Not Working Ahead

Back in December, one of the goals I set for myself was this:

Slow down and be aware: I tend to be an over-achiever which is great but because I am so task-oriented and accomplishment-focused, I often rush through things. I am focused on the end and I don’t enjoy the journey. I don’t slow down. I don’t take my time, explore, learn, grow as much as I could. So my plan this year is to slow down considerably. Take my time drawing. Take my time reading and thinking. If some things don’t get done, that’s ok. I think that much more growth happens when we slow down and approach things mindfully. Since my word for this year is savor, this is something I plan to pay extra-attention to. One change I made from last year was to aim to reduce some of my daily tasks. My goal is to do 4 sketches a week and 4 art journal pages a week instead of doing 7 of each. This way I get a few days off and if I want to I can complete a sketch over two days.

We’re now into the fifth month of the year and I don’t know if I’ve done this. There are definitely moments when I have. And, other times, I’ve rushed through the art just to “get done.” However, there’s a part of this that I’ve been working hard on: not working ahead.

I have a tendency to work ahead. This way on any particular week, I don’t have any tight deadlines. So if my layouts are due in a month, I will do them right now and be done. I used to do that for the blog, too. Create a bunch of art journal pages so I have a bunch of posts lined up. But one of my goals this year was to do this less.

I feel like consistency helps me with my creativity. When I work ahead and pile a bunch of art/layouts, I then take a long break. During this time I don’t feel like doing art. I don’t scrap. I have no ideas. I get rusty. I get lazy. I’ve learned, over time, that what inspires me most is doing. When I am creating regularly, ideas come to me. I feel more inspired. I feel more driven to create.

And when I take a long break, I get lazy.

This year, I’ve been trying to scale down the art but also keep it more regular. I actually do two art journal pages a week. If I am super-inspired I might do one more but it’s rare. I do one collage a week and then the savor project and the daily sketching. It would be nice to add one layout a week, too because my inspiration on creating layouts has waned a lot (especially since I do the Savor Project). I try not to overdo it. (At least for me.) I don’t sit and create ten pages in one sitting. If I’ve filled my goal for that week, I stop.

I save some for next week.

I take small breaks instead of feverishly working ahead and then burning out. If this means some weeks I have no art to post, I prefer that to taking a long break. This also keeps me more in the present, I think. I was ahead on Art Journal pages and Collage pages from early on in the year so I have a little breathing room on those if I have a dry week. Savor is always running one week behind, so that gives me time to catch up, too. But, honestly, I just try not to stress about it. I feel like the discipline and presence makes it work better for me.

This way, I have some art to do each night of the week. I try to collage on mondays, art journal on tuesdays, do my savor prep on wednesdays, do another art journal page on thursdays, and then finish my savor project on friday. the weekend is my backup for whatever’s not finished. And maybe I can scrap a layout each weekend, too. I don’t schedule these thoughts posts either. I want to make them about “now.” About how I am feeling in the present. It’s all part of being more aware. Being more here.

This does not come naturally to me. My instinct is to work ahead, get done, have it off my list. But I am learning that there’s something to be said for slowing down and creating something every single day.

So here’s to not working ahead. Here’s to being present. Here’s to controlling instinct and tying to be more aware.

So far, so good.

But, always a work-in-progress, of course.

Planning vs. Not Planning

I’ve been thinking about planning vs not planning. And while I’m generally a huge fan of planning (as I am sure you know if you read here at all) I’ve also become a big believer in nonplanning at times, too.

So for things that are hard and require motivation, you want to plan. For example, things like exercise. At least for me. I’ve noticed in the last month that if I don’t have a plan (however small) for what I will eat during the day, I either eat garbage all day long or I eat nothing and then find myself completely famished at the end of the day. Neither of which is healthy or sustainable. I need to plan the food better.

Same goes for things that you know you love to do but don’t tend to prioritize. For example, I need to plan going out with friends. I always seem to enjoy myself when I have a nice chat with a good friend. Or even with a new friend. I feel energized (and, yes, a bit spent, too) the rest of the day. My head is filled with ideas. My spirit is renewed. And I got to go out and have some sunshine. All of which is good for me. But I rarely make time for this. It seems like too much work. And since I am almost always perfectly content to be home, it just doesn’t get prioritized. So, it needs to be planned out.

