How do you know when you’ve got something good?
You know when you’ve got something good when you miss it, your body craves it, and when you can feel it nourishing your soul. It’s a thick syrup of satisfaction. It’s the complete exhaustion of a raging dance party, a 4am ski tour, or completing a century ride. You’ve got something good when pride radiates out of you like a supernova and buzzing electric energy keeps you up at night.
However, it isn’t always that easy or obvious to recognize. There are a million and one messages out there in the world telling you what you should want and why. Sometimes we get confused; are we chasing something because we know it’s good or because someone else said so? It’s challenging to tune out all the noise and check in with yourself to see where you really stand.
And what does nourishing your soul mean anyway? There is nourishment that comes in the form of wholesome Fun Type A: hanging out and talking shit with your buddies or going for a stroll. There is also soul nourishment that comes in the form of Fun Type B: writing at 5:30am, prying your eyeballs open and leaking coffee down the front of your sleepy shirt, rappelling down a rock face even though you feel like you might shit your pants, or giving a speech in front of 100 people. Recognizing soul-fertilizing moments can be intuitive and easy or hard and mysterious. Sometimes you just know. You can feel it straight in your gut, even when an activity is a strenuous pain in the ass, yet you soak it all in because you are pumped for the reward that awaits.
Then there are times you aren’t so sure. Maybe you’ve begun taking things for granted or you are tired and overworked. Sometimes I sit and think to myself “what would my life be like if I didn’t hold on to this idea that I have to write? Or set goals?” In the wake of all other daily activities, I wonder if I am adding to my own stress or pursuing a healthy passion. There is always a pregnant pause in the moments following my contemplation of this idea.
I feel like I know I have found something worthwhile when there seems to be no other way and I would otherwise be leading an entirely different life. Even though there is no clearly defined path, I can’t help but try and forge one in order to continue exploring this thing. In my case, writing is a perfect example.
There are mornings where I sit blurry eyed and half asleep (much like this morning) and ask myself “why am I doing this?” I have likely gone to bed after my roommates and I am up well before. The seasons are changing, it’s still dark outside, and I would happily catch up on sleep and recover from my best friend’s wedding this past weekend. Yet, the alarm has gone off, and hot tea in hand, I know that deep satisfaction is on the other side of this writing hurdle.
Without a dedicated writing practice, I would sleep in and have a shorter list of things to do. I wouldn’t worry about Mondays and Wednesdays and not having anything to post. I wouldn’t have to collect photos or worry about editing them. Without writing, I would have less anxiety based on posting my thoughts online and the fear of looking stupid.
Yet… I do it anyway. My birthday looms of the horizon and it will be my one year anniversary of starting It’s All in the Blanket. Without this blog, I would not receive feedback from several of you about goals and aspirations. Without this writing practice, I would not be as challenged intellectually or experience the swells of inspiration to continue striving for more in my life. I have connected with so many creatives, authors, entrepreneurs, and active community members through my work to create these posts that I wouldn’t have it any other way.
You know you’ve got something good when you look back at all the blood, sweat, and tears and every sensation tells you it’s worth it. You know it’s great when it makes you laugh, dance, and sing that you would do it all over again.
By the time you read this, I will have been on vacation for a week. Thank God. So desperately needed. Someone recently shared this on Facebook:
‘A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: “How heavy is this glass of water?”
Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.
She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”
She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.’
Remember to put the glass down.”
Bam. There it is. This little story sums up how I feel about a lot of things in my life lately. It’s a refreshing reminder that we have to watch our thought patterns so we don’t go too far down a dark and lonely path. It’s also frightening because I recognize how many stresses I have a death grip on. I am hoping that the week of beautiful unscheduled freedom I am about to experience (will have by the time you read this) will help hit the reset button. Or at very least, give me some new perspective.
Happy Labor Day!
This post is The Art of Doing inspired. The first of several to come.
