style / mindset / simplicity
style / mindset / simplicity
Today’s post is bittersweet. I’m thrilled to be wrapping up the Write 31 Days challenge for the third year in a row, but I know I’ll miss the time dedicated to exploring words that are important to me. While I know that I've accomplished something, I also know that the real work is ahead of me. I’ve stirred up all sorts of internal stuff and the end of this challenge means it’s officially time to refine my life for the next decade.
I really enjoyed this year’s topic. Though I was unsure at the start, Simply 50 - refining life for the next decade was absolutely the right subject. I learned quite a bit about myself and what matters at this current place in my life.
As I look back over the past 30 posts, I can feel how powerful this project was for me. I hope it was for you, also. While I certainly would never presume that my words could change you, I fully believe that you can change you.
If you want something in your life to be different
...recognize that you have the power to change it.
Whatever it is...big or small...there is a way to refine your life for the better. We are never too old to learn something new or modify our methods.
On our kitchen counter we have a day-at-a-time Zen calendar. We’ve been enjoying these Zen calendars for about 12 years. Our home wouldn’t be complete without this small, square teacher facing us each day.
Most days this little calendar offers immense wisdom on its disposable pages. Today is no exception.
"I am afraid. Not of life, or death or nothingness, but of wasting it as if I had never been."
That’s it. That’s exactly where I am.
As the years continue to move past...not a single second to be reclaimed...
I am scared of wasting time.
I truly believe my life matters. So does yours. We are here to contribute something great.
Most of us hold back, fearful of shining too bright. I've done this for years. Well, I've reached the point where my fear has shifted. I'm now afraid I won't shine bright enough.
This four-week journey has taught me many things. None more important than this… I want more. More of the things that truly matter.
More out of my life.
For the next nine years and beyond, my soul will be searching...committed to seeking joy and offering compassion. As I look back over the list of words that I selected for this challenge, I realize I have some work to do. Several aspects of my life have been neglected for far too long.
A few words stand out as the best place to start. These words cover a lot of ground and they'll be my launch pad for a decade of refining.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being here. It’s my sincere hope that you've found some truth in this month of words. I appreciate all of the comments you offered when a post really resonated. I love knowing that we are all in this together. The human journey is a shared one. The more we connect with one another, the more powerful and complete the experience.
I honestly welcome your thoughts about this year’s write 31 days.
What did you like? What do you wish I’d done differently?
Are there things you’re hoping to refine in your own life?
Moving forward, I'm open to what you’d like me to explore in future posts. I’m delighted when someone asks me to write about a specific subject. My desire is to create a community where we can feel comfortable learning from each other, growing and improving in the process.
I'll leave you with this...
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Mary Oliver
That’s all for this year’s Write 31 Days. I’ll miss you all tomorrow morning.
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I’ve reached the end of the alphabet and almost the end of this year's Write 31 Days challenge. Tomorrow is the final day. It’s been an interesting month of digging deep and feeling all the feels. Today’s word is ZEAL - great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective. This word was the ideal choice the letter Z.
I’ve often heard the saying, “How we do anything is how we do everything”.
Well, I want to live my life with zeal.
I want to feel a surge of energy for the big things and the little things.
I want to approach my days with excitement and a passion for making each day the best it can possibly be.
Challenges that seem too big to overcome and pitfalls that make it hard to stay positive are losing their power over me.
I am completely committed to the work of staying present and focused on the Now.
I believe that enthusiasm breeds more enthusiasm. If someone is super keen on something, that vibe is infectious. Others crave a taste of that powerful, positive energy and their zeal increases!
I’m going to print out a list of all of the words I chose to write about this month.
I plan to hang it where I can see it several times a day.
My hope is that the clear messages I’ve heard as I’ve written each post will begin to manifest in my life.
Here's the list, if you'd like it...
3. Be you
16. Meditation & Morning Pages
21. Refine, Rest, Right, Romance
27. Wisdom & Wonder
My sincere gratitude for your support as I’ve explored Simply 50 - refining life for the next decade. Thank you for reading.
See you tomorrow for the final Write 31 Days post.
After the challenge, my blog will resume its normally scheduled programming:-) That is to say, I’ll be posting once a week on style, wardrobes, simplicity, organizing, living in the present and creating a beautiful life!
I'd love to have you join me.
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If I have one mothering regret it’s that I didn’t say yes often enough. Looking back, it’s easy to see so many times when I could have said yes, but chose no. Yes was often the messier, louder, longer, more expensive, more exhausting option...but in the end, would that have been so bad? I don’t believe we should always say yes. I know there are times when no was the best response for everyone involved. But, I said it more often than necessary.
While I’ve missed a lot of opportunities when I could have said yes...it’s not too late to start flexing my yes muscles.
I have all three of my children at home for another 9+ months.
I plan to say yes more often.
I'm not proud of this...
With my children, I often have a terrible time saying yes joyfully. I find that I might say yes, but it’s uttered begrudgingly. It’s cluttered and colored by the huge to-do list in my head or the stress of something that has absolutely nothing to do with what they are asking me.
It’s clear to my children that I’m not happy about the yes I’m offering...so it negates that yes and makes them feel bad. As soon as I utter a miserable yes, I catch myself...but by then it’s already too late.
I am going to try to say a loving yes to many of the million little things I’m asked regularly. The rides to and from, last minute needs from the store, pleas for help in finding a lost article of clothing. I realize that I will dearly miss these opportunities to say yes when my children are grown.
Helping me to see the power of yes, is the adorable Kelly Jensen.
For those of you who are on Instagram but have somehow managed to miss this amazing lady, do yourself a favor and take a pause from reading this and go click follow on her IG account...@kellyejensen.
She’s the real deal.
Don't let her stunning appearance, adorable children, loving husband and incredible photos make you doubt her authenticity. I believe she truly lives what she shares in her squares.
Even now, in the homestretch of mothering, Kelly Jensen is changing the way I parent my children.
My children are narrowing in on adulthood, but I realize there's still time for me to adopt a yes attitude.
Enter...The Live List.
This simple concept is now taking the world of social media by storm.
Kelly Jensen has been creating a personal live list for 20 years. For the past several years, her family of 7 (that's right, she's the mother of five young children) has been committed to experiencing the benefits of a Live List.
To clarify, a Live List is a bit different than a Bucket List. A Bucket List is often considered a list of things you want to do before you die.
A Live List puts the focus on doing things- big and small -to enhance your life now.
The idea is to live your very best life by dreaming and stretching and growing through the items on your Live List.
Here’s the link to a short video of Kelly Jensen explaining the Live List.
Our first family Live List will be created this Sunday.
I mentioned the concept to my husband and children at last week’s family meeting. I think they are on-board. We'll each offer activities and ideas to be considered for the Cain Family Live List.
In addition, I plan to create my own personal live list and I'm hopeful that Matthew and I will create a couple's live list.
That's a lot of lists...but we have a lot of life to live!
A Live List is designed to encourage you to do things you love...and ultimately make life better...for yourself and for others.
The actions within the concept of the Live List...brainstorming, deciding, planning, anticipating and actually accomplishing...all work together to bring joy to the everyday.
I'm ready for more YES!
I promise to share more about our Live List after we begin.
I actually can't wait to implement this simple, yet brilliant plan! Thank you, Kelly Jensen.
How do you feel about saying yes?
Do you feel that you say it too often or not enough?
Thank you so much for following along. I’m going to be sad to see October end. This month of writing every day has been the best kind of challenge. I’m excited about what’s ahead….
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The X words are always the hardest. I gave this letter a lot of thought. I found some interesting X words, but none fit into my concept of Simply 50. Then, in a stroke of sheer brilliance...I remembered that X is the Roman numeral for ten:-) Problem solved. This is exactly the right ‘word’ for today.
Ten years = a decade. Perfect for a monthly writing challenge centered around refining life for the next decade.
As I mentioned a few days ago, I was really panicking at the thought of trying to refine so many things very quickly.