And finally, new traditions I am trying to start need to be planned out. At least in the beginning. Creating a habit is often about creating a pattern. And plans work well for creating patterns. David and I have weekly date nights and we plan each of them out. Otherwise we’ll show up and there’s nothing to do. I want to make sure the first few are structured so that we have momentum. Then it will go where it goes.

But then there are other areas where I am trying to not worry about having a plan. For example, I try to create two art journal pages a week and a collage page once a week. I rarely ever have a plan for what I will actually create. For the daily sketches, I keep a pinterest board for inspiration but for the art journal pages and collage pages, I rarely ever have something to draw inspiration from. So I just sit at the table and start pushing paint around. I make one decision. To use a product or to pick a color. And then one more decision building on that one. And let it take me where it does. Often times, by the fourth decision or so, I have some kind of direction. And the lack of planning is not a good reason not to sit and try.

Same goes for short vacations. For us, the best ones end up being the ones with the least itinerary. We get in the car, check in, and then just relax. We walk and explore. We relax some more. We don’t stress about not following a plan, cause there is no plan. This helps us get rid of the feeling of “missing out.” Which, to me, defeats the purpose of vacation anyway.

I am learning that there’s a time to plan and a time not to plan. And I want to add some more spontaneity to my life. I want to be ok with a little of the unplanned and unexpected. I think it will make me happier and lighter.

What about you, what do you plan vs. not plan? Any advice on how to roll with the punches?

Doing it when You don’t Want to

I think there’s a myth that if you’re an artist you’re doing art all the time. Or that you want to be doing art all the time. Or that you should wait until desire strikes you to do art.

Ok maybe there are several myths.

I believe none of these are true.

I don’t believe there’s anyone on this earth who wants to do something all the time. We, as humans, tend to go through cycles. Sometimes we feel creative, other times we don’t. Sometimes we feel blocked. Sometimes we feel tired. Overwhelmed. Uninspired. I think artists and non-artists alike feel these cycles. The difference between those who continue to just do art and those who don’t is just that.

They do it.

Art, and anything else, gets done when you do it. I believe that if we all waited for inspiration to strike before we did anything, most of us would be doing nothing most of the time. At least it’s true for me. Actually, for me, it seems like I am not moved to do anything consistently. There are some rare times I really want to sit and create a layout or make a page in my art journal. But most of the time, I’d rather just sit on the couch and surf the net, watch TV or read a book.

Not because I am lazy but because it’s the easy thing to do. And my body is tired, my mind and soul are too. They all just want to rest and take the easy route out. They don’t know that the easy route is also the unfulfilling one. They just know it’s easy. It requires the least motion, inspiration, and willpower.

This is one of the reasons I’m a big believer in the schedule. I find that if it’s on my schedule, I just do it. I don’t wait to be inspired, excited, or even have an idea. I sit at my table and an idea just comes. And if it doesn’t come, then I pick an art supply I’ve wanted to use and start putting some color on the page. I just start. I do it even if I’m not feeling it.

Same with the exercise. I get up and I am so so tired. I barely can open my eyes and I still get on that stupid treadmill. The first minutes are dreadful, but I always get into it. By the end of the first half-mile, I know I can do it. I just keep going until it’s over. I don’t think about it, I don’t whine, I don’t think about giving up. I just do it.

Same with just about anything else in my life. There are very few things that I seem to consistently want and most of those are bad for me. (Like eating chocolate. I can’t remember a time that didn’t sound good to me.) But when it comes to pretty much anything else, I don’t consistently feel the desire to do it. I just do it.

This is not to say there aren’t times when it’s ok not to do it. It’s perfectly fine to go through a stage where you explore around more and get inspiration from your surroundings, from nature, from other artists. Or change up the routine some. There’s a time for rest, too. Rest is really important. For your body, mind, and soul. They all need rest.

But this is to say, don’t wait to want to do it. Just get up and do it. Take the first step. Even if all you end up with is a colored background, a quarter-mile walk, a few pushups, it’s still better than not taking that first step. Because this way, tomorrow all you’ll have to do is just take the next step. And before you know it, you’ll be all the way there. Wherever there is for you.

