It's the first full week of the new year, and I'm on-fire motivated to meet my goals. I'm so darn excited about what I want to achieve this year that I want it all to happen right now! I was reminded yesterday that just because I haven't seen immediate progress on my first goal of the year, doesn't mean I'm a failure or that I'm not going to achieve it. Thank goodness for good friends who can see things from the outside looking in and remind me of that! This got me thinking about what strategies I could employ this year to not only be successful at achieving my goals, but also to give myself grace along the way. Here's what I've come up with:
Give Yourself Time
The T in a SMART goal stands for time bound, and I need to remember that even though I may be able to complete each of my individual goals in 6 weeks, I can't do them all in the SAME 6 weeks. I want to keep that fire in my belly, so I need to be careful not to let it burn to quickly and extinguish that flame.
Recognize All Achievements
Even small victories are worth celebrating. Though I may not have gotten 100 people to attend my webinar on the first day it was launched, I did have one person who watched! That's something to be proud of, learn from, and build upon.
Keeping a "done" list is a great way to remind yourself of how far you've come and how much you've accomplished. A done list is the to-do list's counterpart. You can still keep your traditional to-do list, but start a list of everything you've completed. This will give you a sense of accomplishment, and it tends to create momentum.
Not meeting your goal the first day you begin working on it gives you time to learn more about what you are trying to achieve. There are so many resources available about every topic imaginable. While you work toward your goal, why not gain insight from someone who has done something similar? You don't have to follow their blueprint exactly, but you can almost always pick out a little nugget of wisdom that will help you improve.
Sometimes when you get head-down into a goal, you become so focused on a certain outcome that you don' take time for your other responsibilities or relationships. Laser-focus is a great thing, but not at the expense of what matters most to us. Walking away from your goal even for an hour or two and spending that time doing something productive or interacting with your family or friends will provide you a better perspective and a refreshed sense of purpose when you get back to it.
Another option is to set certain time frames that you dedicate to your goal so that during other parts of the day or week you don't feel like you're losing precious time. This can also set expectations with your family and friend so they aren't upset when you are busy working toward your goal.
This is the best (and easiest) tip by far — get a mentor, a sounding board, or better yet join a group of them! Achieving your goals increases by 95% when you check in regularly with someone about your goal. This person or group can keep you accountable no only for working toward your goal, but for being realistic with your own expectations. If you're looking for a group like this to encourage you and keep you accountable, check out the Achieve! program that launches in February.
I love the holiday season for so many reasons, but one of my favorite parts is looking back on the last year to reminisce about the good times, recognize accomplishments, and realize what I learned and where I could improve. When I was a kid, I remember my mom pulling out the wall calendar on New Year's day and going through all of our appointments and outings that she'd written down. We would talk about all of the fun things we’d done in the past 12 months. These days, I do the same thing — only with my Google calendar. It’s amazing how much you forget about your day to day life, and it’s a lot of fun to look back and remember all of those little details.
Reviewing your previous year’s calendar is a good way to determine how you spent your time and what you prioritized. There are entries on my calendar that I didn’t have a choice about, but there are also many things that I decided to do instead of something else. You can easily recognize a person’s priorities by the way they spend their time. If you look back at your calendar and don’t like what you see — not enough date nights or outings with friends, too many late nights working, or not enough “me” time — you are the only one who can change it. Sure, there are some non-negotiables like doctor’s appointments, your job, or maybe even jury duty (I spent 3 days on a jury this year!) but there are many hours that you DO have a choice about. Don’t beat yourself up about how you did or didn’t spend your time in 2019. Instead, learn from it and become intentional about how you spend your time next year so that when you review your 2020 calendar a year from now, you will feel proud, successful, and happy.
I’m a big proponent of choosing areas of focus for the upcoming year and then setting small, specific goals within each of those areas. I just completed this exercise, and I used my calendar to help me identify what worked in 2019 and what I want more of or less of in 2020. Though I was really pleased with what I achieved in 2019, there’s still more I want to do. I want to build on habits I started in 2019 and create new ones in 2020.
Many people enjoy identifying a single word for the new year, but I’ve always found it a little intimidating to distill everything going on in my head and heart into one word. This year, though, I saw a theme in my areas of focus and my goals for 2020 — ACHIEVE. I want to achieve, and I want to help others achieve. I want to empower others to be their best selves and to achieve what they have struggled with up to now. I am excited to announce that I am launching a formal program around this theme!
In February 2020, I will begin facilitating a goal setting group program for women called Achieve! Small groups of women will meet virtually for an hour every week for 6-12 weeks to set goals, identify and overcome obstacles, and meet milestones necessary to achieve those goals. The group will encourage one another and offer suggestions, assistance, and, most importantly, accountability! As the facilitator, I will guide the weekly calls, document your progress, and check in with you regularly between meetings to provide resources to keep you on track and motivated to complete the tasks necessary to achieve your goal.
If you are interested in joining an Achieve! group, please fill out the form below, and I will contact you to discuss the details. I wish you all a very happy and productive 2020!
I can't believe this is my 100th blog post! I looked through what I call my "blog log" which lists the date, title, and number of every one I've written, and I have to say— I'm really proud of what is included in these past 99 posts. When I say proud, I don't mean boastful, but rather a feeling of deep satisfaction that resulted from hard work, honesty, and perseverance. It has been important to me from the start that I be transparent and not claim to know all the answers. I'm in this with you — I have many of the same struggles as you, and I'm continuing to figure out how striving to live a life in order can help me gain and maintain control. I truly believe that productivity and organization is not only for those born naturally orderly, but that it gives the rest of us the freedom and space to really enjoy our lives.
I asked my oldest son, who is nearly an all-knowing teenager, what I should write about for my 100th post. He gave me some sage advice, "write about how you stuck with your blog all of this time." I thought his suggestion was brilliant! Yes, that's something I want to explore — stick-to-itiveness!
I kind of went down a rabbit hole researching what this word meant. I went from stick-to-itiveness to tenacity to tenacious to "persistent in maintaining, adhering to, or seeking something valued or desired." What I realized was the reason it was easy for me to stick with my blog is because I value it!
Many of us were required to read What Color is Your Parachute by Richard N. Bolles in a college job readiness course. This book explored how to determine what job is right for you and how to get it. No matter if you are looking for a job, a hobby, or just your next fun project, the principles are the same — you should search for your key passions and strive to use them daily. The more passionate you are about something, the more likely you are to see it through, and be happy along the way.
A pioneer in this type of strengths philosophy was Bernard Haldane, an English doctor who moved to New York in the 1940's. After realizing he didn't meet the U.S. requirements for working in medicine, he began helping veterans recognize their own strengths and transferable skills from their military experience. He encouraged them use those skills to rejoin the non-military workforce after returning from the war. Haldane's work inspired others in the field and led to many books and programs encouraging people to determine not only what they were good at, but what they loved doing and would provide them with feelings of pride for having accomplished. He was clear that this didn't mean it was all sunshine and rainbows along the way! There will always be parts of a task or a process that one will dislike or cause them to work outside of their comfort zone, but he proposed that both the journey AND the outcome should provide satisfaction.