I was thinking I needed to make all of the changes immediately so I could have them all zipped up before I turn 51..in less than 60 days!
Thankfully, a dear friend stepped in and reminded me that this journey is about the ‘refining life for the next decade’.
If necessary, I can use all ten years to refine things!
Phew. That makes this undertaking much more bearable. My goal is to work at a steady pace and change what needs changing so I can live the benefit of those changes before my next big decade birthday.
Much like a haircut, once you decide you’re ready, you want it to happen immediately. I’m certain I'll enhance my patience practice in the coming months and years:-)
When this month of writing is over, I plan to take some time to map out the next decade. I’ve already begun to tweak the things that are easiest and most accessible.
Small, but notable changes...burning scented candles, listening to music, laughing more, reading The Power of Now and Vogue magazine...are making a delightful impact on my everyday happiness.
The next task is to set some real goals and fine tune the action steps so that they can be achieved in the coming decade.
My old self avoided goals.
My new self is actually excited about deciding what I want and declaring it. And then following through on the work so I actually reach those goals!
Ten years is a long time. I’d like to arrive at 60 feeling that I used the past decade very wisely and wrung every last drop of joy from each year.
It’s your turn...please share. I love hearing your thoughts.
How will you spend the next ten years?
How do you view coming next decade?
As always, thank you so much for reading. I can’t believe this month of writing is almost over. I’m already missing it...and also looking forward to what’s ahead!
When I’m not in the midst of a writing challenge, I share a new post about once a week. The topics vary, but usually follow these themes; personal style, building an awesome wardrobe, organization, minimalism, finding joy, simplicity and living in the present.
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Wisdom- At fifty, I finally feel like there are some things I know for sure. The ability to trust my own wisdom didn’t show up until recently. I’ve reached a place where I’m confident in the fact that I know some things. Five decades of life experience has provided me with a solid framework for making good choices and solving problems.
I now possess the knowledge that life often has a way of taking you off the path you’ve chosen and redirecting you in an unknown, but often better, direction. It feels good to have stockpiled some useful wisdom at this stage in the game.
I work with lots of younger women. I’m aware that in certain circumstances they might view me as wise...in a wise old owl sort of way:-)
I have double their years under my belt and that makes me the expert by default. I recall viewing older women this way when I was in my 20s and 30s. It was clear that they held broad knowledge that came from the passing of years. I wanted to learn from them. I hope I'm able to share a little wisdom with those in the decades behind me.
Wonder- There are plenty of things I know. However, what interests me more right now is waking up my sense of wonder. In the busy years of mothering littles and furthering careers, I think it’s easy to lose sight of the magic of wonder.
Whether it’s wonder by way of being in awe of something or the actual act of being curious…I want more of both in my life.
I’m not exactly sure how to begin this search for more wonder, but I’ll start by piquing my curiosity regularly.
I plan to investigate and pursue things that fascinate me. Learning new things by staying curious. I’ll definitely be exploring my surroundings and my soul for ways to incorporate a stronger dose of wonder in the coming days.
Are you comfortable with your wisdom?
Do you regularly experience wonder?
Thank you for following along with Simply 50 - refining life for the next decade. Only a few days left!
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Lifetouch loves me. Though I never display them, I always purchase my children’s school pictures. Every year since that very first order form came home with my daughter Greta in Kindergarten, I’ve chosen a package and written a check. Like the other parents, I then waited two months for the photos to come home, cut them out and shared them with grandparents.
My three children are all in high school this year. I continue to add to their school photo collection. The yearly envelopes are tucked away in the basement. Every so often, we pull them out and line up the photos of each child chronologically.
I’m always moved to tears when we do this simple activity. I’m overwhelmed by the fleeting nature of childhood and by how much they’ve changed since that first school photo.
However, what I find most amazing is how much my high school kids resemble their Kindergarten selves. When looking backwards, it’s so obvious who they were destined to become.
The age progression laid out on my dining room table tells me that these teenagers have been emerging since before they were five years old.
The essence of who they are today was there in Kindergarten and it is perfectly visible in hindsight. It’s profound to experience the reversal of time in this way.
By looking back from the present we can see that who we are currently has always been inside of us…
All of this is to say…
I’ve been reading Vogue magazine for decades. I was introduced to this fashion bible in the beginning of high school.
I don’t remember much about my first Vogue magazine, but I remember being in awe. I loved the weight of it in my hands. I loved the way it looked and smelled. I was intrigued by the idea of using clothing and accessories to alter our mood and appearance. It felt important and adult.
In college, I studied Fashion Merchandising. Vogue became required reading. I devoured every issue...my absolute favorite was a copy of French Vogue purchased on my first trip to Paris.
I collaged my walls and doors with images cut from the ever-growing Vogue tower that stood proudly in my room.
At that time, when I imagined my dream job, it was editor of French Vogue.
I didn’t push myself very hard in the direction of that dream job. Instead, I made a series of choices that led me away from my love of fashion and style. Due to several different factors, I began to view the world of fashion as silly and unnecessary. Frivolous and not important.
I ignored the essence of who I am.
How does this connect to my pile of Lifetouch photos?
When I look at my children’s current school photos...I now see the souls of my teenagers in their Kindergarten faces. I see that they have become exactly who they were meant to be at this stage.
Decades ago, as I flipped through the pages of that very first Vogue magazine, I knew that fashion and style were a fundamental part of who I am.
At the core, I'm still the same as my own Kindergarten photo. Though I haven’t asked her, I’m quite certain that my mother can see in my childhood photos the woman I am today.
I no longer want to be the editor of Vogue Paris. I am thankful I chose a different path.
I am exactly where I belong.
In the past decade I’ve begun to listen to my heart again. I’ve returned to the world of fashion, but this time on my terms.
We all need to get dressed daily. I’ve realized that by helping women feel beautiful, authentic and empowered through their wardrobes, I am able to share my real passion for style in a valuable way.
My hope is that my children stay true to who they are and follow the path that feeds their souls.
I’m excited about continuing on my own journey and holding tight to what really matters to me.
I’m going to start with some me time and this month’s yet unopened issue of Vogue.
What about you hasn't changed since you were a child?
Thank you for being here this month.
Miss a day or two? See them all here.
The universe continually performs some unbelievable feats. Our planet is home to over 7 billion human beings and each one of us is completely and utterly unique. We’re all aware that no two snowflakes are exactly alike, but the fact that there are more than 7 billion people and we are all different is utterly mind-blowing. Being unique is a fundamental part of being alive. We are each born with our own complex collection of stuff. We share many of the same qualities and physical attributes, but there is only one of each of us. No one else has the same exact make up.
We are each unique. Truly one of a kind.
Owning this fact is often difficult. We spend so much of our time trying to fit in and be like our peers. We want what they have.
Within our cultures and communities, the vast majority of us attempt to look alike, sound alike, think alike and behave alike. We often believe we’ll find happiness by imitating those we admire.
We stop marching to our own drummer and begin following another’s beat.
We work hard to cover up and diminish what makes us unique.
Occasionally, we come across someone who truly celebrates who they are, with no apologies. Those folks are usually referred to as odd or unusual...when really they are simply living out their birthright. Committed to being unlike anyone else on the planet. Committed to being unique.
I believe we should let our own special gifts, talents and beliefs shine. Rejoice in the fact that we are all so different. Let’s welcome and embrace what makes each of us unique.
How incredible that we are able to share the planet with billions of unique individuals. I’m going to spend some time finding ways to appreciate what’s unique in me and in others.
How are you unique?
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"If I could save time in a bottle, the first thing that I'd like to do
Is to save every day till eternity passes away, just to spend them with you...
But, there never seems to be enough time, to do the things you want to do, once you find them..."
I’ve heard the song a thousand times. I know every word by heart. Yet, I’ve only just begun to really feel the message in Jim Croce’s Time in a Bottle.
Lately, there are days that I’d like to bottle and save because the clock seems to be moving way too fast. I’ve reached a place in my life where I can look back and clearly see how much time has already passed.