The trick is not wanting to do it.

It’s just doing it.

So, get up and do it. Right this moment.


It is time.

Falling off and Getting back on Track

Now that I am healing a little more each day (not that I want to jinx it), I wanted to share a little bit about what I did with my schedule when things got a bit crazy and how I am recovering.

I’ve written about my notebooks and my schedule before and while both of them get tweaked and updated regularly, I still stick to most of what’s outlined there. I still use my notebooks and have daily, weekly, monthly plans that I follow regularly.

Before the chaos at work began, I was doing these:

  • daily exercise (2.5 miles a day for March)
  • daily journaling
  • daily sketching
  • daily reading to David
  • daily art/craft blogging
  • 5days/week strength exercises
  • 5days/week 5-minute meditation
  • 5days/week thoughts blogging
  • 2 art journal pages a week
  • 1 collage page a week
  • weekly savor project
  • weekly family shots
  • week-long photos of my kids and then weekend blog update with all of them
  • monthly assignments for OLW and MMEW
  • plus reading, scrappy assignments, manufacturer blog posts, etc.

I know this looks like a lot but I was able to manage it relatively well on my regular schedule. Each of these tasks takes a small amount of time and you can see on my schedule that I work on them early morning and late nights. And then catch up on the weekends.

But then I got the problem at work and started working pretty much around the clock. At first, I was still at home and tried to continue doing some of these (like sketching and strength exercises) but then things got harder. I started going in to work and coming home late enough to go right to sleep so I could wake up, make the lunches, get the kids off to school and go back into work. And I didn’t sleep or eat much during that time. So I made an executive decision to stop doing everything on my list except a few. Here are the exceptions and why I chose them:

I continued to run each morning. That’s my non-negotiable and I haven’t gone a day without it since October 2, 2010 and pretty much nothing is going to stand in my way. After about a week, I was feeling really weak and I was having a really hard time running the whole distance. At first, I lowered it to 2 miles but another week in, I decided I would run one mile each morning. This meant my exercise was done in 10 minutes and I had no excuse not to do it and I could still keep up the habit of doing it daily. Once I started working at home again, I went back up to 2.5 miles and now that we’re in April, I’m running 2.6 miles every morning.

We still took weekly family photos. Those photos make me happy and it’s one of the few things I couldn’t make up for later. Time passes and I wanted to make sure I got the photos. We generally do these on Friday afternoon but for the weeks where I was at work, we did them Saturday morning and I am very grateful I didn’t skip this tradition. I also did the weekend updates on the blog because I have family who comes to look at them and I didn’t want to have to miss it and then have to make up for it by going through 3-weeks’ worth of photos.

I also continued The Savor Project. I took it super-simple but I still did it. This is the kind of project that builds on itself and I didn’t want to skip if I didn’t have to. Since Jake and I were still taking photos, I had stories to tell. I just picked my stories, printed the photos and kept things really simple. I spent about 1-2 hours on the weekend on this project.

One of the things I gave up really reluctantly was sketching. I have come to truly cherish my sketching time and hadn’t missed a day since January 2 so I felt bad but once I was going in to work, I knew it had to go. But I did continue doing them during the weekend and whenever else I could. As soon as I was back at home, I picked it right back up. I really enjoy this project so much.

I continued the art/craft posts in the blog because most of them were already scheduled and I just had to add a few that I was already doing. It also meant that there were things to read each day for the people who’ve been kind enough to visit me regularly. I did give up the thoughts posts just cause I didn’t want to wing them and they take time to put together. Time I didn’t have.

Everything else was put on hold.

I don’t remember if I did any art during this time (besides the occasional sketching) but certainly nothing noteworthy. I stopped doing the strength exercises, meditation, journaling, reading to david, and all other odds and ends I spent my free time on. I didn’t surf at all. I replied to almost no emails and no comments. I canceled all appointments that were on my calendar. Whenever I did choose to take some downtime, I snuggled with family or read a book.

So there you go. I thought it might help to explain some of my thinking so that you can see examples of how to adjust your own schedule as a specific deadline puts pressure on your time. I basically held on to three categories of items: nonnegotiable, overwhelming joy and compounding.

