Work smarter, not harder: but do *something*

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Twenty-one days ago, I pressed the reset button to rewire a few errant thought patterns and get back on track toward the vision I created for myself in February (see “Take your dreams to the next level…”). This included five action items to accomplish each day for three weeks. One reset task comprised writing for at least 21 minutes daily. Some days the time flew by; others it crawled, the latter of which forced me to discover new ways to stimulate my enthusiasm. A daily writing prompt often became the catalyst to unblock my creativity; another day I drafted a blog post. And another I played around with story ideas. More and more I’m finding that there isn’t one “right” way to live the good life. But [doing] something is better than nothing. And because it’s common for life and its myriad demands to pull us away from our goals, we should work smarter—not harder—to be good stewards of our time.

How do you work smarter?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Set it and let it go: how to be fully present

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This past week I attended a gong meditation at the yoga studio where I practice. If you’ve never tried a gong “bath,” I highly recommend it—if only for a bit of respite from the outside world. The benefits? I’ve read that the sound of the gong cuts through our mental chatter—the monkey mind—to create a meditative state of deep relaxation to promote healing and stress reduction. Talk about a win-win. Personally speaking, I also experienced an emotional release, including overwhelming gratitude that began in the mountains earlier that day to return full circle on my mat, tears streaming down my face. In addition, I learned that when we set an intention, it’s good to set it and let it: go. Oftentimes we get stuck on the expectation behind our intention, which can lead to disappointment. However, when we practice “setting it and letting it go,” we free ourselves to remain fully present in the moment.

What intention do you need to set and let go?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

A new perspective on the ‘dream job’

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Lately, I’ve been reading whatever I can get my hands on, mostly self-help-type materials: inspirational blogs touting the value of assessing our relationships, healthful tips like plant-based eating to feel lighter and happier, ways to overcome body stiffness and tests to match people with their dream jobs, etc. One such article stands out among the rest this week: that not everyone will be able to #dowhatyoulovewhatyoudo because the reality of it is this: not everybody will be able to “fully express their purpose, their identity, their life’s work through the thing that pays their rent.” However, there’s hope. According to The Good Life Project, “Your work isn’t just your day job. It’s the full spectrum of how you offer yourself to the world and do the work you’re here to do.” This requires a blending of our gifts and passions that comprise the work we do to live a [working] life true to ourselves. A good life; a fulfilled life. That’s the challenge.

What is your dream job?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Muscle mix up: how to avoid plateaus

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In “Flexing our muscles: use ‘em or lose ‘em,” I talk about unworked muscles and how they lose their strength, and may even atrophy over time. This means any type of muscle—our brains, physical bodies, creative outlets. Which brings me to the concept of “muscle memory” (according to Wiki): that with practice, the execution of a motor task becomes smoother and the muscle activity necessary to the task is performed without conscious effort. However, on that note, it’s also important to practice something called “muscle mix up.” This means to change a routine by stimulating different muscle groups in order to avoid a plateau and/or boredom of any activity in which we’re engaged. Whether it’s hitting the gym vs. the mat or reading vs. Sudoku, or painting vs. pottery or writing a Haiku vs. a screenplay, I believe that stretching our potential challenges us to achieve greater benefits. And we might just find a new passion while we’re at it.

How do you practice muscle mix up?

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Finding your support system can make all the difference

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You’ve hit the reset button and started the arduous, oftentimes painful and slow, process of reinventing yourself: your thought patterns, habits, goals. You’ve purged the old to make room for the new, and now you want to share your plans with someone you trust. Someone who will understand (at least) the basics. Beware: those who don’t “get it” may look at you like you’ve sprouted a third eye, and/or say things that challenge your convictions. But, those who generally understand will rally around you to champion your quest. Unfortunately, though, even the most well-meaning friends can inadvertently choke the life from the tender seedlings of progress we’ve begun to nurture. That’s why we must learn to discern our closest allies—the tribal few who know when to provide an ear, or a (virtual) hug or a word of encouragement, when needed. And, of course, to celebrate our successes. Growth isn’t easy, but a support system offers vital nourishment to help us flourish.

Who are your closest go-to allies?

