house, we even make a game of it. It’s called “Mama’s hiding again.” But half of the time they never even notice I’m gone. And although there is usually a disaster to tend to when I re-appear, at least, I have a clear head and renewed energy upon which to focus on it. So, set a timer if you have to, and do whatever you want for 10 minutes. Read a book. Listen to music. Meditate. Hide in the closet with a glass of wine. Or ice cream. Not that I would know anything about that, though….
  • Use Affirmations. Pick a mantra–and repeat it. My mantra is “Lead with your heart, and the rest of you will follow.” Positive affirmations can help you stay focused when you’re stressed. They can bring you back to the present, help you see the good and feel joyful. The wine and/or ice cream really helps too.
  • Notice something new – Anything. Just notice – and appreciate – something you didn’t notice before.

I hope you can find joy in today. I don’t mean to wait until tomorrow. Or the next day. Because, surely, it will be better. I mean, find it today, this day. After all, it’s all we’re really guaranteed.

The only other thing I would like to add is to really take stock of where you are. Are you doing what you love? Are you spending time with those that you truly want to be with? Is your focus on what it should be on? Are you choosing joy?

Are you Selfish, Annoying, and Desperate?

Stop Thinking. Start Doing.

How often do you think about or obsess over doing something instead of just doing it? Or at the very least get started on the task at hand. Sometimes, I think, we forget that there is a HUGE difference in contemplating something and actually doing it. There have been periods in my life, that I’ve been SO guilty of doing this. Don’t get me wrong, thinking things through, having a plan, and utilizing it, is a very good thing. But I used to take the thinking and planning part further than was really reasonable. I’d over think and let fear, or lack of knowledge, paralyze me. I’d think something to death, research something to death, plan something to death, before I’d actually take action. Sometimes, the process would go on for so long, I’d just lose interest in the project.

In the past, I used the “thinking strategy” in regards to the book I’m working on. I also used it with the things on my to do list. Instead, of taking action, I’d spend my time thinking (and worrying) about doing so. I’d use so much energy contemplating doing something, instead of on actually doing it.  I came to a point where I realized that the amount of energy I spent and wasted, thinking, was energy that I could’ve used, if I’d just taken action. I realized that if I’d just take the first step and get started it would get me a lot further than just thinking about it. I also had to stop making excuses for myself. Excuses like “Well, I’ll just wait until the twins start school.” Or  “I’ll wait until we’re not so busy.” Now I understand that there is NEVER going to be THE perfect time.  Yes, as my kids get older, life will get easier, in some ways. But why wait? Why put my dreams on hold, until? Until this or until that. I had to take the word until out of my vocabulary.

That said, I’ve gotten a lot better. For example, I realized that the sooner I write this blog post, the sooner I can stop obsessing thinking about writing this blog post. The sooner I finish writing my  book, the sooner I can stop thinking about having to make progress on writing my book.

A Living Legacy

“The only thing you take with you when you’re gone is what you leave behind.” - John Allston

This past weekend I attended a memorial service for a great man. What is interesting is that while I didn’t know him well, I actually felt as though I really knew him, based upon his legacy. What I mean is, what he built while he was here and what he left behind, now that he is gone. Most of us tend to think of a legacy as something that we leave behind when we’re gone. What I’ve come to realize though, is that our legacy is built well before we die. It’s what we do while we’re here. What kind of difference we make. Who we help. How far our arms reach. That said, that’s exactly what I meant when I mentioned knowing him based upon his legacy. Working for the company he built were a few of the best years of my life, thus far. What I wrote on my FB status update pretty much sums it up: “Celebrating the life of a great man, a pioneer in Austin Real Estate Dev, a man who cared a great deal about others and whose company taught me the very essence of what it really means to work hard/play hard.”  

His memorial service was beautiful. It was amazing to see how one man had managed to touch and make a difference in so many lives. There was a particular story that really got me. It was the story told by a pastor from Mexico. He and his family now live in San Antonio but he explained how back when he first started his church (in Mexico) many many years ago, Mr. Coleman sent him a check for $35. This man never forgot this. What got me (and makes me teary now) is that I get that it wasn’t so much about the money as it was about the gift the man really got by receiving the check. It was the knowledge that someone believed in him. Disguised as $35. I immediately thought of the Maya Angelou quote “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my “legacy.” What is it that I want to leave behind? And in knowing what that is, how do I work each day to make it a reality? This is hard. You see, none of us really want to think about death. But the truth is, and what slapped me upside the head today, was the finality of life. We are all living on borrowed time. Tomorrow is not a promise, but a gift. The only real question is how we are going to spend the time we have left. What is truly important?

After thinking about it for quite sometime I realized what it means (for me) to live life full out. To work hard and play hard. I decided to start by making a list of things that are important to me. My intention was just to write a short list to add to my vision board. Interestingly, what came to me was in prayer form:

“Lord, grant me the courage to be vulnerable. Give me the wisdom to understand how my actions affect others. Grant me the ability to see that each of us really are not all that different. Encourage me to give with a willing heart. Let me be the reason for someone else’s happiness. Give me patience. Help me to understand that I don’t need all the answers. Allow me the willingness to be told and to tell the truth. Most of all, make me slow to judge. Quick to forgive. And easy to love. Amen.”

I encourage you to come up with a list that matters to you. What do you want to do with the time you’ve been given? How can you live life to the full? Ask yourself, what legacy am I leaving today? Don’t wait. There’s no better time than NOW.

“The purpose of life is a life of purpose.”  -Robert Byrne