Looking back, I think it would have been good to take the time to journal or meditate (or both) but I didn’t feel capable of either at the time. In fact, it took me another week after I was home to begin journaling again.

Once I was home, I still took it a bit easy. I gave myself three days to continue on the lighter schedule and then slowly added things back in. At this point, I am almost back to my full, regular schedule. Some days are still a struggle but I am much more forgiving on myself than I was before.

I hope this helps for any of you live relatively structured like I do and who struggle with occasional time crunches.

I also have two more notes:

1. Thank you so much for all your kind words over the last few weeks. I am touched beyond words. I appreciate every single word, advice, hug, sentiment more than you will ever know. Thank you for continuing to come visit and still leave comments. I promise I will start responding again and if you’ve left me a comment with a question that went unanswered, please please ask again so I can see it and reply.

2. I am putting together a little FAQ on sketching and one on art journaling. Do you have any questions you’d like me to answer?

Those Little Things That Nag You

I think it’s fair to say that I am not a neat person.

(If my dad were here, he’d laugh at the understatement.)

Most of the time, this doesn’t bother me. I can go about my life and not have everything be super organized. I have my way of doing things and it works for me. For example, I am super-messy while I create but I always clean up between projects. I can’t start something new if my desk is a mess. I tend to let the dishes pile for a day but will almost always put them in the machine before I go to bed. And while the piles on the tables do sometimes bother me, they don’t upset me enough to actually use my time to clean up.


I’ve noticed lately that there are a few exceptions. I have this teetering pile on my work desk and each time I touch it, I feel frustrated that it’s such a mess. I always tell myself I need to rearrange it and get a system, but I never do. And since it’s a pile right next to me while I work, I use and see it often and feel bad about myself and my lack of organization several times a day.

Same thing goes with laundry. When there’s a pile of unfolded laundry sits in my room (which happens often with 2 kids under 7) each time I walk by it, I feel an overwhelming sense of defeat. And since this laundry is in my room, I see it several times a day. Especially, at night right before I go to bed, I look at it and feel sad that another day passed without my folding it.

As I pay attention to these little things that lower my spirit often, I’m learning that resolving them takes less time and energy then postponing them. When I do sit down and fold the laundry, it takes about 15-20 minutes and I am done. I feel uplifted and competent. There aren’t that many things that can give me a sense of accomplishment that quickly.

The best part isn’t even the sense of accomplishment. It’s getting rid of that “ugh I can’t believe I’m such a loser” feeling these little things give me throughout the day. Things that take away at my spirit little by little. Getting rid of these comes with a huge reward.

So I’ve decided to pay close attention to each little thing that makes me feel defeated next week. I will write it all down. And then I will go through my list and try to either them eliminate permanently or create a mini-routine around them to ensure they don’t get to the state where they bug me.

Let’s see if it works.

If you have things that get to you in your day, maybe you can do this exercise along with me.

Unnecessary Restrictions

I was having breakfast with a friend this morning and she mentioned that she’s been trying to meditate more often. I immediately jumped up and said that meditating five minutes a day was one of the only goals that has been on my todo list for over two months that I never ever get to check off.

When she asked me why, at first I said I really didn’t know why. I said that I had this super-structured day and I just didn’t seem to be able to find a minute to meditate until it was late into the night and then I just fell asleep. But even as I was saying it, I knew it was an inexplicably ridiculous excuse.

I seriously didn’t have five minutes in my day anytime before 9pm?

No way.

As I thought (and talked) more, I realized it was because I had all these restrictions around the concept of meditating. It had to be super-quiet which meant I couldn’t do it anytime the kids were around. I couldn’t do it when I am tired because I might fall asleep which meant night time and right after morning exercises were also out. I had to be calm and there had to be no way I could be interrupted in the middle of it so that left most of my day time out since I work and could be reached on IM or the phone at any moment.

I’d pretty much decided that I couldn’t possibly do it unless I was guaranteed those minutes were going to be completely “zen.” Or whatever my idea of optimal meditation environment seemed to be.

