Here are some photos from this week:
my sweet, older boy.
and the little one.
playing on the computer.
they opened their advent calendars. David got Star Wars Lego and Nathaniel Lego City.
I love how Nathaniel can do it all by himself now.
my boys, so sweet.
David still loves the Star Wars one more than anything else.
Nathaniel is supposed to write his name when he gets to school every morning:
and here’s his self-portrait.
We went to Nathaniel’s school this week as the Mystery Reader.
Jake read Z goes Home.
and Let’s Count Goats.
then Nathaniel and I went out to lunch together.
and at night we went to see the tree lighting in our neighborhood.
our family photos didn’t come out so great this week. But I still love this one.
and this one.
and, of course, all the laughter.
and here we go. so grateful for my life. i hope your week was lovely, too. Happy December!
Weekly Diary is a project for 2013. You can read more about it here.
Yesterday, I mentioned how I had more coming about how I would want the people I love to know how much I loved them and that they mattered deeply. So I wanted to expand on that a bit today. As I’ve mentioned already, I’ve been taking Soul Comfort which has been a profound class for me in so many ways. This past week, they had an intentional living exercise that involved writing about what I’d want different people in my life to think after interacting with me, at my funeral, etc. I don’t want to give away the exercise as it’s part of the class and it’s wonderful and I recommend you take the class.
But what I did want to talk about is some of the interesting patterns I saw in my answers. Regardless of who or what it was about, I kept finding myself writing down that I would like others to think that I am kind and attentive and that when they are with me they feel loved and worthy. That I operate from bravery and not fear. Generosity and not scarcity. That I am paying attention. That they feel like they matter. That I am generous and unconditional with my spirit, patience, love and kindness.
I wrote down the word kind as an answer to literally every single question on the seven-page form. The word kind has been so forefront in my mind and soul lately that I almost switched to make it my one-little-word for 2014. I feel like there are many things I respect and love in others: Bravery, Intelligence, Generosity, Authenticity, Open-mindedness, Wisdom, Intuition…I can go on and on.
But, above all, kindness.
It seems, for me, kindness has a special place. And when I think of what I want others to think about me, I want them to think I am kind. I want them to feel I am kind. I want them to feel they can be whomever they are when they are around me and that they are not just accepted but loved and cherished just the way they are. That they are worthy. They belong. They don’t have to be or do anything for any of this. They just are.
I remember, years ago, I was taking a psych class and what I had heard of Carl Rogers really stuck with me. He was known for listening with his full attention. Not while sneaking a look at the computer or taking a note or cooking dinner. Not while preparing a response. But listening fully. This is something that resonated with me so strongly back in 2001 when I took the class and, twelve years later, it resonates just as much.
This is what I want people to feel when they are with me, that I am kind, that they matter, that they are worthy of being listened to with all of my attention. Not my top priority but, for that moment, my only priority.
I am not saying I do these things well today. I am saying that doing this exercise made me think a lot about where I would like to be. How I want to relate to people. I don’t care if people don’t think I am intelligent or successful or pretty. I care that people remember me as kind. I care that people remember how they feel when they were around me. And that the feeling they remember me with is how cared for they were. How worthy they felt around me. How loved they were.
The best part about all this was that creating this change is 100% within my control. I don’t have to change my job, my house, my degree or anything else in my life to get there. I just have to remember what I want them to feel and remember to do what it takes.
This isn’t to say it will be easy. It’s hard for me to be kind when I am stressed or rushed or tired. And I am one of those three things often. It’s hard for me to pay full attention to any one person when I have little boys in my life and IMs and emails. It’s hard to make others feel worthy when I might not be feeling that way myself.
All of these are hard.
But if it’s what matters to me, if it’s really what I care about, then it’s important to remember that. Because sometimes my priorities get wacky. I stress over something to do for work and yell at my kid. How well I did at work is so irrelevant and inconsequential compared to how I want my kid to remember me. (Obviously this is different if I do so badly that I lose my job etc. etc.) I would easily put my son over any job in the world and yet moment to moment, I don’t always follow this credence. There are many times, he loses my attention when competing with work demands. Many times I don’t give him my full attention even when I have no work but I am watching some TV or reading a blog. I do this more often than I’d like to admit. More often than I am comfortable with. More often than it feels right, to me.