Starting My Life In Order came out of something I was passionate about — getting my own life in order and helping others do the same. It consisted of things I enjoy — writing, technology, connecting and helping others achieve their goals. I have one little secret that has helped me stick with it to this milestone 100th post — I give myself a LOT of grace! I try to remember that this venture is supposed to be fun. Though I feel a responsibility to publish blog posts regularly and be active on social media, I also give myself a pass sometimes. The world won't end if my blog post is a little late or if I am MIA on Facebook for a day. By giving myself permission not to be perfect all the time, it is much easier to keep on keeping on! If I felt like if I didn't publish a post every 7 days that I was a failure, I would have quit a long time ago! Imagine what you can accomplish if you can find that thing you are great at, fuels your fire, AND can give yourself some grace!
You may be thinking, "Yeah, this all makes sense —if I love something I can stick with it, but what if I don't love it or just downright dislike it?" Learning to persevere even when it's not fun is where real success begins! Start by asking yourself the who, what, when, where, why questions.
When you honestly answer all of these questions, you may be surprised what you learn. Maybe changing gears really is the best option! If it doesn't hurt you or anyone else, if it's not required, if it's not propelling you forward, and it's not going to bring you any joy, maybe it's better to turn your focus to something else. But, is it possible that you can identify just one small thing that is frustrating about your project and realize that you may just need to suck it up and get past that little obstacle because the benefits of doing so are worth it? Could you just "eat that frog" and get past the not-so-fun parts first thing in the morning so you can gain some momentum throughout the day?
The biggest question that I think we all need to answer is our "why". Why did I start and why haven't I already quit? If the answers to those questions are meaningful enough to you to keep going, write them down and post them somewhere you see them often. Daily reminders of your compelling "why" will most definitely develop your stick-to-itiveness!
“Dictionary by Merriam-Webster.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, 2019, www.merriam-webster.com/.
Bolles, Richard Nelson. What Color Is Your Parachute?: a Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers. Ten Speed Press, 2011.
Mike. “H Is for Bernard Haldane: His Pioneering Work On Strengths.” The Positive Encourager, 4 Mar. 2018, www.thepositiveencourager.global/bernard-haldanes-approach-to-doing-positive-work/.
“Uncovering Strengths...Unlocking Potential.” The Center for Dependable Strengths, 2019, dependablestrengths.org/
I've been a daydreamer as long as I can remember. As a child I would make up what I called "stories in my head." They weren't wild or unrealistic, but instead, they were detailed accounts of things that could actually happen. When I was very young it could be about a toy I wanted, and I'd daydream about how I might earn enough money to buy it or how someone might give it to me as a gift. When I was a little older, and I liked a boy, I would daydream about how we might be in the same place at the same time.
The first of my well-thought-out-daydreams came true with a white Chevy Lumina APV minivan. Yep, the kind with the pointy noses that were popular in the late '90s. My then-boyfriend/now-husband and I were in year four of dating and thinking seriously about marriage when his car died. His parents had been driving a pointy-nosed van for a while, and I'd overheard them mention getting a new vehicle — cue daydream. I started thinking about the scenarios that could occur where we'd end up with the van. Maybe they'd come to take us out to dinner and then offer to sell him the van at a low price, or maybe they'd even just give it to him. I'm pretty sure at this point they knew I was their future daughter-in-law, so I thought maybe they'd consider the van a gift to "us." I daydreamed about the whole thing, and then one day, they came to visit us at college and took us out to eat at Cracker Barrel. Afterward, it happened almost exactly as I'd imagined. Every 20-something guy's dream come true — they gave him the minivan. This is when I started taking my daydreaming a little more seriously!
Have you ever said, "I wish" this or that would happen? Consider changing those words to "I hope." The definition of hope is not a wish, but an expectation of something you know could actually happen. I'm not suggesting my ironically cool minivan story proves that if you think hard enough or want something bad enough that it will magically happen. I believe if we truly hope for something, it will require us to have some faith, think logically, and work hard to make it happen. Once we start daydreaming, we allow ourselves to dare to visualize what we really want and then consider how to position ourselves to achieve that goal. Obstacles will still get in our way, and some daydreams won't ever come true — but some will.
Over the years I've used daydreams to help me work through difficult situations, sort through my options, and decide on the best course of action. I may rework a daydream over and over until the details make sense in real life. What started as the daydream of a 29 year old mother of one to have another baby and a more flexible job to be home with the kids turned into a reality as I got my real estate license, saved enough money for a cushion as I got started, and quit my office job days before I turned a very pregnant 30. Once a daydream comes true, that doesn't mean you can't have more or different daydreams. I'm no longer a real estate agent, and I have new daydreams now.
"Once we start daydreaming, we allow ourselves to dare to visualize what we really want and then consider how to position ourselves to achieve that goal."
Daydreams can also be an escape from reality. When I have a hard time sleeping, I will start a new "story in my head." It helps me escape from the thoughts that are keeping me awake. If the story isn't logical or possible, it doesn't hold my attention, and I quickly fall asleep. If I'm stressed, sometimes I'll make up a daydream about a positive outcome to the situation that is wildly unrealistic and then work at the details until it becomes plausible. This gives my brain something else to focus on besides my stress and sometimes it results in real opportunities.
Have you given daydreaming a try? It's a powerful tool to allow yourself to aim high and then figure out how to make it work later. There's no real risk or judgement because daydreaming is literally all in your head. Work on hoping for change instead of just wishing for it. I truly believe there is power in a daydream!
Just this week my daydreams have come full circle. The Chevy Lumina of our newlywed years served us well for hauling friends and moving boxes, but it created an aversion to minivans that my husband and I have shared for almost two decades. Now it's time for us to get a new vehicle, and earlier this week my husband walked in the door with a few spec sheets from the car dealership where he'd stopped to do some research on his way home from work. One of them was folded in half, and he said he would save that one for last because it was his favorite. I assumed he was joking and that it contained details of an expensive sports car, but instead, he unfolded the paper and dramatically announced that his favorite was a MINIVAN — and he was dead serious! Now I'm daydreaming of third row seating, extra cup holders, a roomy center console, and how we will get the best features for the lowest price. Watch out car salesman — my daydreams about minivans tend to come true!
Sometimes it seems easier to just give up than it does to start over. That's why some people never get their house organized, complete their passion project, or lose that weight they want to. It's easy to get excited about the possibility of achieving a goal, but it's much harder to see it to completion.
I'm here to tell you that I have been there — lots of times. I'm actually there right now! A few weeks ago I vowed to lose 15 pounds in 6 weeks. It's been —honestly, I don't even know off the top of my head how many weeks it's been — but it's been a few weeks, and I'm not even close to my goal. It would be easiest for me to just throw my hands up in the air and say, "This is too hard. I'll never lose weight." and just quit trying. But I'm going to propose a different way. I'm going to simply start over.
