Tuesday, February 9, 2016

February OPEN challenge: Don't Prepare

As you know if you have been following along here, my word this year is OPEN, and to help me stay connected to my word throughout the year, I've decided to use the book, Improv Wisdom by Patricia Ryan Madson, as inspiration for an OPEN Challenge each month. 


Don't Prepare.

What does "Don't Prepare mean and why it is helpful? In the author's own words, my favorite quotes from the "Don't Prepare" chapter:
“We often substitute planning, ruminating, or list-making for actually doing something about our dreams... The habit of excessive planning impedes our ability to see what is actually in front of us. The mind that is occupied is missing the present.”
“Substitute attention for preparation. Then you will be working in real time. Focusing attention on the present puts you in touch with a kind of natural wisdom. When you enter the moment with heightened awareness, what you need to do becomes obvious.”
“While we can't control what we find inside the box, we can always control our response to it. Discover what is right, what is interesting, what is useful about the gift that appears to you. Avoid expressing disapproval. Be a gracious receiver.”

How “Don't Prepare” relates to Open  

Don't Prepare opens the mind and heart to what is in the present moment.

Preparation can sometimes be born from a need to control an outcome, which is fundamentally a closed process. Don't prepare is more open ended, and brings forth greater trust and is more open-minded.

Don't Prepare leaves me open to fear (of not being prepared) and the opportunity to practice living in that place and learning that everything will be okay.


I'm a planner. Anybody who reads this blog or knows me probably knows this. So, this month's OPEN Challenge is a huge stretch for me. Perhaps I'll start with one day, or even one part of a day, and work up from there. It should be interesting! 

Friday, February 5, 2016

My new favorite list

Do you ever wonder, like I often do, whether you're putting your effort in the right places? Or whether what you're doing day to day is going to add up to a year (or a life) you'll feel pleased with down the line?

I usually spend considerable time fretting about such things, but after I did something new in January that I'd never done before, that fretting stopped, virtually overnight. Here's what I did:

I wrote up my Highlights from 2016 in advance.

The list has turned out to be both motivating and reassuring. If I just focus on doing the things on this list, I know it will be a great year. If I am lucky enough to have open time on my calendar and I'm debating (read: fretting about) how to use it, I just look at my list and identify one action I can take to make progress against one of those items. It makes me feel great every time.

I realize this might sound compulsive and crazy to some people. If you feel constrained by plans and love spontaneity, this technique probably isn't for you. But if you're like me and you love checking things off lists and making plans, give this a try.

Here's how I did it:

MAKE THE LIST: Pretend it is the end of 2016, and that you are looking back over the year identifying the year's highlights. Write up a list of all the things you hope you'll be able to say.

ORGANIZE THE LIST: Bucket your list by category. My categories were: Career, Writing, Fitness & Health, Parenting, Adventure/Family Projects, Relationship/Spouse, Community/Friendships, and Personal Development. Your categories might be different. You may have multiple items in some categories, and other categories with only one or two highlights.

POST THE LIST: Type up the list, in past tense, as if everything were already done. Put little check boxes next to each item and print it out. Post the list where it's easy to see as you go about your days.

USE THE LIST TO INSPIRE ACTION: When you start to fret or worry about whether you are using your time well, look at the list and say to yourself, "If I just focus on doing these things, it's going to be a great year." Then identify one action you can take in that moment to make progress on one of those line items.

HAVE FUN WITH IT: I got the family involved in the "Adventure/Family Projects" category, and that's how it happened that in 2016 we "Swam in 8 different pools." I love having fun things like that mixed in.

I am enjoying the optimistic feeling that 2016 is going to be a fantastic year. The list makes me feel more confident that I can make it come true. I hope it works for you too!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

10% More Comfortable

I was listening to a guided meditation the other night, one designed to help you go to sleep. At some point, the speaker, in her quiet, slow and sleepy voice, asked what I could do to make myself 10% more comfortable.

I found that I could actually shift my position a bit to improve my comfort. I don't think I would have noticed if she hadn't asked the question. And it made a difference.

I've been thinking about that ever since, both while trying to sleep at night, and also during the day as I go about my business. What could I do to be 10% more comfortable as I sit at my computer? As I do the dishes? As I drive in my car? As I get dressed in the morning? 

