choices, priorities

Beautiful: Make Your Convictions Your Full-time Job

“Decide what you stand for. And then stand for it all the time.” ~ Clayton Christensen

Integrity is a long road. We will be tried and tested many times along its path. We’ll be asked to state and re-state our convictions, defend them, and ultimately live our lives by them. We may question ourselves, reconsider our positions, and doubt our abilities. We’ll be tempted to shrink back from criticism, confrontation, and disagreements, but in those moments our integrity will rise up, just when we need it most.

Integrity is a leg to stand on. It’s a warm blanket on a cold night. It’s a light during our darkest hour. You can hang your hat on your integrity, and there’s a lot of power in that knowledge.

How do you need to live in order to be true to yourself, to wake up and be proud of the person staring back at you from the mirror? Figure out what matters most to you and then do whatever it takes to build a life around those priorities. It’s the only way to be certain that we fulfill the promise of our potential.

priorities, time

Beautiful: Time is the Most Powerful Currency

The London Clock Tower - one the world's great reminders of the importance of time
The London Clock Tower – one the world’s great reminders of the importance of time

“Time has a wonderful way of showing us what really matters.” ~ Margaret Peters

A lot of people ask me what I plan to do with my life and career now that I’m building one of my own design. Lately, I’ve been rolling around the question in my mind with this lens: what would I do with my life if money didn’t matter? Ironically, this exercise has led me to realize that time is the more important constraint and resource. Yesterday, I jotted down these dreams:

1.) I would go back to school. (Those who know me well shouldn’t be the least bit surprised by this.) I want to study acupuncture so I could set up my own holistic, multi-disciplinary practice to help people better manage and eradicate pain. I’m also interested in getting some more formal training in coding and design so that I can contribute more to the education tech and healthcare tech industries.

2.) I would spend more time writing a couple of long-form pieces that have been kicking around in my mind for years and exist in the form of detailed notes.

3.) I’d adopt a second dog, get a bigger place to live with a formal office space, and spend more time raising money for good causes, including Compass Yoga.

4.) I would teach more – yoga classes and college classes in product development.

5.) I would travel more often.

I discovered a beautiful truth by writing out these plans: the only one that really requires a heavy investment of money is studying acupuncture. That would require 3 years of intense study and about $60K in tuition alone. Getting a second dog and a larger place to live also requires additional funding, but not an enormous amount of it. Same goes for travel. I could absolutely write the long-form writing projects, learn more about coding and design thanks to free massive open online course and books, fundraise for more good causes, and teach more with the resources I currently have. In fact, I could earn additional income from some of these ventures.

The real constraint here is time, not money. I spend so much time thinking about piecing together my income from different sources when it isn’t even that important to the work I want to do. Granted, I do need money to survive and save for the future, but money can be made. Time cannot. And so, the question of what I will do with my career is not so much a question of earning money (I have plenty of ways to do that) but rather one of using my time to its maximum benefit. That set of priorities will take a bit more noodling.

choices, dreams, priorities, time, to-do lists, work

Leap: All the Work We Need to Do

230274_480168285369181_1941994014_n We all have our lists: what to do, where to go, who to see, what to plan, what to look into when we have some spare time. I have apps on my phone where I keep lists of lists. And this is why I love this picture from Startup Lab so much.

When we really get down to what matters, what remains when every last list is either complete or discarded, this is all that counts. Did we love what we did with our time? Did we improve someone else’s life just by being who we are? Did we make ourselves useful and helpful?

If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then rest assured that you are on the right track to a good life. And if the answer to all of those questions is yes, then make sure to give yourself a great big hug and a hearty round of congratulations because you are living the secret of life that everyone longs to learn. It’s so simple: do what you love as often as your can, be your best, unique, beautiful self every day, and make the world a little brighter for someone else.

This is all the work we ever really need to do.

creativity, fear, priorities

Leap: Stop Planning and Start Doing

From Pinterest

Planning to leap, peering over the edge of the cliff into my dreams, was scary. Leaping was not.

When I walked out my corporate office yesterday and into a freelance life, I knew I was making just the right change at just the right time. All these months, I went through every fear in the book. I teased them out, one by one, and then I stacked a plan against each until the fear was manageable. I kept waiting to have no fear at all, and then realized that day isn’t coming. And it shouldn’t.

Used in the correct way, with the correct perspective, a bit of fear can be a wonderful motivator to act more and act often. Once I saw it as a tool and not a roadblock, a funny thing happened: the fear actually did subside. It reminded me of that saying, “Once I accept who I am, then I can change.” We have to get out of our own way in order to act.