The Art of Doing showcases 36 people of all different professions and lifestyles. It seeks to profile each person, describe what they do and how they do it so well. I initially found out about this book through BlogcastFM. I listened on my smart phone as Srini, the host and founder of the show, interviewed the authors, Camille Swiney and Josh Gosfield. They offer a unique perspective because they are well established journalists, working for publications such as The New York Times and New York Magazine. I grew more and more excited as the interview went on. By the time it was over I was walking down the street to a book store to pick it up. What can I say? Passionate people turn me on. I had to get the book and learn about the girl who sailed solo around the world, the guy who has created an award winning company culture, and the gentleman who is renowned for window displays.
So what do superachievers have in common?? I desperately wanted to know! And what does that have to do with my blog?
Let us begin.
As I opened the bright yellow cover of this exhilarating book, I dove into the depths of the introduction. The authors began to unveil their secrets immediately. Instant gratification! How satisfying. In It’s All in the Blanket fashion, the first paragraph picks up multiple threads and weaves them together:
“We were often surprised to discover how much a tennis champion, for instance, and a rock band think alike, or how a race car driver and an extraterrestrial hunter share similar traits. Our participants’ vocations, goals, philosophical perspectives and personalities could not have been more different, but as their responses to our questions accumulated, we began to see patterns. We came to realize that these extraordinary people shared many core principles and practices that had led to their great successes.”
I like to think that this blog is attempting to do just this. Here, I attempt to illustrate the connections of experiences, theories, and people to demonstrate how it is all interconnected. We are a system of systems. We are one. So, the introduction goes on to outline the ten most important strategies of their chosen superachievers, expressing to the reader that it hopes to inspire reflection on your own work habits and approach to life. They are as follows:
- Intelligent Persistence
- Telling a Story
- Managing Emotions
These are the 10 most essential strategies that successful people apply to their lives in order to achieve their greatest goals. Reflecting on them now, I think of my core desired feelings. In my day to day life I seek feelings of clarity, connection, creativity, and power. Applying your core values and natural attributes to the list above is a potent combination. So what really separates the best from the rest? What stops you from doing your best?
I found a blog the other night that I find interesting. Hack the System with Maneesh Sethi. What a crazy dude. When you subscribe to his email list he asks that you write to him about your number one goal. I found myself thinking that I should have a number one goal because I have so many of them. When I read his email requesting to hear what is it, I thought “Shit, man!” And then my brain came to a stuttering halt.
I have a lot of goals. Too many, actually. How do I know it’s too many? From Stevo, the sport psychologists perspective, if it feels like too many, it is. Well, it feels like too many. From Byron Katie’s perspective, it’s not too many, it just IS and it’s only my thoughts in relation to the number of goals that is causing any stress. Byron Katie is the author of Loving What Is. She is the creator of “The Work”, which is a series of four questions about our thoughts and then a turn around that aims to transform our relationship to ourselves. Here is an example.
The Work on Having Too Many Goals.
Statement and/or judgments: I have too many goals.
Is that true? No. (If no, you can move to #3)
Can I absolutely know that to be true? I can not know it to be 100% fact.
How do I react when I think that thought? How do I treat myself and/or others when I think that thought? Stressed out! I am irritable and frustrated. I hate on myself. I feel like I am scattered and unfocused. I feel like I can’t see progress clearly and that I am a failure. I get panicky and anxious.
Who would I be without that thought? Who would I be without believing that I have too many goals? I would feel peaceful and calm. Life would feel more harmonious and I would celebrate the small victories.
Turn it around: I do not have too many goals. I do not have enough goals. I have the right amount of goals. I have the perfect number of goals.
Perhaps this is another step in dismantling the 27 x 27. I am happy to have so many goals. They can just hang there in space, the letters typed neatly out on the page. The list will grow, wilt, and stagnate at times. I want to cultivate a compassionate relationship to the goal list. It is, afterall, my list of dreams. They each symbolize a process through which I get to know myself a little better and that lead me down my path a little further.
Looking at what I would like to focus on for April and reflecting on what I worked on in March, I am seeing that not much has changed. I am trying to start small and continue slowly. For March I had a fatty list: Interchange counseling sessions, write everyday, handstand practice, mobility, read, work on the Fire Starter Sessions, and attend the CrossFit certification course.
