My word of the year for 2019 was “Declutter.” I chose it because I felt the need to declutter my space, my thoughts, and my life. I knew it would be challenging and hoped it would be motivating. If I give myself an honest grade, I would say 5 out of 10.
Earlier in the year, I did some significant declutter projects, and recently, my husband and I decluttered our storage area. It brings me great pleasure to walk in there and see all the camping gear and boxes of old photo albums stacked on shelves in an orderly fashion. We got rid of a lot of stuff and that is liberating too.
Emotionally I have continued to work on minding my thoughts and trying to cull out the ones that don’t serve me. And honestly, that has been helpful. I don’t spend as much time wallowing in negativity. I’m getting better at catching myself in a downward spiral and pulling back up out of it. That has improved my life more than a clean desk ever could.
I did learn a few lessons in the process. First of all, I need to pick a word I’m excited about. Declutter doesn’t exactly inspire. I thought the challenge would motivate me and to a point it did, but not enough to make me embrace the word and live my year accordingly.
Secondly, I learned that I’m okay with a certain level of clutter. I’m trying to get better for the sake of my family who shares my space and for the guests who come to my house, but if I’m being honest, I don’t love a pristine living area. It’s called a living area for a reason and you certainly can’t question if our family lives in our house. Evidence is everywhere. We are a busy, lively bunch. We have pets. We move quickly from one activity to the next, and sometimes, we leave a trail. We are all working on that and getting better, but I don’t mind seeing remnants of craft projects and board games and good meals because it shows that we are really living.
The third lesson I learned is that I have more to do. Our craft room/office/the-place-we-put-everything-we-don’t-know-what-to-do-with needs to be cleared out and organized. It is a great space and we use it a lot, but our time could be so much more efficient if we cleared out drawers, cleaned off work spaces and got organized.
Finally, I learned that little steps are still steps. I am not going to change a lifetime of habits without some time and struggle. Even though the Year of Declutter is coming to an end, I will continue to take steps to live up to the word.
On a positive note, I'm sitting at a clean desk. I cleared it off a few days ago, and it certainly makes me happy to see the surface and not piles of papers and forgotten things.
For local folks, I’m holding another workshop to determine your word of the year. It will be at the Golden Library on Monday, January 6 from 6:30-7:30pm. Join me for a fun and inspiring (and FREE) evening and leave with a small memento to remind you of whatever word you choose. I have an idea in mind for my word of the year, but I'm going to go through the process and make sure before I reveal it.
In the meantime, Happy New Year! I hope you have some time to reflect on 2019 as we prepare to move into a new decade.
I went to three Christmas parties last weekend. At each one, I ate a lot of cheese, drank a lot of alcohol and binged on cookies and sweets. It was wonderful. Even now, as I write this at 6:30 in the morning, I am eating a cookie from the cookie exchange party. One of my greatest pleasures in life is eating a cookie with my coffee first thing in the morning, and I’m not ashamed to say that I will probably do this every morning until the new year.
I used to worry about myself over the holidays. I eat fairly well most of the time, so I feel the addition of an average of 5 cookies to my daily diet as well as an increase in drinking alcohol and consuming mounds of cheese trays and other rich, holiday-only foods. Even now, I feel a little layer forming around my mid-section. I’m still working out regularly, but with the colder weather and the coming and going of viruses, even that is not at the level it needs to be to compensate for my increase in calories. But still, I’m not worried about it.
You see, fitness is not an issue for me. I don't worry about gaining weight or getting weak. I don't question if I will motivate to work out and be active. I know I will do it. I value it too much and the benefits are so important to me that I know I won't let myself get lazy. In a pleasant way, I am addicted to it. If a few days go by without a workout, I get grumpy. And even if life gets crazy and a week goes by and I haven't been as active as I'd like to be (or if I’ve been eating and drinking with abandon), I don't worry about the slippery slope effect. I trust myself to get back to business.
