Bettering yourself

Quiet Reflection

When Dashel was a baby, he (and let’s not fool ourselves, us too) would look forward to this small window of time every morning- about 15-30 minutes, that we grew to affectionately call “quiet reflection.” Dash would sit in his little bouncey chair after waking up from an (ahem) restful night’s sleep and just look around. He would watch his little toes wiggle, “count his fingers,” poke through a board book, or sometimes just stare off into space. It was the best. It gave us all a little time in the morning to take a deep breath before getting the day started, and I would often reflect a bit as well, mostly about how being a new mom was simultaneously the best and worst thing ever. The other day- a day I am now referring to as Terrible Tuesday, led me to a moment of quiet reflection about how my 2018 was going so far.

I started this year off so excited and full of hope- as I do every new year, and now that it’s May (and almost half way through 2018), I feel a little more like Ben Gibbard’s lyrics- “so this is the New Year, I don’t feel any different.” I had been mostly still keeping up the hope of carrying out my New Year’s resolutions, ridding myself of my bad habits, and implementing the good ones. But then, Tuesday happened. It started off like any other Tuesday; the alarm went off, Steve tapped me and told me it was 5am. I winced and nodded, “uh huh” I managed to groan out. I then rolled over and continued to lay in bed for at least another 35 minutes- par for the course. I finally dragged myself out of bed and initiated the morning routine. (Which, is far from something I would describe as a “well oiled machine.”) I lumbered to the shower, got dressed (after staring at my closet for at least 6 minutes thinking- I hate everything in here), and started to try to wake the kids to get them ready. Dash is in the midst of potty training- so anyone that’s gone through this before knows, you cannot rush the potty routine- and by the time I knew it I was already running 10 minutes behind the time I like to get out of the house- although the last time I really got out at that time was..hmm…actually, when was that? I fumbled around with (4!) haphazardly packed bags, trying to get out the door, when my husband said to me, I can’t find Conan (the dog) and he’s somewhere outside so be careful as you pull out. Ugh- the last thing I want is to worry about peeling out of the driveway because my pup’s life may be in the balance. With keys in hand, I opened the front door, to be confronted by my parent’s car blocking me in- they were staying with us for a few days while they were having their floors done. Luckily, they had left their keys out and we were able to move the car quickly and I finally got out and was on my way to work- white knuckled and staring at the clock for the next 35 minutes. God, I hate being late- yet, it’s my signature move.

I was upset. Not just because I was running late, again. But because this year is supposed to be MY YEAR. This was supposed to be the year that I turned things around and started really eliminating the things that frustrated me about my life and therefore left me feeling unhappy.  Being late, living in clutter, being unorganized/losing things, having a stressed mind far too often, not keeping up with my personal relationships the way I want to, not being mindful enough, being broke, being perpetually 15 pounds overweight- you get the idea.

Although this story, so far, seems like doom and gloom, I actually want to ensure you that I’m trying to turn it into a rags to riches success story. On January first I joined the ONE LITTLE WORD challenge with the hopes of 2018 being different than all the other years that I started and stopped, over and over again. I chose the word cultivate, with the intention of cultivating the life that I truly want to be living. To my estimation, I have spent the first 5 months of this year figuring out what it really means to have the life I want. Figuring out what life is best for me and what I want, yet have been super lacking in the implementation and habit building part of it.

A good friend of mine recommended Gretchen Rubin’s podcast Happier to me the other day, and after downloading my first episode, I was hooked already. Gretchen gives very practical advice, “happiness hacks,” that are so easy, you might as well give them a try to see if they improve your life or the lives of those around you. While listening, she referenced her “4 Tendencies.” This concept describes 4 character profiles (we all fit into one) that shape our lives and habits. I had to take this quiz and find out which I was. Almost as soon as I got to work, I opened my browser and took her 5 minute quiz. Before I even received my results, I knew what they would be.

The Obliger. The Obliger “responds readily to outward expectations but struggles to meet inner expectation. Obligers work hard to not let other people down, but often let themselves down.” Wow, this. Yes. That’s me. Rubin’s first piece of advise for Obligers that are struggling with personal challenges is to create external accountability. (I thought about the days when I attended Weight Watchers; almost obsessively watching that scale to make sure I was somewhere in the negative compared to last week.) So, it wasn’t difficult to put the pieces together and realize that this blog, that I’ve been real shitty at updating, could be my personal accountability forum. I have been listening to The Year of Less by Cait Flanders, and she used her personal blog to track her progress of losing 30 pounds, getting out from under $30,000 of credit card debt, and going sober! And with that, I’m using Cait as my inspiration to log my own progress in implementing a happier life for myself.

On top of tracking my journey to living at a higher frequency, I am hoping to share with you the resources that helped me, and maybe ones that didn’t help me too, in order to assist you on your own journey, if you so wish.

I hope you follow along with me on this journey or suggest something that you think may help me, as I hope this all helps you in some way too. I know Cait’s personal journey coupled with Gretchen providing me my “a ha!” moment helped me to kick start initiating my new year off right, on May 10th.

