acceptance · change · goals · obstacles · self

FALL In Love With Life [1]: Stop Playing The Blame Game

This is the first post in a three-part series FALL IN LOVE WITH LIFE which I hope will inspire you to regain control, discover what matters, embrace change, and get back to living a life you love.

PART ONE: STOP PLAYING THE BLAME GAME

A new season is fast approaching. I love the changes they bring – to nature, to tradition, to ourselves. This coming fall, however, is a sad reminder of personal goals not met. One year ago, I was scheduled to finish edits and publish my latest novel. That didn’t happen. Then I planned to complete it in spring. That didn’t happen. Now, I intend to publish within months and am fearful I will fail yet again.

The PERCEPTION? Everything was to blame.

Family: It was not an easy year. I spent the majority tackling life’s bumps and bruises for the two people I cherish most – my husband and son. They needed me, I happily delivered. The time, attention, love, care, patience, worry, and stress dedicated to them is not something I regret.

Personality: We introverts require ample time to pause and recharge in preparation for the next day or challenge. And in my perpetually overwhelmed state, I gave myself the necessary moments to reset. But now I wonder … did I really need SO much downtime?

Priorities: There was always something more important. In addition to the family, jobs, home, school, sports, pets, travel, and the simple demands of daily life required my immediate attention, pulled me away from the long stretches of free time needed to work effectively.

Exhaustion: Thanks to cancer, I still suffer from extreme periods of fatigue. I have limited physical energy and once it is spent on the most pressing needs, all else gets pushed aside to the miraculous day when I will feel “better” and have “more time.”

Work: Getting a book to completion is not a simple task. Aside from the writing, editing, and rewrites, there is proofing, formatting, covers, marketing, blogging, launching, promotions, updates, and more. Finishing one step was daunting. Knowing another twenty waited? Sigh.

Every person struggles to manage work and home life. But, the needs of family encroached into such a large part of my day and at an unfair pace that I became overwhelmed and frustrated. There was not enough time set aside for my goals (namely, finish my book). I was last on the list. Heck, I wasn’t even on the list anymore.

The REALITY? Life had become unbalanced.

I am notorious for setting high standards for personal productivity. If I can’t give my best effort, I do not want to do it. So rather than tackle something half-way, I lowered expectations for myself as a writer. Yet even though my standards decreased, my desires and aspirations to improve, be better, and succeed never went away. In fact, they just kept piling on.

I wanted to be the best wife and mother. I needed to recharge. I kept getting more to do. I needed to rest. But amid it all, I still had a book that needed to be finished.

I was stressed and emotionally exhausted. And with so much weighing heavy on my mind and heart, I sought every possible escape, excuse, and method of procrastination.

Oh, and did I mention the enormous guilt? I felt it when I did the things for me (like wrap myself in a cozy cocoon of introversion), and I felt it when I did not (like neglect my passion for writing). I mean seriously, why should I want to do something so demanding and all-consuming that it steals time away from the people who need me, the family I love? Why should I want to publish another book? BECAUSE I DESERVE IT.

We all deserve something of our own. And if we are not getting that something, we need to stop blaming others and take responsibility. Be open to hurt and frustration but also be prepared to accept your role, your choices, and what you can do to change things and move forward.

There is an old saying that perception is reality and in my case, it became true. However, once I realized my perception was negatively impacting my capacity for joy, I sought something else:

PERSPECTIVE…

There will always be too much to do and too little time. There will always be distractions, worries, and reasons to complain. There will always be something holding us back from our hopes and dreams. But rather than search for imaginary scapegoats to everyday problems, we should seek greater insight into what might be wrong and then find workable solutions.

NEXT TIME: I ask (and answer) the tough questions in my quest to get what I want.


Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

confidence · fears · goals · happiness · obstacles

All The Things You Did Not Do: Risk, Reward, And Regret

My son is officially on summer vacation. Over the next few months my heart, energy, and time will be even more focused on family. But this doesn’t mean my mind stops. It never stops. And lately, I have been thinking a lot about regret.

Regret is a funny thing.

For some, there is the fear of missing out on the REWARD. The prospect of learning, improving, or gaining something we have always wanted can be a great motivator. It can push us to open ourselves to new ideas and worlds and experiences as we fear we may never have another chance. If there is something beautiful at the end, we believe the struggle will be worth it.

