"Don’t wish away time” is a very mom thing to say. When my boys can’t wait for the next fun thing to happen or to be old enough for a new privilege, I lecture them about enjoying now and appreciating today for what it has to offer. I realized that I’d ingrained this message a little too well when my then 10 year old son and I went on our annual mother-son trip to Six Flags Great America this summer. While dealing with Chicagoland traffic, we had a very grown up conversation from a childlike perspective. We were reminiscing about all the fun times we’d had on our past trips, when my wise-beyond-his-years firstborn articulated something that I’ve often felt throughout my life. He said, with more than a hint of sadness in his voice, ”Mom, I just want to freeze time. I want to stay this age forever. I love my life, and I don’t want it to change.” He continued to say that he knew it wasn’t possible, but he wished that time could continue to seem like it was moving forward, but he’d stay the same age, his family would stay the same age, he’d have the same friends, go to the same school, we’d live in the same house - - all the things he loves about his life would stay the same.
First of all - parenting win, right? My son was happy, and he wanted to live this time in his life on repeat. Not in a Groundhog Day movie kind of way, but in a way that he could still have new experiences, make new friends, and go new places, but the core of his life would stay the same. I knew EXACTLY what he was talking about. I’ve felt this way so many times during my life - as a young child, a teenager, and as an adult. We’ve probably all said it, “I wish could freeze this moment”, “I wish the kids would stay this age forever,” “I never want to grow up,” “ I want to live this day over and over again.”
Before I threw myself a party for being an awesome parent that helped to create a happy life for my kids, I had to also realize that my son was sad. He said out loud what most adults wouldn't admit. The future is scary, and even though we know we have to move forward, sometimes we just don’t want to. Sometimes we are literally so happy that it makes us sad! Sad to think of the future which may not be as happy, sad that we will miss the things we have today when they are gone. This sounds like such a good problem to have, and seems inconsiderate to even talk about because not everyone feels as happy as we do a. But if he and I have both felt this way, maybe others do too, and it’s worth exploring.
"The future is scary, and even though we know we have to move forward, sometimes we just don’t want to."
He had just put into words how I’d felt since he’d been born. Each age was so much fun, he was so cute and sweet, I could control his environment, he was healthy and safe, and I just didn’t want him to get any bigger. But then he inevitably would, and then THAT would become my favorite age - and that repeated over and over again. If I really could have frozen time when he was 2 years old, think of what I would have missed! (and all the not-so-nice parts about having a 2 year old that I would have to repeat...) And what about the people in the world that weren’t happy, or even worse, weren’t safe or healthy at the point in time that I thought was so good I wanted to live it over and over? Would I want to inflict pain on others just so I could live perpetually happy? No, of course not.
But when I do think about time marching on, it can be terrifying...Will I live to see my grandchildren? Will my kids find love or will they get their hearts broken? How long will my parents live? Will there be war and violence in our country? Will my family be in a car accident? Will I get cancer? When? If you let yourself go there, the questions can be endless. It’s wise to think about the future, and prepare yourself for what could happen, but it’s not all gloom and doom - you must also look ahead at what good things could possibly happen. I’m a big proponent of positive thinking, laughter, and daydreaming (there will be a whole post about the power of the daydream soon!) Happy thoughts make us happy and the opposite is true. Let’s acknowledge how we feel about today and about the future giving at least as much time to what GOOD could come while also being honest about our reservations and fears. This helps to increase our self awareness which gives us the ability to look at our lives objectively and make changes or retain habits to increase our happiness in the future.
Up until this point in my parenting journey, I had felt like I’d done a pretty good job, but right when we were having this conversation was when I realized I was totally winging it! THIS is why I want to freeze time, so I can protect my kids from fear or sadness. Since I know that’s not possible, I tried to say something wise that my son might be able to quote in the future: Since it’s scientifically impossible to freeze time, we should freeze the happy moments in our minds, by taking pictures and videos, writing down memories, and talking about our happiness with those who make us happy. We should also look for opportunities to turn sad and scary moments into happy moments for others so they want to freeze those moments, too. We can do this in person, though giving to organizations that can create change, or through prayer.
I’ve learned over the years that there’s a happy medium between wishing away time and wanting to freeze it. I love now, but it’s not all I have. I have the past that I can think on fondly and remember what I’ve learned from it, but I also have the future that I can dream about and look forward to.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject and tips you have for appreciating the past, present and future. Leave a comment below!
Photo by Rachael Crowe on Unsplash
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash
Be S.M.A.R.T. About Goal Setting
Many of you will have some vacation time in the next couple of weeks, so this is a great time to finish up planning for next year. In the last post, I shared how I chose my areas of focus for 2018. It's great to have a word or words that you can keep at the top of your mind for the year, but it is difficult to make any real change without specific and measurable goals related to those areas of focus.