How did I do?
Interchange: I had a couple of Interchange sessions. I have surpassed my 20 hours of counseling now.
Write: I have a check mark for everyday that I wrote on my calendar and made it a practice to write every morning. It increased the amount I post to my blog based on working with more material. This has been a very enjoyable process for me.
Handstands: I have had many 20 minute sessions in the park and practiced at CrossFit. I have seen a lot of improvement and have had a lot of fun!
Mobility: This is another item I have on the daily checklist. I have struggled with this because sometimes it is enjoyable and other times it is just a pain in the ass. Literally. But I am committed to working on my knee and the rest of my body.
Read: I have been reading more! I read the entire CrossFit training guide and I am in the process of finishing Loving What Is. I have also read a TON of blogs and information online. I also bought a GOOD magazine.
The Fire Starter Sessions (FSS): I love this book. Danielle LaPorte is awesome and the book is beautiful. Maria and I have been meeting about FSS and it is amazingly therapeutic and motivating. We’re lighting shit up!
CrossFit Certification: done and done! I attended the weekend course, which was great, and I past the test! BAM! PLUS, I applied for a job at San Francisco CrossFit and guess what?! I GOT THE JOB! The cert has already paid off.
Writing this has been so satisfying. Earlier I felt like the March list was way too long. However looking at all the progress that I have made for each item, I can see that I have actually been quite successful! WhatWhat!!! I think that one thing that would allow me to see progress more is by recording small measurable benchmarks or each. That would look like this:
Goal: Record daily check marks, record time spent on activity and other detailed notes.
I am halfway there. I have recorded most of this stuff, but I could get into the details if I wanted to see more numerical results.
So let’s circle back to the beginning. What is my #1 goal?
My number one goal is to feel awesome. I’ve been able to pin-point four core feelings that are important to me and I want to connect to those feelings in all that I do. Those four core feelings are: Connection, Clarity, Creative, and Powerful. I don’t have to feel all four of the feelings all the time, but I want clarity in my activities because I think it makes for more harmonious living.
You can read about my twenty-seven #1 goals and how they tap into my core feelings here. If you think that this post is a bunch of bull and that my goal is way too vague, then here are some specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-sensitive (S.M.A.R.T.) goals to feast on:
- Write 2 blog posts every month until September.
- Write at least 20 minutes everyday in April.
- Mobilize for 20 minutes everyday in April.
- Finish Loving What Is and start a new book. (Achieved! April 14, 2013)
- Have at least 1 Interchange counseling session. (Achieved! April 13, 2013)
- Workout at CrossFit at least 3 times each week.
Wild Success! Things that were not on the goal list but make me feel ON FIRE:
- Getting hired at San Francisco CrossFit! I will be working as the part-time Office Manager for 25-30 hours a week. I’m pumped! (Victory dance.)
- Leo Babauta sharing a link to one of my blog posts! I wrote about attending the Mindful + Entrepreneur event Leo hosted with Jesse Jacobs of Samovar Tea Lounge. I sent him the link and he shared it on Tumblr. Feeling pretty awesome about that.
Thanks to Maneesh Sethi for pushing my thoughts about goals a little further.
Our discussion over tea and chocolate continued into the afternoon. Here is what we covered.
Making declarations and logging progress as a way of holding yourself accountable. Leo made the excellent point that telling other people about your goals is a great way to start holding yourself accountable. You can go as far as asking someone to track your progress with you, or keep it as simple as sharing your projects with someone. If you know that even just one other person will be following up with you, you increase your chances of sticking to your word. There are many ways to go about this, many of which I have discussed with Stevo and written about here on my blog. Habit change is a tricky thing and everyone knows we get by with a little help from our friends.
When we experience hope and fear it is because we are attached to outcomes. When Leo said this, I had an “Ah ha!” moment. It seems so simple, but I don’t normally think about my hopes and fears this way. I feel that it is a good reminder of the stories that we are telling ourselves and how we often embellish the outcomes before they have happened. It is refreshing to step back and ask ourselves what we fear about a particular outcome or why we are hoping for something. Then take it one step further and realize we will be OK regardless of what happens.