After suggesting some wonderful alternatives, like walking meditation, my friend mentioned that she does her meditation to music. This one song. She also said that her physical therapist recommended she meditate right after doing strength exercises so her muscles can relax.

That did the trick for me. Somehow it enabled me to let go of the unnecessary restrictions I’d placed on this one goal.

I went home, bought the song, and right after my strength exercises were done, I sat and meditated. Just for six minutes. This was the first time I was able to check off the “meditate” box in my todo list in over six weeks. It was quiet cause Nathaniel was sleeping. Work didn’t interrupt me. I didn’t fall asleep.

In fact, I felt peaceful and rested after I was done.

I’ve recently begun investigating all these unnecessary restrictions that I seem to place on my tasks. Sometimes it makes the goal seem so much bigger and more complicated than it is. And, clearly, they do not serve any purpose except to make it harder for me cross off the item.

Today, I have tangible proof that stepping back to analyze your restrictions and the true reason why you’re not accomplishing a task is really helpful. It eliminates the unnecessary and allows you to get to the crux of the issue. You still may not end up doing it but at least now it’s with awareness.

I left our breakfast thinking that awareness is such a gift. It allows me to live my life on a much higher and deeper level. It is something I want to cultivate more and more in my life.

And guess what?

Meditation helps raise awareness.

Life is circular like that. You take the first step and the universe comes together to help you take the next one.

Update on My Notebooks

I’ve had several questions as a follow-up to this blog post about my notebooks and how I stay organized. I figured a little movie might help.

Let me know if this helps and if you have any other questions.

And two small things to mention:
1. I apologize I’ve been exceptionally bad about emails and comments lately, I will catch up soon, I promise.
2. I am in the process of reenabling emails so if you’re subscribed to receive posts over email, you will slowly start getting them again.

Making it Count

Many, many years ago, I did Weight Watchers. I will say that it worked like a charm and I lost quite a bit of weight which I kept off until I got pregnant. But Weight Watchers gave me a gift that I think is bigger than the weight loss.

It created a number value for each food.

For those of you who never did it, the way WW used to work (it’s slightly different now) was that you got a number of allotted points each day. Let’s say 18. And then each thing you eat or drink has a point, too. You can basically eat, drink and be merry until you reach the magic number. Of course, it has quite a few subtleties but that’s the gist of it.

So, for a programmer, having a number value associated with food makes life so much easier. For me, the choices became much simpler. The first thing I eliminated was the stuff I like only a little bit but had huge points. For example, pizza. I know some people love pizza but I can take it or leave it. And now that I know how many points it is, I pretty much leave it. Same for muffins. I like them ok but they are so not worth the points.

So my first lesson was to learn about how many things I eat that are just ridiculously bad for me. For things I adore, like chocolate, that might be worth it, but for things I could go either way on, it clearly wasn’t. I’ve pretty much eliminated those things permanently. This only works because I wasn’t crazy about them to begin with and so I never crave them.

The second, and bigger in my opinion, lesson I learned from Weight Watchers was to make my points count.

This is not about choosing a big, whole meal that’s 8 points over a piece of chocolate that might be the same number. (Though that was good to know too. And sometimes I chose the chocolate anyway but at least it was a conscious choice.) But what I learned was making sure that if I was going to eat the chocolate and get the 6 points, I better eat the BEST chocolate I could find. The one I was really, truly going to enjoy. So that every single one of those points counted.

Ever since I did weight watchers, I never settle for my indulgences anymore. I get the best chocolate or the best dessert. I only eat the ice cream that I truly love.

The other day, I was at Starbucks and I’ve been really addicted to their Cake Pops lately. But they were out of the one I like and so I picked another bite-sized dessert instead.

It was terrible.

Someone else might have loved it but I knew that it didn’t fulfill my chocolate need the way the cake pop did and thus I felt unsatisfied. And, worse, I’d just wasted my valuable points (not to mention money) on something that wasn’t delicious. I made a point to remember that next time my favorite item was out, I wouldn’t substitute. (Ahem, instead, I drove to another Starbucks and got my cake pop!)

I think this idea can be applied to many areas of life. Not just calories but time and money, too. You have limited amounts of each. Make sure that you’re spending them on what matters most. Make every little bit count. Don’t settle for the crappy chocolate. If you’re going to do it, do it right.