I have been successful in completing goals and even achieving more than I set out to in the past, so I'm going to look closely at those instances to try to figure out how I was successful. One example that comes to mind is the e-book I decided to write and publish in 6 weeks. Even looking back, I'm not sure how I pulled it off, but I did! I have a finished product that I'm really proud of, an e-book for sale on my website called Get Started Head First.
After that experience, I was really pumped up and felt like I could achieve anything. I gave myself a week off, and then jumped right back into another 6 week sprint — the one where I was going to lose 15 pounds. Well...I've already told you this experience has yet to be successful, but why?
When I really sat down to think about it, the answers were very simple. In order to achieve a difficult goal, I need a strict framework to keep me on track and focused. I didn't have that for this attempt at weight loss. I think we will all agree losing weight is hard for lots of reasons. I wrote about my struggle in a previous post, Weight: A Heavy Topic. After the high of finishing a 6 week sprint with my e-book, I think I forgot how hard it really was, so I didn't spend the time and effort in the planning stage to set myself up for success.
Here are the things that made me successful in achieving a goal in the past and how I am going to apply them in the future:
Accountability and Honesty
In my previous 6 week sprint, I publicly announced my goal and my time frame, and I did weekly live videos to report on my progress. This time, I also publicly announced my goal and my time frame, and I did one weekly live video to report on my progress. As soon as I realized I wasn't on track and my progress wasn't what I wanted it to be, though, I stopped checking in. Without that accountability, it was too easy to fall back into old habits. I wasn't even being accountable to myself because once I saw that the scale wasn't moving in the right direction (and sometimes in the wrong direction.) I stopped weighing in and recording my weight feeling like I'd be better off not knowing how I was doing. It soon became easy to go back to my old way of eating since no one would know.
This time around, I'm going to be stickler with accountability. I'm going to check in on my Facebook page with a live video every week to let you know the good, bad and the ugly of how it's going. I'm going to be honest with those I'm accountable to, including myself. Ignoring my shortcomings or even lying about them doesn't help me move in the direction I want to go. I will write down my food and weight daily even if I'm not proud of them!
The 6 Week Sprint Worksheet I used for writing my e-book was filled with small, bite-sized goals. When I filled out the worksheet completely, I was successful. I started out setting 6 weekly goals, and then broke those down into daily goals at the beginning of each week. This time around with my weight loss goal, I did set 6 weekly goals, but when I just looked back at my worksheet, I realized I only ever set the first week's daily goals and after that, I just walked away.
Without small, achievable goals written down so I could physically see them, I got overwhelmed and felt like I was failing at the whole goal all of the time. If I could have focused on just one day's goal, I would likely have been able to conquer that one thing at a time.
This time around, I'm going to put a daily reminder on my calendar to review and log my progress. In addition, I will create a weekly reminder to set daily goals for the upcoming week.
As much as I want to be able to do a million things at once, the truth of the matter is — I can't. I distinctly remember after finishing my e-book, and deciding on my next 6 week sprint that I couldn't decide between two things: losing 15 pounds and improving my online presence for My Life In Order. So what did I do? I decided to do them both! That was a mistake because I haven't done a good job on either of those projects. I was afraid I would be bored if I only chose to focus on one or the other. It's so easy to look back and see our faults, isn't it?
What I needed was true focus. Obviously I would still have to do all of my daily tasks and responsibilities, but to take on something "extra," it needed to just be one, focused thing.
This time around, I'm going to choose me and my health as my true focus. As much as I love My Life In Order and enjoy trying to figure out how to gain more followers, newsletter subscribers and potential clients, that's going to just have to fade into the background for now while I focus on my true goal of getting healthier for the next few weeks. My hope is that soon that healthy lifestyle will become one of those daily tasks and responsibilities and no longer feels like an "extra." When that's the case, I will take on a new project, but until then - one focus for me!
How about you, do you want to vow not to fail, but instead to start over with me? It could be anything you want it to be. Download a free 6 Week Sprint Worksheet, and give it a try. Just make sure you have:
Today is My Life In Order's two year anniversary! It's hard to believe that I've been writing for so long. A year ago I published "One Year of My Life In Order" which was pretty exciting, but this year I've got something even bigger to celebrate!
Over the past few weeks, I've been working on my 6 week sprint, and it's culminated in a product I'm very proud of — my e-book, Get Organized Head First!
Get Organized Head First is a book about changing your mindset to help you get organized and be more productive. There are also two practical projects to help you dive into organizing plus lots of bonus content! Here's a sneak peak into what you can expect in the book:
Introduction: My "Before" Story
Chapter 1: A Life In Order
Chapter 2: A Lego® Lesson
Chapter 3: What T-Shirts Teach
Chapter 4: You're In Charge
Chapter 5: Help Me!
Chapter 6: Order in Real Life
Chapter 7: Organize Your Home
Chapter 8: Organize Your Head
Chapter 9: Rewrite Your Story
The book is on sale now, and anyone who takes the time to read this full post will get to use this coupon code to get the book for just $4! Use code: BLOG at checkout.
Get Organized Head First E-Book
We've all had those days where everything seems to go wrong and you end up feeling overwhelmed and out of control. What if you could change those feelings and regain control of your life? You can! In this e-book you will start to understand what it means to get your life in order and learn some simple strategies to get more organized and be productive in your real life!
I've been planning to write an e-book for about a year. I'd get super excited about it, dreaming about all the people that I might be able to give just a little bit of help or encouragement, and then I'd start doubting myself. I came up with excuses why I couldn't or shouldn't put my content out there for the world to read, and I just plain procrastinated! Fear of failure and rejection set in, and I put that goal aside.
Well, this week, I decided I'm going to just start and not in a "someday I'll publish this" way, but in a hard core, 6 week sprint with a for real deadline kind of way! This spring, I listened to Natalie Eckdahl on her Biz Chix podcast talk about hitting your next goal in just 6 weeks, and I got excited. She told success stories, and I was sure I could do it! But soon, the excuses started again as I looked at my calendar and realized there was a vacation coming up in the next 6 weeks, and that would just throw a wrench in things. The next time I thought about it, there was something else on the calendar in the following 6 weeks, and I was a little relieved to have another "reason" not to start.
Choosing not to proceed - not to challenge myself - limited me and made me feel inadequate. I really believe this began a vicious cycle that caused me to began procrastinating on all sorts of other things. Not only was I not accomplishing my goals, I was feeling guilty and weighed down by all that was undone. A good friend recently gave me some great advice. She said to pick one thing that I could finish that day, just one. I did it, and you know what finishing just one little thing did for me? It gave me momentum to want to do more and more! In Brian Tracy's book, Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time, he shares about the old saying: 'if you eat a live frog first thing each morning, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that it's probably the worst thing you'll do all day.' Use the frog as a metaphor for that thing that you know you should do and that you know you'll feel better when you've done - and just start!
My Sprint Step by Step
There's no magic formula, but here's what I'm doing. Would you like to join me and do your own sprint to accomplish that thing that you've been putting off? You can download a FREE worksheet here, but please read on for some suggestions.
Don't wait for a Monday or the first of the month or when things slow down at work or when the kids start school - start TODAY!