Here's the cool thing: These little changes are not only making me more comfortable, which makes me happy, but they are also making it more likely that I move more. And moving is healthy. (To be inspired by how much small movement changes can make a difference in your health, check out the podcast Katy Says, or click over to her website, Nutritious Movement.)

Here are a few examples of how these small changes are working for me: 
  • Mindful of my comfort in the moment, I'm changing positions more often. (Moving into different positions, as opposed to sitting still in one position for long periods of the day, is good for the body.) 
  • When I sit on the floor, I'm using pillows and folded blankets to support me, making it more comfortable to stay on the floor longer (which they say is generally better for the body than sitting in chairs.) 
  • Opting for more comfortable shoes and clothing make it more likely that I walk more during the day. 
  • I'm quicker to toss a blanket over my lap to keep me warm and comfortable, and more likely to keep a down vest on in the house. Being warmer helps me open up and relax into more varied sitting positions, as opposed pulling tight into a ball or holding my muscles tight against the chill.
So there you have it, my little insight for this week. How could you be 10% more comfortable today?

Friday, January 29, 2016

January's OPEN challenge

A book club I belong to recently selected Improv Wisdom by Patricia Ryan Madson to read as a group. Have you heard of this book? I’ve seen it recommended in lots of varied places, so I was excited to check it out.

I picked it up the other day, and after scanning the introduction and the table of contents, it occurred to me that this book is the perfect companion to my One Little Word, OPEN. The book is divided into 13 “maxims” and all of them seem to relate in one way or another to my word, OPEN. Wouldn’t it be cool to set myself a monthly OPEN challenge, and to use the 13 maxims from this book as my guide? That’s one per month, with a bonus extra maxim for December. I’m so excited to get started!


Say Yes.

What does "Say Yes" mean and why it is helpful? In the author's own words, my favorite quotes from the chapter:
“Yes glues us together. Yes starts the juices rolling. Yes gets us into heaven and also into trouble. Trouble is not so bad when we are in it together, actually.”
“Saying yes is an act of courage and optimism; it allows you to share control. It is a way to make your partner happy. Yes expands your world.”
“Saying yes (and following through with support) prevents you from committing a cardinal sin—blocking. Blocking comes in many forms; it is a way of trying to control the situation instead of accepting it. We block when we say no, when we have a better idea, when we change the subject, when we correct the speaker, when we fail to listen, or when we simply ignore the situation. The critic in us wakes up and runs the show.”

How “Say Yes” relates to Open  

Saying yes opens me up, and helps everyone around me stay open, whereas saying no blocks, controls, shuts down and closes off other people (and myself.)

Saying yes opens the door to new adventures, possibilities, and connections.

Saying yes opens up the possibility of greater serendipity.

I habitually say no in lots of situations, and I can see how it could be a way to retain control of a situation, as the author points out. I love being made aware of this and challenging myself to resist the quick “no.” 

It should be said that I believe in cultivating the ability to use a good strong “no” too. Certain situations require a “no,” and many women I know have a hard time saying no when they probably need to. Ultimately it feels important to become aware enough in our own lives that we choose carefully when to say YES and when to say NO, and to avoid either one becoming a habitual response or ingrained tendency.

For this month, I’ll be bringing careful awareness to my opportunities to say YES instead of NO and playing on this edge to see what I learn. Join me?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

One Little Word 2016: Open

Choosing a word is one of my favorite ways to bring focus to my intentions for each new year.

The term "one little word" was coined by Ali Edwards, who runs an annual online class which offers inspiration and structure to help deepen your relationship with your word during the year. I highly recommend the class if the concept intrigues you. Click here to check it out.

In my experience, having a word is both gentler and also deeper and more powerful than setting a goal or making a new year's resolution. It's less focused on a specific, measurable outcome and more focused on mindset, attitude, and intentions. It's more sustainable and more likely to stay with me throughout the year.

Depending on the word you choose, it can function in several different ways:

  • As an ongoing reminder of something you want to invite into your life 
  • As an expression of an aspect of your life you want to work on developing 
  • A reminder of an attitude or perspective you want more of in your life 
  • A mantra you can use as a touchstone to get you through a hard time
  • As an aid to help you think about and make an important transition in your life
  • It can be something you want to understand better about yourself and your life 

The best words have some common characteristics:
  • Good words can be interpreted at multiple levels.
  • A good word is not overly specific, narrow or limiting.
  • It's usually best to focus on the positive.

