After two weeks of "vacation rules," the babe was more than a little out of sorts. Spoils from grandparents and aunts and uncles, special treats, relaxed bedtimes, and LOTS of attention had taken its toll. During a conversation at the airport in which she was (however briefly) not the center of attention, she began to unravel. She wanted recognition. NOW.
She tried her hand at being polite, softly interjecting, "Excuse me, Mama. Excuse me, Grandmama." When niceties proved unsuccessful, she reminded us that she is, after all, two years old by dropping to the floor like a wet noodle.
I scooped her up and carried her to a quiet corner to discuss the situation. After a few deep breaths she offered, "I'm sorry, Mama," and we returned to the gate peacefully. The conversation between adults resumed, and not five minutes later, she was back at it. Again, I whisked her away. And again she apologized. But something in her gaze suggested this was simply the beginning of a much longer game. In an attempt to head off a third meltdown, I explained that saying sorry is not meaningful unless we also change our behavior.
As we boarded the plane, I was struck by the truth that no matter how many years we may have lived, at our core we are more similar to small children than we care to acknowledge We are irritable [read: cranky] when tired or hungry. We become anxious [read: scared] when faced with unfamiliar challenges. We grow frustrated [see: throwing oneself on the floor] when we can't control our environments. And we often say we are sorry with no thought beyond simply ending a confrontation, which allows us to escape a lesson and ultimately revert to familiar patterns.
Next time your behavior is challenged by a friend or loved one, pause and reflect on the situation. If an apology is in order, offer it sincerely, then make a plan to change your behavior. Don't just say it... Mean it.
Just before Jonas came storming into Washington, the babe and I escaped to the Midwest. It was a long planned trip to celebrate her Grandpa's birthday, and the timing couldn't have been better. As much as I love the idea of tucking in to watch the snow fall; lazy days without agendas or timelines; and endless opportunity for baking, cooking and reading; the reality of confining a toddler indoors for 72 hours in a small living space is somewhat less romantic...
So we left her papa to hold down the fort and savored our vacation in the spacious countryside home of my youth. Our days were full of exploring animal tracks in the snow with grandpa, enjoying leisurely breakfasts in the kitchen, plugging away at puzzles, and gathering with family to celebrate the ritual that is college basketball. But as the visit drew to a close, I began to grow anxious about our return. Reports from our nation's capital suggested the city was in no position to receive inbound flights until late Monday - or even Tuesday - putting in peril our return plans.
I was eager to return home and reconnect with my husband and settle the babe into her familiar routine after back to back trips away. I could also argue the merits of being "stranded" for an extra day or two with loved ones in a cozy, familiar environment. What I couldn't abide was the uncertainty: Would we be back on time or not? Did I need to reschedule meetings with clients? Should I reach out to other family members and friends in the area and use our extra time as an opportunity to connect? Would I need to reschedule engagements on the calendar for later in the week?
In the midst of the uncertainty, I realized I could spend the balance of my time (however long or short it might be) plotting and strategizing about what would happen - or I could simply experience each moment as it unfolded. I recognized that no matter how much I planned - no matter how many scenarios I explored, the outcomes were completely out of my control. The snow would stop - or it wouldn't. The city would dig itself out - or not. The plane would take off as scheduled - or we would find another time and way to return home. And in the interim, there were puzzles in need of attention, meals to be enjoyed, basketball teams to cheer on, and memories to be made.
Being prepared is an excellent approach to life, but sometimes planning can stand in the way of enjoying the present moment. When the unexpected arises, can you simply accept the opportunities it presents? Can you embrace uncertainty?
This week finds our little family in a brief lull between travels. We enjoyed an island escape over the long holiday weekend, and the babe and I depart for the Midwest today. In the interim there has been unpacking, laundry, and repacking to swap out bathing suits for snow gear. We have run errands, restocked the fridge, attended to the cat, and tidied up the house. As we go about our familiar rhythms, it has been tempting to see the transition as wasted time - just enough of a pause to tackle the most mundane pieces of life.
But I am beginning to realize these moments - seemingly insignificant though they are - comprise our lives. We prefer to focus on the highlights: exploring a tropical paradise, visiting friends and family, celebrating holidays and special occasions, but our identities are shaped by where we spend most of our time: trips to buy groceries and pick up drycleaning - preparing and consuming meals - the toddler's evening rhythm of bathtime, books, and bed. It is in these mundane moments that relationships form and deepen, ideas introduce themselves, thoughts develop, and we become who we are.