Doing this exercise also reminded me that all the little things have to go. It doesn’t matter if my son’s room is messy. It’s not a good reason to be unkind. I can find a way to say it kindly. Or I can really even let it go. Sure, I’d like him to clean his room but what I really want is for him to feel my kindness, my love. What I want him to feel is how worthy he is and how deeply he belongs in our family just the way he is. How unconditionally I love him. Compared to these things, the room could not be more meaningless to me. And yet, I regularly scold him for not cleaning up. Filling this form made me realize that, for me, it’s really important to always be conscious of what I care about the most.
This isn’t even about dying. It’s not about how I want my kids, loved ones, friends to remember me. It’s about how I want them to feel right now. In every moment. These are people I love and cherish. I want them to feel that love, that worthiness all the time. I want to always be much kinder than necessary. Always.
I want to be present, to listen, and to be kind. Those are my three core values for my interactions with other people. When I thought about my worry list from yesterday, I realized that if I can ensure my interactions with my loved ones align with these three values, it makes me worry a lot less because then, at every moment, I am doing the best that I can to love them with all my heart and to make sure they know that I do.
I will find a way to get a visual reminder of these three words so that when I am caught in the rush of daily life, they can serve as a reminder for what truly matters.
One of my clients sent me a mail this week that contained this story:
Once upon a time a psychology professor walked around on a stage while teaching stress management principles to an auditorium filled with students. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the typical “glass half empty or glass half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, the professor asked, “How heavy is this glass of water I’m holding?”
Students shouted out answers ranging from eight ounces to a couple of pounds.
She replied, “From my perspective, the absolute weight of this glass doesn’t matter. It all depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute or two, it’s fairly light. If I hold it for an hour straight, its weight might make my arm ache a little. If I hold it for a day straight, my arm will likely cramp up and feel completely numb and paralyzed, forcing me to drop the glass to the floor. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it feels to me.”
As the class shook their heads in agreement, she continued, “Your stresses and worries in life are very much like this glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and you begin to ache a little. Think about them all day long, and you will feel completely numb and paralyzed – incapable of doing anything else until you drop them.”
I had heard it before but, like most things, this time it resonated more because I was listening better. I was ready to hear it. As I read it a few more times, I found myself thinking about the cups of water I am carrying. Which ones am I holding up too long? And, more importantly, what’s the impact it’s having on me? Carrying around worries and stress all day long is no small task. Some of it might be unavoidable, but much of it is. And like all other things, the first key is to raise my awareness.
If I don’t know what worries I am carrying around, I cannot ever choose to put them down.
So the first thing I decided to do was to sit and “throw up” all my worries on to the page. Let’s see what was really on my mind, in my heart, in my body. I gave myself ten minutes in the car (while I waited for Nathaniel’s class to dismiss) to write down all I could think of. No limits, no reading, only writing.
It was easy for the first three minutes, and then it got harder and I had to think more and more. I am sure that if I had given myself 20 minutes, it would have been even harder.
Once I had my list, I went over it and grouped it into two sections: things i have control over and things outside my control.
Then I started with the list of things I had control over. I wrote down one thing I could do to either let go of the worry or to “fix” the situation. For example, one of the items on my list is “I worry that I will never learn to ride a bike.” This is something that’s theoretically within my control to fix. I can either decide it’s not that important to learn how to ride a bike anymore and choose to let this one go or I can take one small (or big) action towards this one. (I could also decide that I will postpone this one. I won’t give up on it completely, but I am not ready to take action yet. This allows me to put the water down for a while.) A small action here might be to buy a bike. Or a helmet. A bigger one might be to schedule time with a friend to help me learn. A bigger one might be to commit to a biking event 3 months from now (which will mean I have to learn by then. Alas this might create new worries ) By letting it go or choosing to take action, I will remove these from being worries. Because they either will not be worthy of being worried about anymore or I will actually be doing something about them.