I want to be clear that I am talking about an apples to apples comparison. I am not saying eat a 32-point cake instead of a 6-point piece of chocolate. I am not saying go on a $5,000 vacation instead of the $200 one. I am saying all things being equal, pick the super-delicious (for you) 6-point chocolate over the mediocre 6-point one.

I am grateful to Weight Watchers for the lesson it inadvertently taught me. So, now, I buy the best chocolate. I go to another store to find the item I really want. I don’t settle and waste my precious points. I only watch the TV shows I love. I only read books that fulfill me. I do art that I love. I commit to things I know will bring me joy.

We all have obligations in life. Things that are out of our control and things that we wish we could do differently. Things we do that we wish we didn’t have to. Things we don’t do that we wish we got to. Much of life cannot be altered easily. But there are bits we do get to control. However small or big. The goal is to make the very best of those moments. To make sure that in the things we do get to control we are choosing to honor our bodies, souls, minds, hearts by making the choice that is truly aligned with who we are. With what makes us happy.

That we’re making it count.

Structure, Willpower, and Stress

If you’ve been reading here with any regularity, you’ll know that I live a relatively structured schedule. I’ve always thought that the structure allows me to get more things done. As it turns out there is a correlation between “willpower” and “structure.” The more things are scheduled, the less they require use of willpower. You don’t have to motivate yourself to do it. You do it cause it’s the next thing on the schedule. This is also why “every day” works better than “3 days a week.” Because if it’s every day, you can’t put it off to tomorrow. It has to get done today and tomorrow and every other day.

I understand that structure doesn’t work for everyone. I respect that we’re different. But I also challenge you to give it a try. Pick one thing and create a schedule around it. Just for that one thing. It can work like magic. And getting to keep more of your willpower to then use on other things is just an added bonus.

Having said that, I have had times where my own schedule stresses me out. Some days, a lot of unexpected things pile up and I find that my sketch (that I usually do at 8:30am) is still not done at 6pm and I am stressing. At that point, I have two choices: I can let it go or I can let the stress go and just tell myself it’s a choice I made and it will bring me joy to sit and work on it.

Letting it go is the easy thing. Ok maybe not for me. But it still feels like the easy thing. At the end of those kinds of days, I feel wiped and frustrated and all I want is to lie on the couch and watch TV or surf the net.

But here’s the thing….

On the days when I do let it go, I am always bummed when I go to bed. I feel a small feeling of self-disappointment and a big feeling of blahs. For me, TV or net-surfing is like cool-whip (in Melody’s terms): it’s an activity void of soul-lifting. I can do it for hours and I feel just as empty (if not more) afterwards. Whereas if I do the hard(er) thing and sit at my table and sketch, within 15 minutes, I am completely engrossed and by the end I feel more fulfilled and my soul is much happier.

However, there are times when the activity I’ve put off on my schedule is not soul-restoring and/or I am truly wiped and I need to get sleep. So now we’re not talking soul-less web-surfing vs. sketching but sleep vs. something that doesn’t have to get done. It’s on the schedule cause I put it there. I would like to do it but the idea of doing it is causing me a large amount of stress or guilt when instead I really really need the sleep.

In that case, I get sleep.

As a side note, I have learned to prioritize sleep over pretty much anything. Sleep is important for my body and soul and brain.

The idea here is threefold:

1. Structure is good for you. How much structure and what to put on the schedule is up to you and make sure to keep a good balance between encouraging and suffocating.
2. Sometimes things don’t work out and your schedule goes awry. Remember that you created those activities for a reason and remember to choose what lifts your soul over the mind-numbing activities even when you feel you’re too “tired.”
3. If you’re actually tired (and not just being lazy like in step 2) then remember that you created the schedule and you can let it go. Sleep trumps pretty much everything.

Letting yourself off the hook for one day does not mean throwing the schedule out the door. Sleep, rest, and get back in the game tomorrow. We get a fresh start every day.

And if this happens a lot, review your schedule. Change it. It’s yours. It’s there to serve you. If it’s not serving you, change it.