Next time you find yourself looking ahead in search of the next "important" thing on your agenda, stop and appreciate exactly where you are in this unique moment. This, too, is a critical part of your journey. Embrace it.
Have you ever begun considering your to-dos only to find yourself quickly overwhelmed? Do you start lists in your head and end up unable to remember where you started? Whether it is the result of New Year's Resolution overload or a habitual high drive, most people today are beyond busy. And even the most well organized and disciplined among us get caught rushing from one commitment to another with our minds racing. We are busy plotting out a grocery list as we scurry home from the office, we map out the logistics of our weekend schedule as we rush to the gym, we make mental notes about our upcoming playgroup snack duty as we speed to the market. We lie in bed most nights plotting how to accomplish all we need to do in the day or week to come.
While it is good to think ahead, this abundance of information can make our heads spin. Researchers believe the human brain can retain only three to five pieces of information at any one time. For most of us, that means we are not physically capable of managing the data in our minds at any given moment. So what can we do (other than slow down...)?
Write it down! Whether you put pen to paper or type a note into your smartphone, the simple act of allowing the printed word to lift the burden from your overtaxed mind can be incredibly therapeutic. Seeing a list - even a sprawling, seemingly endless inventory - can help you more accurately assess what needs to be done, prioritize the items of greatest importance, and marshal your (limited) resources of time and energy accordingly.
Whether you opt for a stylish template, the back of an envelope, or a high tech instrument, write it down - and give your brain a break.
In our constantly connected, always-on-the-move world, everyone is busy. Even those of us who are intentional about slowing down and practicing mindfulness find ourselves pulled in so many directions and fulfilling so many roles that we can't help but get caught in the "busy-ness" trap.
Regrettably, the season of resolutions only compounds our time crunch. More yoga classes, more time in the kitchen, more books to read, more adventures with friends. Each of these endeavors is positive - even laudable - and can add joy to our lives. But if we keep adding without taking something else away - or without a clear plan for how to integrate these new elements into our already full calendars - we risk running around like so many ants - simply going through the motions without intention, and without reaping the rewards of these important investments in our quality of life.
As you look at your calendar for the week/month/year ahead, I encourage you to consider where you can create additional space rather than try to fit one more thing into an already crowded agenda. What commitment can you say goodbye to? What activity no longer brings you joy? What hobby do you continue to practice simply because it has been part of your routine for so long? By freeing up space in your calendar, you can begin to establish rhythms and routines that give - rather than take - energy. You can carve out a path that is both full and fulfilling.
After a lovely Christmas week in the mountains, our little threesome returned home refreshed. We were all smiles, recounting the highlights and fun memories of our escape while we unpacked. As we settled in for a quiet night, we reveled in the ease we had cultivated through our vacation rhythms of games, reading, self-care, and a (delicious!) tech break.
At the end of the holiday week, I was ready to return to work and eager to carry this newfound spaciousness into the familiar rhythm of teaching and writing. But when I powered up my computer, my bliss began to evaporate. The blank slate of my new year seemed doomed to disappear into the electronic abyss.There were SO. MANY. EMAILS. So many questions to be answered. So many problems to be solved. So many details to organize.
I plugged away diligently - triaging what was most critical and time sensitive - but despite devoting hours to the task, I could see no real sign of progress. As I took stock of my inbox, I recognized impersonal notices about sales, promotions, and "special" events comprised a disproportionate volume of the messages. Some were newsletters I had signed up for, some originated from a purchase I had made, and some began to appear for seemingly no reason at all. But in this moment, they all seemed an unwelcome (and unmanageable) intrusion.
So I started unsubscribing - clicking the handy link at the bottom of every unnecessary correspondence. I reasoned that if I need to know about an online sale, I can check in with my favorite vendors. If I want to know about upcoming theater performances, I can look up my preferred venues. I also evaluated the various newsletters and updates I receive - and if it wasn't something I was legitimately pleased to see every time it arrived, I severed ties.
Within a matter of hours, I had whittled down the offenders and created the mental space to focus on what I needed and wanted to accomplish. In the days that followed, the volume steadily decreased, and I began to reclaim some of that hard fought spaciousness.