The other list is trickier. I have some things on my list that I clearly have no control over. Like “I worry that something might happen to my husband or my kids.” Well, this is mostly out of my control. I could live my life being as safe as possible but something could still happen to these people I love. Planes crash, cars get into accidents, horrible things happen each day. As I looked at the list, I decided to shift my thinking around these a bit. I asked myself, “If I knew this might happen tomorrow, what might I want to make sure I do today?” Let’s say it was inevitable that it would happen. How would I behave differently? I figured if something were to happen to the people I loved, I’d want to make sure they knew how much I loved them and that they mattered to me deeply. Then I thought, ok, how can I do that now? I can’t change the future but I can change how I behave now, what I say, what I do, etc. I have more about this coming in another post, but changing my perspective to what I can do here allowed me to feel like I had some choice and some power to alter these. It allowed me to think of what I might regret if that outcome were to happen and how I can make sure those regrets don’t come to fruition (even if the outcome did.)
While this doesn’t fully eliminate the item for a worrier like me, it does shift my relationship to the worry. Instead of having the worry weigh me down, I use it as a motivator to remember what matters most to me and make sure that I live my life aligned with those priorities. (This is true for me because when I look at my worry list, I notice that the things that worry me the most come from the things/people I hold dearest.)
Having this perspective (and list of action items from the first set) created a lot more space for me. It didn’t eliminate my worries but I no longer feel numb or paralyzed. I feel like I understand what matters to me, what I care about, and how to alter my choices to align them accordingly.
I’ve mentioned my son’s school’s Monday morning assemblies before. This year, I’ve decided that I will try to attend as many chapels as possible. This morning’s topic was courage. The presenter talked about what it means, gave some examples of courageous children, and then talked about what courage looks and sounds like. She also had one slide on what lack of courage looks like. Bravery and courage have been on my mind a lot lately so as I was driving home, I thought about what it means to be courageous.
I think bravery is a lot more personal than we make it out to be.
When I looked up courage in the dictionary it said: the ability to do something that frightens one. (Bravery, by the way, says ‘courageous behavior’). If you pay close attention to the definition, it’s explicitly personal. It’s the ability to do something that frightens you. Not the ability to do scary things. It specifically says “that frightens one.” For you to be courageous, you must be doing something that you find to be frightening.
But we don’t always speak of it in these terms. When we see someone jumping out of an airplane, we say “oh he’s so brave!” For all we know, this person jumps out of planes all the time (like an instructor or something) and to him, it’s not scary at all. In this case, he’s not practicing courage. Whereas if you take someone who’s deathly afraid of heights and they jump out of a plane, that person is clearly being brave.
The reason this distinction matters a lot is that when we’re comparing to others, we often find ourselves judging others’ bravery by our standards. So if I am scared to speak in public, someone who does that will look brave to me and I will feel less courageous by comparison. I’ll think, how come I can’t be as brave as she is? For all I know, she might not be courageous at all. Maybe public speaking isn’t frightening to her. We never even consider this probability because of our own fear of public speaking. We think everyone must share our fears.
But, of course, they don’t.
While having fears is a universal condition, each person’s fears are unique to them (of course, many people share similar fears but you can never really assume other people have the same fear you have.) So when it comes to judging ourselves and/or others it’s crucial to remember the distinction the courage is something you do when you overcome your own fears. Not universal fears. Not others’ fears. But your own.
And no matter how small or big they might be, any time you do something that frightens you, you’re practicing courage. It doesn’t have to be something that others would deem important. It’s personal to you. I am scared to drive on the freeway, so each time I do it, I am practicing courage even if it’s just another ordinary task for other people. I practice courage each time I talk to a stranger because, for me, that’s outside my comfort zone.
Sometimes, it’s as simple as wearing a specific kind of clothing. Or a new lipstick. Other times, it’s telling the truth. Speaking up. Going sky diving. Taking a trip alone. Or taking a trip with a group.
We are all different people and different things scare each of us. This is not a comparison game and there’s nothing too small or too big to practice courage around. Without knowing others’ full list of fears, there’s no way to tell how brave they really are. Instead of focusing on what others are doing, or whether I am as brave as they are, what I decided I want to do is make a list of things that scare me and try to practice a little bit of courage every day.
Just like everything else, I believe bravery takes practice. The more I use those muscles, the stronger they will be, the braver I can be.