Bettering yourself

It’s Not As Bad As it Seems!


Our little family has been having a rough few weeks- between work and personal stress and lots of illness running through our family, it’s been a doozy… I’m usually the emotional, anxious/crazy one (thank God Steve is my rock!) But even Steve last night looked like he had just had it. Sometimes life is so hard. And then I try to remember, it’s not as bad as it seems.

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…and other terrible jobs
A few years ago, I heard this little trick to use when you’re feeling defeated and worried and anxious… try to think, ‘will this matter in five years? will this matter in a year? will this matter in a week?’ It kinda puts everything in perspective.

And speaking of perspective… there’s this…

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And probably one of my most favorite cartoons of all time, that I currently have hanging over my desk at work.. this (below) truly exemplifies how we really shouldn’t worry so much about the things we need to overcome; turns out it wasn’t that bad after all! (plus, today is the first day is summer!)

Angry Art Director 
Bettering yourself · Goals

Mini-Challenges

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Goal Tracker

When I think about the goals that I have, I think of the big picture. This includes, but isn’t always limited to, major shifts and changes that I’d like to make in my life; to better myself, and my current situation. For example, a major goal that I am currently working towards is getting in better shape, losing weight, and being happy with how I look in my clothes. This goal requires a major lifestyle shift in my eating (eating cleaner, less processed and less fried foods) and my exercise regimen (from doing basically nothing, to working out 5-6 times a week) I have been working on this goal since about August when I got the OK from my Dr. to start working out after I had Sailor. Since August, I’ve been motivated and diligent and have accepted the fact that since this is a lifestyle, I can’t be perfect all the time, but then again, I wouldn’t want to. I like enjoying candy and french fries, I just can’t eat them all the time… anyway, you get the picture… I have several long term goals that I’m currently working towards, but how do you get motivated to work towards such a big picture goal? How do you get started? How do you not get overwhelmed?

One the strategies I’ve been playing around with are mini-challenges. A mini challenge is any period of time that you would like, although many tend to be 30 day challenges, where you challenge yourself to do something everyday for a set amount of time. (As I type this right now, I’m working on my 100 day challenge of blogging everyday!) Mini-challenges are fun because, although they totally can be, they do not necessarily have to be an action step towards a larger goal.

They can help you check something off your to do list: Scrapbook 1 page a day for 30 days (so I can finally get those baby books done!)

They can help you work towards a larger goal (an action step): Squat challenge (30 days of squats to help you work towards a fitness goal)

They can help you develop a good habit: Water challenge: Drink a minimum of 120 ounces a day (that’s about 3.5 Liters)

They can be eye opening and help you change bad habits: Plastic Challenge: Collect (literally or in photos) how much plastic you use every day for 30 days, then, for the next 30 days, try to give up all single use plastics!

Or, try these (since some of my major life goals are to Konmari my life, simplify everything, and turn everyone vegan!): Minimalism game, 60 day Minimalist challenge, The Emily Ley Simplicity Challenge, 30 Day Vegan Challenge, also this! Photo challenge. Or make up your own challenge! (It can be anything you want to achieve!)

You may not continue drinking 120 ounces of water a day after your challenge has ended, but you will almost certainly increase your intake compared to before the challenge; and who knows, you might stick with it! (Steve tried out vegetarianism as a 3o day challenge and never looked back… and now he’s vegan!)

Have you ever done a 30 day (or more/ less) challenge? How did you like it? Will you try one of these? If you want to track your progress, download the Goal Tracker Calendar! (shown in above photo) It’s the whole year, but you can use it for any individual 30 (or other number of days) period. The one above is my tracker for #100daysproject (my 100 days of blogging- which started on April 4, 2017.)

Bettering yourself · Goals · time management

How much time do you have in a day?

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How do you fit it all in? Lately I find myself wishing I had more (or any) time for hobbies, time for quiet reflection and relaxation, time to exercise, time to prepare for the next day, time to get ahead, time to do laundry… etc. It seems that there simply isn’t enough time in the day. I complained to Steve the other day that I thought I had a time management problem, even though it seems like I’m always doing something. Below are some tips, that I will be working on to help understand where my time goes and how to harness it for the better.