It is wonderful to have tailored information delivered directly to you, but when you find yourself more stressed than blessed by those resources, consider opting out. Reclaim control of your inbox - and your life!
January 1 is the date most people look to as our opportunity to press the reset button. We target the new year as our chance to get rid of patterns and habits that hold us back and start fresh. But the busyness of the holidays and the demands of our every day lives can overshadow our goal setting and resolution-ing, and we often find ourselves a week (or month) into the year with no bold resolutions to declare. Sound familiar?
While a new calendar year sets a lovely tone for new beginnings, it is just a symbol. January 1 is no better day to refresh and renew than January 7 or January 27 or July 10. Each day we have an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and move forward with intention.
Perhaps you have already mapped out the path you want to travel this year, which is great! But it is just as likely that you haven't made a plan - or have already fallen short of your aims. And that's okay too. Dust yourself off, set (or renew) your intention, and move forward. What matters isn't the date, but your effort. Begin your future...now.
Making resolutions and setting goals can be exciting. We have grand ambitions of what we can do, see, achieve, and become over the course of a new year. But translating intentions into action can seem overwhelming - even scary. After all, most things worth pursuing require facing a certain measure of fear.
Every championship athlete has faced an opponent she didn't think she could overcome. Every successful entrepreneur has encountered skepticism and resistance. But they persisted, planned, and pushed beyond their comfort zones to achieve their goals. And isn't the same thing true for the rest of us?
When I think of the most rewarding experiences in my own life, I can see the fears I had to face along the way: packing up and moving to a new city in which I didn't know a soul for a job I knew very little about - overcoming insecurity to submit an application for a yoga teacher training program - continuing to pursue a family when we were told it would be a rough road - stepping away from the familiar to pursue a passion with no guarantee of success... At each juncture I was tempted to back away, but I instead pressed on, and the result has been an amazing and rewarding adventure.
As I look at the goals I have set for myself and this little venture over the next year, I am a bit anxious. But I am also excited. This year I am again taking myself out of my comfort zone. I am excited to see where it leads, and I hope you will join me for the journey.
In the months ahead, we will check back in with some of the Trailblazers who have been featured over the past two years. We will also meet new and equally inspiring men and women who are charting their own course. And I will share a few stories from my own experiences and what I am learning along the way.
I look forward to facing fears - and realizing new dreams - together in 2016.
Starting over is scary. Trying something new can be terrifying. Making big changes can seem monumental. This time of year many of us put forward an intention or resolution, but then what? What happens next?
I have found that I am most successful in moving toward my goals when I break them down into smaller, more manageable pieces and identify a rhythm to keep myself on track. Over time everyone will find the specific schedule that works best for them, but I recommend a three-part approach:
I) Start your week with a mini-goal setting session. Just as the beginning of a new year is an opportunity to think big, the beginning of a new week is a chance to look forward and be intentional about what we want to accomplish. You don't need to carve out hours, just take a few minutes to think through what specific steps you can take toward your larger goal in the next seven days. You probably won't compose the great American novel, become a gourmet chef, or sculpt a new physique in one week, but you can write three pages of your book, find one new recipe to try, or sign up for a yoga class. Whatever your mini-goal, put it on the calendar to ensure it doesn't get lost in the shuffle.
II) Midweek Check-In: This can be done with the help of an accountability partner or by yourself, but consider what might be standing between you and your mini-goal. What do you need to move forward? Do you have the ingredients you need for your recipe, or do you need to schedule a shopping trip? Do you need to set out your workout clothes before you go to bed to eliminate one possible hurdle between yourself and that early morning class? Take care of the little details to set yourself up for success.
III) End of week analysis: Ask yourself whether you were successful. If you fell short, reflect on what you could have done differently and make a plan to regroup and do better next week. If you hit your target, give yourself a pat on the back and use the momentum to inspire you to keep moving forward.
Do you have a different approach that is working for you? We would love to hear about it! Leave a comment on our Facebook page or send me a note so I can share it in a future post. Happy planning - and achieving!
Thank you for visiting the Starting Over blog. Stop by anytime for a dose of inspiration, tools to help you achieve your goals, and a community of fellow travelers. I hope to see you often!