Announce your goal to at least one other person
If you keep your goal to yourself, it's all too easy to continue procrastinating. Once you share it with even one other person, your chances of meeting your goal go up significantly. The American Society of Training and Development reports that chances of success increase by 65% when you commit to completing it to one other person and chances go up to 95% when you check in regularly to report on your progress. I am currently doing a 5 day Infinite Growth Challenge hosted by Pinterest Marketing Strategist, Rachel Ngom, and one of the daily assignments was to post in the Facebook group - for all to see - what the one thing you need to do even though you're scared to do it. I shared that I'm going to write my e-book, and now I feel accountable to the others participating in the challenge to get it done!
Commit to make forward progress (however small) EVERY day!
How big your goal is will determine how much you have to do every day, but don't let a day go by without some action. Create a chain that you promise yourself you won't break. 6 weeks is only 42 days - you can do this for 42 days!! Set aside a time each day where you will record your progress and adjust your plan. I've been spending 5-10 minutes on my deck in the mornings making my notes.
Start by thinking about what success will look like. That's where you want to be at the end of week 6. My goal is to publish an e-book by September 11, 2019 (which just happens to be My Life In Order's 2 year anniversary!) Now work backwards on what you have to do to get there, starting with weekly goals. Here are my weekly plans thinking with the end in mind:
I've decided to make out daily goals a week at a time. For example, this week looks like this:
Next week, I'll make daily goals around actually writing!
Now the hard part, actually do the thing! Here is a FREE printable I've created to help you be successful. Please share with us in the comments on this post or on the Facebook page what big things you will be accomplishing in 6 weeks! You've got this!! I'll be sharing with you my weekly progress on social media (so be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram) and I'd love to hear about your weekly progress, too. If you'd rather not share with everyone, feel free to email me at email@example.com .
Will you help me with my research by completing a 1 minute survey? Click here! And, if you want to be one of the first to know when the e-book is available, sign up below!
Wissman, Barrett. “An Accountability Partner Makes You Vastly More Likely to Succeed.” Entrepreneur, 20 Mar. 2018, www.entrepreneur.com/article/310062.
Eckdahl, Natalie. “Hit Your Next Goal With a Six Week Sprint.” Biz Chix, 28 Mar. 2019, bizchix.com/363-hit-your-next-goal-with-a-six-week-sprint/.
Photo by Kaitlyn Baker on Unsplash
Last week I was in Las Vegas at a huge conference for my job in IT. As I sat way up in the nosebleeds in the arena needed to hold the 6,000+ people in attendance, I felt more than a little insignificant. I looked around and saw so many people that seemed to have more knowledge and experience than me, and though that could be a good thing - an opportunity to learn - it was also overwhelming!
Where do I start? There is so much, so many choices bombarding me everyday. I struggle with choosing an area to focus on and get better at, because I feel like if I do, I will neglect everything else - and what if there was a better choice and one that would have been more important or had more impact? Nearing 40, I'm starting to feel like my potential is fading. I used to be the youngest in the room, and many times the only woman. That was my identity - the young, promising woman poised for success, but now I ask myself, "Where did my potential go? What has been my contribution, and did anyone notice?"
Now, when I hear a motivational speaker, I get all fired up...for a minute. When I was younger and less experienced, I was more easily inspired, but the older I get, my level of cynicism grows as my level of inspiration wanes. I'm now more grounded and practical and want to see my actions and contributions matter. I find myself asking if I should just try to blend in, and I now realize that it's because I'm afraid I won't stand out.
"I find myself asking if I should just try to blend in, and I now realize that it's because I'm afraid I won't stand out."
Last week, I realized it was time to embrace that being a small part of something big is enough. As I pondered what this meant in my real life here's what I came up with:
What about you? Do you feel like you have to be on top to matter or have you already mastered the art of teamwork and honing your specific skills so that you can compliment others with a common, big-picture goal? I'd love to hear from you. Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I took a spring break from my blog. I'll be honest - for these past couple of weeks, I didn't know what to write because I've been feeling very "out of order," and I felt a little like a fraud for even having this blog when I felt so out of control. Control, that's a little word that seems to cause me so much trouble!
Last Sunday at church, was the first time in a while that I felt like it was ok to just sit and be. I was allowed not to worry, not to feel guilty about all I should be doing, and didn't feel inadequate for the things I've been trying so hard to do and not succeeding at. I was reminded that most of the minutia of my life, in the grand scheme of things, isn't really a big deal. The things that ARE a big deal, well, I can't really change the outcome in any way by worrying or fixating on them. The Bible verse, "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?" from Luke 1225 is so true, so simple, and yet so hard to put into practice!
Like so many of you, I'm a faithful This Is Us watcher, and a couple of episodes ago, Randall and Beth were shown as young parents, playing the "what's the worst that could happen" game. I loved the reminder that even though there are always bad possibilities, the likelihood that they are going to happen is very slim, so it's not worth my energy to worry about them.
Most of us have had times in our lives where we wake up with a sick feeling in the pit of our stomachs thinking about what could happen today, and sometimes we convince ourselves ahead of time that we know what the outcome will be. I've learned through experience that there are two things I definitely can NOT do and those are predict the future or go back in time. Because I can't do those things, I'm trying to make it a habit to focus only on what I can control and not what I can't. It helps me to actually write out a list of each. When I spend my time on what I can control, it makes it easier not to fret about the rest. I realize now that being out of control is ok, is natural and once I accept it, can actually be freeing!
I found that the number of things I can control is much less that what I cannot. But that's what makes it manageable! My general list of what I can control is just this:
"When I spend my time on what I can control, it makes it easier not to fret about the rest."
For everything else that is swirling around in my head... it's helping me to identify specific things that are worrying me that are beyond my control. When I physically write them down it makes me admit that they are taking up space in my head and there's really nothing at all that I can do about them. Then I can give myself permission to just forget about them! I know that there are serious worries that many of us have related to our kids, health concerns, financial pressures, etc. I'm not saying just pretend they are not there, but focus on the parts of those that you can actually do something about. It's comforting to think that there's a bigger picture than I can understand, and I'm only responsible for my piece of the puzzle.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on control - how do you preside over your own life and how do acknowledge when something is truly out of your hands?
Back in the summer of 1991 when my family went to Disney World, I first heard the song, "It's a Small World After All" - over and over again as we rode the ride which, for some reason, scared my then 6 year old brother (the characters are kind of creepy!) At the age of 10, that ride didn't make sense to me. The world didn't seem small, it seemed big and scary. It still seems big and scary to me most of the time. I've always had a sense of how small I am in the scheme of things. Whenever I travel, I marvel at the complex system of roads, bridges, and buildings. I am amazed at scientific research, manufacturing on a massive scale, and when I see these things and hear of missionaries or aid workers helping people all over the world, I feel like what I know, what I do, and what I am just might not matter.
