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Maybe it’s time to start something new

I know I often write about de-stressing by taking things off your plate, but maybe it’s time to try something new.

Whoa! If your schedule is packed and you do not know how to fit in one more thing — or you don’t even feel like thinking about new things — this may seem like a very unhelpful suggestion.

Hear me out.

I imagine there is something you’re wanting to try. Something new that you’ve been thinking about, but haven’t shared with anyone. Maybe this new thing does not even require extra time in your schedule.

Trying new things is how we spark and light up. It is how we learn and grow.

New things can make us smile and giggle. New things can make us almost brim over with fear, and then experience the glorious release of saying, “Well, screw it!” and jumping in with both feet.

It’s like trying a bite of an unfamiliar new dessert at the bakery. It can be a sugary surprise and it is almost always worth it.

I am trying something new right now. For the last few months, I have been going to the gym and joining 10 other women of various shapes and sizes in weight lifting and interval training. This is way outside my comfort zone. My notion of myself has never been strong or athletic. Instead, I have seen myself as klutzy and goofy. I am more likely to be found bumping into the corner of a table than I am lifting a weight. Now I put on tight blue pants and running shoes and join the circle of women to receive our marching orders in a smelly gym.

You know that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach? That’s how I felt as I parked my car in front of the gym for the first two months.

Then WHY in the world am I going?

Here is the reason: I have always wanted to feel a little less clumsy and a little bit stronger. And because something in me was resisting the idea SO fiercely, I knew something in me really wanted to try.

So in a practical sense, this is my new thing right now: This amazing class that is teaching me how to do a burpee. Every time I go, I dread it a little bit less. And I am getting stronger.

But do you want to know what the new thing in my life really is?

It is THINKING about myself differently. I am now trying on this idea that I am a strong woman. A woman who is totally capable of lifting weights and doing wall sits. This is the biggest shift. I have to give myself a talking to almost every class. It goes something like this: “Annie, you are totally capable of doing this. You are doing this! You are strong and you are getting stronger. Get it!”

So I turn back your direction.

What is the new thing you’ve been wanting to try? Is there something you are already doing that is new and scary and out of your comfort zone?

It could be an addition to your life – a new skill or hobby. Or it could just be a new way of thinking about yourself. I bet there is something, if you look closely.

Acknowledge this new thing you are trying on. Maybe you can begin to see yourself in a new light. You can say, “Hey, I am strong. I am capable. I am learning this new skill. I am becoming this kind of person.”

Look yourself squarely in the face. (Really do this. You could even go to a mirror.) And acknowledge the new thing you are trying on – the new person you are becoming.

And if you even want to tell someone about it, do it! Tell someone you love about this new thing that you are living into.

You can even tell me! Feel free to write me a note or post on my Facebook page.

By |October 26th, 2015|Create, Manifest|Comments Off on Maybe it’s time to start something new|

One simple way to get unstuck

When you have a big problem and you are feeling stuck, I have a tool for getting unstuck — ask for help!

Over the last few weeks I have learned a lot about taking risks and creating something new.
My biggest learning has been that I cannot do it alone.

I am someone who loves to give help. It feels good to be of use and to support someone else. Just look at my work: it’s built on giving advice!

What I don’t like is asking for help.

When I ask for help, I feel vulnerable. I’m giving up control. I can’t dictate exactly what sort of help I’m going to get. I don’t get to choose how that help is going to be delivered.

If asking for help makes you feel uncomfortable, too, here’s where that feeling comes from:

When you ask for help, you are actually saying, “I cannot do this on my own. I need support.” The dominant U.S. culture teaches us that asking for help is weak. We’re taught that we should be able to do everything on our own — that being a successful human is an individual thing.

That teaching is a lie. We are all interconnected.

Any major change in our lives is done in community. Whether we’re raising a baby, launching a project or moving into a new home, we’re changing alongside of other human beings.

We need each other.

If you have a grand plan you want to implement, or you’re feeling overwhelmed by too much work or too much life — you need help. And that’s a good thing!

Asking for help opens up a new way of seeing a problem.
It allows the weight of the work to be shared.
It increases the energy going toward a solution.

When you ask for help, you are no longer alone. And when you are supported you will begin to see new ways forward.

You can reduce stress and increase your creative potential by asking for support.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when asking for help:

Pick the right folks for the job.

Who has the experience? Likes this kind of project? Can handle it? Who is someone you would like to have around, who would probably like to help you?

Decide what kind of help you need.

Figure out exactly what you need help with. What are you looking for (and not looking for)? What are your time frames?

Ask.

Make an explicit request – don’t beat around the bush. Make your request very specific and clear.

Be prepared for “No.”

Give folks a chance to get off the hook when you ask. If someone says they cannot help, don’t hold that against them. Treat them the way you’d want to be treated if you could not help.

Be clear and set boundaries.

Make sure your community knows what kind of support you need and what you do not need. Keep the ownership and responsibility for the task as yours.

Hire a professional.

If your own community cannot help OR it is going to put too much burden on them, hire a professional. This could be a therapist for processing an experience, a mover to help you transition to a new home, or a marketing specialist for promotions.

Say thank you.

Thank you goes a long way. Please say it! In person, via email, or by snail mail, let your helpers know you appreciate them.

Questions for reflection:

What are you needing a little support for and who can you ask?
How can you say thank you to for support in the past?

Write an answer in the comments below or jump on over to my Facebook page and comment.