I look at my schedule as a way to give myself permission to do the things I want to do. It’s not my chore-list. I don’t put the laundry or dishes on there. Ever. I put my own tasks. Sketching, exercising, journaling, etc. Things for my soul. In my opinion, even those things can require willpower. Putting them on the schedule gives me permission and allows me to do them without depleting my willpower.

And each time I check something off, I lift my soul up just a little bit more.


As I’ve mentioned before, I am taking a local class this semester called The Science of Willpower. This class gets more and more fascinating each week. I always find myself wanting to write about it here but I can’t ever seem to get organized enough to do so. This week, however, some of the things my teacher mentioned hit home so much that I knew I had to take the time to write it down here.

This week’s topic was The Abstinence Violation effect. This happens when you have a goal and then you do something that you’d consider a ‘slip.’ For example, you’re on a diet and then you have a chocolate chip cookie. You were “abstaining” and you violated that. Makes sense? So if you were to do that, what do you think would happen next? Many of us would think that you would feel super-guilty and shameful and this guilt and shame would stop you from slipping again. Right?


Not the way the brain seems to work.

There’ve been several studies that prove that the more you feel guilty/shameful about slipping, the more likely you are to slip AGAIN and AGAIN. And possibly slip worse.

Makes no sense?

Well, it’s as if once you slipped, you (and your brain) goes into the what-the-heck mode and you figure you already messed up so you might as well mess up more and more.

But here’s the even weirder part.

After you slip, if you take a moment and tell yourself “That’s alright. I messed up. I am human and many others mess up all the time, too. I forgive myself.”

You are now LESS likely to slip again!

Fascinating, no?

So the cure to the abstinence violation effect is: self-compassion. If you take a moment to be aware, let go of the shame/guilt and then show yourself some self-compassion, you can more easily get back on track. Many people think forgiving yourself means letting yourself off the hook. It appears that’s not the case. It’s the key to getting back on track.

I found this to be fascinating and extremely important. I live with a lot of goals. I work hard on my goals but I certainly slip often. And knowing the effect of shame vs. self compassion is really crucial in being able to get back on track sooner than later.

So there you go, if you’re anything like me, next time you slip, remember the rule: no shame/no guilt.

Forgive yourself.

And then get back on track.

The Power of Thinking You Can

I’ve had a lot of managers in my life. Let me rephrase that: I’ve had a lot of bad managers in my life. But I’ve also been lucky enough to have a few good ones.

And here’s one of the biggest differences between the two: the good ones believe in you and give you opportunities that they know you can rise to. They push you and encourage you at the same time.

And you know what?

It works like a charm.

When I worked with a good manager, I rose to the occasion each time. I conquered problems I never thought I could. I blasted through what I believed were my limits. They showed me that I can be more. That I already am more and I just needed to see it. There’s so much magic in having someone believe in you.

Over the last few years, I’ve been trying to do this for myself. I can see a huge difference in my abilities when I change my mental state. This is not just about being positive (though that’s a big part of it, too.) This is about thinking you can. Thinking that you have what it takes to conquer your next challenge. You have what it takes to achieve that goal. What it takes to operate on the level you want to be.

The trick is that once you think you can, you can.

I know it sounds simple and I also know that it isn’t simple. I go through bouts of insecurity in my life. Over work, over my art, over my ability to be a good wife or mother. Over everything that actually matters to me. And I’ve noticed that when I am in that state, I end up being sub-par. I actually make more mistakes. So then my view of how I am actually comes true. Which is a vicious cycle, of course. I think I am mediocre, so I perform mediocre and then end up actually being mediocre.

See how that works?

But then there are times when I feel good. I feel like I can. I am excited and powerful and confident. Which also makes me kind, helpful, and uplifting. And, man, nothing can get in my way during those times. I am a powerhouse. I know things. I learn things. I am always surprised by how much and how well I can get things done when I am in that place. I am a star.

And you know what? They are both me. The mediocre girl and the star. They are both me. I have the capacity to be either. And while it’s nice to have managers who can activate the go-getter in me, there’s no reason I should wait for that.

There’s no reason I can’t do it for myself.