I keep meaning to write here but then the days have been so long that, by evening time, I find myself too tired to put together any cohesive thoughts. So I keep postponing it again and again. I figured having some post might still be better than a super-cohesive one, so here we go. A little list of what’s going on here, in no particular order:
- I was delighted to be on PRT today and it will really fun. You can listen here.
- I have already finished my December Daily album initial pages. I used the Gossamer Blue kit as part of this class. I love December!
- I’m still thinking quite a bit about 2014. I think I’ve got all my projects down. I’ve already begun to experiment with each to adjust as needed and nail them down.
- I’ve sort of stopped sketching partly because life’s been so hectic. But, instead, I’ve been drawing a face a day. I’ll share soon.
- Work’s been really, really busy lately and it’s leaving me quite drained and tired. Even more so if I happen to have to drive into work. It’s made me appreciate working from home that much more.
- I am very excited that the Red Sox made it to the World Series. When I was pregnant with David, in 2005, I watched every game and cheered them on. Let’s see if I can do it again.
- I have a long list of to do list items and emails that are just piling up and seeing them makes me depressed.
- I’ve been contemplating a de-cluttering project in several parts of my house but just thinking about the size of that project overwhelms me.
- I’ve picked my word for 2014. Even though new ones keep coming to me, I am content to stick with it.
- I am playing more Candy Crush than any one human should ever play. It’s just not right.
- I have been meaning to write about my birthday, Jake’s birthday and finally getting my coaching certification. All of these big events happened back in September and yet I never wrote about them.
- I’ve been taking a lot fewer photos than usual and this makes me sad but I am also learning to forgive myself regularly and let myself off the hook regularly because I know that things are just stressful at this moment and I need rest.
- My friend Josh has this wonderful TEDx talk and I loved watching it. Great for remembering what matters most.
- And even though I haven’t finished it yet, I know this TEDx talk will be exceptional too. I loved Kristin Neff’s book.
- One more TED talk for you from my willpower teacher Kelly Mcgonigal. She’s awesome, isn’t she?
- I am taking Soul Comfort with Brave Girls and loving it. Two of my year-long projects for 2014 came from that class.
- I’m also taking Brene’s Oprah course and loving it, of course. I love Brené.
- I was so excitedly waiting for Allegient to come out and I can’t believe that I haven’t finished it yet!
- I am so looking forward to the Ender’s Game movie. I hope it’s as great as the book.
- I haven’t been journaling as much as I’d like and I’ve realized that, for me, journaling serves a very distinct soul-emptying purpose and I need it so I have to make it a higher priority.
- And sleep. I need more sleep. I know it’s counter-intuitive but I’ve noticed that when I am too tired, I actually waste more time and get less sleep.
I could probably write more but I have a coaching client in 12 minutes and I need to have some dinner before then. I hope maybe you can share some of what you’ve been up to as well.
As I was doing my Life Organizer prompts this week, there was a question about life insights. I couldn’t remember what she referred to so I had to go back and reread the section. And then I realized I had never read it. One of the things she recommends is to go on a search and create a list of my life insights.
I love this idea so I immediately jotted some down:
- Nature heals my soul.
- Kindness comes first.
- Be you.
- Respect yourself and others.
- You don’t have to be right.
- Always say bless you.
- I crave growth and learning.
- I am at my best when I help others.
- Self-worth is not something others bestow upon you. You have to believe in your own worth.
- Quiet time is essential to my soul.
- Always apologize to those you love. It’s never too late.
- Journaling is how I see my thoughts.
These are just some of mine. I will be thinking of more for the next week. I love the idea of having this insight list. Sort of like personal commandments but slightly different context.
What are some of your life insights?
I’ve been quiet here because work’s been insane and my back is acting up and honestly I don’t really know what else. I just haven’t been feeling like writing or able to write. I am still making plans for next year. I recently reread a few old posts and if you’re busy making plans for next year, too, maybe this one will help you out: Making Three Lists.
I’ve decided what I need next year is a lot more pre-planning. One of the reasons I struggle when sticking to plans is that I have to spend so much time coming up with ideas. When I sit down to sketch, I need to spend hours online finding something to sketch. I figured that if I had it all ready ahead of time, I wouldn’t waste as much time coming up with ideas each week. And, of course, if I have a new idea, it can supersede my list. But it’s no pressure this way.
Or maybe I am fooling myself.