In hindsight, I see that much of that time was foolishly spent and carelessly wasted.
I find the concept of time to be incredibly interesting. Much like outer space, time seems elusive and impossible to truly explain.
Modern life is busy.
That busyness often makes it feel like there is simply not enough time. Our full schedules make us believe the common phrases like; the days are too short, there aren’t enough hours in the day, time is running out, time is slipping away, this month is flying by, I’m crunched for time...
I’m sure you can think of a few more.
Yet time doesn’t change. Ever.
A minute is always 60 seconds.
An hour is always 60 minutes
A day is always 24 hours...and so on.
Time stays the same. The seconds pass regularly and with precision.
Human beings are masters at spending time poorly and then trying to blame the clock.
We have little regard for the very important fact that we are not able to get back even one second of time after it has passed.
When I really consider that truth, it stops me cold.
Every single second that ticks past cannot be relived or retrieved.
What a powerful thought. This alone should have us all striving to improve the quality of our time.
Being 50 has shed some new light on my sense of time. I have a new appreciation for this swift moving gift.
I know I've reached at least the middle of my life. That's certainly an attention grabber. And, my three children are in high school. I am so acutely aware that our time together, living as a family of five, is limited.
If I was brave enough, I could actually tally up number of hours left before our nest is empty.
I’m not that brave.
Instead, I’ll focus on the importance of spending my time as wisely as possible.
Like a punch in the gut, I realize there will never be enough time.
I’m acutely aware that my time with the people I love will run out before I’m ready.
The only thing I can do is try to make every moment count.
That’s my plan.
From this second forward...I will do my very best to stay present.
Be in the moment and cherish the Now.
That’s where life happens and it’s the only time that counts.
Please share your thoughts on the mystery of time?
Thank you for reading.
Sensuality is the enjoyment, expression or pursuit of physical (especially sexual) pleasure. When I think of the word sensuality, I imagine things that are pleasing to the senses...satin sheets, beautiful fragrances, warm, soft knits, flickering candles, sumptuous meals, exquisite lingerie, intimate moments.
Unfortunately, I have a very hard time relating the word sensuality to myself. I’m not exactly sure why, but there is a definite disconnect between how I think of myself and sensual.
Wow. This month just keeps pulling out all the stuff! I didn’t realize how much there is in my life that I'd like to refine:-)
I’ve never felt particularly sensual. In addition, while I’m comfortable with my own sexuality, I rarely feel sexy. For a long time I didn’t really pay much attention to these missing elements in my life. I didn’t view sensuality and sexiness as something I could attain. Therefore, I dismissed them.
Looking back, I definitely felt sexiest and most sensual while I was pregnant. I’m not sure if that’s due to the fact that my body, usually straight and angular, was full and curvy or if it was the incredible empowerment that comes with creating life, but I felt vital and in touch with my sensuality like never before.
When my children were small, I struggled with where Mommy stopped and where Kristen began. It was difficult to turn off the parenting and tap into my sensual side...especially when it didn’t seem obvious to me that I had one.
At different times in my past, I've tried to identify my issues surrounding feeling sexy and owning my own sensuality.
The problem always comes down to a lot of mind noise. Internal feedback about body type, breast size, fitness level, beauty, age...this list is long.
And a bit ridiculous.
I’ve personally known women of all sizes and ages who exude a very definite sensuality. Their appeal is felt by all who come in contact with them. They give off a definite sensual vibe. It’s natural and compelling.
I want that for myself.
Internally and externally. I realize that I need to move away from the voice in my head (in so many ways).
I refuse to believe that it’s too late for me to feel sensual.
It’s time for a sensuality shift.
I’m hoping it’s possible to cultivate a sense of self-love that boosts sensuality as a side effect.
I have several women in my life who possess the quality I’m seeking. I’m hoping they’ll be willing to share the essence of their sensuality and sexiness with me...and that their stories will inspire me to make some internal adjustments.
Externally, I’m positive there are measures I could take that would make my surroundings more sensual.
Here’s where I’m starting...
I’ve begun to actually light the scented candles I’ve been hoarding for years. I work at Anthropologie for goodness sake...I always have access to incredible candles.
I plan to buy some rich body lotion, decant it into a beautiful dispenser...and then use it.
Our home needs a little sensuality upgrade. Again, Anthropologie has a huge selection of linens, blankets, pillows and towels that look and feel incredible. I need to explore my options and invest in a few items that will up the sensuality factor in our home.
I’m currently working on improving the sounds that surround me. My music library has needed an infusion of great music for too long. The time has come to tune into songs that improve the quality of my life.
Undergarments...this drawer needs some attention. For too long, I've ignored the importance of building a beautiful wardrobe from the foundation out.
Thankfully, there are some areas of my life that already feel sensual...
I’m pretty good with mood lighting (candlelight for dinner, every night) and delicious, beautifully prepared meals (Thank you, Matthew).
I could really use your help. If you have tips on feeling more sensual or sexy...please don’t hesitate to share.
Shy about commenting below?
Email me privately at email@example.com
I welcome your suggestions and insight.
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Another day, another R word. Resistance. This one definitely deserves its own post. I’m learning so much as I move through this month. There is no need for me to search for each day’s word. They are appearing with no effort. It’s as if they’ve been waiting to be explored. My soul is feeling heard and I love hearing your thoughts when a word resonates deeply with you. It’s a day-maker to read your comments. Thank you.
A little side note: In my recent NOW post, I mentioned my plan to read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. After reading that post, a dear friend urged me to purchase a copy instead of checking it out of the library. Trusting her and her passion for the book, I have done just that. Sitting next to me on my desk is my very own copy of The Power of Now. I’ve been reading it for a few days and wish for an entire afternoon to devour it! While I haven’t finished it yet, I can already tell that I’ll keep this one close forever.
Okay, now back to resistance...
A few years ago, I began using the Headspace app. This amazing meditation app combines founder, Andy Puddicombe’s soothing voice (think Jude Law) and straight-up simple guidance on the valuable practice of meditation.
Early in my Headspace journey, Andy Puddicombe mentioned something about our suffering being caused by us not wanting things to be as they are.
I had to stop and really consider his words at the time.
Surely, he must be mistaken.
Maybe I didn’t hear him correctly. There was no way that my suffering was merely the result of me wanting things to be different.
Or was he dead on? 100% right?
It seemed too simple. I struggled with this reasoning...certain that something else was causing the misery I felt in many areas of my life.
A while later, I read the following quote...
It may look as if the situation is creating suffering, but ultimately this is not so – your resistance is.
There was that message again. Hmm.
Sometimes it takes a few thumps on the head before I actually wake up to a new idea.
I became intrigued by the concept of my resistance being linked to my happiness. Intrigued and a little skeptical. I pondered it with a ‘yes, but that doesn’t apply to the huge, ugly, unfair situation that I’m currently dealing with’ attitude.
The truth of the resistance concept continued to show up to me in brief moments of awareness. Slowly, I began to realize that yes, in fact, it did seem that by wanting a situation to be different, I created the suffering in my life.
I explored some of the common things that make me unhappy or stressed...
Physical pain or illness
I kept trying to find an area or situation where the resistance logic didn’t hold up.
At every turn, when I examined an issue I was having, it became clear that I wanted the situation to be different than it was. And therefore, I was unhappy.
This has been one of the greatest light bulb moments of my entire life...
I AM completely in control of my happiness.
I now realize that my mood, well-being and peace of mind are negatively impacted by my resistance to the circumstances I experience every day.
Awareness is the first step. Once I realize that I’m unhappy, I can look to see what I’m resisting. It’s become a game I play with myself...I feel the grip of my mind being unhappy or stressed and then I look for what I’m resisting.
I ask myself, “What am I wishing would be different?”
In some cases, I can then set out to make things different. In other instances, I have no way of changing a situation...so I’m learning to choose acceptance.
The act of acceptance is powerful.