Goal setting can be an overwhelming endeavor, so working within a framework will help you to create goals that you will actually want to work to achieve! Back in 1981 the S.M.A.R.T. goal was born (and I don't think it's a coincidence that's also the year I was born...) George Doran authored the article, "There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management goals and objectives." in the November 1981 issue of Management Review.
The acronym S.M.A.R.T originally stood for:
S: Specific - target a specific area for improvement
M: Measurable - quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress
A: Assignable - specify who will do it
R: Realistic - state what results can be realistically achieved given the available resources
T: Time related - specify when the result(s) can be achieved
Over the years, this has been tweaked, stretched, and molded to help people set not only business and professional goals, but personal ones as well. One common edit (and one that I find helpful) is to change the A word to "achievable" or "actionable."
So how does this work in real life? First, follow the spirit of this framework without getting caught up in doing it the "right" way so you don't fall victim to planning your planning without ever actually planning anything! Don't miss the free printable goal setting worksheet at the end of this post!
To set S.M.A.R.T. goals of your own, first take the areas of focus that you established previously and make one or more goals related to each. Here's a couple of real-life examples on how I put this into practice during my 2018 planning.
Area of Focus: Sleep
S - Specific: I will get at least 7 hours of sleep on nights before workdays to improve my health, mood and energy level.
M - Measurable: I will wear my FitBit to bed and review my sleep logs each week.
A - Actionable: I will set a bedtime alarm to remind me when to get ready for bed
R - Realistic: I would love to get 10 hours of sleep, but I know that with all my responsibilities, that can't happen on a regular basis. I worked backwards from the time I have to get up to be at work on time to determine a realistic number. I also know that weekends are different than weekdays, so I'm focusing on nights before workdays.
T - Time related: From now until the end of January, I will set a bedtime and review my sleep logs to determine if I'm getting enough sleep. In February, I will adjust my bedtime if needed. I will do this process each month.
Area of Focus: Steps
S - Specific: I will get at least 7,500 steps 5 days per week.
M - Measurable: I will wear my FitBit to track my steps and alert me to be active.
A - Actionable: I will change the goal on my FitBit app, I will park as far away as I can in the parking lot, take the stairs and walk on the treadmill.
R - Realistic: I will lower my step goal to 7,500 (as opposed to the current 10,000) so that I have a better chance of achieving the daily goal giving me momentum to meet it on a regular basis. I'd like to try to crush that goal sometimes, but want to keep it lower so on days that I'm in the car for my 2 hour commute and at my desk for 8 hours and come home with a pitifully low step count, that I don't feel like "what's the point, I might as well just sit on the couch" and instead think, "I can walk on the treadmill while I watch HGTV and get those extra steps!"
T - Time related: Starting in January, I will look at my step count weekly. In February, I will determine if I need to change my goal.
I'm not a goal setting expert, and it's very possible that I got the T (time related) and the M (measurable) mixed up or didn't make my S specific enough, but who cares?! What matters is that I thought through what I want to achieve, why and how I'm going to go about it and have at least one action that I'm going to do to get started. Download the goal setting worksheet, and give it a try yourself! I'd love to hear from you about other goal setting tips that have worked for you. Leave a comment below or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Plan Your Focus for the New Year
Turn over a new leaf, make a fresh start, begin with a clean slate- - all of these are ways to express an opportunity to improve our lives by recognizing a point in time to begin that improvement. The classic way this is done is through New Year's Resolutions.
Research shows that most people's New Year's Resolutions fail by the second week of February. Why is this? Is it because we are failures? That's how I used to feel! Why did I have so little willpower, and why couldn't I achieve my goals? After years of February failures, I finally realized I'd been making the WRONG resolutions! Last year I assessed all of my previous resolutions and determined which I had kept the longest and what they had in common. I noticed that I was more apt to stick to resolutions I made as positive statements. An example would be making a goal to eat more vegetables rather than one not to eat sugary foods. I also found that when I made goals that focused on others, I had an easier time meeting them. Lastly, I realized that when resolutions were related to my priorities and not what I thought OTHERS expected of me, there was a much better chance that they would last!
In December of 2016, with all of that information, I looked back at the year to see what I'd struggled with and decided what I could do in the coming year to truly make an impact on my life. Instead of a resolution, in 2017, I chose a focus that I could come back to throughout the year. It was both singular and broad - it was "time." You can read a previous post about some ways I worked on improving my grasp on time.
The year flew by, and it's time to do it all over! I just completed a short personal retreat where I went through this process again, but this time in a little more formalized way. It was a refreshing and rejuvenating day away where I reflected on the past year and identified how I wanted to approach the new year. I encourage you to find some time where you can be alone, away from your house if possible, to go through this process. I'd recommend an entire day if you can manage it (you deserve it!) I wanted to share what I did - - this isn't a magic formula, but it was enjoyable and gave me clarity about the coming year. The rules are simple: it's all about YOU and you must be honest with yourself.
