Reap a harvest: making ‘fallow seasons’ work for you

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Photo by Isak Engström on Unsplash.

On a recent podcast, the guest talked about working through a “fallow” writing season. Fallow—meaning idle, unproductive or uncreative—describes the past five months of my life. In the article Why We Need to Be ‘OK’ in the Fallow Season, Ryan Fahey asks the question, “Are you in a season that doesn’t seem to be producing any results?” followed by, “Are you spinning your wheels…frustrated at not seeing the results you want?” Yet, the fallow season is actually the most important season of growth. In fact, it’s essential for producing something wonderful. Unfortunately, some of these seasons take longer than others to deliver the outcome we desire; i.e., not all fallow seasons are the same. But the good news: fallow does not equal failure. And if we focus on the process, rather than the outcome, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Are you in a fallow season? Let me know at chrismadayschmidt.com, and remember to sign up for my free monthly emails.

Morning rituals: finding a sustainable practice that sustains you

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Sunrise

Let’s talk morning rituals. Over the past year, I’ve read tips on making the most of the initial hours in a day—from “eating the frog” to exercising to avoiding social media to praying or fasting. Although I’ve tried all of the above and more, my focus over the past year and a half has included three top priorities: prayer, purpose and performance. During the first hour of my day, I reconnect to my “source” through devotions and Bible readings. Then, I journal for 15-20 minutes before jumping into that day’s creative pursuits. Finally, I hop on my exercise bike, hit the yoga mat and power walk through my neighborhood or head for the mountain trails. And not only has this morning ritual sustained me during an unsettled 2020 and into the new year, but it also proves to be a sustainable practice that I can adjust as needed.

Visit my new home at chrismadayschmidt.com and let me know what type of practice, morning or otherwise, sustains you?

Getting the dirty work out of the way

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Photo by Anton on Unsplash.

First, let’s tackle a little housekeeping: If you’ve signed up for my free monthly emails at chrismadayschmidt.com, thank you. I’m anticipating my “inaugural” deployment on the first Wednesday of June, with a similar schedule planned for subsequent months. If you enjoy the types of stories I tell—sweet (and sometimes sassy) real-life “fairytales”—and believe it’s always the write time for hope, humor & heart, stop by my new home where my blogs will be hosted starting June 1. And now I’m curious: When confronted with a to-do list, do you attack your least favorite task first, or are you the type to dive right into those activities that cause you to sparkle? In my case, I attempt to deal with the “less pleasant” items before pursuing my passion. But while this approach results in less distractions vying for my attention, it oftentimes leaves me running out of steam—and time—once I finally get to the fun stuff.

Do you tackle your least or favorite tasks first?

Pockets of peace: the practice of unplugging

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Almost everything will work again
if you unplug it for a few minutes,
including you. ~ Anne Lamott

Some people live on autopilot. According to one online site, autopilot means something happening—or doing something—automatically, without thought. In January 2020, I shared the key to a successful year: practicing resilience, or the ability to bounce back when knocked down; to “pivot” or change course. While it feels like this past year set the world on autopivot, our bodies are not machines made to live on “auto” anything—except to breathe. And following my latest post (see “Burnout vs. boredom…”), rather than add one more thing to my plate, I started intentionally creating space to “unplug” each day, as needed. This might look like stepping away from my desk (and technology) to fold a load of laundry, step outdoors, pray or meditate. Even within those few minutes, this practice rewards me with pockets of peace.  

How do you unplug? Share in the comments and visit me at chrismadayschmidt.com.

Don’t sweat ‘the gap’

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The gap

You could say I’m a fangirl of motivational quotes. Over my desk hang several popular missives, including one that states: Dream bigger. And don’t forget the ever-popular: Do something your future self will thank you for. I notice, however, that nobody spends much time extoling “the gap”—which I talk about in my post “Gain vs. gap: realigning our focus.” A while back, I mentioned to a writer friend my excitement about a second short story of mine scheduled for publication in a national magazine—a dream come true! When I recounted the time lapse between subsequent submissions, she said, Don’t sweat the gap. Although I’ve drafted a few short stories since that conversation, for myriad reasons they remain tucked out of sight. But, instead of worrying I might miss the next opportunity, I’m utilizing the gap to hone my craft in the hopes I will be better prepared to step into bigger dreams…when the time is “write.”