It diffuses the anger or unhappiness and results in a sense of peace.
It is what it is.
That phrase always bugged me. It seems flip and dismissive. However, I’ve come to see that it speaks volumes. Very accurate volumes.
It is what it is works to remove the emotion and resistance from a situation. There is acceptance is the phrase...we are merely acknowledging the way things are...in the present moment.
This too shall pass.
I've never been a big fan of this quote either. (Obviously, I've harbored serious resistance issues:-) Lately my eyes are wide open to the truth in the message. After I’ve accepted a situation (especially one I cannot change or control), I can use these words to remind myself that this is only temporary. Everything changes...including any yucky, terrible, awful situation I may be feeling stuck in.
A giant shift occurs by simply by being aware of my state of mind and acknowledging my resistance to whatever I’m resisting.
Resistance creates suffering. Stress happens when your mind resists what is… The only problem in your life is your mind’s resistance to life as it unfolds. ~ Dan Millman, author of The Way of the Peaceful Warrior
If you haven’t already experienced this aha moment for yourself, I urge you to read The Power of Now. Or watch The Peaceful Warrior.
Or at the very least...try to open yourself up to the possibility that your are causing your own unhappiness through your resistance to the way things are.
Once you deeply consider this truth...I think you'll have a hard time ignoring your own resistance.
What are you currently resisting?
Thank you so much for following along this month. I hope the words I'm sharing are giving you some food for thought as you move through your current decade.
Simply 50- refining life for the next decade
There were too many R words I wanted to explore. I couldn’t choose just one. So, I’ve decided to share my thoughts on a few R words. This post is a bit of a mélange.
The Google definition..."to improve (something) by making small changes, in particular make (an idea, theory, or method) more subtle and accurate."
This is what it’s all about for me this October. My topic for this writing challenge is Simply 50- refining life for the next decade. All month I’ve been exploring areas where I’d like to refine my life. After the first week, my eyes began to open to the many things I’d like to modify and improve. As the list kept growing longer, I began to panic. I felt the clock ticking and was worried I could never actually refine so much.
Then a sweet friend reminded me that I have an entire decade ahead for this project. This is a life change...urgent, but not to be rushed.
What do you want to refine for the next decade?
Rest means to cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength. Sounds important and also dreamy. Right? So why does our society have such an aversion to the concept of rest? After resting, we return stronger and more prepared for whatever tasks lie ahead.
We are all so busy doing that we seldom take the time to rest. Yet, resting is crucial and our bodies know it.
Before I had children, I felt a little guilty when I took a nap. It seemed decadent and self-indulgent. Once I had three small children...I realized that if I didn’t rest, I was useless.
Now, I’m thrilled when I have the opportunity to nap for an hour or more...but since that rarely happens, I’m happy with a power nap. That wasn’t always possible for me, but I’ve practiced long enough that I’m now able to fall asleep quickly and wake up 12-20 minutes later...feeling great!
Our bodies need rest and so do our minds. There are signals, but I often wait too long to listen. Usually a headache or stiff neck will arrive to let me know that it’s time to rest. The silly part is that I always feel better after I finally take a break...so why don’t I remember to rest?
I’ve decided that I need to schedule some non-napping rests periods into my day. Sometimes it’s important to simply stop and just be still. It's good to temporarily let go of all that needs to be done and take a break. (Matthew, I know you are smiling, as you've been telling me this for decades:-)
I find the Pomodoro method helpful for reminding me to take a break or a short rest during the day.
Do you welcome rest periods?
This one is short and simple. It’s time to let go of being right. I try not to hold too tightly to what I think I know, but sometimes I do dig in and cling to my ‘rightness’.
That doesn’t help anyone. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Unless I’m helping someone with their homework and right really matters...I’m going to move forward without concern for being right.
Do you usually have to be right?
I have lots of thoughts on this word (I’ll save most of them for another post). I believe in romance. I’ve been married for 20 years. Happily. I’ve read lots of books about keeping the romance alive.
None more helpful than this one...
40 Beads- The Simple Sexy Secret for Transforming Your Marriage by Carolyn Evans. I’m just dropping this in here as food for thought. This little book truly jumped off of the library shelf one day when I was looking for new ways to stay connected in my marriage. Game changer. Not for everyone. Wanted to share.
If you know the book, I’d love to know your thoughts?
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If you followed along last year on my Write 31 Days journey, today’s word will look familiar. I considered other Q words for this post. I explored quiet, quirks, quit and in the end, I came right back to quality. So, I’m thinking I must have some refining to do in this area:-)
Companies spend millions on Quality Assurance and Quality Control. We refer to ‘quality of life’ and the benefits of ‘quality over quantity’.
Still...so many of us dismiss the importance of creating a high quality existence.
Do we intentionally choose the opposite?
A low quality existence?
That seems crazy, but we do it.
Somewhere along the way, we decide that we aren’t worth it.
We aren’t worth the good stuff.
Wow. That’s sad.
And it’s a hard habit to break.
I did this for years. In many different areas of my life.
While I have always appreciated nice things, I haven’t always felt deserving of them. Well-made items have long caught my eye. I’m fascinated by fine quality.
I’ve spent many years working in retail, surrounded by some of the most beautiful clothing imaginable. There’s no finer quality than that of a Chanel blazer or an Oscar de la Renta ballgown. Such pieces are works of art. Their elevated quality is unmistakable.
I must admit that I’ve often let my frugal (translate ‘lacking’) mentality dictate the quality of my things.
Somewhere along the line, I ignored L’Oréal’s refrain and the message in my mind became ‘I’m not worth it’.
I regularly settled for the less expensive version of something when the one I really wanted wasn’t actually beyond my financial reach.
I was unwilling to buy the full-priced item I loved if an almost-the-same (but not really), lower priced option existed. Ridiculous, right?
For too long, I accepted very low quality relationships, for the same reason. I didn’t feel worthy of anything better.
When did I decide I wasn’t worth fine quality?
I’m not exactly sure and honestly, it doesn’t matter anymore. My tune has changed and I know this...
I am worth it.
There are so many ways to increase the quality of our lives.
Relationships - Spend time with good people. People who lift you up and make you feel amazing! Recently, a dear soul and I were discussing our intolerance for clothing that itches. She added that she’s no longer interested in having ‘itchy friends’. Brilliant. If a relationship is itchy, let it go.
Homes - Bringing quality into our homes doesn’t have to be expensive. I’d love for my home to resemble a spread in Dwell magazine. And maybe someday it will. But for now, I’ve learned that one high-quality piece in a room can be enough to elevate the entire space. Long live our Eames Eiffel Rocker:-) And even more simply, I find that using good quality sponges and dish towels improves my quality of life in the kitchen.
Wardrobes - Oh, this one’s taken me a long time. I’m finally there. Quality matters in my closet. That doesn’t mean I never buy anything that’s inexpensive, because I do. I’m wearing a $7 Old Navy t-shirt as I type. But...I am very discerning with regards to quality at every price point. There are pieces at Forever 21 that are well-made and pieces that are complete junk. Seek out the good stuff.
Careers - We do our best work when that work is something we truly enjoy.
A quality career doesn't have to be the one with the highest salary. Pay attention to how your work contributes to the quality of your life.
Time - This is really the Holy Grail of quality. We should be striving for most of our time to be 'quality time'. Tweaking and changing things where necessary until our days are filled with real quality time. That sounds divine. I'm in.
Mediocre no more.
I'm using this decade to create my very best life. A high quality life.
Does quality matter to you?
Do you feel worthy of good quality things?
I so enjoy reading your comments. Thank you for sharing what these words mean to you.
Don't miss a single day! Simply 50- refining life for the next decade.
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One year when our family hosted Thanksgiving, a guest brought me a gift. It’s a small, shallow bowl with fall leaves painted on it. Written inside the bowl is the word Plenty. I don’t collect much holiday decor, but this little bowl is a keeper. It’s stored safely in a box until autumn arrives and then it returns to a place of honor in our home. I usually fill it with candy corn and smile every time I see it.