There’s a lot of power in action. I’m a huge fan of planning but only to the extent that it’s used as a gateway to action, and the sooner that gateway opens the better.

priorities, time

Leap: Dine Well, and Other Advice for Busy People

My latest dinner creation

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” ~Virginia Woolf, British writer

You’ve got a lot of living to do – social life, work life, personal life, family life, time to explore new interests, time to keep up with long-time interests, and then just down time to rest, relax, and rejuvenate. How do all the puzzle pieces come together without any of them getting cheated?

I thought about this question a lot last night as I made my way home after a yoga class and another evening meeting immediately after my class. On the subway ride home I continued reading An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler. In it she gives advice on cooking, eating, and living simply, elegantly, and gracefully. I have to admit that I’m mildly addicted to trying out her ideas in my own very tiny kitchen. She’s also incredibly budget-conscious, which I’ve also been thinking about a lot as I narrow in on my Leap Day.

Pondering the question of time management, I turned to my kitchen – my tiny refuge. When I don’t know what to do or think or feel, I cook. Somehow the act of preparing food shuts down my mind for a bit, and when I re-emerge into the world I still may not have answers but at least I have something tasty to fuel my thinking. Last night it was a simple meal of buttered toast topped with whipped cottage cheese, tomatoes, and parsley along with a fennel and orange salad. Simple, elegant, graceful. Stomach full. Thinking cap replaced.

Time management at its very core comes down to priorities. I get things done that I care about. Everything else I leave to someone else. I’ve made habits out of things I enjoy, that inspire me, that raise me up no matter how low I feel. I don’t stress over things of little to no consequence, and I’m thoughtful about things of great consequence. Over time, I’ve learned to let go of everything that doesn’t serve me well. Sometimes that letting go is painful and sometimes it’s joyful, but it’s all worthwhile and I always learn something in the process.

Above all, I eat well, sleep well, and I only do things that I can do with my whole heart. That’s the only way I can be assured that my days are worthwhile.

priorities, teaching, yoga

Leap: Prepare, and Then Be Prepared to Change

From Pinterest member

I’m what’s termed an over-preparer. My years as a Girl Scout could be to blame for this neurosis. It could also be that I have an enormous fear of people staring at me waiting for some kind of answer. Ever since I was a very young child, I’ve had horrible stage fright. I wouldn’t say I prepare for every event in my life – only the ones I care about. My yoga and meditation classes fall in that camp.

For the first few years that I taught yoga, I would prepare for hours. I would develop the sequences and then practice them over and over again until I was dreaming about them. No matter how much I prepared, I found myself having to change everything in every class. My students needed something different than what I had prepared, and in an effort to meet their needs, I’d completely adjust the sequences. It felt like all my preparation was worthless, and yet I couldn’t help myself. If I didn’t prepare, my anxiety went right through the roof.

Then about a year ago, Brian asked me what would happen if I didn’t prepare for a class at all. (Mind you, I used to prepare for my sessions with him by making a list of subjects to discuss. I think this annoyed and amused him in equal amounts.) What if I just showed up, surveyed the room, and taught from my heart?

“What if I fail?” I asked.

“What if you do?” Brian asked. “Would that be so bad?”

Against my better judgement, I gave it a whirl. It wasn’t great, but I didn’t crash and burn either. All my preparation over the years had given me tools I didn’t even know I had. I was a better improver than I thought I was. I was better able to connect with my students in real-time than I ever thought possible. My nerves were on a bit on edge at first because I didn’t have the crutch of my preparation, but it got much better in a very short period of time. I started to pay attention more closely, on and off the mat. The less I prepared, the more present I was forced to be. It was beautiful to learn to be spontaneous, more alive, and have the confidence to know I could make it work.

I’ve yet to give up my preparation habit altogether, but I do prepare a lot less than I did in my earliest years of teaching. And though I’m always a bit on edge at the start of a class, I find that preparation doesn’t help to calm my nerves. What does help is to simply and honestly look into the eyes of my students, to recognize their humanness, their vulnerability, and their courage. And I’d miss all those things if I taught from a script.

By all means, prepare until you feel like you’re ready to take the stage in your life. But also be prepared to toss it all out the window in favor of what’s needed in the moment.

business, goals, priorities, productivity

Beginning: The 1-1-1 Productivity Plan Inspired by Herman Cain

Herman Cain and his claim to fame

It really is true that we can learn something from everyone, Herman Cain included.

He certainly has gotten himself into a good deal of hot sauce this last week. (So much so, that the man known for his 9-9-9 plan needs a PR 9-1-1 plan in a hurry!) The self-proclaimed Godfather of Pizza has been tossing out catch-phrases to make him a memorable candidate. No doubt this is due to his early training creating marketing messages on cardboard boxes filled with cheesy, saucy goodness. His 9-9-9 plan is another recipe for disaster that we don’t need, but there’s something valuable in his approach: to embrace a plan of any size, it’s got to be so simple that we can walk around repeating it to ourselves. It doesn’t need a 30 page memo and a matrix process plan to understand the basic architecture.