I came up with 12 questions that I asked myself to get to the heart of what was important to me. I took my time and hand wrote my answers thoughtfully. I took some breaks for things like a massage, dinner, and Christmas shopping to keep it fun! I felt no judgement because there was no one to ask for opinions or to read my answers - except for me. After I'd completed my answers, I did a little analysis to find the common themes and ranked those commonalities to help me determine what I wanted to focus on for 2018. If you'd like to try this yourself here are the questions:
1. What did I accomplish this year that made me feel proud?
2. What made me happy this year?
3. What caused me stress this year?
4. What made me feel successful this year?
5. What am I disappointed that I didn't do this year?
6. What do I regret doing this year?
7. What could happen next year that would make me happy?
8. What could happen next year that would make me feel successful?
9. If my wildest dreams came true next year, what would it look like?
10. What would my fantasy self accomplish next year?
11. If money were no object, what would I do next year?
12. If I didn't care what others thought, what would I do next year?
Download the Focus Setting Worksheet to help with this process.
When you've completed the exercise, it's time to choose your areas of focus for the year. Make it easy to remember by distilling them down to one word each. Add some whimsy by making them start with the same letter, rhyme, or all have the same number of letters - - or if whimsy isn't your thing, that's ok too - just say it like it is. I like using one word each because there can be multiple meanings which means multiple opportunities to succeed. Write your words somewhere prominent so that you can review them regularly.
My words for 2018:
The next step is to create measurable goals for each of these areas of focus and plan action steps to achieve them. I'll explore goal creation in the next post - check back next week! I hope that you find this process for defining your areas of focus for 2018 helpful. I'd love to hear if this worked for you and what word or words you chose for the year. Please share with us in the comments!
Photo by Content Pixie on Unsplash
Left Turns in Life
When I was learning to drive, the thing that made me the most anxious was other drivers waiting behind me. I mean, they were obviously judging my driving and everything about me! I disliked being on a two-lane road behind a slow car that I was too scared to pass and having a big truck riding my bumper, likely cursing at me for being a scaredy cat. I despised needing to parallel park and having a car waiting because they couldn’t pass until I was successfully in the spot. And worst of all, I hated being at an intersection where I needed to turn left, and there was a car, or God forbid, a line of cars waiting behind me.
I remember one of the first times I was driving with my dad in the passenger’s seat, and I was waiting to turn left onto a four lane highway. The traffic was spaced just right so there was never a big enough gap that my 16 year-old self felt it was safe to dart to the median. After a few false starts and some brake slamming, my dad said something that, in hindsight, was one of the wisest things he’s said so far. He said, “Just wait, you’re not going to have to sit here forever. It will eventually be the right time to turn.” He gave me permission to be cautious and wait until I felt safe and confident in my decision to cross the road. There have been many times in my 20 years of driving, that I’ve been waiting for a left turn when I have ignored the person honking behind me and just paused and said to myself, “You won’t have to sit here forever.” I wonder how many accidents or close calls this has helped me avoid?
When I think back to times in my life that I felt the most out of control and craved order, I was usually at a crossroads and needing to make a turn. Quick decision making has never been my strength. I am an information gatherer, and after I have a lot of information, I need to analyze it. Then I need to talk to others about it, then think about their perspectives and perhaps gather more information. More information requires more analysis and more discussion, and soon, it becomes a cycle that usually results in a delayed decision. I used to feel like this was a fault, but recently I realized that was not the case. I began picturing myself in a car getting ready to cross lanes of traffic to turn in a brand new direction. I wouldn’t turn when there was something barreling down the road at me, would I? Of course not! I would turn when the coast was clear, and I felt confident I could do so safely - when I was focused and had my full attention on the road. Sometimes the coast wouldn’t be clear for quite some time, and it would feel uncomfortable having others wait on me, potentially judging my driving skills. Going in a new direction isn’t something you should do immediately when you think of it. You should prepare, note the “traffic” in your life, and just be patient and wait until the time is right regardless what the others on your path think. Almost as important as choosing the right time to start your trip across the road is to follow through. Once you decide it’s your time, you’d better gun it and get out of that intersection! Hesitation or going in reverse could cause just as much damage as not even looking to see what was coming.
"Just wait, you're not going to have to sit here forever."