By |November 20th, 2014|Connect, Create, Get It Done|Comments Off on One simple way to get unstuck|

Finding Love in an Old Shirt Box

Valentine’s Day. Not everyone’s favorite holiday, I know. It is so commercialized with all this external, unrealistic pressure to be in a relationship and if in a relationship, to be madly in love and celebrate that love in a prescribed way (you know – dinner, chocolates, and flowers). It is often a day of anticipation and expectation and disappointment. And even as a kid, Valentine’s Day can be cruel. Waiting to see who gave who Valentines, digging through your heart-shaped mailbox taped to the front of your desk, counting the candies, comparing the cards.

I get it – the day can be overdone, inauthentic and full of externally placed expectations of what love should look like.

And yet I still love Valentine’s Day. Yes. I do. I told a friend this yesterday and she replied, “Really? Why?” My easy answer is I love a good romance story. And of course, I do love getting presents and I absolutely adore artificially-flavored, sugar-loaded candy.

Looking deeper though, it all has to do with my Grandma.

As a kid, despite the possibility of personal trauma in the classroom, Valentine’s Day always started with a sweet gift of pajamas and candy in the morning from my parents. Then after a day full of candy, cards and crushes, I would come home to a Nordstrom’s shirt box sitting on the porch. Mom, Dad and I, each with the same level of excitement upon spotting the box, would rush into the kitchen to open it where we would find two layers of huge, fluffy, heart-shaped cookies with a half an inch of light pink frosting. These cookies, baked from an old sugar box recipe, are the best sugar cookies in the world. These cookies, sent in a department store box with no card, were Valentine’s Day to me.

Grandma was not big on words of affection. She did not, if ever, explicitly say she loved me. What she did do was bake Valentine’s Day cookies, every year of my childhood. It was in this simple act of baking that I felt her love for me, for our family.

Now I am the one to bake those cookies for my family and chosen family. It connects me not only to my Grandma, but reminds me that lots of people say “I love you” and “I care” – every day – in ways we do not always see or honor. In this way, Valentine’s Day is a demarcation in my year. It gives me pause to look up and take notice. Who has been offering me signs of care? How do I remember those that have been on the path ahead of me? How do I sneak in signs of my love and care into the lives of those around me?

How do you show those you love that you care?

Even the smallest gesture- a note, a clean kitchen, or a cookie makes a big impact on those who matter. I would love to hear how you show your appreciation for those in your life on Valentine’s Day or any day of the week. Join the conversation on my Facebook page.

I think it’s time for a cookie.

By |February 13th, 2014|Connect, Create|Comments Off on Finding Love in an Old Shirt Box|

How to Relax and Unplug

Lately I have been coming home late and I am tired. When my partner is not home, I plop myself in front of the computer to watch TV.

I have spent all day in front of a screen. I have cranked away on emails and worked and reworked drafts of Word docs and then returned to emails. Sometimes I have a day with lovely meetings and one on one conversations with human beings. I love those moments. I am a fan of human beings.

But most of the day I am clicking and staring, clicking and forgetting to blink. Click. Click. Click. I come home hating screens, and then I think “I need to unplug” and then the not so brilliant thought enters my mind…I will just watch an episode of something mindless to relax.

Here is the deal…for me TV feels good like eating a pint of ice cream at one sitting feels good. And I think sometimes it is okay to indulge in that out of control feel goodness. But more screen time is not what I really need to relax. I need to step away from the screen. I have been thinking about this for a while yet still returning to bad reality shows at the end of the night.

Until a recent Saturday morning with nowhere to go and my loved one not at home. I decided to open a book and NOT a self-help book or business book. A novel, the Living by Annie Dillard.

I proceeded to read in bed for an hour.

I know this may be basic, simple knowledge…

but reading a good book in bed is extraordinary.

And the art of a good book read in bed may be dying.
This month and into the next, when I am craving an escape, when I need to unwind and let go,
I will pick up my fiction book and find a cozy nook.
(I may even take the book on the bus with me, instead of my iphone.)

How to step away from the screen:

1. Find a fiction book to read

Find a fiction book in your home that you have not read. Open said book and begin reading.

2. Make time

Give yourself at least a half an hour to get into the book and hooked on the act of reading.

3. Keep book with you

Carry your book around with you. Sit down with it and read. Put book down for conversations, do not put book down for more screen time.

Relax. Unplug. Turn on your creativity.

By |August 11th, 2011|Be Present, Create|Comments Off on How to Relax and Unplug|

Add Life to your Morning

At the end of a long evening, decide to make bread. Decide that you will set aside an early morning for you and creation. Perhaps it is Friday night and you will make Saturday morning yours. Or it is Thursday night and you will go into the office a tad late on Friday.

1. Make a decision to take a morning for you and for some bread baking.

Plan to make two loaves. Find a lovely bread baking cookbook at a local used bookstore. (My favorite: The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book by Laurel Robertson.) Or you can grab a recipe online. (My favorite: 101 Cookbooks.)
Take the evening to knead your bread and get it ready to rise.

2. Make the bread.

Get up in the morning and make bread. Take your time, you are nurturing a living thing, preparing it to be life giving. Let the process surprise you.

3. Give a loaf of bread to a neighbor.

Take the bread out of the oven, wrap up in a flour sack cloth and head next door or down the hall. Present your neighbor with a warm loaf of bread and no apparent explanation. Watch confusion and joy spread across the face. Soak in the goodness bread provides. Head home and have a piece of toast!

Baking bread is good for:

− Neighbors going through a tough time
− Moments when life feels flat
− When you feel the world spinning and are unsure of your own creation

By |May 10th, 2011|Be Present, Connect, Create|Comments Off on Add Life to your Morning|