As we all do, I remember distinctly where I was on 9/11 and can conjure up the fear I felt about our big, bad world for months after. Later that school year, I let fear get the best of me when I skipped a college trip to New York City because I was scared of what might happen. Though I'm not scared all the time, I still often let my feelings of insignificance get in the way. I worry about taking a chance or failing or wonder why I should even try because I know there are others in this big world who can do things better than I can.
"Though I'm not scared all the time, I still often let my feelings of insignificance get in the way."
Recently, I had a string of coincidences with several random people. Whenever I meet someone who is from my hometown, or knows someone I know, or was at the same place at the same time as me, I wonder if it's really a coincidence or just God's way of showing us that we are interconnected, and as such, NOT insignificant. Whenever I have these experiences, I wonder how I acted in these situations that I have in common with this previous stranger - was I kind, thoughtful, respectful and did I display a good work ethic? Or was I rude, dismissive and condescending? I sure hope it was the former! There's been so much discussion recently about how our pasts affect our present and our future, I think the lesson that my kids have been learning at school from the book, Wonder, is key, "Choose kind." The world is becoming smaller and smaller with the increasing technology and the prevalence of social media, we have to realize that what we do today really does matter for tomorrow. We should think more than ever about how are actions now may define our future.
Even though I don't expect to change the world tomorrow, I don't know whose path I may cross or how what I say or do may impact someone. In one of these recent coincidences, someone told me that the were grateful for how they were treated by my family. Wow, that kind of gave me chills - you never what your next action may lead to - good or bad. I'm starting to see why those Disney characters just kept on singing about how small the world really is.
This week I found the sweet spot between being a jerk and being efficient. Every day this summer during my one-hour commute home from work, I’ve dealt with construction on the dual lane, split highway I drive (aka the bypass.) The construction moves a little bit every day so I never know exactly where it’s going to be. The westbound lanes are restricted down to one lane for just a few hundred feet, BUT since you don’t know exactly where it’s at, cars who drive the same route every day, start getting into the right lane in expectation WAY before the actual lane closure. I typically sit in a long line of traffic in the right-hand lane for 10 solid minutes before the left lane is actually closed off. There are a high percentage of semis, so you can’t see very far ahead to know if the left lane is closed just ahead or a mile away. Since the left lane isn’t actually closed, there are these few, what I used to call “jerk cars,” that speed by on the left (they were probably going like 27 mph which seemed like speeding to my 4 mph) Daily, I’d grumble, “Oh you jerk cars are going to speed past all of us who are doing what we’re supposed to be doing -patiently waiting in the correct lane.”
Well, one day this week, I was kind of in a hurry and didn’t have that extra 10 minutes to spend in a line of traffic inching forward waiting for the construction to appear, so I thought, “I think I’m gonna try being a jerk car…” I started rationalizing – they’re not really breaking the law - the road isn’t actually closed, and it’s probably wise to use BOTH lanes while they are available to make things more efficient, right?” So, even though there was a long line of traffic stacked up in the right-hand lane, the left lane looked clear. I turned on my signal and went for it and became a “jerk car!” I drove and drove and drove at a speedy 27 mph and was amazed how many cars I passed in the right lane waiting patiently (probably cursing me under their breath.) As soon as I saw the orange sign that tells you to merge, there was this heaven-sent opening that I easily moved into. Then almost immediately, the blinking sign and the construction barrels appeared that officially closed the left lane. There I was in the correct lane, breezing through the short actual construction zone. In no time, I was back to cruising toward home, and I was so proud of myself! This was efficient!! So you tell me, was it a jerk move or a genius one?
I started wondering why I’d been wasting so much of my time waiting in traffic this summer and wondering if there are other things in my life that I think of as “jerk moves” that would really just be more assertive and efficient? I asked myself why I was in that right lane. The answer was easy - because everyone else was there. I seemed like what I was “supposed” to do –like I was following the rules and being a good citizen and a good driver. Really, the people who I thought were being jerks, well, they were the ones that were doing what was actually much smarter and much more efficient. Are there practices I’m following or things that I’m doing just because others are doing them? Maybe what I should be doing is paying attention to the people who are doing something different– what is it and is it working for them? What would happen if I did that and put myself first – would I become more efficient and successful? What if I said, “I know that there’s going to be a roadblock up ahead, but I might as well make up some ground while I can.” WOW is that a metaphor or what??? I realized that I apparently learn a lot from traffic metaphors since this is my second post about them - I learned a lot from left turns in a previous post!
"Are there practices I'm following or things that I'm doing just because others are doing them? Maybe what I should be doing is paying attention to the people who are doing something different - what is it and is it working for them?"
Make forward progress while you can, don’t just sit there and waste time. I think that applies in so many ways – if you are unhappy in your life, you can sit in line behind all those other unhappy people, or you can do something about it, take a chance, and get in that left lane and move forward. There are always going to be roadblocks ahead as well as things you don’t even know are coming. Do you want to get behind a line of people who are waiting for bad things with the mindset, “I know that construction is ahead, I’ve gotta prepare, move slow, and be cautious.”? With that school of thought you are already in the right spot, and though you’re prepared, it’s going to take you FOREVER to get anything accomplished. Instead, you could take a chance, get out in that left lane, speed past a bunch of people, get some stuff done. Realize it may be a little tricky or take a little time to get back in the correct lane to get through the actual construction zone, but be forward thinking enough to realize that by getting out from behind that traffic allows you to see what’s coming and know when to shift back to seamlessly move through a challenging spot. If you start preparing for disaster or roadblocks far in advance or are scared to take a chance, you’ll just be stuck in traffic.
As I was thinking about this, I realized this is something I deal with often – similar to analysis paralysis! I know there’s going to be a problem, and I start thinking about it and don’t know what to do, so I just get in line behind everyone else in the “safe” lane and sit and barely move forward. I do this so often – even though I know the path and the potential outcomes, I’m scared to get in that other lane and make forward progress, because what if I make the wrong decision and I take the wrong path and then it takes me time later to get back into the right lane? But you know what – that is rare. When I, the safe, rule-following patient driver, get to the part of the road that narrows to one lane and see some of the “jerk cars” who passed me along the way waiting to get back into my lane I think “haha jerk cars, I’m already in the right lane and now you have to wait!” But you know what, it took me 10 minutes to get there, and even if the “jerk car” had to wait for a couple minutes to merge, they STILL spent much less time on that same stretch of road because they took a chance and now they get to do more with that time they saved! Why am I not taking more chances and getting in a position that I can see further ahead? Fear is the answer, but I don't want it to be! Once I'd been a "jerk car," I wasn't as scared to try again. I want to continue practicing what's different, what's assertive, what's efficient, while still remaining kind and considerate - I don't really want to be a jerk!