For others, the RISK can prove too much. The sacrifice required along with a fear of failure can overwhelm to the point of inaction. The perceived cost – relationships, time, energy, money, pride – may prevent us from moving toward something we desire. And sadly, some view life as an ‘either/or’ situation, one where there is limited choice and opportunities are lost forever.

We are only one person, given just one life. Sometimes we have to jump in and have faith everything will come together. Other times, it may require more insight and extensive planning.

Weigh the risk versus the reward. Maybe the reward is worth the risk, maybe it is not. But isn’t it better to be sure before you say no altogether? Perhaps there is a balance to be found. Or there might be a period of chaotic imbalance to get through. Sacrifice is a part of goal seeking. Map it out – the pros and cons, available resources, potential timelines. You might realize it is better to be sorry and try rather than be safe and disappointed. We all have responsibilities – to ourselves and others – but we also deserve to fulfill needs, feel purpose, and find personal happiness.

Live without regret.

FOR ALL YOU DID NOT DO If you wish you would have done things differently, do something today to change the situation. It is never too late to alter the course. Make amends with someone. Rewrite your dream. Start completely over. Sure, you might not get to the exact place you wished for years ago but maybe, just maybe, you will end up somewhere far better.

FOR ALL YOU ARE DOING – If you feel guilt because others make you believe your path is wrong, release the pressure. Pursue the life you envision (as long as it does not hurt someone else) and do so without apology or explanation. We are all unique with different choices and goals. Seek those who put joy over judgment and support your efforts without condition.

FOR ALL YOU HOPE TO DO – Find a way.

Regret nothing.


Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash

change · goals · obstacles · renewal · second chances

What Has Been, What Might Be

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

The start of another year usually carries thoughts of change and self-improvement.

How can we do better? Be better?

I used to think like that. In the wake of the holiday glow, I would create a detailed list of resolutions, areas in my life I believe needed help. And every January 1st it was the same: eat healthier, exercise harder, spend less, save more, finish overdue house projects, make time for myself, write daily, reach more readers, be a better wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, writer, friend, etc.

DO more. BE more.

I would do well – for a time, that is. But then, my magnificent plans would become lost in the demands of the everyday.

It was too much. Finally, I decided resolutions do not work for me. Goals, however, do. Setting concrete to dos keeps me motivated. And guess what? Since changing my approach, I have accomplished every goal set.

You can, too.

Rather than look at the new year as a need to do everything better, view it as an opportunity for reflection and renewal, a chance to hit the reset button. Stop making unattainable, lofty plans or rambling lists of what is wrong with you. Choose to focus on what is working in your life, find what is right and go from there.

Step One: REFLECT ON WHAT HAS BEEN

What brought joy last year? Where did you excel? Where did you succeed? What accomplishments made you proud?

What areas caused problems? What did not work? Where did you falter? What do you wish you would have done?

Once you realize the regrets, you know what to focus on in the new year (that is, if they are still meaningful). In addition to maintaining your health, family, and purpose, you understand where the priorities will be.

Step Two: PLAN FOR WHAT MIGHT BE

Your past regrets become your goals for the new year.

Define them. Use numbers and timeframes. [Rather than “write more,” I say “publish one book by a certain date.”] Establish clear goals.

Setting minimal projects and spacing out deadlines can maintain focus and momentum. If you accomplish more, great! But keeping it simple allows room for unexpected, unplanned things life throws our way. Finish lines and endgames also prevent self sabotage.

THE RESULT: You have a plan, and it is always there – easy to remember, easy to add into life. And it remains there, even on the busiest, craziest, most chaotic of days. It is with you, waiting for its time.

What inspires you? What brings you joy? What do you want to be proud of when the next new year comes?

This is an ideal chance to begin again. We have one year and when it ends, we can either say we wish we did or we did.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE


Photo by Shireah Ragnar on Unsplash

goals · letting go · self

Simplify The Task Of Living

We hear it all of the time: Life is a journey, not a destination.

Sometimes we have a detailed map to mark the way but more often there is no set course. Throughout our journey, we will have many different paths from which to choose. No perfect route exists for everyone nor is there an easy shortcut to get where we hope to be.