I recently had lunch with my pal, Jeff, a marketing whiz, comedian, and constant seeker of improvement. He wanted some answers – how do I maintain my productivity and my sanity? I’ve got a plan for productivity that’s similar in structure to Herman Cain’s plan for the economy, but mine’s been tested and approved.

I call it 1-1-1: For my three main goals for the year, I make a pact every weekend to do one thing to further each of those goals. This past weekend, I wanted to write 1 chapter of the book I’m working on, send out 1 letter of introduction for Compass Yoga‘s business development, and take 1 yoga class. If I could tick off those 3 boxes, then the weekend would be a triple win. In reality, if felt so good to get these 3 wins that I actually did more than I promised myself I would do. And then that felt even better, even more productive. Warning: productivity is addictive.

Success is all about context. We need to work hard and get a lot done – that’s true for any business owner. To-do items will compete for our attention and beg for priority in the queue. They’re needy, but don’t let them charm you. Stay focused:

1.) What are your top 3 goals for the year? Make those your structure of productivity, the frame you’ll hang your actions on.

2.) Now in any given day, week, or month, what is the one thing you’ll do to advance each of those goals? Those are your resolutions, and ultimately your accomplishments.

That’s how I stay productive, limit distractions, and keep my confidence up. What works for you?

choices, decision-making, priorities

Beginning: The Freedom That Comes From Closing Possibilities

“All motion is cyclic. It circulates to the limits of its possibilities and then returns to its starting point.” ~ Robert Collier

Last week Dailygood ran a piece about letting go of certain possibilities. I thought about that idea all day. I felt not that I didn’t have enough options but that I had too many options, too many interests, too many opportunities that in my mind were all good. One part of me felt extraordinarily lucky to be blessed with so many choices and the other part felt overwhelmed. I felt pulled in so many directions, a situation that I created.

I realized that once again it was priority-making time. The older I get, the more often my life seems to need a wringing out. I find that I increasingly need more idle time to let ideas marinate, and to create that idle time I have to let some possibilities pass by, despite their potential.

There are some things I will have to stop doing. So here’s what I’ve decided to close:
1.) In mid-March, I’m going to stop renting at Pearl Studios in favor of another yoga teaching opportunity that has come about. (More on that when the opportunity takes flight in mid-March.)

2.) In addition to this blog, I’m focusing only on one independent writing project – my book about yoga and personal finance. I’ve laid out a writing schedule to get it finished by October. I’m also pursuing several writing opportunities with other outlets in an effort to expand my reach, and my content on this blog is going to be syndicated by another site. (More on that in a later post.)

3.) I’ve decided to only date guys that truly have long-term potential. If it’s just a “fun while it lasts” situation, then I need to sideline that in a hurry.

4.) I’m going to stop trying to think of ways to make my day job the perfect job. There are aspects of my job that I find really fascinating (mobile technology) and aspects of it that hold absolutely no interest for me (politics, jockeying for funding and influence). Eventually, I know that I will move on from this job to something that focuses more on where my personal interests truly lie. I stopped worrying about what that opportunity will be, having confidence that when the time is right, that new opportunity will present itself through my own hard work. I felt a tremendous amount of freedom when all of a sudden I stopped viewing my current role as the end destination. The daily grind I felt there has been put to rest.

How about you? Are there things that you’re going to stop doing in an effort to make more room in your life? Can you find freedom in letting go?

This blog is also available as a podcast on Cinch and iTunes.

choices, dogs, future, pets, priorities

Step 265: Living in the Moment

I’m working my way through Cesar Milan’s book as Phin and I get to know each other. So much of the advice is counter-intuitive, though I can already see how helpful it is to see a dog as a dog, not as a person with fur. I’m so guilty of not learning that lesson sooner. I have always seen my dogs as people, and now I know why so many of them had issues of possession and anxiety. By letting dogs be dogs, they have so much to teach us about being human. By making them human, we miss out on their distinct sense of wisdom.

Dogs do not dwell on their pasts. They truly are creatures of the moment. Their existence is in the here and now. Certainly they develop habits and associations, but 99.9% of the time those habits and associations can be undone and replaced with others. Their degree resilience is enviable.

As a I read the section of Cesar Milan’s book about how dogs appreciate the persent, I thought about how much time people spend living in the past, incurring anxiety by situations that are long gone and will never be repeated. We relive disappointments, insecurities, and sadness of our past ad nauseam. We can’t let it go. Dogs let it all go. They care about what’s happening now, in this and every moment.

Imagine if we could do that as a way of life? Get up every day with a renewed sense of hope and happy anticipation. What if we could really leave our past behind us? Would our life experience be richer or poorer if we could set aside our past and our future and just love where we are right now?