The irony of a bowl with the word ‘Plenty’ written where it can only be seen when the bowl is empty, is not lost on me.
The message is powerful.
I often struggle with maintaining a mindset of abundance. Though I always have enough, I repeatedly encounter feelings of lack. I am aware that this is the result of many factors...societal, personal and financial.
Logically and intellectually, I know that I really want for nothing, yet the thoughts remain. The feeling of abundance usually returns after I've pep talked myself out of the 'lacking' mentality. A little dose of gratitude turns me around pretty quickly. In addition, I've seen the Law of Attraction work its magic in this area of my life.
When I operate from a place of abundance...I receive more.
When I operate from a place of lack...I create more lacking.
Seems fairly simple which thoughts I should be cultivating:-)
Plenty is a beautiful word. When I see it, I am calmed. It means there’s enough.
Not too much or too little, but just the right amount.
This week, I’m going to retrieve my little bowl from it’s storage spot. I will place it where I can see it many times a day. With each passing, I will remind myself of it’s simple message and I will give thanks.
I have plenty.
Plenty of time
Plenty of good health
Plenty of love
Plenty of money
Plenty of everything I could possibly need. There is enough.
Thank you for reading.
This word was an easy choice because it allows me to share one of my all-time favorite books. The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison. I’ve posted about my love of this book before and am happy for the chance to revisit it again.
I found this book to be incredible. I first read it about 4 years ago and have re-read it at least six or seven times. In this season of my life, this book a treasure.
We seem to learn early on that ordinary is less than ideal. We should strive for extraordinary!
Ordinary often translates as mundane or plain or repetitive, especially with regards to motherhood. When our children are small, the days seem identical, boring and exhausting. We long for something extraordinary to shake things up.
Yet, now...when my house is full of teenagers, I realize that the ordinary is actually wonderful.
The ordinary days are indeed a gift.
It’s as if my kids’ childhoods are freight trains gaining speed. They are each zooming towards the final destination...adulthood. I honestly want to tip a large tree onto the track and bring things to a screeching halt.
Except, I don't really. I want them to keep growing and changing and maturing and reaching. I know that they are moving at just the right speed and I need to simply hang on.
Embracing the ordinary, every day.
As I look back on my early years of motherhood, I can see now that it’s not the fancy days that I miss. I don’t really miss the vacations or special occasions. No, if I could relive just one week...it would be a week of ordinary days.
Days spent in the thick of it with my three small children needing me every waking minute.
Days where I perform the same tasks over and over and over again.
I miss the regular stuff. I often see young moms in restrooms with their littles. Patiently or impatiently waiting, listening to their toddler's tales, instructing about not touching the germy surfaces and then aiding in the important work of hand-washing. It’s those moments I miss.
I’d honestly love one more chance to help my children stretch on tiptoes to reach the running water and make sure to rinse off all of the suds. Funny, I never thought I’d miss that simple act of love.
The ordinary days are where life is really lived.
I vow to not take these present, ordinary days for granted.
I know, all too soon, I will miss them.
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This tiny word is so powerful. It conjures up a single instant and reminds us that the present moment is all that's truly available to us. As a kid, I related to the word now differently than I do today. Then it mostly had to do with the timing of a task or chore that I was to complete. Dinner’s ready, now! Or Clean up your room, now!
Or I experienced now in relation to wanting something. Usually I wanted it immediately or ‘now’.
Today, I recognize ‘now’ as the precious, fleeting moment it truly is.
Now is now.
This phrase could be considered a trite creation of our current social media culture. A battle cry to finally get present! Countless moments are captured and posted #nowisnow.
But the truth is that by living choosing to live in the present moment, we are transformed. Our stress level often drops when we stay focused on what's happening now. Right here at this very second.
It's a profoundly simple concept.
Stay present and you'll always be operating in the now.
I’m guilty of spending too much time in my mind reflecting on the past or entertaining the future. When actually the only moment I can exist in is NOW. By remaining in the present, I'm only dealing with what's happening immediately. I'm not reliving the past or worrying about the future. This approach makes life easier.
My goal is to live more of my life in the present moment or the now. Letting go of the past and not rushing the future.
When Eckart Tolle’s book The Power of Now first came out, I tried to read it. It didn't grab me. I wasn’t ready. I might be now:-) I’m going to put in a request at the library and try it again.
How do you stay in the now?
Simply 50 -
refining life for the next decade- continues until 10/31.
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P.S. Thank you for excusing my typos and shorter posts. It was Homecoming weekend and I have three high school kids this year. The past few days have been packed full! Wonderful fun, but not much time for writing. I’m trying to stay in the now:-)
I’m a morning person. Always have been. I love opening my eyes to the fresh anticipation of a brand new day. When my children were small, my morning routine centered around their needs. Now that my kids are older, it’s easier to create and maintain a personal morning routine.
I was a bit slow to learn the beauty of sticking with a morning routine. I’d grown very accustomed to the crazy pace of mornings in a house full of littles.
I now realize that how I handle my mornings truly sets the tone for my entire day.
Wish I'd known that when I was raising toddlers:-)
There are two simple things that I’ve begun to incorporate into the first hour of every day.
These practices are helping me to remain more calm and focused regardless of what’s going on in my life.
One is mindfulness meditation and the other is morning pages.
I’ve been meditating sporadically for about five years. There are phases where I’m very committed to this practice. I’m up before dawn and on my cushion, mindful of my breath. Then there are other times when I get completely derailed and meditation falls through the cracks of my hectic life. I’m working to make meditation a non-negotiable. I always feel better when my days include even a few minutes of silence with myself.
Time spent being mindful brings me such clarity that it's puzzling why I would ever allow this practice to slip from my schedule.
I’m getting better about not beating myself up when I lose sight of my cushion and instead, I gently remind myself to return to it as soon as possible.
About a year ago, I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It's an interesting read and Ms. Cameron gives very detailed instructions on how to begin your own morning pages practice. Her idea of daily journaling involves writing three solid pages, first thing, every single day.
Since the book is about cultivating creativity, I believed this practice was only for ‘writers’. I didn’t understand what positive effects writing three pages a day could possibly have on me, a self-proclaimed non-writer.
Then about three months ago, I read a post by Tim Ferriss, author of The Four Hour Workweek. In the post, he shares his passion for morning pages.
I was suddenly very intrigued by the practice of morning pages.
So, when I purchased my kids’ school supplies, I added a fifty cent composition book to the pile. I decided it was time to try writing morning pages.
I really enjoy the act of writing with a fast pen on a clean page. The flow feels good, especially after so many years of typing on a keyboard.
But, for the first two weeks, my hand cramped terribly before I’d even filled the first page. I really didn’t see the benefit of this mysterious practice. I wasn’t writing anything important. The idea is more of a stream of consciousness, brain dump.
About three weeks into my morning pages routine, something interesting happened.
I couldn’t wait to get to my composition book. I sat down to write without even thinking of checking my phone first.
The act of clearing my head before I start my day is incredibly calming.
Full disclosure...the idea of morning pages is to write three full pages every day upon waking. My version includes coffee and not quite three pages...yet. I’m working towards filling three pages daily. That’s a lot of writing!
The belief is that three pages is long enough to allow you to empty your mind and then go deeper into some really important work. Problem solving, creative thinking, tapping into a higher level of yourself.
Once you’ve dumped all of the surface thoughts in the first page or so, that third page is where the magic happens!
I’m happy to finally have some time for myself in the mornings. My hope is that the combination of meditation and morning pages will bring calm, clarity and creativity to my days.
How do you start your days?
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I feel a chill when I ponder my legacy. I don’t want to think that the end of my life is close, but the reality is that each day is a gift. When I was younger, I never really gave the idea of leaving a legacy much thought. At this stage of my life, I’m beginning to really consider how I want to live.
How do I want people to remember me when I’m gone?
