What is your greatest accomplishment?
Stepping in to 2017!
As I write this, it is the eve of post-Christmas holiday return to work. While the ambiance of new beginnings flutters around us, the fatigue of indulgence draws us to more couch time.
Now is a good time to think about what it is that we really want. But it feels like an undertaking.
So here’s an idea. Back up and look at the big, big picture. With this viewpoint, we see what is most important to us, what really truly matters.
When we get a sense (and feeling) of what really matters, it is our beacon for work that matters.
What I stumbled upon last year was an app called li.st, a way of looking at life from a lists perspective. It could be like this:
Jobs That Sound a Lot Better Than They Actually Are
- truck driver – sure you get to travel but what do you see?
- cook - sharp knives and hot stoves - a recipe for disaster
While I balk at making a to-do list, I love the idea of a list that gets me thinking.
Near the end of 2016, I was introduced to Quora, a question and answer forum. Great questions which prompt ideas of lists.
Immediately I found one that I wanted to share with you. I invite you to create your own list from this question.
What are the top 10 things I should experience in life?
A globular cluster
Specifically, see this through a telescope. Globular clusters are a densely packed grouping of old stars. The first time I saw one, I was astounded that there could be that many points of light in one space.
Why does this matter? Because it is about looking at something so much bigger than ourselves. Life gets put in perspective.
Listen to someone speaking a language you don’t know
What this requires is so much concentration. Notice what you are noticing. How is the person expressing themselves with their hands or their face?
What does this matter? In our day-to-day lives, we can become immune to the wonder of it all. We need wonder.
Read. A lot.
We get introduced to many ideas through reading. Try different genres. And don’t forget to include books in your must reads.
Why does this matter? It enriches our experience of life.
Recently I saw a high-definition video filmed in Costa Rica. As I watched a frog climbing a tree, one foot reaching at a time, I was taken with how its “fingers” worked both together and separately.
Why does it matter? Awe is what fuels us, what makes us feel alive.
Learn something – just because
Years ago, I participated in a whittling course. Besides making a spoon, I also learned how to sharpen a knife, a skill I used this week and how quickly I could cut myself. Did you know there are band aids you put on your hands before using a knife that a knife cannot penetrate?
Why does it matter? Fundamental to being human is the need to learn and grow.
Whether it is watching a storm or being out in nature, wilderness reminds us of immense forces that shape our lives.
Why does it matter? A little humbleness helps us all.
Cities are amazing! What I love about visiting them is the delights and delicacies that makes each of them unique. There is so much to discover; I am struck by how different (and the same) we go about our days.
Why does it matter? Cities offer many ways to relook at our lives.
My first trip to Europe was a solo trip, a couple of years ago. What I learned from that experience was my ability to solve problems and depending on myself. Keeping my wits about me meant I only went a few blocks in the wrong direction on the metro.
Why does it matter? It keeps us sharp.
Falling in love
This is a definite must in life. It could be another person who you fall in love with. But what about a sunset? The ocean? A dog? A cat? Yourself?
Why does it matter? It expands our world.
Now, I would like to invite you to answer the question. Post your answer in the comments below. Remember there are no rules here - if you have one top thing, that's great!
What are the top 10 things I should experience in life?
“It’s not much of a tail but I’m sort of attached to it.”
Poor Eeyore. He had a lot of problems with his tail. Had he been in today’s workforce, deciding where he was the best fit, those issues would have pointed him in the right direction.
Winnie the Pooh’s friend has a view on life that would be described as glum. And yet, he was often profound in what he had to say.
He also had an intriguing relationship with his tail. As you can tell from the above quote, he wasn’t particularly proud or impressed with it though it is an integral part of his life.
I think we can relate. Studies on self talk show that a high percentage (80% on one study) of our thoughts are negative.
Laurence G. Boldt, author of Zen and the Art of Making a Living, eloquently identifies one of those voices in our head as the Voice of Self Diminishment. It has the effect of stopping us cold in our urge to move forward.
When the Voice speaks to our inner world, it is a mean critic.
In my line of work, there is nothing like looking at gifts, talents, desires and dreams to bring out that Voice.
What the Voice speaks to our outer world, it says:
- “Oh, that thing. Anyone can do that.”
- “What I do isn’t spectacular. Think of ___________.”
- “Well, I could actually make money doing that.”
That is enough to bury any dream.
There is a powerful core part of being a human with a deep desire to do something bigger.
When I was a young woman entering the workforce, I paid a lot of attention to what I could do. What were my skills? What places could I use them? At some point I was grateful to get a job; it didn’t matter what I was doing.
I felt like Eeyore. I downplayed my attributes and certainly had no clue of my strengths, never mind how to use them in a workplace.