One example in my own life when I applied this was when I wanted to have a more flexible job when I was preparing for my second child. I didn’t just quit my job when I got the whim that I’d like to do something with a flexible schedule. I researched, I chose what I wanted to do, I talked about it with the people I loved, I took classes to get my real estate license, and I began saving money to have six months of expenses covered in case I made no money at first! I had a few ‘cars’ behind me questioning why I wasn’t moving or why I was even at that intersection, but I waited until the time was right and then accelerated. In the end, did I make a wrong turn in that situation? Maybe, but I’d much rather have done that and have the option to turn around rather than have crashed by making the turn too soon.
As we near the end of the year, this is the ideal time evaluate your own "traffic report" and map out next year. If and when you think you may need to make some sort of change in your life. Give yourself permission to wait at that intersection until the time is right and you feel confident in your decision to go for it. But be aware that sometimes the right time to move might be right away, so make sure you have your full attention on the road ahead so that you don’t miss an opportunity. No one likes it when they realize they should have just put the pedal to the metal and made the left turn when they had the chance rather have waited and then sit there and say to themselves, “Why didn’t I turn?! I could have gone six times, and now I’m stuck here.” And don't forget, there's no shame in making a U-turn if the landmarks are telling you that you are going in the wrong direction.
Thanks, Dad, for the tiny nugget of wisdom so many years ago that has helped me to accept my questioning nature, to make better decisions, and to perhaps be a little bit better driver!
Photo by Oliver Roos on Unsplash
Fun Things and Jobs
I’m a list maker and find almost nothing more satisfying than crossing things off a to-do list. So naturally when my kids were old enough to start doing jobs, I made them lists of their own. (Note the reason I call them jobs instead of chores is because I think the word job implies responsibility and a sense of importance where a chore just sounds like a drag!)
Unfortunately, the list idea didn’t go over too well with my kids and created a lot of whining. So one day, I decided to let them make the list. I asked what things they thought needed to be done around the house that they could help with. Surprisingly, they shouted out many tasks that I would have included, as well as some others that I hadn’t thought of. I happily wrote them all down. Then they started cautiously throwing out some fun things to see if I’d notice that ‘dance party’ and ‘watch a TV show’ weren’t actually jobs. I did notice, but I wrote them down anyway. When our list was complete, I explained my observation, “I see a list of fun things and jobs here! What if we split them up so we do a job and then a fun thing?” They LOVED that idea!
Instead of just making two lists, I got crazy and broke out the scissors. We cut up all the fun things and jobs and put them in two separate hats. I had the kids fold up each piece of paper so we couldn’t tell what it was. Then we’d take turns choosing jobs and fun things out of the hats until we were done. I did reserve the right to make them choose a different item if the job they pulled out of the bowl couldn’t or shouldn’t be done before a different job that hadn’t yet been selected or if the fun thing they chose involved the same sort of activity as the previous fun thing (like, say….screen time.)
We’ve been using this method for a couple of years now. We mix it up and sometimes we all do the job together and other times each person chooses their own job. We may do one job then one fun thing, or I might require two jobs to every one fun thing. And then sometimes I”ll just get wacky and make them do three fun things in a row! I did learn to put a time limit on fun activities (especially ones that involve video games!!) I lean toward 20 minutes, but do like to let the kids tell me how long they think they should have. We usually bargain a bit, and I often let the kids have the last say:
Me: “How long do you think you should play the WiiU?”
Kid: “An hour”
Me: “An hour is way too long, how about 15 minutes?”
Kid: “Half an hour”
Me: “20 minutes”
Kid: “25 minutes”
Me: “Sold - 25 minutes it is!”
When the kids pick the time limit, they are much more apt not to whine when it’s time to change activities. I set the timer and let them know if they do whine, we double the amount of jobs before the next fun activity.
In addition to Fun Things and Jobs that happens occasionally and for special events like parties (check out last week's post 10 Steps to an Organized Party), my kids also have Everyday Jobs that are based on their ages. They have to complete these before there is any screen time. Then there are Weekly and Every OTHER Week jobs that are done on the weekends. I'll talk about dividing household responsibilities in a later post.
So with all these jobs around our house, you will probably find it surprising that there are times I’ve asked my kids, “What do you want to do today?” and they’ve responded with “Fun things and jobs!” Parenting win!! Of course, this isn’t the usual response, but at least it makes jobs less of a chore!
Comment below with how you get your entire family to participate in the ‘jobs’ of your household?
My Life In Laughter: Gold Saturn
Sometimes you just have to laugh (or else you would cry!) One thing I try to do a lot of is laugh at myself. It is such a good stress reliever and gives you perspective on how much of life can be experienced differently if we'd just laugh about it. On the first of each month, I'll share some of My Life in Laughter with you.
If you missed the first installment, listen to the story of my cozy shirt here.
In today's episode of My Life in Laughter, I tell the story of the "Gold Saturn." This is one of the strangest and funniest experiences I've ever had! Click play below and laugh with me!
Photo from http://partsopen.com/2009-saturn-aura/