I realize that so much of what seemed important during our first 50 years often pales in comparison to what really matters to us after we turn 50.
This being half a century old is a reality check!
It's time for an interim review. A performance evaluation.
What needs to change in order for me to feel great about my life when I arrive at the end?
What do I want to leave behind?
For me, and I imagine for most people, it comes down to one very simple concept…
How do I spread the most love?
How do I let go of any selfish tendencies that get in the way of giving love to others?
Regardless of what else I accomplish in my lifetime (and there's plenty on that list), the legacy I’d most like to leave behind is one of love.
Love for others
Love for life
Love for myself
Sounds simple and difficult at the same time, but I’m ready to try. It's only been a few days since I wrote about Judgement and Kindness, yet I feel a shift in the way I view and treat others.
It’s actually a little remarkable. Just being aware and acknowledging the times when I fall short, is enough to begin shifting.
Being human is so cool.
As a side note, I’ve also been thinking about the physical legacy that I’ll leave behind.
I recently saw this post on an Instagram account that I follow…
"One day, all your children will have are pictures of you. Make sure you’re in them. No matter what your hair looks like, your makeup or your body. They won’t care about any of that, they’ll just want to see you."
Okay, really? I can’t see through the tears as I type this.
I’m always the one taking the photos of my family. Currently, there are not very many recent photographs with me in them. I don’t mind being the subject of a photo, but I guess I’m happier capturing the image.
I see now that I need to turn the lens on myself...starting today.
I’m hopeful that this will be an easy way to add to the legacy of love I want to leave to my children.
What do you want your legacy to be?
Do you have current photos of yourself?
Come on...share your thoughts on leaving a legacy. Remember, we all learn from each other.
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When I see the word laughter, I immediately think of children and the innocence of their giggles. I’m smiling as I write because I can hear that sweet sound in my head. At the same time, the thought of laughter makes me a bit sad because I know I’ve shut down the laughter of my own children many times. Like most adults, when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I become desperate for quiet. Think turning down the radio in traffic:-) I make the snap decision that the fun needs to stop so I can regain control.
I feel terrible even thinking about it now.
Why would I ever want to shush the joyful sound of my children’s laughter?
Instead, maybe I should have joined in...
I didn’t grow up in a house full of laughter. I don’t recall many memories from my childhood as being really funny. Please understand, I had a lovely childhood. I have wonderful parents and an awesome sister. We love each other deeply and have lots of fun together.
But I don’t remember laughing with them very often when I was a kid. Maybe my recollection of those times has dimmed after so many years...I guess I could have forgotten the funny things.
I have trouble seeking laughter. It's kind of an afterthought.
When I’m looking to be entertained, I don’t usually choose funny movies. I find most of the mainstream choices to be a bit offensive.
I rarely read books that are laugh-out-loud funny.
I don’t tell jokes or read comics.
Geez, what’s wrong with me?
Recently, I’ve realized this…
My life is seriously lacking laughter!
There is medicine in a deep belly laugh, for sure. I always feel better after a bout of side-splitting laughter.
Seems I need to seek out more opportunities to laugh.
When my youngest was about 9 years old, he loved Pearls Before Swine comics by Stephan Pastis. Part of his bedtime routine was to read before I tucked him in for the night.
When I’d arrive at his door, Henry would announce that he had a few comics to share with me. I usually tried to hide my impatience as he searched for the page and began reading. I was spent and it was time for him to be sleeping.
However, a remarkable thing always happened by the time he reached the third and final comic for the night...
I was laughing.
Not the laugh that says, “Please let this kid go to sleep now”...but a true and meaningful, heartfelt laugh. One that I was lucky enough to share with this incredible little boy.
Most nights, we’d repeat this simple ritual. Foolishly, I usually came into it with a sense of resignation.
Yet, I was always moved by how that two minute break felt in my soul. I left Henry’s room with a smile and renewed energy.
As Henry grew older, the tradition faded.
Recently, as I was considering the word for L, I realized that I really miss laughing. And that those nightly comic excerpts had been really wonderful.
I wrote myself a note to find a few Pearls Before Swine books and begin reading them to myself.
That very evening, I went into Henry’s room to say "Good night" and he was actually reading Pearls Before Swine! I plopped myself down on his bed and asked him to read some to me. We laughed for a few minutes as we both recalled the past and enjoyed a few silly comics together.
It was the best part of my day.
Life is stressful.
Laughter is necessary.
It's time to bring back the laughter! I'm going to actively look for things to laugh about. I'm sure my family will be thrilled to help me out with refining this part of my life:-)
What are your favorite funny movies, TV shows, books, comics?
How do you bring laughter into your life?
Do you laugh with your friends?
Have you forgotten how to laugh?
Don't miss a single day! Here's how...
Thank you for reading.
P.S. After examining the laughter in my life, I realize that I do laugh with my friends and with my clients and sometimes with my children. I'm going to work on lightening my mood and laughing more often:-) :-) especially with my husband.
Kindness seems like a fitting follow-up to yesterday’s word, judgement. Once we remove judgement, there is much more room for kindness. It might seem simplistic, but wouldn’t the world be a much better place if we simply replaced judgement with kindness?
I’ve always considered myself to be a ‘nice’ person. I’m usually helpful and thoughtful. I find joy in doing things for others and giving of myself.
Yet, I know that sometimes I’m selfish with my kindness. I offer some, but not quite as much as I could...as if my kindness supply could run out? I forget that a kind act has a ripple and boomerang effect...creating more kindness for others and for me.
How do we cultivate a habit of choosing kindness?
I recall my very first experience with the loving-kindness meditation technique. I remember having the basic idea explained to me before beginning...
Silently bestow thoughts of love and kindness on myself and others.
It was incredibly powerful. I came away from that meditation feeling lighter and more connected to all of humanity.
I’ve reached an age where that connection is vital for my happiness. I’m profoundly aware that I am a tiny part of a much greater whole.
If you’d like to try a loving kindness meditation, here are three versions.
The first two are videos and the third is written.
Metta Loving Kindness Guided Meditation by Kirsten Johnson
Loving Kindness Meditation by WiseMindBody
Meditation on Lovingkindness by Jack Kornfield
How well do you receive kindness?
How do you practice kindness in your daily life?
Is it easier to be kind to yourself or others?
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If there is one human habit that seems hardest to break, I believe it's judging others. This insidious and seemingly innocent practice is destructive and damaging. On some level, judging others either makes us feel better about ourselves or worse...and often the practice becomes a bit addictive...creating a cycle of automatically judging others without really giving them a chance to ever disprove our internal assessment.
An important aspect of the human psyche is our ability to judge our surroundings and size up who poses a threat. From a survival standpoint, that’s understandable.
However, we’ve somehow decided that it’s acceptable to cast judgement on everyone and everything that crosses our path or our mind?
How did we all become so mighty?
The problem seems to be gaining speed in our current world. A daily dose of social media provides us with a constant stream of pretty pictures, giving us a glimpse of someone else’s life.
Instead of simply appreciating a beautiful image, we judge.
Either we judge ourselves for being what we consider inferior or we judge the ‘online persona’ for being perfect...or imperfect. What a wacky practice!
I truly believe we can do better.
We owe it to ourselves and those around us.
It’s taken too long, but I’ve finally arrived at a place where I am actively choosing non-judgement.
I find this to be easier when it pertains to judging others. I’m more compassionate when I consider the hardships of others. With regards to myself and my own stuff, I’m still quick to judge. Usually rather harshly.
What’s with that?
Why are we so hard on ourselves?
Why do we internally bash ourselves and proclaim the worst?
Years ago, I learned an interesting technique for practicing kindness towards oneself. Simple and effective, the idea is to picture yourself as a child...and consider whether you would treat her the way you’re currently treating yourself.
I’m profoundly impacted by the immediate change in perspective I feel when I think of my childhood self and how she would feel under the weight of my imposed judgments.
