Permission Slips

I ask for permission more times than any thirty-five year old mother of three children should.

I look for an okay on a whole host of decisions, from my family to a myriad of strangers; my parents, my husband, my kids, my boss, my co-workers, my friends; hell, even the staff member who runs the Fitting Rooms at TJMaxx.

I seek validation; I am afraid of judgement and criticism; I want to please everyone. I have guilt and shame around pursuing my own objectives when I already have a demanding career, children to nourish, encourage and raise, a husband to be present for, and a house to maintain. I feel incompetent when I can’t do it all, so why add something else to the list?

When you allow others’ thoughts or actions or opinions to formulate how you make decisions, you lose awareness of what’s important to you, what your interests are, what you value, and what makes you feel fulfilled.

You lose your sense of self.

Aha.

Asking permission shows up subtly. It’s not an outright ask; it lives at the corner of our actions. It hides in self-conscious and insecure behaviors, in making ourselves, our work and our passions small. It masquerades as asking for others’ opinions and seeking outside influence. It lulls us into procrastination. It trips us as we’re climbing the staircase of action, and holds us there, feeling like we’re still climbing but we’re simply spinning our wheels with the inaction of seeking perfection.

Seeking approval limits our possibilities, our experiences, and doing what is important to us. It also pushes us to do too much of the stuff that doesn’t serve us or fill our own cups.

My husband gets extremely exasperated when I make a decision, but then recant or second-guess that decision. I used to tell myself that I needed more data, needed to think through every possible outcome or consequence, assess all of my options. Truthfully, it’s because I never really made a decision at all. More often than not I need to talk through choices with someone, or multiple people, before I follow through because I’m just not sure I’m comfortable with my choice.

We mistakenly believe that aligning our choices and our actions with those around us will lead to a sense of assurance.

I’m starting to see it for what it really is, simply a lack of confidence. I’m more likely searching for external validation or approval than better alternatives. And I don’t want to be dictating my life and my decisions based on others’ wants, needs and opinions.

Approval only comes at the expense of knowing what we want and being true to ourselves. And that need for approval smothers our souls.

Once you’re able to identify and build what is important to you, other people’s opinions or judgements lose the weight you thought they once held. It becomes easier to walk away from things that don’t serve you or your highest interests, and replace them with things that allow personal growth, fulfillment and satisfaction.

Giver yourself permission to buy those shoes. Give yourself permission to put you, your hobbies and your goals on the calendar. Give yourself permission to build yourself into everything you can and want to become. Give yourself permission to ask for help without needing to seek approval. Give yourself permission to walk away from situations and people that drain your energy rather than revitalize it.

Who are you asking to grant you permission to be who you want to be?

permission, signature, permission slip, writing, pen, hand, contract, approval

 

 

Factory Settings

speakers, music, sound, default, factory, settings, beginning, unlearning, progress

What is your default state?

For me, my default state used to be overwhelm. Frustration. Anxiety. Anger. Stress.

As strange as it might sound, I look back and realize I was comfortable there. I knew these states intimately; they were like a cozy, well-worn sweatshirt. I wrapped myself in them, and ironically felt that they protected me. I don’t know that I ever realized I could change what I believed to be my automatic responses and reactions, much less wanted to. I’m quite sure I would have told you I couldn’t change where I was at, even if I tried.

I never recognized that I could improve upon those places I automatically went to.

I believed it was simply part of who I was.

These states of being were a part of my story, something that I never thought to question. I believed they were intrinsically woven into my character, simply the way I was hardwired.

And I was damn proud of who I was.

Thankfully, I learned to ask questions. Through self-development, self-discovery and self-evaluation, and learning from a whole lot of external sources about how to focus on the internal ones, I discovered that unlearning these behaviors might actually serve me, and my family, better.

Now, I am damn proud of who I am, but even more proud of who I am becoming.

Those states of overwhelm, frustration, stress, anger and anxiety still linger around, showing up and knocking on my door from time to time; I haven’t been miraculously cured overnight. Sometimes, those deeply rooted default reactions bypass all the good intentions in a zero-to-sixty flash. I’ve noticed that this is especially true when I haven’t been focusing on myself and my needs first; when I haven’t been filling my cup before filling others.

Yet, there are times where I catch it in time, and that’s where I can see my progress. It’s taken a few years of focusing and committing to a different state of being to move myself beyond these mindsets. It’s a daily practice that I still fail amazingly well at. However, in those moments where I do manage to catch it, I glimpse what is possible and that gives me the fuel to keep working persistently toward new default states, creating my own factory settings.

Target Practice

Welcome to 2019.

Is it just me, or is it already louder this year? While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s great to see motivation and energy around positive changes, I recognize that you might be feeling a bit inundated with messages, workshops, blogs, stories and memes about goal setting, planning, preparing.

Perhaps you’ve shut down and aren’t accepting any new information and that is OK. Sometimes, it can all be too much, and knowing when to step away is valuable. If you’re feeling that way, maybe bookmark this and return when you want.

If you’re not feeling overwhelmed with the messages about preparing and going into 2019, I pre-planned this content, and stayed the course on sending it out because I believe there is value for someone here, so I hope you take something away from it.

It involves getting quiet, so maybe if you’re one of those that is feeling a bit deafened by it all, reading on might help. No hard feelings if not.

Anyhow, considering this is the first day of the New Year, I wanted to give you a look into how I have cultivated my approach to being more intentional with my time and my goals. The tools that I have laid out below helped me move from a stuck, overwhelmed, developmentally sedentary and discontent life into feeling more fulfilled, intentional, successful and mindful of seeking growth.

The YearCompass

If you’ve followed me for awhile, or perhaps since the beginning, you know what an impact the YearCompass has had on me. In 2016 I discovered this free printable workbook and I have utilized it every year since.

The workbook is divided into two parts; the first twelve or so pages help you reflect back on the previous year through questions and bullet point lists. The last eight pages ask questions about the year ahead. It allows you to envision what you want out of the next 365 days.

It involves a few hours of reflection, to look back, and then a few hours to visualize and look ahead. I have broken this up over the course of several weeks in the past, considering that a day to sit with yourself is a rarity for me and I assume for most of you. Actually, to be completely transparent with you, the first year it took me a few months to get through the workbook. However, completing it at any rate was valuable, and a catalyst that helped me propel myself forward. I was grateful that I stuck through it.

I have shared my completed YearCompass pages with my small Accountability group, which has been powerful. I reflect on it over and over throughout the year. Which leads me to the next tool in my arsenal.

The Planner

There is an overwhelming amount of every different type of planner one could imagine out in the world, and everyone has their recommended favorite; each of us uses a planner a little differently. In the past I have struggled to find one that I can commit to using throughout the course of an entire year, however one in particular worked really well for me in 2018 and I purchased a 2019 version as soon as it was released. The Ink+Volt company has a number of pretty, wonderful things, but their Planner Series is among my favorite (I think this is where I need to mention that this is not in any way a paid or sponsored post, I just really, really like this company and its products).

The Limited Edition Series comes in a few really fun colors. This will be ironic to those who know my penchant for “color”. My 2018 Planner was gray; a shock, I know. There will be one person in particular who will be happy to know I chose the lovely Spruce option this year. Wild.

Aside from it being aesthetically pleasing, this particular planner charts the months and weeks in a logical flow and in such a way that reminds me to reflect back on my weekly, monthly and yearly goals. For me, keeping the important things top of mind is a practice that I am still not very good at, so having the prompt to review, and then break down my goals into actionable steps into a month or week to incorporate into my weekly schedule is extremely beneficial and resource-conserving.