Expect roadblocks or unwelcome surprises around every corner. Assume the road will be littered with unwanted detours and wrong turns. Learn to adjust the direction and adapt as you go.

Blaze your own trail.

And when the travel leaves you weary, stop and rest. Feeling stuck and unable to move is an ideal time to pause and reflect.

WHAT ARE YOU RUNNING FROM?

What has been is a vital part of who we are in the present moment. There is the good (childhood memories, milestones achieved), the bad (disappointments, failures), and the ugly (extreme heartache, loss). We cannot (and should not) discount what has happened to us before today, because it is necessary for creating our current circumstances.

Dwelling in a painful past, however, can foster discontent and self-doubt. And such negativity often leads to disruptive behavior as an attempt to escape or cope. Substance abuse, food addiction, self-harm, dysfunctional relationships, excessive spending, depression, or anger may mask a deeper problem.

If we continue to pick at a wound, it will never heal. And what does not heal, does not change. A lack of learning from what hurt us along with the inability to let go means we cannot truly enjoy the life we deserve. It taints everything, even the happy moments.

It is important to address the discomfort head on – whether on your own or with the support of others (family, friend, professional). By acknowledging the hold the past has on your present, you can begin to overcome whatever has hurt you and live the life you always imagined.

WHAT ARE YOU RUNNING TO?

What might be is an equally vital part of who we are in the present moment. The future shapes our current actions. It influences the people we allow into our lives. Knowing where want to go and who we wish to be defines our choices and decisions, directly and indirectly.

Our personal hopes, dreams, and goals are worthy of our thoughts, but they are also deserving of our time. There is nothing wrong with seeking a different or better life, and we do not owe explanations to anyone other than ourselves. It is ours to live and as long as we do not hurt another, we have every right to pursue it.

The key is to find a balance, a way to manage our wants and desires with the people and things we value. Do not sacrifice the present or precious time with those who matter most for the sole sake of succeeding or reaching some idealized end.

When you look back, look back with pride. Pride that your dedication, hard work, and determination paid off. And while you bask in the glory of your accomplishment, see the people around you who helped make it possible. Those who supported, cheered, listened, advised, lifted you up. For that will be the true measure of your success.

WHY ARE YOU RUNNING AT ALL?

If the challenges of the past, future, and present day are overwhelming, look for ways to lessen the load. Find your voice. Release the guilt. Follow your heart. Practice self-care. Prioritize your time. Say no to non-essential activities. Organize your space. Seek solutions to your problems. Fix what might be broken, once and for all.

Simplify the task of living.

Work towards understanding how the past has affected you and accepting it will always be part of your today. Just be careful of letting it have too much influence over your tomorrow. Life moves fast enough. Slow down and be in the right now. And if there are times you feel the need to run, run toward something worth celebrating rather than from something you cannot change.

Do not fear the journey, live it.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE


Photo by Lucas Favre on Unsplash

goals · letting go · obstacles

Giving In vs. Giving It Your All

With two major projects hanging over my head, I am in that all-important stage where I ask: IS IT WORTH IT?

There are countless moments in life when we are put to the test, pushed beyond our limits, and simply overwhelmed. Some of these moments are unavoidable and not meant to be easy. Others can be difficult but are placed in our path for enrichment and purpose. Regardless of the source, these moments challenge and propel us to another level. They show us who we are.

But what about those times when we are not obligated to do something? What about the things we can quit without anyone knowing or without repercussions? ARE THEY WORTH IT?

The answer can be a tricky one. Yes, there are things we waste time and energy on. But on the flip side, there are things we surrender too easily.

Deciding when to give in or give it my all is not something I like to do. Personally, I am not a quitter. I love the idea of crossing something off my list. Accomplishment and productivity provide wonderful warm fuzzies, and I try to get the sensation whenever I can.

However, with these current projects, I am taxed more than I like. I have limits and often those limits show their ugly head in the way of impatience, frustration, procrastination, and indifference. I could let these two tasks go and no one else would ever know or care. Yet, just when I am ready to release them, something pulls me back. Fresh ideas, a new approach, renewed purpose – they all motivate me to stay with them.

So … how do we know when to GIVE IN or GIVE IT OUR ALL? Ask:

WHY are you doing it?
WHAT is the end goal?
WHO are you doing it for?
HOW does it make you feel?
ARE the sacrifices worth the reward?
WHAT does your gut tell you?