Sometimes, I choose my word very deliberately, and other years my word has chosen me. (As in, a word pops into your mind and won't leave you alone.)

My "one little word" for 2016 is OPEN.

I want to find out what makes me feel more open and at ease in my heart and my body, and explore ways to experience less of what makes me feel tight, constricted and compressed.

I want to be more open to what's happening within me in each moment, and learn to use that as a greater source of guidance.

I want to be out in the open, as in outside, in nature. I want to hike to the top of a mountain where I can take in the view and feel all that open air around me.

I want to be out in the open, as in authentic, approachable, and real.

I want to be open to new possibilities and people and experiences, both professionally and personally.

As always, I am sharing these thoughts in the hope that my experiences will in some small way inspire someone else, just as I have been inspired by following the lives and work of so many amazing women who have courageously shared their stories.

Whether you choose a word or not, I hope you find what you are looking for in 2016!

MORE INFO | I have been choosing a word (or letting the word choose me) since 2009. Past words were: BUOYANCY (2009), RESILIENT (2010), HOPE (2011), CURIOUS (2012), EXPAND (2013), DARE (2014), SPARK (2015) and now OPEN (2016).

Friday, January 22, 2016

On fresh starts, choosing a word, setting intentions and re-thinking habits

While some people have their New Year's Resolutions all figured out by January 1st, I tend to take a little longer to think through what I want from the fresh new year before us. So here we are, a few weeks into January, and I'm gradually narrowing in on what I want for myself in 2016. I generally don't set resolutions, but I do engage in a variety of techniques to take advantage of the fresh start that a new year affords. Here are my favorites:

Choose a word | If you have followed this blog for a long time, you know that I like to choose a word every year, which I use to help me bring focus to an idea I want to invite into my life. One of my favorite bloggers, Ali Edwards, offers an inexpensive online class based on this idea. I highly recommend the class, which I have taken in the past and am taking again this year. (My word for 2016 is OPEN, which I'll talk more about in an upcoming post.)

Set my intentions | Intentions are less outcome based and more lasting than resolutions, which I've found tend to fall by the wayside before January is over. I love Jess Lively's description of intention setting (here). I'll be posting in more detail about my intentions for this year later this month.

Re-think my daily habits | My new favorite approach to starting a new habit is described in "The Sweet Spot" by Christine Carter. (She's running a free 12 week online coaching program on habits which is excellent.) I also love the strategies Gretchen Rubin outlines in her latest book, "Better Than Before". Habits I'll be working on in 2016 include daily meditation, limiting my email-checking, and incorporating more whole foods (especially leafy greens) into my diet.

I hope you are getting off to an awesome start this year!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Trying out a new strategy for starting the new year

Can you believe January is already half over? I usually like to use those first couple of weeks of January to simply rest and recover from our busy holiday season. This year, I tried a different strategy. I decided to get a running start into the new year with two out of town trips that align to my 2016 priorities.

First, I jump started my professional development for the year with a 3-day coaching workshop at CTI (The Coach Training Institute). I left completely inspired and with a bursting toolkit full of new techniques which I'll be sharing with clients, in workshops and women's circles, and here on the blog this year.

Second, I used the 3-day MLK weekend to get a jump start on one of my personal intentions for 2016: to spend more time in nature. With my family, I headed up to Sequoia National Park to be awed by the giant trees, made even more spectacular by the thick covering of winter snow. There is nothing like time in the woods to restore your sense of balance and peace.

And now, feeling filled up with inspiring inputs both professionally and personally, I'm happy to be home, getting back into my regular routines.

This month on the blog, I'll be sharing some of the habits, tools, practices and routines I use to set my intentions for the year and stay on track. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Two Minute Rule

Do you ever suffer from the vague impression that you have a million little tasks hanging over you, but at any given time you can't precisely name them?

This kind of thing can drain your energy and leave you feeling overwhelmed. That can in turn reduce your productivity and it becomes a vicious cycle.

I recently heard of a great tool to combat this phenomenon: The Two Minute Rule. If a task will take less than 2 minutes, and you have the time, do it now. Don't defer it. Just do it.

I believe this concept is from David Allen's book, Getting Things Done, though I was introduced to it first through Todd Henry of The Accidental Creative. Great ideas deserve to spread, so I wanted to pass it along to you in case you hadn't heard it.

Good luck blasting through your 2 minute tasks today!