Ink+Volt also sends free worksheets, updates their social with great content, examples of real people using their planners and how-tos, sends motivating thoughts via email and does an overall awesome job at keeping me aware of the things that are important. I appreciate the extension of their product and company in these ways that makes the planner even more useful.

I know of five women who have and love their Ink+Volt planner as much as I do; three are also repeat purchasers (and it is no small coincidence that it is also the women in my Accountability group who have completed the YearCompass with me) and the two others found this planner in time to purchase for 2019.

Resources

Of anything this year, focusing on consuming books and podcasts helped encourage new ideas and thought processes. My Amazon cart and library card have been well used. I set a goal at the beginning of 2018 to read one non-fiction book a month, and while I don’t know that the timeline fell quite so neatly, I succeeded in reading twelve of those books this year.

The shift in my commute once we moved provided ample time and space for podcasts, and I have listened to hours of insightful, inspiring, intelligent and sometimes just humorous interviews.

Gratitude

I’ve written an entire post about my gratitude practice, so I won’t go into detail, but I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention it here. It reshapes and improves my perspective every single day.

I use these things listed above as tools to create the space and time to sit and quietly connect with myself, my goals and who I want to be; to chase new ideas, expand my thinking, and retrain my habits.

They keep my intentions alive every day when, if I let it, life would have swallowed me whole.

If there is no target to aim your arrow at, there’s no sense in even picking up the bow.

bow, arrow, target, goal, planning, sky, water, archer

 

 

Hanging Art

wall, construction, work, suspended, labor, building, erecting

When we build walls, when we close doors, when we shutter windows, we feel safe.

We construct obstacles that feel necessary to keep out what we don’t want in.

We spend time crafting and constructing the walls; they take time and energy. They can become quite ornate.

Over time, the walls become familiar. We forget that they are there. We’re comfortable and acclimated to our surroundings.

We’ve painted those walls a beautiful color; we’ve hung pictures and artwork on those walls.

It was once about protection, born from necessity, preventing the outside from getting in.

But we also stopped wondering what else, besides that which we feared, we were keeping out.

Playing Dodgeball

I am not a person who accepts compliments or praise easily.

I shrug, turn away, side-step, back pedal. I refute, toss aside, downplay, deflect to someone or something else.

What is it about compliments that causes us to duck? Why does praise for our accomplishments make us want to bob and weave like we’re avoiding getting hit in a round of dodgeball? We might be able to volley compliments like champs, but when one comes our way, we scatter.

Complaints or faults on the other hand, we fall all over ourselves to outdo each other.

It’s not necessarily that the compliments are untrue; the validity of the statement bears little on the reaction. It’s that we never allow ourselves to applaud ourselves. Most importantly, we never allow ourselves to do so in front of others.

It’s become almost an art of sorts, how good we have become at deflecting.

We could have done it better. We should have done that one last thing. We really meant to do this, not that.

We are not special. We are not worthy. We wouldn’t want anyone to think that we might feel that we’re superior, that we’re self-important, conceited, entitled, or proud.

God forbid we might make ourselves proud, right? How dare we accept that maybe, on some days, in certain situations, we’re pretty great. That we actually did a good job at something.

What in the actual hell.

If I overheard one of my daughters being complimented on an accomplishment, and she downplayed it, or worse, did not genuinely acknowledge someone acknowledging her efforts?

I would be on fire.

Why are we so damn afraid of being proud of ourselves? When did receiving a compliment with grace become a bad thing? Why are we afraid to admit that we might like ourselves? That we feel like we did a damn good job at something?

We try really, really hard to make ourselves small, to diminish ourselves.

WHY?

Because it’s the honorable thing to do? For WHOM?

I want to be proud of my work. I want to be proud of my accomplishments. I want to be happy with myself and my efforts. I don’t want to make myself small, and I sure as hell don’t want to lessen my achievements.

We work hard. We put in a tremendous amount of heart. We deserve to step up and take the damn applause.