This wasn't always the case. I didn't come out of the womb lifting weights and wearing a black belt. I was an active child and our family's move to Colorado when I was 8 certainly helped set the stage for a lifetime of being a doer. However, in college, I was prone to false starts and the New Year's Resolution gang that crowded the campus gym for a few weeks. I would ride cycles of motivation and slack, dreading and yet somehow knowing that I would succumb to fitness failure. When the inevitable valley came, I'd ride it out until I had the next motivator...upcoming swimsuit season or the new year or whatever. It was a frustrating way to live...wanting to be fit but not trusting myself to follow through.
Somewhere in my twenties, fitness became not just a nice idea to aspire to but a full-fledged priority. It helped that I married an active guy and that we motivated each other, meeting to mountain bike after work and signing up for triathlons and adventure races. We had kids and consistency became harder, but if anything, parenthood motivated us more. We refused to fall into the trap we were often warned about…”Oh, you’re in shape now, but just wait until you have kids.” Likewise, I stopped worrying that I would hit a certain age and my metabolism would slow down and exercise would be futile. 30 came and 40, too, and honestly, I’m in better shape now than when I was 20.
Staying fit isn’t easy, but because it’s the lifestyle I’ve chosen, it isn’t difficult either. I thrive on it and I know I will always prioritize it.
The holiday season is tough. It’s busy and often stressful, and temptations are everywhere. Between baking cookies, attending elaborate parties and eating large meals, it’s hard to stay on track. If you live in a place that has actual winter, you might find it harder to work out and you might just lack the time to do so with the demands of shopping and year end work goals and increased activities and the kids at home.
I don’t encourage the gluttony I described that was my weekend. Not everyone can jump off the track and back on again. My point is that I have spent years developing trust in myself. It has taken decades of proving to myself that when push comes to shove, I will get it done. And if you follow my blog, you know that while I have my health and fitness pretty nailed down, I struggle in other areas. So I understand that my reality is not true for everyone.
But here’s the thing, anyone can develop that inner trust. You can cultivate a lifestyle that supports your wellness. You can develop habits and thought patterns that set you up for success. Yes, it will be difficult in the beginning. Anything worth doing has its challenges, but it won’t always be a struggle. Eventually, you will get to a place where your priorities will change, your lifestyle will shift, and your actions will be in alignment with your intentions and you will trust that you can keep it up.
Christine and I created the Empower! Program for this very reason. We want to support adults and tween girls in creating an intentional lifestyle. We know it isn’t just about working out. We also know you can’t just snap your fingers and think in a way that will encourage healthy habits. We know that it is in the connection of the mind and body, the pairing of mental intention with physical habits that true and sustainable change is made. Our program isn’t about losing weight or looking a certain way, and it goes well beyond fitness. It is about developing habits that reflect your authentic self and encourage action and accountability in all areas of your life.
I’m looking forward to the program personally because i know it will help me start my year with goals and the motivation to achieve them. 2020...a new decade...what will you do with it?
My older daughter is in 5th grade. Last week, we went to a middle school information night. How did this happen? My feelings about this will show up in another post, but for now, just know that she is a lovely 10-year-old and I’m not ready to throw her to the wolves of middle school.
She had a great year in 4th grade. She bonded with her teacher and experienced a lot of growth academically and personally. 5th grade is different. She has 3 teachers and she rotates between classes. She likes her teachers, but the bond isn’t the same. And sometimes, she comes home with homework in 4 different classes.
She does homework and eats snack right after school. If she has a lot of it, she will sometimes stress out in the middle, wondering how she will ever finish and why she has to have so much in the first place. But she does it.
Inevitably, later in the evening, usually when she’s trying to go to sleep at night, her mind will start to mess with her. “What if I didn’t do all my homework?” she will ask. “What if I forgot something?”
Can’t we all relate to this? Don’t we all have areas in life that keep us up at night? We worry about what we did or didn’t do. We worry if we are good enough. We think about what we should’ve said or what we could’ve done differently or what people think about us.