I'm overweight - actually obese according US Department of Health. There I said it – funny how that was so hard since my weight is something that I really can’t hide. Growing up, I stayed at a pretty healthy weight (probably because of my mom's 2-vegetable-with-one-being-green-at-dinner rule!) The first time I remember really making an effort to lose weight was when I was getting ready for my wedding. But back then at 21, I just ate fewer chicken nuggets and jogged a little and - boom, I weighed 133 by wedding day. Well, since then I've accumulated a lot of things - a husband, a mortgage, two babies, a career, a couple of side hustles, some stress, and a lot of weight! I remember during my second pregnancy, my doctor logged my 9 months pregnant weight and said, "Have you ever weighed this much before?" I was a little shocked at the question, and said, "No and I hope I never do again!" Well, I weigh more now than I did when I gave birth over 7 years ago, and I’ve tried harder than ever during that time frame to lose weight. It’s frustrating and sometimes disheartening to try and fail over and over again. I’m tired of the ups and downs.
My internal dialogue would be maddening to anyone who could read my mind. I give myself a pep talk reminding myself I’ve lost weight before so I can do it again, and I make a plan. Then I try real hard – for a couple of weeks - and when I don’t see the results I want, I give into a little self-pity and feed that with actual food. I think I might as well just eat whatever I want since I’m already overweight. I say to myself, “It’s not the number on the scale that matters, it’s what the inside that counts.” I think I don’t look that bad, and I just need to learn to be happy with who I am and how I look. But then I see a picture of myself and do a double take because that can’t really be what other people see when they look at me, right? No, it’s just the camera angle – you’ve got to hold the camera higher. It IS just the camera angle, right? I don’t feel like that person in the photo – or in the mirror. And then I start feeling down and realize that I AM that person, and that person seems lazy and incapable if she can’t do something as simple as control the food that goes in her mouth and the number of steps she takes per day. The doctor even comments on my weight and tells me there's nothing physically wrong, I just need to eat better, exercise, get more sleep. I want to scream, “I’VE TRIED THAT!” They don’t understand my life and how stressed I am and how little time I have - and then insert excuse after excuse. I finally crumple into the question, “If I can’t lose weight, am I really capable of much else?”
I've told myself so many things about my weight - some are lies and some are truths, but I've lost track of which are which. I’m speaking as a 37 year-old woman with no medical or psychological training – just my own experience and observations. I’ve found that my weight is intertwined with so many aspects of my life which is why losing it is not as easy as simply eating less and moving more.
"I've told myself so many things about my weight - some are lies and some are truths, but I've lost track of which are which."
Weight and Relationships
I am blessed to have children who tell me I’m beautiful even when I don’t feel that way and a husband who has never made me feel ugly because of my weight. My closest friends and family love me unconditionally, so I know that changes in my appearance won't make the people who matter to me love me more or less. This makes ME the only person I need to impress, and it’s hard for me to do things for myself. I find it easier to help someone else meet their goals than to take the steps that I need to take to get where I want to go. I feel selfish when I try to eat differently than my family or take the time to exercise because in my mind, that takes something away from them. My relationship with myself needs to rise up and take precedence so I can be my best self.
Though I have confidence in my close relationships, it is very easy to compare myself to others. When I start comparing, I feel bad about myself, but I often turn to excuses. “If I was a stay at home mom like her, I’d have time to exercise and would be just as fit.” “If I had as much money as her, I could afford to buy healthier foods, too.” "If my job were as easy as hers, my stress level would be less, and it would be easier to lose weight.” Instead of all of these, “If I had…then I would be” statements, I should be looking at the women I’m comparing myself to and learning from them. I know not all skinny girls have it all together. I should learn how they manage to get and stay healthy in spite of the struggles of their lives.
Weight and Health
I know, intellectually, that my weight does impact my health and that losing even just a little weight will improve my overall health and well-being. According to the CDC, being obese can increase chances of all sorts of health problems including high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, mental illness, and body pain. With all of these risks, you’d think that I’d really focus on decreasing my weight. Instead, I continue to rationalize why MY weight problem isn’t all that bad.
I’ve always had good blood pressure – like, it’s my pride and joy. No matter how much I’ve weighed my blood pressure has always been normal and usually below normal. It was like my barometer of health, and I’d rationalize that even though I was overweight, since my blood pressure was good, it wasn’t really impacting my health. Earlier this year at a routine doctor appointment, my blood pressure was high. I freaked out because this threw my healthy-though-fat theory out the window. I've since worked to get it back in the normal range, but it will take constant attention to keep it that way.
As I age, I think more about my own mortality. I’ve heard people say they want to get healthy for their family, and that’s great – I want more quality time with my family too, but in all honesty – I want to live long and enjoy my own life for me! I am guilty of the putting off healthy habits - “I’ll start good eating Monday” and “after I get through this, I’ll start exercising” and “I’ll start going to bed earlier after summer is over.” Why do I keep putting it off? As those of us who are over about 25 know, time seems to accelerate as we age. I don’t want to miss out on NOW because I don’t have enough energy to enjoy life, and I don’t want to miss out on the future because of the bad habits I have now.
Weight and Age
Between kids, I lost 25 pounds and kept it off for two years (until I got pregnant again.) I read and followed the South Beach Diet to the letter. I thrived with a strict program with rules and quick results. I’ve tried to follow the same program several times since and failed. Has my body chemistry changed now that I’m getting older and it’s just no use? A New York Times article says, “Although it is possible to lose weight at any age, several factors make it harder to lose weight with age.” That’s kind of depressing…The one good thing about the passage of time, though, is the improvements in technology. A FitBit will surely do the trick or an app to track my calories, right? Though these are great tools, they don’t do the work for us. I’m living proof - I’m at the same weight I was before I tried those things.
The older I get, the easier it is to tell myself that there’s no one left to impress. I’ve got a family who loves me, a career, and many great friends. I’m nearing 40 and maybe my body has just found its happy place, and I need to accept it. It’s easy to tell myself my body is different now and it’s not my fault that the weight is clinging to me (in all the wrong places, I might add.) But then I think – I’m not even FORTY, I’ve got many, many years ahead of me – hopefully, I’m not even half done. Do I want to live the last half of my life not meeting my potential? I’m older, but I’m wiser and I have more resources and experience than ever. I certainly know what doesn’t work, so why not use that to my advantage? I want to make the rest my best!
Weight and Stress
Here’s a hot topic and one that we all like to argue about – stress. What causes it, can we will our way around it, what does it do to our minds and bodies, how should we deal with it? Stress is defined as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” We’ve all been there, but we can all think of someone in our lives who’s been there more or longer or in a more extreme way than we have. I know others who cope in a much healthier way than I do even when they have much more stress. Who am I to blame stress on every negative thing in my life? I am blessed in so many ways, and I let the few negatives in my life outweigh all of those positive things. I’m stressing about what stress is doing to me. I am in no way denying stress can cause all sorts of physical and mental problems. I’m coming to realize that focusing on the problem instead of the solution is only exacerbating the problem. Case in point, when my blood pressure went up, I became my son’s science fair project, “Can Yoga Decrease Blood Pressure?” I did yoga for 15 minutes a day and my blood pressure did decrease. Was it the yoga in and of itself, or was it that I slowed down, took time for myself, had some physical activity, focused on what I didn’t want for my body, and probably ate a little better? Not sure exactly why it worked, but it did. You’d think I’d have kept it up after the project ended, wouldn’t you? But, no, I saw even just 15 minutes a day as disruptive to my schedule. So I stayed in the same stressful state – it gave me something to blame.