So do me a favor. The next time someone compliments you, and it makes you feel uncomfortable, and you want to turn away, or deflect, or play it off…don’t. Simply say, “thank you.”

And practice saying that, every single time, until acknowledging someone for acknowledging you is no longer uncomfortable.

uncomfortable, hiding, shy, woman, eyes, shielding, deflect, compliment

 

Writing in Pencil

There have been several significant times in my life where I have had to make the decision that I wasn’t traveling down a one-way road, writing in permanent ink. I have found myself in situations that were built upon my own decisions and choices, and because of those decisions and choices, I was resolute in seeing them through with little regard to how congruent they felt.

I believed I had written my story and was fated to simply see it through until I hit “The End”.

I’m a bit stubborn like that.

On those one-lane roads to lord knows where, I also had moments where I pulled over, looked at the map a bit differently, and found there was another route. It was rarely well-paved, or well-lit, but paid out tenfold in the experience I gained in learning to navigate.

I realized I had a completely new chapter to write.

The value is rarely in the ending; the real worth is found along the way. And it might be that a new route takes you to another you never would have found yourself on if you hadn’t veered off in the first place.

We’re all just telling ourselves a story. We become quite well-versed in what we think the next page should say, and often times we just keep writing the same chapter. But what if we challenged the writer? What if we asked ourselves to write bigger, write bolder, write more intentionally? What if the story was happier, stronger, more confident? What would we write then?

I want to encourage you to write. But don’t stop yourself from writing for fear of starting the wrong chapter or concluding with the wrong ending. Don’t limit yourself to writing small. And when you get to a place in your story that doesn’t feel right, never be afraid to start a new chapter and change your course.

Nothing is permanent. We’re all just writing in pencil.

pencil, notepad, writing, drafts, stories, erasing, starting, beginning, new, paper

Getting Called to the Mat

When you find your voice, you’ll have to decide to use it.

When you find your voice, and you decide to use it, you’ll inevitably find others who have something different to say.

When you find your voice, and you decide to use it, others who have something different to say will challenge and criticize you.

When you find your voice, and you decide to use it, others who have something different to say will challenge and criticize you, and you’ll have to defend it.

And it likely won’t do anything to change their minds.

But…

When you find your voice, and you decide to use it, you’ll find others who share your thoughts or are inspired by them.

When you find your voice and you decide to use it, you’ll find others who share your thoughts or are inspired by them, and you will support these people.

When you find your voice and you decide to use it, you’ll find others who share your thoughts or are inspired by them, you’ll support these people, and they’ll support you.

When you find your voice and you decide to use it, you’ll find others who share your thoughts or are inspired by them, you’ll support these people, they’ll support you, and those who haven’t yet found their voices might just find the courage to build theirs.

Your voice is your passion; it comes through in many different forms. It will work for you in different ways, if you let it. It will challenge you. It will challenge your perceptions and your views. As you grow into it, it will strengthen you. Things will grow from it.

Growth comes from challenge. Power comes from growth.

When you’re called to the mat, you have three choices: step forward, stand still, or step back. There will always be critics in the ring. You have to choose who your voice matters more to; those who are simply loud for the sake of being loud, those who are there, saying nothing at all but listening, and those who raise their voices with you.

wresting, ring, mat, knockout, man, match

Practice Makes Perfect

practice, piano, playing

On September 14th, 2017 I started a daily gratitude practice. Every day since, I have celebrated at least five things that I am grateful for.

I’ve written about my gratitude practice before, but the truth is, I still feel a bit awkward talking about it. It’s a complete one-eighty from where I came from.

I’d be willing to bet that a few of you will stop reading right about here, and that’s OK. It’s like anything else; you have to experience it for yourself to see the true value in it. But, gratitude isn’t a quick switch. It’s a gradual progression.

I have celebrated over 2,000 things that I am grateful for since I started this habit and it is easily one of the biggest shifts I have made to improve my mindset, ever.