I know for a fact that thinking you can means you can. It gives you the energy, optimism, and drive to get things done. So you rise to the challenges. You work harder. You work more intelligently. And you reach the goal. Whether it be programming or drawing or learning to write more beautifully. The trick is to think you can.

And magic takes over from there.

Doing It Anyway

I was reading this wonderful post by Karen Russell this morning and though several parts of the post spoke to me deeply, the part that resonated the most with me was when she wrote this:

So it really doesn’t matter what I feel, it only matters what I do.

Even though her context is different, I work hard to apply this way of thinking to my life regularly. (By the way, I loved her context too but she already talks about that beautifully so I didn’t think it needed repeating.) I am a big proponent of doing things. In one of the Soul Restoration classes, there’s a whole session called “She did it anyway” and I remember it being my very favorite week.

When we don’t feel like doing things, we tend to think that others are doing it because they “feel” better about doing it. When I didn’t exercise at all, I used to look at others and say “Well she loves running.” or “She’s so good at it, I could never do that.” on and on. I didn’t, for a second, imagine that they didn’t want to do the activity either. I can apply this to practically anything in my life. Scrapping, working, exercising, eating a good meal, cooking, cleaning, taking care of the yard, reading to my kids, playing with my kids, spending time with those I love, etc, etc.

There are certain activities I pretty much never feel like doing. Like exercising. Having done it for quite a while now, I can confidently say that exercise will not be something I look forward to or feel like doing. But it will always be something I do anyway. I won’t wait until I feel like doing it. I will just do it. Just like cleaning up the dishes or picking up a mess. It’s something I don’t like to do but I appreciate the outcome so I deal with the process. I do it for the rewards that come from having done it per se.

(I want to mention that there are other areas where the rewards are not worthwhile to me and the doing is also dreadful so I don’t do those. For example, I don’t like cooking and I do believe I can provide nutritious meals for my family without having to cook, so I don’t cook. I just wanted to make sure to highlight that there are cases when neither the work nor the outcome are desirable and it’s important to recognize those too so we can stop doing them and use our time more effectively. These items are clearly personal. A tidy house might be less important to you than a home-made meal so you spend your time cooking and I spend mine putting the dishes away. There’s no right or wrong here, just knowing what your personal preferences are and using them to make yourself happy.)

Anyhow, back to my point. I also have a list of things that I do enjoy most of the time, but only after I begin. As I’ve mentioned here before, I feel a strong sense of inertia. When I am reading, I rarely want to stop reading so I can draw. When I am scrapping, I rarely want to sit with my kids instead. There’s a strong pull to continue whatever it is I am currently doing. It doesn’t matter what the current activity is (as long as it’s something I tend to enjoy), I just don’t want to transition to another one. But I’ve learned over time that, for me, doing a variety of things each day makes me feel more fulfilled at the end of the day. I have several projects and I like to move them all forward frequently. So there are many days where I don’t feel like sketching. Or art journaling. Or sometimes even hanging out with my kids. But I don’t wait for that feeling to pass. I don’t wait to feel like doing art.

I just do it.

I tell myself it’s time to sketch. I stop what I am doing and start sketching. Invariably, about ten minutes in, I am lost in the activity and grateful I’m doing it. So much so that when I am done, I don’t tend to want to move to the next activity but just continue what I am doing. But I move on. And at the end of the day, I am always grateful.

So, I’ve learned to never wait for the feeling to be there. There are times I really feel like creating or reading, and I work hard to honor those times. But more often than not, it’s just about doing it anyway.

This applies to being kind too. And not participating in the gossip. Making healthy food choices. Not yelling. Not being sarcastic or passive aggressive. Calling someone you’ve been meaning to call. Doing something when you said you would do it. It applies to the areas of doing your share in the world like Karen’s story in her post. Being a kinder, helpful member of a family, of a society. Lending a hand when you can. Not because you’re feeling like it but because it’s the right thing to do.

I’ve learned over time that many other people don’t feel like doing it either. Do you think most writers feel like writing every single day? When you look at others without the cloudy glasses on, you can clearly see that the reason others get things done is because they are dedicated to their goal and focused on the outcome. And they certainly don’t feel like doing it all the time either. But they don’t wait until they feel up to it.

They just do.