I’ve decided it’s time to cut myself some slack. I need to be just as gentle with myself as I’m learning to be with others. I plan to continue cultivating a mind that chooses acceptance first.
The reality is this… everyone has a story.
We have no idea what’s going on with someone else and to judge them based the story we create, is completely unfair.
I’m challenging myself to experience a Judgement Free Day!
I’ll attempt to wipe out all thoughts of judgement before they even arise. As I stated, I think this will be easier when directed at others than myself.
Here’s what I tend to judge within my own life…
my body- strength, firmness, size
my home- cleanliness, size, furnishings
my abilities- accomplishments, unfinished tasks, creativity, work ethic
my finances- bank account, bills, expenses
Oh, the list could go on forever!
There is no benefit to this ridiculous habit. It’s time to rewrite the running commentary in my head.
If my mind is going to be busy thinking thoughts...I want them to be positive, non-judging thoughts.
I want to do my part to make the world a slightly more welcoming place for those I encounter along the way.
Are you judgmental?
What do you judge?
Are you worse with yourself or others?
Thank you for digging into these topics with me. There’s so much to keep exploring and learning and uncovering. I'm feeling excited about this decade:-) Thanks for being here.
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I think I’ve always had a tendency to downplay the importance of being inspired. I never gave much thought to how (or if) I benefited from inspiration in my daily life. Yet, when I've felt the force of true inspiration, I've been blown away by the energy and clarity I feel afterwards.
I guess that's called 'being inspired'.
I never considered that in order to continue to create and produce and thrive...there has to be some type of inspiration. I know, it’s absurd that I missed this obvious point. It just wasn't something I gave much thought to in the past.
I've lived for way too long without taking the time to seek out inspiration.
I guess the idea of stopping whatever I was doing to look for something to inspire me seemed silly and frivolous. I didn’t understand that in order to keep growing and changing, I needed to stay inspired.
Inspiration provides me with a boost towards becoming a better person, mother, wife, friend, daughter, sister, business owner, employee, blogger...the list goes on. There are so many areas of my life where even a little inspiration can motivate me to continue evolving and becoming a more refined version of myself.
Inspiration is crucial for continued forward movement!
So, what now? Well, I am gradually making time in my life to open myself up to being inspired.
I’m committed to slowing down and doing activities that provide a spark.
Reading - I've been known to only read when I'm on vacation. I've recently begun reading just because it's fun. I'm making time for books and magazines and it's so refreshing!
Watching Ted Talks and podcasts - Honestly, watching anything on my computer used to feel frivolous and like a waste of valuable time. I didn't realize the huge value in tuning in and listening to someone else's story.
Spending time with people I love and admire - Again, I looked at time spent with friends as a luxury...and one I didn't often afford myself.
Learning new skills - By creating my own online course, I realized that we're never too old to learn something new.
Opt outside - Living in a place I love in an incredible bonus. I didn't understand how important this was to me until I moved to Colorado.
Yoga - I've taken a hiatus from my practice. I'm ready to get back on my mat. The connection between mind and body is like an electric surge of inspiration.
Music - I almost forgot this one! I've actually forgotten about music for many years. It's become an afterthought. I guess this started when my children were little. Two things happened...we mostly listened to kid songs and when the house was finally quiet, I didn't want to break the silence. I've missed music! I'm ready to crank up some tunes.
Where do you find inspiration?
What changes after you've been inspired?
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If I have learned one thing in my five decades of life, it’s this simple, fundamental truth...happiness is a choice. Every. Single. Day. We can allow negative circumstances to dampen our general well-being...or we can choose to be joyful regardless of what’s going on in our lives. The option to operate from a place of happiness always exists.
I guess I’ve always had an inkling of this basic truth, but I fought it.
Often, I fought it hard.
Sometimes it’s easier, and oddly more satisfying, to get stuck in a crappy head-space and stay there. It seems to be a common human tendency to wallow in our bad moods. I’m not sure why this feels like a good idea...maybe because it doesn't require us to make any effort in working towards a solution.
And, misery certainly loves company. So if we’re in a bad spot chances are someone we know is also suffering and we take comfort in the shared experience of complaining and commiserating...keeping the wind in the sails of our wallowing.
There are not many things that I know to be 100% true...but I am completely certain that happiness is indeed a choice.
How else can we explain the pure joy present in the souls of some who suffer so greatly?
Nelson Mandela endured 27 years of imprisonment and yet he is known to have been one of the most profoundly happy men in history? He clearly made a very conscious choice to find joy, even in the darkest of circumstances.
A few years ago, I watched a video series by author and motivational speaker, T. Harv Eker. At the time, our family was under an incredible amount of stress. Life seemed rather bleak and the road ahead, very rocky.
As I watched T. Harv Eker share his thoughts on ways to live a better life, it was impossible to miss the large graphic message on the wall behind him…
As I listened to Mr. Eker's words, it was the large printed words behind him that really spoke to me.
(note: the video linked above is not the video that I actually watched, but it's the only one I can find today that shows the phrase)
The message was incredibly simple and direct. I found those three words to be a strong and compelling battle cry.
The choice was clearly mine.
Why was it so hard to switch off the wallowing and despair and tap into the practice of finding joy in the present moment? The simplicity of it intrigued me then and still does today. This clear, concise phrase has stuck with me since I first saw it on Mr. Eker’s wall.
Back then, I wasn’t ready to really embrace the words and the actions they seemed to require...forgiveness, acceptance, hope. As a result, I’ve wasted a few additional years by continuing to choose irritation, misery and frustration at times when I could have been choosing happiness.
I’m not sure what's changed exactly (fifty is a magical, transformative age:-)...but I’ve decided to actually live these words.
I love the message behind each simple word.
Like any skill we want to fully develop, happiness requires practice. By choosing to practice being happy on a regular basis, I believe we create a new default setting.
A positive, joyful outlook becomes the norm.
Oh, the delightful feeling of being happy. Who doesn't want more of this? If happiness seems like too tall an order, strive for contentment. Work towards being at peace with the present moment. Add in a little happy over time.
This is really the kicker. I think we're all skilled at planning to be happy in the future. We put off feeling joy because of the troubles we are facing today. We will be happy when something changes. That mindset follows us into tomorrow and the happiness we expect never occurs.
With enough practice, in the present moment, our fall-back mode can become a state of happy instead of a state of unhappy. But it is a practice. One we can do literally anytime and anywhere. No fee or special equipment required. So what are we waiting for?
Happiness is a choice.
It’s my choice.
It’s your choice.
How do you practice happiness?
Do you need reminding?
Is it easier to be happy or sad?
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There is incredible power in being grateful. Cultivating a practice of gratitude is easy when things are going well. Being grateful becomes more difficult when we’re faced with adversity. Yet, it’s during the times when we’re really struggling that an attitude of gratitude can make all the difference.
I’ve always been aware of my blessings. I’ve tried for years to be mindful of all that I have to be thankful for in my life. In the big picture, I have nothing to complain about and should be overcome with gratitude 24/7.
But, sometimes I lose sight of the blessings and prefer to wallow in the mental junk. When the universe seems to be dumping in my direction…’poor me’ seems like a fitting mode.
However, when I alter my thinking and remember all that I have to be thankful for...things shift. I’m reminded that gratitude feels good. It is energizing.
Being grateful usually brings about more to be grateful for. Don’t you just love the Law of Attraction?
So simple. So amazing!
Here are some of my favorite, simple ways to practice gratitude…
1. As one foot hits the floor in the morning, I say to myself ‘Thank’. When the other foot hits the floor and I say, ‘You’. Sometimes I continued this silent mantra all the way to the bathroom. I believe I first heard of this method when listening to the late, great Dr. Wayne Dyer. It stuck with me. This silly action literally starts my day on the right foot.