Either way, that’s what’s on my mind. Since I am all excited about my projects, I figure this is a good time to do research and groundwork. I’ve also been thinking about my list answers from the thee lists post above. And what kind of thoughts-posts I might like to do. And what projects I might want to do with David and with Nathaniel.
The planning is making me happy for now so I am trying to keep at it. Here’s a dump of all that I am considering in case it’s helpful for any of you. This is just a dump of what’s on my head at this moment. It might all stay and it might all go or some combination in between:
Things I want to learn/do in relation to Art:
- doodling – been on my list three years in a row now!
- sketching/painting faces - been on my list three years in a row too!
- using my photos with my art
- sketching people in different poses
- drawing trees/wings
- making signs/sayings
- sketching scenes
- large scale paintings/drawings
- using some of the materials I haven’t used in a while: oil pastels, pan pastels, neocolor crayons, watercolor markers, etc.
- digital design – maybe
So when I am designing my art projects, I am thinking about these things.
for health stuff I am thinking about:
- incrementing daily steps
- no sugar
For thoughts posts, I am thinking about posting around:
- Learning: I plan to take classes/learn more regularly next year, so I’d be sharing these.
- Coaching: Some exercises, thoughts, learnings in the coaching area
- Listen: this is my word for next year so these would be insights/intentions around my word
- Getting things done, being organized, just random thoughts from that day, etc.
Also thinking about:
- volunteering more.
- building community again (this is a struggle for me.)
- whether i want to sell my art
- whether i want to videotape while doing art
- what classes i might want to take to learn new things
- maybe David and I can learn together for his project with me
- what can i do with Nathaniel? Maybe something that practices reading or writing?
- how can i organize my projects so they have a monthly theme within the yearly project?
That’s what I have so far. I’m also starting/thinking about my December Daily. So happy Christmas is coming soon.
What’s on your mind? Any ideas/recommendations for me? Would love to hear your thoughts.
I have things I’ve been meaning to write about but then the days pass, the night comes, and I am tired and don’t really feel like writing. Not sure if it means something or if it means nothing. I’m trying not to over-think it and I hope you still come visit and check on me regularly even if I’m not being so diligent.
What I have been doing is making plans for next year. I’ve been thinking about projects I might like to have and what my word might be, etc, etc. This is the time of year when I usually start getting antsy and feel the desire to already start working on new things.
I haven’t fully formalized my projects yet but I am thinking of incorporating two classes into my plans for next year. One is a project from the Soul Comfort class I am currently taking. As with all the Brave Girls’ classes, I am loving this class and it has gotten me back into daily journaling for which I am deeply thankful.
I have never taken one of Tam’s Life Book classes before but I am seriously considering signing up for the 2014 class. I’ve taken several of Tam’s classes before and she’s amazing and the lineup of the other teachers looks fantastic, too. So, if I sign up, this will be one of my weekly projects.
When trying to sort out what I wanted from next year’s projects, I made a little grid for myself. I wanted to make sure I had a varying set of things so I wouldn’t get bored and so I could stretch myself a bit. So I picked a topic, format, media, and skill to focus on for each of my projects.
We’ll see if any of them hold up but I am at least having fun thinking about them and trying them out and adjusting here and there so far.
Is there a class you’ve taken this year that you’ve loved? I haven’t taken many this year and I am planning to keep it that way for next year, too. A few core ones and that’s it. I’d rather spend my time really honing some skills I’ve been craving to learn.
And here we are. Have you begun thinking about 2014, too, or is it just me?
As I was journaling yesterday morning, I realized a distinction that’s become interesting to me. I noticed that, for me, there are two kinds of Joy. Real-time and in-retrospect.
Real-time joy is joy I am feeling in that very moment. I feel this when I am hugging my kids or we’re all laughing out loud. When I am making art. When I am driving and a song I love is turned up loud and it’s sunny outside so I have the windows down. This kind of joy comes from a happy experience combined with presence and the feeling of aliveness. The feeling of being in this very moment, feeling grateful, and really just soaking it in.
In-retrospect joy comes in cases where I am not always enjoying the moment while it’s happening but the memories of it bring me a lot of joy. This can happen on vacation sometimes. With little kids and a lot of moving parts, vacations can sometimes we hectic in the moment. But then I come home and I look at our photos and relive the moments and I am swept with huge, deep joy.