5 word business plan. An “ah ha!” moment wrapped into a gold nugget right here. This is what my post “Confused? Contribute!” is all about! A simple 5 word business plan. Here it is: How Can I Help You? Run with this.
Whisper marketing. If I haven’t yet mentioned BlogcastFM one hundred times, let me continue to work towards that number. Leo and Jesse both spoke to marketing and getting the word out about what they do. They both prefer to practice gentler kinds of advertising, relying mostly on word of mouth and slow community building techniques. The reason I bring up BlogcastFM is because that is immediately what came to mind when they said “whisper” marketing. Srini, the co-founder and host of the show, asks all his interviewees how they stand out in a world with so much noise. Well, it isn’t by talking louder.
How to title blog posts. Leo has blogging down to an art. He’s very good at what he does and that’s why I attended this event. Here are some bread and butter techniques for titling your blog. First, your title must convey a benefit. Second, it must instill curiosity. Do this in 5 words or less if you can. Some things to think about: Why is what you are writing about a problem? Why should your readers care? Give them a reason! What is the solution? Make sure you include an actionable item to effectively close the post. This builds attention and trust.
Post regularly. From my understanding, it matters less how often, just keep it regular. Once a week, once a month, 4 times a year…
Give away your secrets! Making yourself vulnerable and sharing deepens your relationship to readers by building trust and providing resources. Leo really drove this one home and I think it is a special edge to any blogger. It’s scary to share ourselves with the world. It shows when we do. Really amazing things happen when you share things with others.
The tea and chocolate were incredible and the company was awesome. I have a lot of work ahead of me and attending Mindful+Entrepreneur is motivating me to get my ass in gear. Cheers to taking it to the next level!
P.S. To make it really clear – What is a problem that you have? You are trying to improve your blog but you don’t know how. What’s the solution? Simple homework: post regularly. Make a schedule. Right now.
I’m terrible at keeping up with blog posts. This fits in perfectly with the current theme of my life: When it rains it pours. Coincidentally, it’s pouring in San Francisco right now and has been for the past day or so. I have been working on my goals all month and have accomplished many (8!) I haven’t blogged about a single one. So now, when I sit down to write a post, I am completely overwhelmed because I don’t need to write one post, I should write 8! Ack! I suppose this is why I have included blogging on my goal list; an attempt to make it a habit and manage it more.
Well, here I am. It’s a Friday morning, I woke up at 6AM, but skipped Crossfit because it is storming outside and I did not want to ride my bicycle through the flood zones. Instead, I am attempting to catch up on my goal review. However, instead of facing the daunting task of writing 8 posts, one about each goal I have accomplished in November – I am going to make a list (I LOVE LISTS) of the goals I’ve worked on and write about them more specifically later (uh… perpetuating the problem??)
GOALS I ACCOMPLISHED IN NOVEMBER!
- I read a book! There is Nothing Wrong with You by Cheri Huber
- I made mail art: I participated in Snail Mail My Email 2012.
- I took my bod-photos.
- I did not smoke for 30 days: this is a hard one for me to write about because it means that I have to admit that I smoke sometimes. Well, I was smoking too much this summer and I said enough is enough! I know I can drop it (like it’s hot), so I did.
- I expressed my feelings when it was difficult for me multiple times and recorded it somewhere…
- I attended the 2nd Interchange weekend.
- I got new jobs! Three to be exact.
- I moved to San Francisco! WOO!
This is a big month for me. In the past 5 weeks I have worked 4 jobs and moved into the city, plus worked on everything else mentioned above. Needless to say, I have been super stressed out and been fending off anxiety attacks. YAY LIFE!
Let’s put it this way – I am learning a lot at an accelerated rate. I am excited for the holidays so that I can spend time with my family and hole up in cozy homes. Bring on the movies and hot tea! Oh yea and definitely give me a high five and a hug the next time you see me. Thanks.
Love, Strength, and Vigor!