2. I keep a Gratitude Journal. I’ve gone in and out of this habit over the years. I always feel better when I’m actively jotting down three things each evening for which I’m grateful. I find it comforting to read back over past entries and recall all that is good in my life. Often it’s truly the smallest things...a bit of blue sky after much rain, a delicious dinner made by Matthew, a quick laugh with one of my kids, that show me the magic strength of a moment filled with gratitude. And...making a note of the good stuff seems to attract more good stuff!
3. During the day, if I’m feeling overwhelmed and things seem to be falling apart in some area of my life...I immediately stop and give thanks for something. It can be anything. It’s an instant reality check for me. I’m quickly reminded that I have blessings and the immediate stress I’m feeling becomes a tiny bit more manageable.
4. I check in with the outdoors. There’s something incredible about feeling the magnitude of the universe. It’s powerful to experience planet Earth and to ponder the vast space beyond. I find this much easier now that I live in Colorado. I’m often moved to tears by the majesty and awe of my surroundings. I’m forever grateful for nature’s gifts.
I know there are other ways that I could be cultivating an attitude of gratitude in my life.
I'm going to start with these two ways...
First, choose one day a week and make a conscious effort to eliminate all complaining. I’m embarrassed to say that this will be difficult for me. I’ve made a nasty habit out of complaining about the little stuff… a headache, not sleeping well, a dirty kitchen, a stiff neck. While these things are bothersome, they don’t really require running commentary from me. Sharing how crummy I’m feeling isn’t really helping me or anyone around me. Here’s to cutting out the complaints!
Second, I plan to begin giving abundant thanks to my body and my mind. Aging is not for sissies. It is for the fortunate. I will practice gratitude for the strength of my body and mind as I move through this decade. Reminding myself that I might miss my current mind and body when I hit sixty:-)
How do you practice gratitude?
What are you most grateful for?
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Oh, this Write 31 Days challenge is really opening my eyes to some very personal issues. That was part of the objective when I selected my topic, but it’s interesting to actually feel it as I work through the month, exploring the words I’ve chosen. By choosing Simply 50- refining life for the next decade, I figured I’d give myself a good nudge towards revamping the areas of my life where I’m stuck or currently dissatisfied.
Today’s word is no exception.
I’m beyond terrible at setting goals. I'm hopeless at actually creating a goal and working towards it. I’ve always been extremely vague when it comes to truly deciding what I want and going after it with a cohesive plan.
I’m not sure why, but I just can’t seem to get this habit rolling in my life. I believe it has to do with not wanting to fail, but also being afraid to succeed. Silly, but true.
The remarkable thing is...when I do manage to set a goal....I usually achieve it.
I know that all of the goal-setting experts report that unless you set a concrete goal, the universe has no idea what you want. Makes sense. Yet, I still I rarely goals.
I’d like this to change. I do feel that I’d accomplish more and feel more fulfilled if I had a better relationship with goals.
The fear component has allowed me to stay non-committal. In order to set a goal, I’d actually have to take the time to determine what outcome I really want. That’s often difficult for me. I think I’m afraid to explore and identify what I truly want. Big dreams are scary because they could meet with failure. And the little things don’t seem grand enough to warrant setting a specific goal.
Even as I write, I realize this area of my life needs a major adjustment.
It’s high time I let go of the uneasy feeling I get when I think about setting goals...and just set one! A small one to start and then hopefully I can work up to setting a few larger goals before the end of the year.
I’ve done plenty of research on how to create goals. The method that has always made the most sense to me is the SMART method. This method uses the acronym SMART as a guideline for setting goals.
Below is an outline adapted from the Mind Tools website. More details for using the SMART method can be found easily with a quick Google search.
Huge issue for me. Remember, I like vague:-)
Your goal should be clear and specific, otherwise you won't be able to focus your efforts or feel truly motivated to achieve it.
When drafting your goal, try to answer the five "W" questions:
What do I want to accomplish?
Why is this goal important?
Who is involved?
Where is it located?
Which resources or limits are involved?
I’ve always omitted this step. Afraid I won’t actually measure up with my progress, I don't rely on a method for measuring.
It's important to have measurable goals, so you can track your progress and stay motivated. Assessing progress helps you to stay focused, meet your deadlines, and feel the excitement of getting closer to achieving your goal.
A measurable goal should address questions such as:
How will I know when it is accomplished?
I feel added pressure when I'm trying to achieve a specific outcome.
Your goal also needs to be realistic and attainable to be successful. In other words, it should stretch your abilities but still remain possible. When you set an achievable goal, you remain empowered with each step that brings you closer to your goal.
An achievable goal will usually answer questions such as:
How can I accomplish this goal?
How realistic is the goal for my currently life?
This step isn’t too hard for me. If I do manage to set a goal, it’s definitely relevant to me.
This step is about ensuring that your goal matters to you, and that it also aligns with other relevant goals. We all need support and assistance in achieving our goals, but it's important to retain control over them. So, make sure you're still responsible for achieving your own goal.
A relevant goal can answer "yes" to these questions:
Does this seem worthwhile?
Is this the right time?
Right here is my biggest hang-up. I don’t ever assign a deadline to my goals. I’ve wanted to speak French fluently for decades. I have no set goal and no timeline...therefore, the chances are slim that I’ll ever truly be able to announce “Je parle français couramment”.
Every goal needs a target date, so that you have a deadline to focus on and something to work toward. This part of the SMART goal criteria helps to prevent everyday tasks from taking priority over your longer-term goals.
A time-bound goal will usually answer these questions:
What can I do six months from now?
What can I do six weeks from now?
What can I do today?
Okay, I’m ready to start setting some goals! I’m intrigued at the thought of defining what I want, then crossing things off my list and crushing some lifelong dreams!
How do you set goals?
Are you usually successful?
Any tips for a newbie?
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F is for FRIENDSHIP- I’ve reached a point in my life where I desperately want to reconnect with my friends. Watching my 17 year old daughter with her high school friends makes me miss those days. I long for an uninterrupted sleep-over with lots of time to talk and share. Hours to dig in deep and laugh and cry until sunrise. Raw, unconditional friendship is a sacred thing. A connection to be nurtured and treasured.
There are so many types of friendships. I believe each is valuable and important.
The easy bond with a co-worker
The lifetime connection to your high school BFF
The sisterhood you share with your very first friend
I cherish my friends. I think of them often and with great love.
Three years ago, my family moved 1800 miles from the area I’d called home for most of my life. It was extremely hard to leave my support system behind. Friendships that spanned decades are now sustained mostly through long-distance phone calls, texts and social media.
To my surprise, some of those friendships have actually strengthened and evolved beautifully despite the physical distance. I am forever grateful for that unexpected bonus.
As a young adult, finding time for friends came easily when my friends and I were living the shared fate of raising our babies. There was always the excuse of a ‘play date’ to bring us together.
As my kids grew older, it became more difficult to make time for hanging out with my friends. There was always something getting in the way.
And, as cliche as it sounds...my husband truly is my very best friend...so I usually choose to spend my time with him.
After we moved, I felt the void of having no local friends. It was lonely. Gradually, I met women who seemed like ‘friend material’. Women who I genuinely couldn’t wait to see again. Making new friends and cultivating young friendships is always an interesting process. Especially in your mid-forties. I felt like a young girl...eagerly hoping to hear back from the cool chick.
As a side note: The past few years have been rough for our family. We endured some very difficult times. I know I kept some women at arm’s length because it was easier. I felt safer not having to divulge too much of what was happening in my life. I built a wall to avoid getting too close.
Over time, that wall weakened a bit, but it’s time for it to come down.
I feel that I’ve been neglecting or not pursuing some incredible friendships. In the midst of a busy, stressful life, I pushed friendships aside in an attempt to keep all of the plates spinning.
I now realize that our real friends are more than happy to take a turn with those plates.
I’ve missed hanging out with my friends. I want to schedule some girl time.
So, I’m going to reach out and make plans with the women I’ve missed.
Fingers crossed... they’d like to have lunch!
How do you keep your friendships strong?
Have you made any new friends lately?
What do you miss about teenage friendships?
I’d love to hear your thoughts...please share!
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