"I'm stressing about what stress is doing to me."
Weight and Sleep
Research says that dieters who cut back on sleep over a 14-day period, lost 55% less weight from fat, even though their calories stayed equal. A sleepy morning increases your chances of taking in more calories, losing impulse control to avoid junk food, and skipping exercise. The answer to this seems so simple - sleep more. Why is this so hard for me? Under the guise of productivity, I stay up too late. Sleep was one of my areas of focus for this year, but I’ve failed miserably! I’m constantly tired, hitting the snooze button multiple times a morning, but yet I stay up late to get things done or just watch TV. I rationalize the need for late night TV as down time after a stressful day. I know that many experts suggest early morning exercise to jump start a healthy day. I will never be able to accommodate that if I continue to go to bed so late! I need to take my own advice and set (and stick to) a bedtime for myself like I set for my kids.
Weight and Priorities
My kids and family are my top priority, and I often use this as an excuse not to take care of myself. My go-to quip when making light the fact I’m overweight is, “Well I love to eat, and I hate to exercise.” I realized recently that at least half of that statement is a lie. It turns out I don’t hate being physically active, but what I do hate is exercising when I feel like I’m neglecting another responsibility. Spending time with my kids, cleaning my house, working, staying caught up with the paperwork of life always take precedence over exercise for me. I need to make exercise a priority, and by re-framing what my responsibilities really are – setting a good example for my kids and helping them be healthy - I can give myself permission to take care of myself.
"...by re-framing what my responsibilities really are - setting a good example for my kids and helping them be healthy - I can give myself permission to take care of myself."
Weight and Organization
I truly believe that being organized can help me get to and maintain a healthy weight. The times I’ve been successful with a healthy lifestyle are the times I had a realistic plan, I monitored my progress toward that plan, and had systems in place to help me be successful. I’ve tried many different diets over the years, and have found it difficult to stick to them. I need something that is realistic in the long term, can be measured so I can see progress, and can have “shortcuts” set up to help me stick to it. As I said before, I love food, so depriving myself long term is just not going to work. I need to measure things – weight, calories, miles, minutes, steps – so I can see forward progress. I need it to be easy to maintain. Standard meals or snacks, specific days or times that I do activities, a chart or an app to keep track of it all. This sounds like the building blocks of success to me!
Another way that being organized helps with weight loss is meal planning. Going to the store with a plan and a list helps prevent buying on impulse. Having a list of meals posted on the fridge helps me not to just run to McDonald’s. Keeping a detailed calendar is going to be critical for making time for exercise. Either a shared digital calendar or a family calendar on a white board in a central location can allow the entire family to know what to expect. If you know what is coming up for the next day, you can plan ahead and set out the supplies you will need for exercising or cooking a meal or packing a lunch the night before.
"Neither self-loathing or burying my head in the sand will work - only acceptance and continual improvement will really make me healthier and happier."
My conclusions from exploring my weight loss struggle are this: I need to go to bed earlier on a regular basis, plan for healthy foods in my house and lunchbox, set a plan about what I’m going to eat and how I’m going to keep moving and monitor my progress, find someone to be accountable to other than myself, schedule exercise even if that means cutting out another activity in my day, consider my quest to become healthier as a service to my kids through my good example. I also need to love who I am right now, but not in a “you are what you are and that can’t change" way, but in a “you are what you are right now and have the potential to be what you aspire to be" way. Neither self-loathing or burying my head in the sand will work – only acceptance and continual improvement will really make me healthier and happier.
“Calculate Your Body Mass Index.” National Heart Lung, and Blood Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmicalc.htm.
“Healthy Weight.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5 June 2015, www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/effects/index.html.
Weintraub, Karen. “Is It Harder to Lose Weight When You're Older?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 31 Mar. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/03/31/well/live/is-it-harder-to-lose-weight-when-youre-older.html.
“Stress.” Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, www.dictionary.com/browse/stress?s=t.
“Sleep More, Weigh Less.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/diet/sleep-and-weight-loss#1.
Photo by Gesina Kunkel on Unsplash
Photo by Benjamin Voros on Unsplash
"I feel good today - ordered, calm, focused, pretty, competent. Ah, so rare, but so nice! Why today?" This is what I wrote in my journal one day several months ago. After that, it was my quest to figure out what I'd done differently that day which caused me to be in such a good mood. I made a list of what had happened that day, and then made a plan on how to recreate it. I wanted to make the rest like my best!
Here's my list and what it taught me:
I slept til 8 a.m.
I realized that I needed more sleep. I sometimes have trouble sleeping, so I needed to make it a priority. I decided to set a bedtime, get a new memory foam pillow, and change my bedtime routine so I wasn't working or on a screen right before bed. Since then, my sleep has definitely improved! I love my memory foam pillow, and I’ve also started using a meditation app, some essential oils at bedtime, and I even gave a sleep mask a try!
The downstairs of my house was clutter free and laundry was caught up.
Visible clutter makes me anxious, so I needed to look at clutter clearing as self-care. I committed to keep my kitchen clean for the whole upcoming week and make note of how I felt as a result. Laundry has always been my nemesis, so just keeping it out of sight was what I promised myself for the following week. I've since started a laundry experiment which I wrote about a few weeks ago - it's working! Clutter is a constant battle, but one thing that always helps is having less stuff! For the past few months, I've been slowly and steadily purging my house, room by room,
My new curtains were up and I loved how they looked.
I'd invested a lot of time making a decision about new curtains, and I was relieved that I liked them. (I'd had the previous ones for about 14 years, so I knew it was a big commitment!) I usually beat myself up about how long it took me to make a decision and how much effort I put into analyzing my options. This time, I felt proud of the research and bargain shopping I had done. Since then I’ve tried to spend my analysis efforts on big and important things, but with smaller decisions, as soon as my criteria are met, I go with it!
I had some alone time.
I've always been labelled an extrovert, but with even just a little alone time that morning, I was energized. This showed me that maybe I am similar to my introvert husband -- I need to be alone on a regular basis so I don't get drained. I decided on some regular alone time the following week while the kids were at soccer practice. It was only about an hour two times that week, but just knowing it was scheduled helped. I now spend time at the library about every other Saturday and have given myself permission to miss the occasional kid’s sports practice for some time at home alone.
I was given a compliment from my husband.
After reading The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, I had no doubt that my love language was words of affirmation. Hearing a compliment from anyone boosts my mood, but when it comes from my husband, it means so much more. I had a lasting smile on my face after hearing that compliment, but I had to figure out how to feel love in ways other than just words, so I decided to consciously look for other ways I was loved besides just in words in the upcoming week. Since then, I have noticed love and kindness being shown to me in other ways like having my back in a tense situation, doing me a favor, asking my opinion, giving me a gift, or giving me a hug. Turns out I’m pretty blessed by all the people in my life!
I did not check email or the news in the morning.