Sometimes that Voice of Self Diminishment was very active especially when I was feeling restless in my boring tasks. I compared myself to others. They seemed perfectly happy doing their work. What was wrong with me?
Sometimes I saw a life I wanted to emulate. Mary Tyler Moore.
Like Eeyore, I wasn’t that impressed with what I had.
I put a great deal of effort into trying to make myself fit into a mold, into telling myself I needed an attitude shift, and into paying too much attention to the outside world.
As I continued in my work world, a question kept arising:
“Is this how my entire life will be?”
The impetus behind that inquiry is what drove me to submit my resignation letter, many times, once when I was 7 months pregnant. I was bold.
Even if I wasn’t paying attention to what I wanted to do.
What I was discovering was what Eeyore was puzzling about – I couldn’t ignore parts of myself. Pretty important parts.
After all, a tail is a signature for a donkey.
Over time, I started looking more inwards. At first I noticed what was not working for me. Like repetitive tasks. Then I started paying more attention to what did. Tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator gave me a new understanding of who I was, at the core.
I could see advantages in differing ways of looking at the world.
I was also able to see some beliefs that had been in the driver’s seat of my life, ideas embedded a long time ago.
I was becoming more and more comfortable with who I am. The bonus was I was getting clearer and clearer about the good work fit for me.
So what I discovered was this:
In the equation of finding work that mattered to me, knowing myself was a core variable.
I now see the equation like this:
Whenever it is time to go down the path to find work that matters, whether it has been foisted upon us or by a choice of our own, it always begins with Who I Am.
In many images of Eeyore, he wears a pink ribbon on his tail. I think of it as his celebration of a tail that might not be the greatest but it does belong to him.
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I read an article recently about mirroring the morning routines of successful people. What a wretched idea.
Why not instead look at how people create adventure in their lives?
As an ENFP in Myers-Briggs land, I am about keeping it fresh. One of the MBTI books says that ENFPs hate routine – not dislike or not enjoy. Hate.
I say that ENFPs have a great perspective.
I am in good company. Paulo Coelho says, “If you think adventures is dangerous, try routine; it’s lethal.”
Routines wind their way into habits, those nasty creatures settling into our days and urging us to get dozy about our lives.
One day we wake up from our snooze, have an aha moment and absolutely know life can be different. Where is the excitement we once imagined? Our work has become lackluster and we question how to change it.
From inside the cocoon of routines and busyness, there isn’t very much space to re-imagine our life. Thoughts go to yes-buts, crossing off more than we add to our list of possibilities.
That is why adventure matters.
I recently asked about adventure on Facebook. What brilliant responses!
- “feeds our creativity, confidence and perspective on life”
- “gives us a bigger perspective on our world”
- “expands our mindset and understanding of ourselves and the world”
- “opens us up to limitless possibilities”
- “drives progress”
- “lets me experience aspects of myself I might otherwise never experience if I do the same things over and over”
And why does it matter? One of the respondents said, “Because your soul needs to breath…and this is what adventure was meant for.”
Another person said that adventure “stimulates the growth of new brain cells, new ways of being and builds the muscles of courage.”
To me, this is exactly the space we need when we are wrestling with work that doesn’t fit; we need to be immersed in the spirit of adventure.
Adventure reminds us of what it means to be alive; it allows us to have the experience, to feel it. When we touch the alive feeling, we are connected with our essential selves, the part that knows what really matters.
Adventures have 3 aspects:
- an exciting or unusual experience
- exploring unknown territory
- uncertain outcome
What will motivate us to make a change is the opposite feeling. It might announce itself in the morning when we think about our day ahead or when we come back from holidays; it says, “nothing about this is what I signed up for.”
Where are you now?
If you are wanting to make a change and don’t know how or obligations feel too onerous or you feel confused, consider putting adventure in your life.
One of the challenges in thinking about adventure is it has become synonymous with travel. You might imagine taking a year off, travelling around the world and discovering your perfect work. Or this may not be your dream at all.
Either way, consider the idea of adventure entering into your ordinary life. Start generating ideas for your future!
Here are some ideas for daily adventure:
Learn something new.
Recently my son asked me a question: when was the last time you learned a skill not related to work? I couldn’t remember. I love the idea of learning something just for its own sake. I love the idea of it being tangible like the time I took a whittling course. I made a spoon and learned how (eventually) to whittle wood and not my fingers.
Do something different
I remember someone once telling me to try to do daily activities with the opposite hand; if you always reach to turn the door handle with your left hand, try your right. Each morning I do my routines in a different order. Sometimes I exchange making my lunch for writing; I love the idea of my day beginning with doing what I love.