While gratitude enhances the things I am already inherently grateful for yet often overlook, the real gold in this practice is found on the difficult days. The perspective that it gives me in challenging situations, and the shift that I have witnessed on more than one occasion in those who are involved in my gratitude project with me, is remarkable.

I try my best to weave gratitude into my days; there are those days where this is certainly easier than others. I take notes throughout the day to reflect on at night, when I compile my list. It’s the best punctuation on any given day, but especially for the less than ideal ones.

Find a reason to be grateful. Find several. Don’t just cherry pick them, although some days you will find that you must; dig in and find the good in the challenging.

It’s there. I promise.

 

Passing Go

monopoly, passing go, playing, board game

Two months ago, I jumped into a fitness challenge. I joined a gym with a three-month commitment. I signed up with a team, forcing my hand in accountability.

I have never belonged to a gym; my experience has been, at best, an intermittent affair with the gym at work. I have never taken fitness classes. I have never lifted weights with any real intention or direction. I have never shared space with people who push themselves so physically.

Up until about two weeks ago, I was the only person, and in some cases the youngest person, in my classes using pastel dumbbells; the 2, 3 and 4 pound weights. Week after week, in a series of movements, there were my two pastel dumbbells in a sea of black dumbbells in the mirror reflecting back at the class.

To say I have pushed myself out of my physical comfort zone would be an understatement. Not only was I in a new environment, I was carrying around the symbol of a beginner, and – in my head – the symbol of someone who is weak. There were moments where my internal critic’s shouts echoed off the walls of my own head, mocking me, trying to make me uncomfortable. That’s her job after all.

Without that discomfort, though, there wouldn’t be any growth. Without pushing past that unease, there would be no success, no fulfillment, no satisfaction of accomplishment. And that critic, the one telling me that I was weak, that everyone was judging me with those pastel dumbbells as not working as hard or pushing myself enough?

She was full of shit.

The truth is, no one gave a second thought to me and my pastel dumbbells.

There aren’t any pastel dumbbells in the mirror that belong to me now, but I will be the first to encourage and applaud the woman who walks into the next class and picks them up. That is, if I even notice her; what I have realized is that the serious ones, the ones who are working the hardest, are wrapped up in their workout and focusing on one thing: themselves.

Everyone who is inspiring you to grow started somewhere, were beginners at some point. It takes courage, self-worth, self-value, and passion. It takes believing that the journey is better than any momentary discomfort. It takes grit. It takes keeping your focus and your energy in your own lane.

And it takes being able to step out of your own comfort zone and tell your inner critic to take a muzzled seat.

I launched this blog after thinking about it for months. I consumed a variety of opinions on what a blog should look like, how a blog should be managed and found that there were already plenty of people talking about the things that I wanted to talk about. I could have worked myself right into inaction. This blog isn’t perfect, there are people out there doing it better than I am, and I’m happy with that because if I had waited until it was perfect I wouldn’t be in this space at all. I’m here and being in a space where people are doing it better than I am both pushes me harder and assures me that I have room to grow.

If my value in this space was wrapped up in other people’s validation or approval of it, I’d be doing it for all the wrong reasons. I’m here for me. I’m here for the women who have reached out to let me know that my words have had an impact on them.

Without starting, you’re only guaranteed one thing: you’re not going anywhere. Your internal critic doesn’t want you to pass go; she is extremely comfortable and content with where you are. She wants you to think that it’s everyone else that you have to prove yourself to. She’s banking on your not being able to overcome the discomfort of judgement.

One of the most fulfilling actions you can take is the first step in proving that she’s wrong.

Noise

jason-rosewell-60014-unsplash

There’s a lot of noise out in the world. Today especially.

Everyone is trying to be louder than the next.

Social media feeds, Instagram stories, Facebook lives, radio, TV, podcasts, books, magazines, articles, blogs.

Whose noise are you listening to?

Perhaps a better question is, what’s it doing for you?