  1. Keep a to-do list: Every single morning, write a to- do list. This list can be work related, home related, personal care related, etc. But you should prioritize your list so that you know what needs to be done immediately (and certainly by the end of that particular day) and what may be able to be pushed aside- at least for a bit. Ideally, you will finish all your list by the end of the day, but let’s be realistic about our best laid plans. If possible, break larger and longer to do list items into specific action steps. For example, if there is a specific project you need to work- focus on an individual step to get that project started, then it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. For example, I’ve been trying to start my kid’s baby books for the last two years. Instead of writing “start scrapbooking” on my list- I’m going to try to break it down into smaller steps. “Get all pictures printed and put in chronological order” is a much more realistic start to a major project.
  2. Set goals: Setting both long and short term goals is a good way to stay focused and give us something to work towards. Goals should be realistic and achievable, but should also challenge you and shape you into the person you are aiming to be. I really like this article on setting powerful goals. 
  3. Don’t let yourself get (too) distracted: One of my problems is most certainly distraction. How many times have you been about to start a project- big or small- and you stopped to check social media, or read a blog you like, or make a quick phone call? In this age of digital distractions, it’s almost like our devices are dooming us from making progress before we even begin. Of course sometimes we need to take a break, and sometimes posting a photo to Instagram is a great way to do that, however according to Digital Trends, Americans spend an average of an unbelievable 4.7 hours a day on their phones. (Of course this is not all one chunk of time and it’s in bit and spurts throughout the day, but can you even imagine what you could do with an extra (almost) 5 hours a day?! While you’re focusing on a project or a to-do list item to cross off your list, put your phone down.
  4. Overcome procrastination: Procrastination usually occurs due to on or more of the following factors; laziness, feeling overwhelmed, confusion, disorganization, or just generally dread or dislike for a certain project or task.  Are you a procrastinator?  (take this quiz to find out!) If you’re a procrastinator, there is hope! First, it helps (see above) to break your larger projects down into smaller action steps. This can help that feeling of dread or of being overwhelmed by a certain task. Second, increase motivation for yourself by rewarding yourself, either intrinsically or extrinsically with incentives. Ask someone to check in with you- sometimes it can help to have other people hold us accountable. Focus on the task at hand and do not multitask. One good way to do this is to set a certain time goal to spend on a project, for example, I’m going to clean the house for the next hour, and whatever I don’t get to today, will move to my to-do list for a later time. You can even set an alarm on your phone to keep track of your goal. If you don’t have anything to do after the alarm gees off, and you’re still motivated, keep going! Otherwise, give yourself permission to stop, and pat yourself on the back, you just got started!
  5. Stop taking on so much: I am so guilty of this one. I recently heard one of my favorite comedians talk about how she just discovered the best thing…that when someone asks her to do something that she doesn’t want to do, she just says, “thanks for thinking of me, but that’s really not my thing.” How.great. is. that.? It’s so simple, yet it seems to be so hard for a lot of us to do. Our plates are already so full with all the other things we need to do, and if people are your true friends and family that love and care about your well being, they will also understand when you have to say no because you are too busy with other things that are higher priority.
  6. Schedule tasks so that they align with the flow of your day and your personality: Are you a morning person? If so, try to do high energy, high activity tasks early on and then check your email, etc, later on when you start to feel that afternoon sluggishness come on. If your a night person, start your day off more slowly until your completely awake and ready to tackle your day.
  7. Give yourself a break: You need a break and time for yourself too. Make sure you take some, even if it’s just drinking a cup of tea or meditating for ten minutes. You deserve it.
Bettering yourself · Goals

Understanding who you are…

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When I was first hired for a new job out of college, they had all the new hires take a Myers-Briggs personality test. If you have never had to do this type of test, it is basically an inventory of statements and personality characteristics that you yea or nah to, and it tells you what kind of a person you are. I recently stumbled across 16 Personalities– which is a simplified version of the Myers Briggs test that categorizes you into 1 of 16 different personality types. The description of my personality was eerily accurate- the good and the bad. (I am the Campaigner- and btw, the quote above was my personal “mantra” given with my results, which, when I read it, almost brought tears to my eyes- yea, this test is good.). Even more interesting, was having my husband take the test. We sat and read each other’s results and chatted about the type of people we are and how/why our personalities compliment each other so well. (He is the Adventurer). It’s funny because sometimes we would read a statement and say, ‘that’s not me at all’…and then a few minutes later, you would realize, ‘well actually, it kind of is because’…

Taking this test started to get me thinking about my strengths and weaknesses and what I wanted to change about my life. One of the things that drives me forward is working to improve my weaknesses to try to be a better version of myself everyday. And, with the New Year fast approaching, and resolutions looming large, I thought I would get a jump start on my goal setting.

From the small to the large, things I want to work on:

  1. Stop being late all the time- it stresses me out and it drives other people crazy.
  2. Continue on the path to healthy- cut out (a lot of) processed foods, keep striving to eat a plant based whole food diet, and keep working out!
  3. Make a plan and stick to it- Both Steve and I are awesome at making the plan, just not so great at executing…make a housekeeping/chore plan, keep up with my planner, organize (and keep it that way!)
  4. O.K. here’s the biggie…FINISH WHAT YOU START! I cannot tell you the amount of projects that I have that are either 1/4-1/2 way finished that I long to get done. I’m really going to try to stop being a dreamer about these things and really finish what I start (for once.)

So those are my pre-New Year’s goals that I hope have me ringing in 2017 with more strengths than weaknesses…

What kind of person are you? Have you taken the 16 personalities test? Do you have things that you want to change? I’d love to hear 🙂