Depending on the answers, it may be time to …

  • REST. Every major undertaking has roadblocks. Be careful of using them as an excuse to quit. The desire to step away could simply mean you are overworked. Take a break and see how it feels. You may experience freedom and relief, but there also might be renewed focus, a sense of determination, or a new idea of how to overcome an obstacle.
  • PAUSE. Making a hasty decision to completely drop something can backfire. Redoing everything and getting back into the task may prove difficult, and the time and money involved can never be recovered. Seek a thoughtful balance in your consideration, but be wary of over-thinking as it can lead to indecision and inaction.
  • LET GO. Letting go is not the same as giving up. Too often we hold onto things we should have released and carry the excess weight, baggage, pressure, and stress until it overwhelms. Saying “no more” when something does not fit into your life is a sign of emotional strength. If your heart is not in it, let go.

Still unsure of what to do? Try these tricks:

1) List the Pros and Cons. Seeing the positives and negatives on paper puts things into visual perspective and provides a better view of the whole picture.
2) Live with the Idea. Before making a decision, pretend you have already made it. It is an easy way to determine if a choice is the correct one without actually committing.

If you find your answers lead in the direction of letting go, remember this: giving in does not equal giving up! It simply means you have chosen to follow a different path, one better suited to your current situation and life. But if you discover you really want something and are willing to manage the bumps and bruises along the way, then go for it with everything you’ve got. Give it your all.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE


Photo credit: Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

change · goals · renewal · self

10 Signs A Change Is Not For You

I have been thinking a lot about change.

In today’s world, it is impossible to ignore or deny the idea of change. Buildings are demolished only to be replaced by new ones, fashions are redesigned, homes are renovated, jobs are redefined, products are re-branded, processes are improved. We are bombarded daily with messages geared toward becoming someone different, someone better, someone more than the person we are now.

Even this blog is dedicated to approaching life differently – perhaps better – than before.

Change is inevitable in many areas – births, deaths, relationships, and yes, even people. Everything around us is in a constant state of movement and much is out of our control. We cannot escape change. But when it comes to the changes within us, we do have the power to decide what goes and what stays.

Are you unsure of when to change and when to stay the same? Think self-improvement vs. self-love.

Self-improvement is when you choose to alter something about yourself to make you feel better. Changing the way you live is a very personal decision. If you feel compelled to transform your appearance or behavior or path or dream in order to pursue a more satisfying life then by all means do it. This may be a time to change.

Self-love is when you value yourself and your beliefs so much that you are unwilling to bend. Changing who you are to please someone else rarely ends well. If another person makes you feel lacking or inferior or suggests you alter a part of yourself to suit their needs, pause before taking action. This may be a time to stay the same.

Self-improvement is easy to recognize. It is often met with a sense of anticipation, excitement, and motivation. And it is accompanied by fierce determination – on a personal level – to reach a goal or succeed. The need for self-love, however, can be much harder to detect.

When we care deeply about someone, it is common to forgo our own needs to make them happy. And in truth, there is nothing wrong with doing something to please a family member or friend. If the intent and desire are shared, it may be a good thing.

The key is to pay attention. Who wants the change? What benefit comes from the change? Why are you considering the change? How does the change affect you?

If you are questioning a change, watch for these signs:

  1. PROCRASTINATION: you make constant excuses in an effort to avoid action or progress
  2. INSTINCT: something deep within your gut screams ‘this is wrong and not for you’
  3. PRESSURE: someone gives you an ultimatum or makes unfair demands
  4. GUILT: you are manipulated into believing something is dependent on the modification of your behavior
  5. FEAR: you must conform to avoid physical or emotional abuse (if true, please SEEK HELP NOW)
  6. INADEQUACY: you feel less-than because someone bases your worth upon your current actions
  7. SHAME: someone diminishes your self-image by criticizing your current behavior
  8. EMOTION: attempts to change leave you melancholy, angry, unhappy, or depressed
  9. RESENTMENT: your attitude and view of another shifts in a negative direction
  10. ACKNOWLEDGMENT: you feel left out and believe changing yourself will lead to acceptance