The good news is that these thoughts are a sign that we care. My daughter works hard and she cares about how well she does. She wants to do well. She wants to please her teachers and get good grades and ace tests. In the rare event that she forgets something or gets a bad grade, she feels it acutely.
And that’s the bad news. Because we care, we feel things sharply and we often spend time thinking in a way that doesn’t serve us. We worry and fret. We question and doubt ourselves. While this is natural, we must realize it is also very unproductive.
My daughter’s nightly worries take energy. These thoughts sometimes keep her up at night, postponing her sleep, which is sooo important. These anxious thoughts certainly don’t help her prepare for a test or feel good about her abilities. On the contrary, they sow doubt and insecurity.
Let's remember that anxiety is a throwback emotion. Our ancestors needed anxiety to survive. But in our world where getting food is an act of going into a well-lit building and picking something off the shelves versus hunting and gathering and survival isn't usually a question from moment to moment, most of our anxiety is unfounded. Yes, our world is full of threats, but if we are truly in danger, we are not sitting around and fretting. We are running for our lives or fighting back or actively hiding or calling the police.
Anxious thoughts are not a problem in and of themselves. In fact, they can serve the purpose of highlighting what is important. They can also help us figure stuff out. They become problematic when they occur beyond logic. My daughter, for example, will often have a conversation with me that goes like this:
“What if I forgot to do some homework?” she’ll ask.
“I don’t know.”
“Did you check your planner? Did you do everything you needed to do?”
“I think so...but what if I didn’t?”
“I saw you working on math and reading. And you spent some time on your science presentation. Was there anything else?”
“No. That was it.” Pause. “But what if it wasn’t?”
You see, our brains often work against logic, against evidence, against the truth. And if we aren’t paying attention, we become victims to this thinking, which absolutely limits us.
So what did I say to my daughter? What will I keep saying to her when these thoughts interfere with her wellbeing? Something like this:
“Did you do the homework that was assigned to you...as far as you know?”
“Yes,” she replied.
“Do you trust yourself?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, do you believe that--to the best of your knowledge--you did what you needed to do?”
“Okay, then you need to trust yourself. You can lay here and get all worried about what you might have forgotten, but you almost always get done what you have to get done. So focus on that. Focus on the fact that you haven’t forgotten a homework assignment in a long time. Trust yourself.”
She looked skeptical, but she was listening. “And,” I added, “even if the very worst thing happens and you forget a small assignment--I know you wouldn’t forget a big important one--then you talk to the teacher about what you can do to get it turned in or make it up. That’s the very worst thing that can happen, but remember, you almost never forget stuff, and when you have, it hasn’t been a big deal. Put the time in when you are doing your homework. Check off the list of your classes, and then trust yourself.”
She gave a little smile and nod, pulled her covers up to her chin, and looked more at ease. We said our good nights and she went to sleep fairly quickly.
Does she still struggle with nightly anxiety? Yes. Does her brain still think thoughts that go against reason? Absolutely.
Changing the patterns of thinking that don’t serve us doesn’t happen overnight. It isn’t easy to break these cycles. My daughter will probably always be prone to anxious thoughts. My goal with her (and my clients and myself) is to raise awareness around not only how we are thinking, but the idea that we can change how we think. Unchecked, our brains will run wild with thoughts that hinder our ability to live happy and productive lives. But once we start tuning in, we can put some resistance in the well-oiled gears of those thoughts and start building a pathway for better and more helpful thoughts to run in our minds.
A few nights ago, I was sitting with my daughter at bedtime and talking about the day. I saw her eyes cloud with the familiar worry. She looked at me and when she made eye contact, a light of memory struck and she smiled, somewhat grimly, but it was a smile all the same. Then, quietly and with determination, she started chanting, “I trust myself, I trust myself, I trust myself, I trust myself.”