I normally checked email and news first thing in the morning, and usually there was something negative in the headlines or something stressful in my inbox. That morning, I didn't let my device control me. I realized I didn't feel as down during the morning when I wasn't consumed by negative thoughts. New plan - no news til lunch time and no email until I've at least taken a shower! The only problem is sometimes I feel that I’m not keeping up on current events as much as I should. It’s a tough balance between being informed and staying positive!
I sent a message to a friend and received a reply.
I sent a Facebook message to a friend because they were on my mind, and they messaged me right back. Having that connection made me smile. I decided that everyday, I'm going to reach out to at least one friend- it could be in person, on the phone or via a message on Facebook, Snapchat, etc. I’ve been doing this faithfully, and I love this so much! It’s fun to let my friends know they are on my mind and even better to hear back from them!
I spent time doing my hair, makeup and picked out a cute outfit.
That morning, I had the time (and took the time) to fix myself up a bit. It made me feel confident, put together, and in control. I realized that too often, I sported the "I didn't have time nor do I care" look, especially during the work week. I vowed to put on a little makeup and make an effort with my hair every morning. Time was my biggest barrier, so I tried washing my hair at night and using dry shampoo every other day. I also planned to do what I knew worked for me - picking out my outfit the night before. Last week's blog post explored this phenomenon in a little more detail - how we look impacts how we feel. I still enjoy a good no makeup (or shower) day, but that’s more of the exception than the rule these days.
I encourage you to go give this a try - remember one of your best days, and really think about what you did and which of those things you can recreate or even improve upon. Don’t think you can do everything every day, but even small changes will make a difference! I'd love to hear your thoughts, please share with us in the comment section below.
It was a cold morning in January of 2003, and I'd been married a little less than 6 months. I popped out of bed early that morning and spent a little extra time curling my hair and putting on more makeup than usual. My new husband (who'd been my boyfriend for the 4 years prior to our marriage) woke up, took one look at me, and said, "Why are you getting all fancy for work - it's not like it's your birthday or something." The thing was - it WAS my birthday. I was turning 22, and I was feeling pretty that morning. I thought surely he was joking, but...he wasn't. We argued for several minutes about the date before he admitted defeat. Talk about a newlywed fail, but it's given me great material and gotten a lot of mileage over the past 15 years!
Why is it though, that I spent extra time on my appearance that day? It was a special occasion and by fixing my hair and makeup, I felt pampered. I already felt excited about my birthday (remember I was still in my early 20's when birthdays were a little more fun than they are in your late 30's!) so I had extra energy to spend on myself. I also knew that I'd likely be getting more attention than usual that day and wanted to look my best to make a good impression.
"It's unfortunate that judgments about our character can form in such a short amount of time, but because we know this is true, we can use that knowledge and create the impression about ourselves that we want to portray."
We often hear that looks don't matter and try to teach our children the same. And, though I strive not to judge a book by its cover and certainly want my children to look beyond the surface, the truth is, that looks do make an impact on how others view us and treat us. First impressions take a mere 7 seconds to form, and even if we try not to, we evaluate others before they've even opened their mouths to speak. A Business Insider article states that "within seconds of meeting you, people decide all sorts of things about you, from status to intelligence to promiscuity." It's unfortunate that judgments about our character can form in such a short amount of time, but because we know this is true, we can use that knowledge and create the impression about ourselves that we want to portray. Though we can't control many parts of our appearance, there are things we can do that show that we care about ourselves.
Spending time on our appearance isn't all about other people's impressions, it also impacts our own confidence and self-worth. There have been studies to prove what my Grandma just intuitively knew. "I can't face the day until I've put my face on," "I feel naked without my lipstick" are both statements I heard from her. A 2011 study done by Harvard and Boston University researchers reported that women felt more confident while wearing makeup. Interestingly, even the color of lipstick makes a difference. The British Heart Foundation polled women and reported that 26 percent of women felt more confident when they wore red lipstick. Even something as simple as taking a shower or putting on clean clothes can make you feel better when you've been under the weather. Taking time to focus on your appearance can take your mind off of a stressful situation. Feeling pretty helps you to get over feeling down - even if only temporarily.
We have to be careful not to cross that very faint line between caring about how we look to create the impression that communicates our authentic self to the world and focusing on appearance to our own detriment, putting others' opinions in front of our own values. If fixing up is something that boosts your mood and confidence and helps you get some respect along the way, there is NOTHING wrong with it (and it doesn't even have to be your birthday!)
I'm doing a giveaway this week to go along with this week's blog post theme. Enter for your chance to win one of two Lipsense Starter Kits (includes a lip color, gloss and remover.) A special thanks to Snazzy Beauty who is collaborating with me on this giveaway. I've added LOTS of ways to enter! Join us LIVE next Sunday, May 20 at 9 p.m. EST to find out if you won!
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*BONUS entry - new members to the Snazzy Beauty Facebook group get an entry!
Nudelman, Mike, and Drake Baer. “8 Things People Decide within Seconds of Meeting You.” Business Insider, 15 July 2015, www.businessinsider.com/8-things-people-decide-within-seconds-of-meeting-you-2015-7.
Adamns, Rebecca. “How Lipstick (Yes, Lipstick) Can Instantly Make Your Day Better.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 14 Feb. 2014, www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/12/psychological-benefits-of-lipstick_n_4722612.html.
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!
We've talked about doing things in chronological order and arranging items within boundaries, so what else is there to a life in order? One more aspect I want to discuss is being authoritative - order your time, your stuff, and your self to do what you want them to do!
When my kids talk back, my first response is, "Who's in charge?" And I repeat it until they sheepishly say, "You are." Another often repeated phrase in my house is, "You're in charge of you" -- which may seem contradictory to my required answer of the "who's in charge" question. But I think it's important to recognize in my kids (and in myself) that we all choose our own behavior. The other day, after I said for the fourth time, "Who's in charge?" And one or the other of my boys said "You are." I started to wonder if I believed that about my own life.
Sometimes I "talk back" to my circumstances, frustrated and upset and even mad. Who's in charge of me? As a Christian, I believe God is in control and have faith that He will care for me. If you're not of the Christian faith - don't stop reading - this principle applies no matter your beliefs. Within the framework of my worldview, I believe that I have free will and the responsibility to be in charge of my life, my decisions, my reactions, my thoughts, and my relationships.
"You're in charge of you.
So when I get whiny about my circumstances, I should say to myself, "Who's in charge here? I am, I'm in charge of me." As an adult and a parent and an employee, boss, volunteer, daughter, aunt and on and on, sometimes, what we are in charge of overwhelms us. What I am continuing to learn, and still trying to take responsibility for, is that I truly am in charge. As much as I feel stuck, I am the one who can order my time, my priorities, and my stuff to do what I tell them to do. I am the authority in my own life. I can say, “Self,
I know you've identified with some of these - - or is it just me? The point is that we can, and should, tell our stuff, our time and ourselves what to do in an authoritative way. This isn't easy, and it's a process that is complex because we don't live in a vacuum - especially if there are others in your life that rely on you. But just acknowledging that you're in charge of you is the first step to really getting your life in order.
A woman with many roles in life who knows the necessity of keeping things in order!