Real and effective change can be difficult and challenging, but it should also be pursued with purpose and for the right reasons. Forcing change in your life or within yourself is rarely rewarding. So whenever you consider taking a major step in a different direction, determine if your heart is truly invested in the outcome. If it is something you – and you alone – really want, go for it with all you have and do not give up. But if outside influences are making you question the person you are, it might be best to just stay the same.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

family · goals · parenting · self

The World I Want For My Son

My son starts school today. There is little fanfare when you are “middle school, been-there-done-that.” And yet, we still had an exciting morning of early alarms, first day photos, hurried breakfasts, good-luck hugs, and rushing to the bus stop. There will be old friends and teachers to see, new friends and teachers to meet. Familiar hallways, different classrooms.

It is a time when anything – and everything – seems possible.

In reality, it is the calm before the storm. Within days, we will rush through homework and dinner to attend sports practices. Weekends will be filled with more practices and games. There will be deadlines to meet, schedules to follow, and stress to bear. But within the chaos, all will seem predictable and safe.

At least I hope so.

More and more as a parent, I find myself wishing for an easier time. When I was my son’s age, life seemed simpler. Yes, there were problems. After all, it was the early eighties. The war on drugs was beginning. Jobs were lost. The Cold War was in full swing. People were abused, abducted, and killed in senseless crimes. Families were broken. Yet the troubles then did not seem so great compared to what we face now.

Maybe it is because I was just a kid myself. Maybe it is our globalized worldview or the pervasive 24/7 news cycle. Perhaps the blame can be put on technology and social media.

Maybe, just maybe, it is the same as it ever was.

All I know is this: I worry more. About human trafficking, opioid overdoses, nuclear war, economic instability, cyberbullying, hate groups, terrorist attacks. Everything seems so intense right now. And though I am typically optimistic, I feel stuck in a never-ending state of frustration. Frustrated the fear of what might never happen is taking over the joy of what is actually right in front of me.

I wish my son could experience a world free of heartache or pain. One void of ideological division and without violence or war. But in truth the world has never been like that.

As parents, we are tasked with so much it is easy to become trapped in the sheer overwhelmingness of it all. Advice comes from every side, as does the criticism. We want to be informed, do everything “right” so we might avoid mistakes and judgment. That, of course, is impossible. We will never know everything. We will fail (a lot) and sometimes be judged. That is parenting.

In the end, our sole purpose is to raise compassionate, self-sufficient, productive adults. And while we do that, we are to provide a soft spot to fall.

And so, this school year I will focus on bringing peace to my own little world. I will allow my son to be a kid awhile longer, to linger in the innocence of a life where the only worry is whether his baseball game gets rained out. There will be plenty of time to fear things when he is an adult, a parent.

For now, I will simply continue to …
-provide a haven, a safe place where he can freely discover who he is and who he hopes to be.
-encourage him to open his wings and spread them as wide as they go so he can explore.
-show him there is more good in this world than evil even when others try to convince us otherwise.
-set an example by treating people with patience and respect regardless of what they do or believe.
-remind him to be kind, embrace differences, and lift others up.

I will continue to tell my son … 
-when everything seems wrong, seek what is right.
-if something bad happens, counter it with good.
-when someone else runs from a challenge, walk toward it.
-if others are selfish, give of yourself.
-when seeking direction, be the leader.

Show this world that you will not give up. You will not give up on yourself. You will not give up on others. You will not give up on happiness. You will not give up on peace. You will never give up. Because even though life outside may seem cruel and unfair, the world you create inside – for yourself – can be one of joy.

CREATE YOUR OWN WORLD. One where you feel …

SAFE. Surround yourself with people who care about you.
LOVE. Give your heart to those who cherish you.
CONFIDENCE. Spend time with people who encourage you.
VALUE. Be with those who appreciate you.
PRIDE. Find the people who support you.
WORTH. Determine your own standard.
CONNECTION. Share your time and energy with people who deserve it.
ACCEPTANCE. Befriend those who respect you.

In the quiet moments, when I wonder if I am doing too little or making the wrong choice, I will be sure of one thing. I loved my son more than enough. I loved him without question or condition. I loved him with my whole heart and beyond. I loved him so much that I wanted him to thrive in an imperfect world so he might one day be the change and the light to drive out darkness whenever it came.

The world I want for my son is the one he creates.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE