Looking at my goal list for the past year, I am most proud of 2 things. The first is that I committed to blogging each of my goals and this exercise made me realize that something I really enjoy is the writing itself. It feels satisfying that I have embraced the writing process and stuck with it over the last twelve months. Especially to simply relish the act of writing, without judging the end product. The second thing I am proud of this year is that I made several huge changes in my life and am still working hard to create the life I want to live. If that’s too vague for you: I am so happy that I moved to San Francisco and have been able to find rewarding work. I am incredibly grateful to be at San Francisco CrossFit and Suppenküche, two companies where I’ve met some of the most amazing people in my life.
These two things also translate into what I am most grateful over the last year. I am grateful for all the love and support I got from my family and friends. I am grateful for the people who offered me work and flexibility in my schedule, coworkers who helped me out, and both the constructive and positive feedback I’ve received from people in different areas of my life. I also appreciate California Sunshine, the ability to take vacations in far off places, and the wild adventurous opportunities that present themselves to me.
On Monday, I will turn 27 and my 27×27 year will be complete. Friends have been asking what 28×28 will look like, but I can’t say it looks very appealing. It isn’t edgy enough. It’s putting too many items on a list, it’s too arbitrary. I need something with a bit more gusto. I want an divine list, not one that induces guilt over an unchecked box. I thought about beginning a 3×30 or 30×30 project, as it’s dawning on me that a decade benchmark is approaching. It’s still in the cards. However, in an effort to distance myself from numbers and quantifying everything, I would like to experiment with living the next year in a quality-inspired manner.
So I am crafting a plan for living my next year of life using the Desire Map. I will use my core desired feelings as my compass and my 12 commandments as my guiding constitution. THIS SOUNDS SO CORNY. Cue Phil Collins, because that’s my JAM. Hopefully over the next 12 months I will be able to communicate all of this in a way that sounds more hardcore and less “floofy”. That’s the (non) word that comes to mind. But right now it’s all I’ve got.
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.
Allow me to put my cards on the table. I never signed up for the Get It Done in 30 challenge. I thought I did, so it wasn’t a complete lie, but it didn’t happen. I was under the impression that I had signed up for their trial run and that I would be part of an experimental group. Well, that was not the case. I realized that I had signed up for notifications and that trials had already happened. I decided that I did not want to pay the $97 or however many dollars it was to participate for August. “Go it alone!” I said. Again. I can tell you right now, I am failing miserably. I doubt I have lost a single pound (probably gained a few after the drinking this weekend), but the lack of a scale and benchmarks are clear signs that I’m not managing or measuring anything! I’ve had several intense conversations about weight and the psychology behind our bodies, but we all know that talk doesn’t make shit happen. I told myself that I would be strict Paleo this month. Can you hear me laughing? If you’ve been reading my blog, you know how much I love to quote Stevo: “We are all Paleo, BUT…” I’m a big butt. I have had my Paleo days this month, but it’s been a pretty weak attempt. The Get It Done in 30 is a great idea because it sets you up with one focus and a support buddy. Trying to accomplish a goal motivated largely by guilt and shame, and accomplish it alone, seems foolish. Fail. Epic fail.
So far, I’ve been unsuccessful because I lied, I didn’t do what I said I would, I didn’t ask for support, and I didn’t measure anything.
This weekend, I watched a video on Marie Farleo’s blog. It is an interview with Steven Pressfield of Turning Pro. The take away is fairly simple, if you are passionate about something, treat it as though you are a professional. If you are serious about something and are committed to improving yourself in that arena then treat it with the same amount of respect and dedication you would your career. The example the author uses is a friend who was determined to become a better golf player. Apparently, she was truly awful. Instead of giving up, she bought herself a nice golf outfit, fancy shoes, some golf clubs and scheduled regular lessons. Dedicated to the cause, she announced that she was going to treat golf as though she were a professional. With consistent practice she worked her way to becoming a skilled golfer.
I would like to start applying this mindset more thoroughly to areas in my own life. It’s a process and I like the idea of growing into this attitude. Specifically, I feel that this has been happening naturally in regards to my writing. Since last September, I have become more dedicated to writing posts at specific times and have treated it as homework and a scheduled activity rather than something that will happen whenever. I even invested in a new computer earlier this year. I have spent many mornings getting up at 5:30am to make sure that I have at least 20 minutes of writing time before going to work. I’ve experimented with posting to this blog once or twice a week. I’ve researched different blog planning tools and have organized writing files on Google Drive. I am learning about social media and blog management tools. On top of that, I am receiving regular emails from some of my favorite blogs and podcasts to keep me in the loop of what is happening in the blogging world. I am hoping that by writing regularly and creating a consistent posting schedule, I will step more into the professional mindset of being a writer.
I tend to see the glass half full, however, I am using this post to illustrate how to recognize failure or where you are falling short and not give up entirely. I have been unsuccessful in behaving like a pro in regards to my blog by not posting yesterday (Monday). For August I told myself I would post twice a week, Mondays and Wednesdays. Yesterday came and went. My excuse? I am exhausted. I spent Sunday in Ukiah with some friends after their wedding. This involved going to bed at 1am followed by a 5am wake up time and a 3 hour drive. After work I could barely think straight, so I crawled into bed and passed out at 8. Then I woke up at 2am to pee and haven’t been able to fall back asleep since. FAIL. So here I am, trying to catch up on writing and post some shit before another day passes and I feel even worse. Perhaps the early wake up is a blessing in disguise? Nothing like the wee hours of the morning to get things done.
If I had of acted like a pro, I would have gotten myself to a cafe with free wifi yesterday evening and posted to the blog, come hell or high water. In my mind, professionals don’t dwell on “I don’t feel like it” for very long. I am honestly OK with all the choices I made this weekend, despite exhaustion and crabbiness. I want to be real with myself and recognize where and when I succeed versus when I don’t. There are several goals now that I am certain will not be accomplished by my birthday. I would like to think that opens up the opportunity to focus on one thing and hopefully that one thing makes me feel awesome. Today, that one thing is writing this and publishing it right here.
I listen to Jan as she describes a typical week of her life, working during the day and then spending the evenings with friends, usually one on one. The lack of a significant other allows her to dedicate ample time to various friends with whom she enjoys solo dinners and activities as it gives them the opportunity to bond more quickly than in group settings. Though Jan loves having a widely developed friend circle, she feels pressure to balance her time carefully. With three or more evenings a week committed to friends, Jan rarely spends time doing things for herself. Where does all the time go? Plus, with an ever widening network, it feels like she needs to be spending even more time maintaining those relationships.
It is a fascinating thing, growing up, growing older, becoming an adult and adopting all the complications of modern life in the process. More than anything, the above situation makes me feel like I am not a kid anymore. You start juggling jobs and friends and laundry and, wait, don’t forget sleep… Realizing if I don’t schedule a date with someone means that I don’t see them messes with my head. What the hell happened to long summer days of playing in the street, running into someone at 7-11, slurpee in hand, and then splashing around in the pool for the next three hours? And what about getting sunburned in the park while drinking champagne, practicing handstands, followed by a nap around 4pm? What is life without spontaneity and unplanned time? Who signed up for this? Not me.
It’s an increasingly common struggle. How do we maintain our relationships? And how do we prioritize them to know which ones need to be maintained? What about our own emotional needs? And many of us are single! Don’t get me started on couples, especially couples with kids (I could write extensively about how my brother and his young family have given me a new appreciation for my parents having 4 kids before they were 35).
Listening to Jan talk about the joys and challenges of choosing how to spend her time, I could feel pressure building in my chest. I wanted to cut in, interrupt her, shout out “Stop!” Let’s stop. Let’s slow down. We are an important part of our equation. I’ll be the first to tell you that I am going to preach selfishness and taking care of yourself because this is what I am trying to learn right now. How can we take care of others if we aren’t taking care of ourselves? The great part is that sometimes taking care of ourselves means slowing down and having dinners with people. Knowing your boundaries and when you have to take time to yourself is key.
One of my 12 commandments is: If you can’t get out of it, get into it. When I can’t get into something (a party, a date, a social situation, a project, a book), then I back the fuck out. There’s no point in suffering through something if you have the power to change it and do something different. However, if you can’t get out of it, you better buck up and make the best of the situation. Chances are, you will learn something.
It is August 2013 and I have worked more in the last 12 months of my life than ever before. I have also moved three times and had five different jobs (often multiple at the same time). While my motivation levels have plummeted, my mind continues to race at high speed. I may not be inspired to act on many of my thoughts, but I can’t help asking “What’s next? How can I do this better? Is this what I really want?”
I’ve been attempting to cut myself off from streams of input (blogs, podcasts, magazines, email, conferences) that will simply feed the incessant chatter in my head and increase the anxiety about not having “figured it out” yet. I am trying to say no more to information and opportunities that do not serve me, so that I can yes more to healing activities that allow me to process everything that has happened this year.
In August 2012 I was still at the Marin Headlands Hostel and about to go to Burning Man for the first time. Fast forward 8 weeks, I was working at the hostel, Lululemon, and Biergarten. For some reason I thought it was necessary to have multiple jobs to live in San Francisco. Note to self: if you can get by with less hours and just one job, DO THAT. I wrapped up working at the hostel in November, and soon began working at Suppenkuche (in addition to Lululemon and Biergarten). I continued to juggle these three jobs until February 2013. I don’t know what I was thinking.
In March I worked 18 – 20 hours a week. That was incredible. A breath of fresh air after holding my face in a murky mud puddle. Not pretty. I was working less, but had also finagled a part time work-trade with San Francisco CrossFit in order to continue my membership at the gym. March quickly turned into April and there was yet another job opportunity that I could not pass up. As soon as I heard about the Office Manager position at San Francisco CrossFit, I knew I had to pounce. So I did. By mid April, I was hired on to the San Francisco CrossFit Team and have never been more proud to accept a paid position.
Between April and July, I toggled between work modes and ran a tight ship. There was little room for error between two double shifts and a 6 day work week. Though my social life has suffered, I’ve met amazing new people, planned a bachelorette party, and accomplished several of my 27×27. In the past 4 weeks, I’ve worked one job, been out of town every weekend, and come face to face with the truth of being a total workaholic.
I won’t shut up about it. Sometimes it feels like all I do is talk about work and how much and all the time and complain complain complain. I was on the phone with my sister, explaining yet again why I wasn’t available to hang out. Work work work. “I work soooooo much, this is crazy.” There was a short pause. “So why do you do it?” She asked. “I don’t know! I’m sick. I’m totally sick. I suppose I am just not suffering enough. Otherwise, it would be different already” was my reply.
I believe this to be true. In situations where we are the ones in control, we must often suffer severely before we are moved to make significant changes. I am still completely perplexed as to why I kept saying yes to more work. I’m confounded as to why I still have 2 jobs and no vacation planned. Even during the 2 weekends I was away, on non-work related trips, I returned drained and exhausted rather than rejuvenated. How is this possible? Oh, sweet suffering, reveal my limits and let me know personal responsibility. It is a strange and wondrous thing to realize how out of line you are with your own values. Wake up call! This is not how you want to live your life.
If you’ve made it this far, you may be asking “Why does this story matter?” I’m impressed if you’ve read to this point because this is a total “Dear Diary” post. But let me tell you! Perhaps you’ve read this far and thought “Shit, I totally do that too.” Or “I feel this way sometimes, but how do I know that I’m not in line with my values?” Realizing that we are not living the life we want to live is the first step to acknowledging we are not living in accordance with our values. Do you say one thing and do another? This is a pretty good sign that you are confused about your values and not living in line with them. For example, if I tell you that my friends and family are my priority, but I work all the time and never see them, then you can tell me that I’m full of shit. Actions speak louder than words.
I am using my story about the past year as an example of a wake up call. It is not glamorous, it’s actually down right painful. It brutally sucks. But now that I can see how gross and distorted my decision making process has been, it is opening up space for action! This is exciting! This is a learning opportunity to avoid repeating mistakes in the future. Once we see what motivated us to make the decisions we did, we can look at how they do not align with how we want to live our lives. Or maybe they DO – it’s helpful to recognize how we set ourselves up for success so we can recreate it. Most importantly you have to choose one action that will help you live your values on a daily basis. Here are some examples.
Wake up call! I am not in line with these values:
- Family and friends
- Free time to be creative
- Realizing I don’t need 3 jobs to survive in SF
- Recognizing that it was my choice to work the extent of my contract and to stick around
- Coming to terms with the fact that staying for the community can be enough for a while, that I want to be busy to distract myself from other crap, and because it makes me feel useful.
- Admitting I am feeling unhealthy and miserable
- Cutting back hours
- Taking a month to work very little
- Setting aside time to do important things with friends and family
- Taking a sick day
- Reflecting, talking, and writing about my process
- Asking for help: my family helped me move, my friends have gone out of their way to visit me at work, they have been forgiving and supportive when I have been tired and M.I.A.
My next steps are going to involve a few things from the action list above. First off, I need to cut back my work hours. My work week is not dialed in enough to feel sane. I need to plan a vacation just for me. This is extremely important psychologically. If I can give myself one piece of advice, I say this “If you are feeling burnt out and temporarily insane, it is time to be SELFISH. Do something completely indulgent for yourself that feels special and is in line with your core desired feelings 100%”. Important side note: do NOT allow yourself to feel guilty about this. If you feel guilty, as punishment, tack on another day of vacation.
I attended the Mindful + Entrepreneur tea and chocolate tasting event hosted by Leo Babauta and Jesse Jacobs, and naturally was reminded immediately of our interconnectedness. As soon as we began, I sat next to Andrea, owner of Satori Yoga Studio. Why is this serendipitous? Because my good friend, Debbie Steingesser, who helped me get the seasonal job at Lululemon and who I work out with regularly at San Francisco CrossFit is also a yoga teacher at Satori. So a wonderful woman who was only one degree removed from my acquaintance, is now my tea and chocolate tasting buddy. This was a great way to kick off the event, it made me feel right at home.
Leo and Jesse gave each other introductions and we all introduced ourselves. We had a well rounded group: Andrea from Satori, Travis a fellow CrossFitter, Ashley from Buy Nothing New, and Nealy from Vice Chocolates, to name a few. Then Leo and Jesse began to speak towards building a mindful practice. While both practice meditation, Jesse discussed how developing a ritual, such as brewing tea creates the space to deepen our awareness. We reviewed briefly how to brew our tea and how to examine the leaves, inhale the aroma, and to sip our tasty beverages.
With each step in the tea brewing process, Jesse encouraged us to become aware of negative space. Where are the pauses in our lives? How can we embrace them and bring our awareness to those spaces? For example, Jesse meditates as the water for his tea boils. He intentionally does nothing and practices emptying his mind.
As a way of deepening our understanding of mindfulness, Leo then talked about his own meditation practice and his time management throughout the day. He highlighted intention and how that can be a clarifying element to any task. Ask yourself: what is my intention? You may find yourself in a pregnant pause when posing this question.
Maybe you don’t have time to sit around asking yourself about intention. You are too busy for that shit. Well, Leo and Jesse know as well as anyone how busy life can get. Our lives are ripe with potential and brimming with activity. How do we even know what to prioritize? Nevermind exploring intention. Here Leo described his organic experiments with time management. He says he is trying to cultivate an internal trust within himself that he will do what needs to get done. This is a relentless practice against value judgments.
What do I mean when I say let go of value judgments? I mean stop telling yourself that one thing is good and another is bad. The majority of the time those are simply stories our mind is telling us. It is important to realize the nature of reality – what is here and now.
So as Leo is going through his day, he is actually practicing getting in touch with his intuition and using that as a compass to prioritize which tasks will get done. Obviously, around this time of year, we all have certain things that we simply must do. Like taxes. Here is a good opportunity to practice patience and compassion, mostly with ourselves. Sometimes we just need to do what needs to get done, so that everything doesn’t fall apart down the line. Being aware of the tasks that take more of our emotional energy, it might be smart to reward yourself with afternoon tea at Samovar after dealing with taxes.
More highlights from Mindful + Entrepreneur (to be continued…)
- Making declarations and logging progress
- Experiencing fear and hope
- A 5 word business plan
- Whisper marketing and…
- How to title blog posts.