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Flexing our muscles: use ’em or lose ’em

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Write every day.
Writing is a muscle
that gets stronger
with use. ~ Abbi Glines

It’s a no brainer, isn’t it? That unworked muscles lose their strength. I’ve witnessed this truth in its extreme: following my husband’s car accident and during the course of his two-month hospital stay, his muscles begin to atrophy from lack of use. Over time, however, through daily PT sessions, he regained a lot of strength. Some days, I arrived at the hospital to find my husband in his wheelchair—pushed front-first against the side of the bed—and his body slumped onto the mattress to rest between sessions. It’s not easy to get stronger. It requires determination and perseverance to overcome in spite of obstacles. Although my struggles with writing are a poor comparison, I know that even if the writing I do today is bad, it’s better than anything I don’t write. Progress only happens with consistent work. Even if that means resting in between.

What muscle do you need to strengthen?

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Where happiness + success intersect: overcoming the burden of expectations

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There’s something to be said about the correlation between loving what you do and doing what you love and vice versa. Similarly, theologian Albert Schweitzer once penned: “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” And, recently, during an interview with WD magazine (March/April 2019), author Min Jin Lee talked about overcoming the burden of expectations. Which ultimately leads to joy. So how do we do this? In “Rekindle the excitement,” I pose the challenge to rediscover what makes us excited to jump out of bed each morning… by starting somewhere. Yet first we have to ask the question: If I removed expectation from the equation, including time and/or money, and if I could be or do that one thing I love doing, that brings me joy and spells success (in my book), what does it look like? And will I regret the not doing?

Are you doing what you love doing?

Photo source: pinterest.com.

Rekindle the excitement: how to avoid reliving the same life

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The way to get started is to quit talking
and begin doing. ~ Walt Disney

I’m happy to report that I’m well into my 21-day (see “When we need a factory reboot… “) mental and physical reset. It began with an acupuncture session to realign my psyche, and with a list of five goals to tackle every day over the allotted three weeks. Although it would be ideal to hop online and order a one-size-fits-all solution to transition us from point A to point B (the inventor of this idea would no doubt win “most popular” person in the room), until that happens, we’ll relive the same life year after year: unless we begin somewhere. Fear can paralyze (see “What matters is the doing… “), yet it can also lead to freedom to rediscover what makes us excited to jump out of bed each morning. Time doesn’t slow down. But we can meet it halfway if we’re brave enough.

What will it take for you to begin somewhere?

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What matters is the doing: replacing fear with freedom

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Deadlines. Some people flourish under these heavy-handed task masters. Others freeze. I dwell somewhere within the pages of both extremes, depending on the hour. Most recently, under deadline for a 20-page submission earmarked for critique at an upcoming writers’ retreat, I struggled. With doubts, fears, frustrations. I hollered self-recriminations like “fraud” and “you suck” into the recesses of my monkey mind. I contemplated canceling my reservation. But, in the end, my goal was to write. And I did. My goal was to make deadline. And I did. And, for the most part, I had fun. Except when I didn’t. In my experience, I can attest to the truth that I am my own worst critic. Even though, I know my submission lacked passion. It lacked voice. But here’s what I learned: It doesn’t matter how I feel about doing something. What matters is the doing. And I did. In spite of fears and doubts and jitters. Which leads to freedom. Because I survived.

What are you afraid of?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

When we need a factory reboot: tapping into our personal reset button

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Have you ever wished humans were fashioned with a reset button? Not unlike a smartphone, we’d be equipped with the ability to erase our cache of self-inflicted damage and begin again with a clean hard drive, so to speak, while still able to retain the good stuff: a foundation to draw from as we recreate ourselves. Yet, in essence, each morning affords our own personal factory reset—devoid of negative self-talk, and/or judgment, until we attach wings to our thoughts. At times, we might require extra impetus to break through the chatter that clambers for attention, to make way for new habits to replace the old. Yesterday, in fact, I began a 21-day cleanse—a detox of self-destructive patterns exchanged for self-affirmations—tangible gifts that function as a reset button: a mental spring cleaning to purge that which no longer serves me, whatever self-limitations keep me stuck or stagnant. And to bring into balance my mind, body and spirit.

What helps you swap out old patterns for new?

Image source: Shutterstock.com.