How do you cope with “the gaps” in your life?

Photo by Lubo Minar on Unsplash.

Pertaining to work: doing what you love, loving what you do

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Early in my vocational pursuits, my father told me I would be lucky to find a job that not only pays well, but one in which I enjoy. Although you will never have to work a day in your life, if you choose a job you love (according to Confucius), and “the only way to do great work is to love what you do,” per Steve Jobs, I believe to do what you love and love what you do requires removing ourselves from the equation to ask: How does my work impact or bless someone else—a colleague, customer or stranger I might never meet? Perhaps Kahlil Gibran got it right when he penned: “Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.”

How can you do what you love and love what you do?

Image source: associationsnow.com.

 

 

Delete, delete, delete: A better way to break free from toxic thinking

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The other day I sat in a messy space of negativity. You could say I wallowed in it (not a pretty picture). The following morning, I began writing an email to a friend listing all the moody details. After about 20 minutes of spewing onto the “page,” I backspaced through the majority of the conversation. At the same time, a lightbulb popped on to reveal an ah-ha moment: If we could visualize ourselves backspacing (or deleting) over a negative script in our minds—hurtful comments received or spoken, limiting beliefs that continue to bombard our thoughts—how would that affect our moods, our days…the quality of our lives? Personally, I prefer to live without any reminders that I “screwed up again” and to focus on the clean page. To fill that space with positive affirmations, words of gratitude and encouragement (to myself and others). And to quickly “backspace” whenever I find myself trapped in another endless loop of toxic thinking.

How do you keep from rehashing negative thoughts?

Let’s play: Can you describe your life in a six-word sentence?

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I love these types of questions. As someone whose day job and part-time gig (aka the writer’s life) revolves around all things words—such as word counts, both minimum and maximum—I often play little games with myself; e.g., have you ever counted the number of words in any of the blog posts I’ve written over the past several years? Spoiler alert: 168. Even creating a story with 750-800 words stretches me in different ways than writing a 60,000-word manuscript. And that’s because it requires concise word choices sans the “fluff.” In the Bucket List Journey, which I embarked on at the beginning of 2021, one of the 365 questions includes a challenge to identify six words that condense the finite essence of our lives. Non-writers might also enjoy playing along. For me—within the framework of this moment—the six-word sentence that best illustrates a snapshot of my journey can be summed up as Living the life of my dreams.

What six words describe your life today?

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash.

From manic to magical: ‘Funday Monday’

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Dread Mondays? Need to modify your mindset? I can relate. With that conundrum in mind, I arrived at an idea to transition from weekends into the work week by experimenting with something I call Funday Monday. Yes, you heard right. For me, weekends equate to “hustle” and “R&R.” On Saturdays, I cram as much to-dos as I can into the day. Although I realize that may not work for everyone, I like knowing that Sundays represent rest, recreation, reconnection and reset. And, although Mondays mean “day job,” I’ve started sprinkling—throughout—a bit of weekend fun. This might look like an early morning trek through the mountains or include a mid-day walk to McDonald’s for an iced mocha; or maybe a mani-pedi and/or movie marathon to round out the day. You might choose to meditate, meet a friend, schedule a massage or crank up your favorite music. With just a tiny amount of imagination, you can transform Mondays from manic to magical.

How do you feel about Mondays?

Image courtesy of IamTaew at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Imposter syndrome: 3 tips to flip the script

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In the Bucket List Journey, the author asks: “If you had to teach something, what would you teach?” I’ve considered this question often, first upon graduating from ASU as a non-traditional (aka middle-aged) student, followed by earning extra cash as a substitute teacher, while interning and job hunting. And, lately, as I’ve considered ways to expand my reach as a writer. One topic that I struggle with on a regular basis—imposter syndrome, or self-doubt and insecurity—informs my answer to the question. I would teach others how to break through a mindset of limiting beliefs. My limiting beliefs revolve around #allthings writing. Maybe you wonder if you’re cut out to homeschool your children, manage a team of employees or return to school in your 50s. If so, I encourage you to 1) acknowledge your thoughts, 2) put them into perspective and 3) reframe them by focusing on your accomplishments, reflecting on your growth and realizing that your. Dreams. Matter.

How does imposter syndrome show up for you?

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