This also happens with my projects sometimes. There are weeks when working on the Savor Project isn’t maybe super-joyful in the moment (or even the art is like that sometimes) but it’s always always joyful when I sit down with the album. Deep, satisfying joy.
I think both of them are valuable and add to my life in different ways. The in-retrospect joy helps develop delayed gratification which is an important skill to have in life. It also allows me to tap into joy in moments where I might not be feeling it. I can grab my Savor Project, spend some fifteen minutes and I am guaranteed to feel the rush of joy.
The real-time joy gives meaning and light into my days. If I had no real-time joy, I think life would be a lot harder to get through. With a four-year-old, however, there is plenty of real-time joy, thankfully. Having said that, when he’s not around, I am not always good at this one. And, as I was journaling, I was thinking that what would be good is to have a balance between the two. So that each week (and even each day) is full of both: things that make me joyful right now and things I do because I know they will make me joyful later.
Part of this is knowing what those things are. Identifying them, noticing them. So for the next week or two, I’ll be keeping track of the moments of joy and making a list so that I can then infuse them into my weeks deliberately. As much as I believe in serendipity and being in the moment, I also believe there’s something to be said for life by design (another post for another time) so this is how I start to design mine to be full of joy.
PS: I have a blog post up on the big picture classes blog today. You can read it here.
Last week had some rough moments for me. I went through a few days where I struggled so much that I had those times where the world just looks dimmer. It doesn’t even matter what started it and what added on top, what matters is that I found myself sinking and the hole was narrow and deep.
When I find myself in one of those, it requires a lot of clawing to get out. It seems easier to give up and just sit there. Easier to just cry, yell, or unleash it on others in some way. But, of course, that doesn’t get me out of the hole and I do more damage, and continue to look at the world with the glasses that block out the joy.
This morning, as I was journaling around 5:45am, I made a decision about the next three months. I gave myself the challenge that each time anything upset me, angered me, frustrated me, or even remotely irritated me, I have to immediately stop and think of something I am truly grateful for. Not one of those general “I love my kids” or extreme “isn’t it good to have arms and legs” ones. (Not that those aren’t amazing and important but I wanted to make sure I got specific, detailed and not hand-wavy to ensure I was taking it seriously.) I have to think of a specific thing I am grateful for in that very moment that makes my life magical. That’s special and wonderful about my life. Every single time.
This is not as much to replace the “bad” thoughts as it is to balance things out. I think that I have a tendency to assume “everything is terrible!” when I get in a downward spiral. The plan is that these moments I have to take to acknowledge the good will keep me and this potential spiral in check.
I already do a daily gratitude practice but I’ve come to think of this as gratitude on steroids. Gratitude with more in-the-moment presence.
I don’t know if it will work but I am going to focus on it consistently and try to make a practice of it and let’s see what comes of it. If you’ve ever tried anything like this, I’d love to hear how it went for you.
On Monday mornings my son’s school has an assembly called chapel. The kids all sit on the floor in groups and the parents who choose to show up, sit toward the back of the room. One of the things they do in each chapel is have class reporters come up for each class, first through fifth. One student from each section shares something they did at school that week. The fifth graders do a slideshow on a topic of their choosing.
What struck me this time was the huge change from first grade to third grade to fifth grade. In a matter of four years, these kids go from barely being able to read and write to expressing their thoughts eloquently, putting together a coherent presentation, and adding their own unique voice into their project. The difference between first grade and third is wide and deep and the amount of growth and learning from first grade to fifth is mind blowing.
All in four years.
This got me thinking about my life and growth and learning. I know that we spend the years between six and twenty-one in school and our full-time job during that time is to learn as much as possible, so it makes sense that most of our learning takes place during that period of our lives. But does it really have to stagnate so much after we leave school?
I love learning. While I have my favorites (like languages, art, math, literature, statistics, and psychology) I am always happy to learn anything at all. It’s rare to find a class I wouldn’t love to take. And if you’ve been around here for a long while, you know that I take a lot of online classes. But, sitting in that chapel made me realize that the growth rate I’ve had in the last four (or ten really) years is much lower than I’d like.