Take a risk
One of the elements of adventure is taking risks. One way to consider risk is exercising its muscle. If you have the universal fear of talking in public, find a place where you can talk for one minute. And then two. Risk is about making ourselves vulnerable and that is when we make our biggest connections with others.
Do anything using your imagination
Being able to imagine an inspired life is where it all begins. Spend time drawing or writing or reading stories that get your brain firing. Give yourself permission to dream. Adventures begin first in your mind. Imagination is the fertile ground for adventure making.
Plan an adventure
An adventure could be something you do close to where you live or it could be far away. I like the idea of planning lots of adventures, either weekly or monthly in addition to those big ones. In November I am going to see the 80s band Culture Club - I like their adventurous spirit. It doesn’t matter if someone shares your idea of adventure; this is all about you feeling alive!
That’s my thoughts on escaping the ordinary. What are yours? What daily adventure have you done lately or plan on doing? Click on the comments below and begin the adventure!
My mean wolf has a name. Maxine. She sits down right beside me when I decide to write. She has a lot to say. She tells me I must be brilliant and profound and spectacular. As if that weren’t enough, after a time looking at a blank page she starts asking questions. “Why aren’t you writing?” “Are you sure you have what it takes to be a writer?”
Maxine has a killer instinct.
During the past 2 weeks, I got close up and personal with Maxine. She was encouraged to show her face during an on-line event called the Shut Up and Writeathon, the brainchild of Stella Orange. Stella Orange is a copywriter who helps people with their business writing projects such as writing a website or creating promotional materials.
The writeathon was brilliant. Stella soothed the resistance in sitting down and writing; she encouraged us to play.
During the 10-day challenge, in her wonderful quirky way, Stella helped us unearth the distractions, hurdles and what we say to ourselves. Give that mean wolf a name, she said.
I recognized that mean wolf from other endeavours in my life. I recognized her from my own journey to work that is a good fit for me. And I recognized her from my work with others who want a work life that engages them in the right way. She is wily.
Our last assignment in the Shut Up and Writeathon was to create a blog highlighting 5 things we learned from the experience.
I learned a lot from the experience, a lot that can be directly applied to doing work that matters to you.
Here they are:
Ideas come through doing.
When I was a young writer, I would pick up my pen when I was inspired by an event or an observation. At some point, I realized I had not written in a long time. It was in a conversation with Luanne Armstrong author of 14 books who told me it is a misconception that our ideas happen before we sit down to write.
She explained it is through the process of writing where our ideas emerge. This idea is life changing. My aha moment this week was it applies to all my writing, business included.
Work that matters is about looking inside yourself to see what makes you tick. It is the doing of the exploration that leads to the idea of where you use your strengths. To know your strengths means doing the work to figure it out.
How can I make this pleasurable?
Stella Orange shared her disciplines for writing. The idea of making writing pleasurable I adopted. There is nothing like fun to get me motivated and engaged.
Work that matters always has the element of fun in it. Remember though – we each have our own ideas of what fun is. We are also more receptive when we are having fun.
Confidence is cultivated.
What is intriguing about our culture is that babies are born with confidence. What happens along the way? We can re-learn confidence. Basically for writers, it means shut up and write. It means showing up, following through on your promises (especially the ones we make to ourselves), and know that we have to find our own way.
I realized in the Writeathon that I need to see my writing times as non-negotiable. The craft of writing happens through doing, paying attention to what works and what does not.
Work that matters requires us showing up in our life. It means taking our aspirations seriously. What it also means is also paying attention to how we keep ourselves small.
Being hard on ourselves is a pointless strategy.
As the days progressed in the Writeathon, Stella told us to celebrate whatever amount of writing we were doing, whether we had missed days or not. She encouraged us to post our “failures” on the Facebook group so we could all celebrate together.
What a novel idea.
In my own writing, I tend to focus more on what I have not done. But what about cutting myself some slack?
When a person is doing work that is not a good fit, I have seen them being quite self critical. It comes with the territory when we have a problem not easy to solve. How can we be kinder to ourselves, especially when we are being challenged?
Even a mean wolf has something to teach.
I had a dialogue with Maxine. She was created out of a need to protect myself. She wants to keep me safe and that means cozy and comfy on my couch. Safe doesn’t look like putting myself out there.
Moving towards work that matters means moving out of the comfort zone. If the answer was there, we would have found it already. What it doesn’t mean is turning everything upside down. It means taking one step at a time. The answer is much closer than we think.
Since the Shut Up and Writeathon, I am feeling a good deal less irritated by my mean wolf. Now when I sit down to write, I expect her to show up. What I realized as I truly listened to what Maxine had to say was she had a lazy trait. She pretty much said the same thing over and over again. No new thoughts. But there I was every day, letting her take up a lot of space.
What do you think? What is the name of your mean wolf?