A couple weeks ago, I went to a conference put on by Women In Community (WIC). It was held on Women’s Entrepreneurship Day and it was for “Purpose-Driven Women Entrepreneurs”. The title of the conference was Revenue Revolution with the focus of helping women make more money in their businesses. Sounds great, right? Who doesn’t want to make more money? I found it via a Facebook ad. It fell on a day I was free and my husband was available to pick up the kids, and it was a small investment for a chance to spend a day around inspiring women.
First of all, let’s talk about the term “Purpose-Driven Entrepreneurs.” I want to be THAT. I love that term and now have a beacon to strive toward...something to live up to. I feel like I have the “purpose-driven” part down pretty well. But I’m struggling with the entrepreneur part of it. So in all honesty, I felt a little bit of the imposter syndrome that I learned about when I was teaching children from low-income families or working with the scholarship program that funds and supports high-potential individuals from at-risk communities. The idea is that these hard-working, intelligent, highly-qualified students go to college--often the first from their family to do so--and they struggle with the feeling that they don’t belong, that they are imposters and somebody's going to discover them and send them back to where they came from. I was able to empathize with that feeling at the conference. I’m still getting my business legs and as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it is HARD! I often feel lost and awkward and uncertain, and I assume that other people building businesses are doing so much better at it and that because I lack business training, I can’t really call myself a business owner. The organizers spoke to this at the conference. So many of us are trained life coaches or artists or real estate agents or whatever, but few of us are trained in business; therefore, many of us don’t identify as business owners. However, as soon as we “hang out our shingle,” we ARE business owners and we have to own that and step into it.
Another purpose of this community and their events is to be instrumental in creating “Feminine Business Culture.” The founders weren’t happy with corporate America. They didn't like the competitive and judgmental culture. On the contrary, as more women become entrepreneurs, the founders of WIC want to make sure they feel supported and comfortable in what has traditionally been a man’s world.
What does that look like in a room of about 125 women entrepreneurs? Well, first of all, it was beautiful, physically and otherwise. The women were--without a doubt--beautiful, and all shapes, sizes and colors were represented. On top of that, they were passionate and inspired and excited, so there was a positive energy in the room. It was also not your traditional business conference. When I walked in, I had the option of being blessed by a Shaman Priestess (who would be on the panel of business owners later) and/or getting a spritz of essential oils and a hug from the founder of WIC. I opted for the blessing which was simply setting an intention and having water ceremonially poured over my hands.
We started the conference with a whole-room blessing and meditation and throughout the day we had movement and singing breaks, both led by women entrepreneurs who had been through the program. It was refreshing; it was interesting; it was unique; it was lovely. Did I like it? Absolutely. Did I love it? I don’t know yet. I didn’t feel like I was 100% with “my people.” I met lovely ladies and had some wonderful conversations, but I wasn’t fully comfortable and I’m still trying to suss out why.
Let me be clear...the whole day was a big long sales-pitch for their 90-day business training program, which has helped thousands of women grow their businesses. The conference didn’t feel salesy and I gleaned valuable information for a small price tag, so I’m unsure why I didn’t leave feeling 100% excited and inspired. Perhaps I have trouble accepting that people can be genuine while also trying to sell me something. That underlying belief has implications for my own business so I plan to give some time to thinking about it.
I walked away with a to do list. I learned about the “engine” of a business being four interconnected parts: A Revenue Model and Goals, Product Development, Marketing, and Sales. The good news is this: If these four things are working, your business will work. The bad news: NONE of it is optional. Marketing and Sales=NOT OPTIONAL!
They also said, and I really love this, that “Math is the husband to your intuition.” To allow for the fun and creativity and the following of your heart, you must do that math. You must set a goal and consider your pricing and make projections and fill in the spreadsheets.
I have work to do. If nothing else, this conference made me reassess what I’m doing and what I need to do. In the midst of the holiday season, I’m taking time to plan and create for a push in the new year. I want to grow in 2020. I believe in what I do, and I want to reach more people. Marketing and sales might not be my specialty, but I can learn and grow in that area. Spending a day with driven and creative women did inspire me to step up and step into my role as a business owner. Stay tuned. 2020 is going to be a great year.