More importantly, it made me realize how much we are capable of growing in a short amount of time.
It made me wonder why this is something that degrades over time. Is it just because of time limits? Is it because we don’t go to school anymore so we don’t have to work so hard at it? Is it that our brains are not capable of such acute growth anymore? (I know they used to think that, but I also know they’ve proven that our brain grows and learns and adapts our whole lives.) Is it that we stop believing we can and just stop trying? Is it that there’s too much going on? Is it that we just don’t care?
I am not sure what the answer is. I don’t even know what it is, for me. I spent a lot of time learning when I was in my twenties. I took a ton of college courses locally in NYC just for fun. When I lived in Japan, I took daily Japanese classes and when I returned to NYC, I continued them as well as Italian and Psychology, Sign Language, Literature classes and many more. But when we moved to the West Coast, I stopped. I think it’s partly due to the lack of freedom I feel because I can’t drive around as easily as I’d like and partly due to the more hectic life I lead as my family of two became a family of four.
As I sat in that room, I realized how much I missed learning and growing.
(In honesty, another part of my life that I dropped around the same time is volunteering and I miss that dearly, too.)
I know my kids are still a little too young and that as they grow up, some of the liberties I had will come back but I noticed that, like most things, these muscles need regular attention or they atrophy. Since I’ve begun working from home, I’ve become less socially comfortable and taking a class online seems so much easier now than physically going to one. But I know that it’s less enjoyable in many ways (while more practical in others).
I’m not sure what my point is with this post except maybe to share some of my thoughts from Monday morning and the realization that we humans are capable of mind-blowing growth and progress in a short amount of time. I don’t ever want to lose sight of that. I don’t ever want to think it’s too late.
So the big question now is what’s next? I am one year away from forty and I’d really like to make this last year of my 30s count.
How do I bring on some mind-blowing growth?
Carrying with the theme of what I’m discovering from Gretchen’s emails, I wanted to share another one today.
When I’m reluctant to take a risk or face something uncomfortable, I ask myself these five questions, which, in melodramatic form, I call the “Five Fateful Questions.”
and then shares her five and encourages us to do the same but I decided I wanted to create my own five because some of hers resonated with me but others didn’t.
So when I am trying to make an uncomfortable decision or when I am thinking about something and it’s making me sad, frustrated, uneasy in some way, here’s what I want to ask myself each time:
- What’s this in service of? What’s the bigger purpose I am trying to serve here? Why is this important? What will be possible if I do this or don’t do this?
- How will this matter in five years? Will having asked for this or taken this step, etc matter five years from now? Or will it be insignificant? How will this particular thing possibly change the course of my life?
- Which of my values does this honor? By doing this (or not doing it) how am I honoring who I am. How is it moving me towards living my life more authentically? How am I being more “me”?
- What’s the worst possible outcome? Since I am a worrier, this one matters a lot. I tend to fear things going horribly wrong. If i really flesh out the worst possible outcome, I can see how this is often not nearly as bad as I might make it in my head.
- What’s the best possible outcome? Clearly important to balance #4. And also important to help be braver.
These are the four I have for now.
Here’s how I use them. Let’s say I want to ask for a raise. Here are the questions and some possible answers.
- What’s this in service of: better schools for my children, being able to afford more vacations together. So it’s in service of better education for my kids, more family time or even what i might consider to be higher quality time. Then I can think about whether these matter and whether I can achieve them without the raise. Do I really need a raise for higher quality time? Will more money really mean better schools for my kids? Will better schools really mean better education? etc. etc.
- How will this matter in five years? Well, getting a raise now might mean more money saved, more invested, and it might mean i can afford college more easily. It might mean more vacations we’ve taken. It might mean less daily stress on our economic situation.
- Which of my values does it honor? Maybe it honors my family and love values that I’d be doing this to provide better opportunities for my children. Or maybe it’s self-worth. Etc.
- What’s the worst possible outcome? Realistically the worst possible outcome here is that I wouldn’t get the raise. I can’t believe this would lead me to losing my job without my getting belligerent, etc.
- What’s the best possible outcome? I get a raise even more than I asked for and maybe my manager tells me what a good job I’ve been doing. Yey!
So there you go. What are some questions you ask?