What do you do when you fall off the horse? That’s right – you get back on.
In May I wrote 26 days out of 31. I haven’t written since June 3rd, but the time has come to start again. In May I focused on writing. I stayed the course, writing almost every day, and experimented with posting to this blog twice a week (every Monday and Wednesday). In May I published 9 blog posts. Writing and posting this frequently has allowed me to explore several other themes this month.
I began by asking “what’s wrong with these pants?” My way of exploring body issues and seeking to change my thought patterns in order to avoid further developing a self deprecating attitude. Especially while shopping because shopping is supposed to be fun and it sucks to be stuck crying in a dressing room somewhere, when we should all be striving to love ourselves more everyday.
Following my exploration of jeans and our psyche, I explored how one defines success. Maybe it’s by recognizing evil thoughts about your own body and reminding yourself you are WUNDERBAR! It’s an interesting thing to question your definitions of success because it is likely to uncover something either highly influenced by your parents or society and expose dreams that you may be discrediting. This can be an incredibly powerful process because you can reframe your ideas and start building an empowering definition of success that supports who are. You may begin to see areas of your life you have been successful in that you didn’t realize before. It’s a great way to prioritize projects in your life and start moving towards the things you really care about.
May is national Bike to Work Month. I wrote a Bike to Work Day post about how I think bicycles are the coolest form of transportation. Did you know that they are still the most efficient form of transport in the world?! That blows my mind every time I think about it. I love riding bicycles. Get out an set yourself free!
While listening to BlogcastFM, I found out about a book called What Superachievers Have in Common by Camille Swiney and Josh Gosfield. I was so intrigued by the interview that I immediately went to a book store and bought it. I could write a blog post about every chapter, so I chose a few that stuck with me and started writing. The book is full of inspirational stories that make you want to get off your ass and practice getting totally awesome at something. It is also a great reminder of all the unconventional paths there are available in the world. Ever thought about what it would be like to create crossword puzzles for a living? Or designing baseball stadiums? Yea, don’t sweep your dreams under the rug, because chances are we need your crazy idea.
One of my favorite chapters in Superachievers is: How to be the Most Fabulous You. I think about Simon Doonan pretty much every day now. I hate feeling average or boring and feel that style and dress have the ability to brighten the world through our clothing choices. So I really take it to heart when Doonan says “dress everyday as though you were going to a Lady Gaga concert, you’re guaranteed to have more fun”. This is it, folks, this is your life. It’s all about today, there may not be a tomorrow. Get out there and express yourself!
My favorite blog post of the month is Rejection Sucks. Not only does the title sum up exactly how I feel, but this post explores several topics that I am super passionate about (relationships, vulnerability, risk, and love/hardcore crushes). It feels good to reflect on an experience that was painful, process the story, and come out the other side feeling like I’ve done the work to move on. Leo Babauta of Zen Habits has a wonderful blog post called The Obstacle is the Path, that was wonderfully serendipitous to read at the time. It can be a hard pill to swallow; the anger, the hurt, the rejection – that is the path. Walk it.
Embracing my own path, I came out and declared myself a Dear Diary blogger. Ah! The weight off my chest! I love Dear Diary blogging! I love owning my own shit and getting straight on my motivations. I asked myself why am I writing? I explored who I write for and what the writing process does for me. I wrapped up the month with Feats of Strength, a post reviewing my work at the CrossFit NorCal Regionals. It is impactful to watch humans perform such intense activities. It was an inspiring event that made me question where I want to focus my energy in my own exercise practice.
Believe it or not, that was the month of May. It felt good to write regularly and digest the various parts of my life that can seem so disparate. These posts helped me weave the different corners of my life together, in true blanket fashion. Superachievers meet CrossFit games, Zen Habits meet CrossFit thighs, rejection meet writing practice, blogging meeting psychology and Bam! 9 blog posts later I fall off the horse. Here is me dusting myself off and getting back on.
Rejection sucks. Whether it’s not getting a job or unrequited love. Maybe it was just an unpaid internship, or simply asking someone out for coffee. Depending on where you’re at, it can feel like water off a ducks back or it can feel gut wrenching to hear “No.” You tell yourself that you have nothing to lose. That it really isn’t so bad. Yet, that wave comes crashing down on you regardless. It pushes you over, pummels you in a rolling tumble and you attempt to keep your limbs from flailing; resisting as the disappointment shoots up your nostrils. You struggle to regain any footing, there is no hope in doing it gracefully.
Rejection sucks because it is disorienting. You have mustered your strength and you are stepping into the world knowing you are about to make yourself vulnerable. With rejection comes self doubt. Did I make the right decision? Why did I stick my neck out? Was it a stupid risk to take? Putting ourselves into vulnerable positions, we walk a fine line between pain and pleasure. There is the opportunity for great reward: ego-boosting, superhero soaring, high-on-life emotions. On the other side, there is a small dog with his tail between his legs. You feel heavy, as though you are sinking, and the surface of the water sparkles as it gets farther away and the darkness engulfs you.
I experienced such a moment this past weekend. I regularly ask myself “what do I have to lose?” and love to boldly step forward towards whatever life has to offer. And I did just that. I gathered my guts, took a deep breath and pretended I was brave for 20 seconds. I opened my mouth and expressed interest in someone. Initially, in those micro-seconds between peoples responses to each other, there was a huge sense of relief for getting it off my chest. But that moment was fleeting. As soon as I had extended myself, he shook his head, frowned and simply said “No.” There may have even been a hand on my arm, and while you would think the physical contact is nice (which it is), the moment makes me sad.
It happened. It came, it went, and was it really that bad? The answer is yes. And the answer is no. I have the right to be ambivalent! It was that bad in the sense that my ego is plenty bruised, largely due to the genuine interest that I can sense inside myself and that rejection can often persent us with hurtful questions towards ourselves (am I not good enough? What’s wrong with me? Etc.) It is not that bad because that moment is over. It is in the past. I did it, I had the balls to do what I had to do, and it was wildly successful in that I faced what could have held me back: fear. And we all know that fear is the mindkiller.
As I move farther away from my rejection incident and more into my week, I have serendipitously come across several helpful resources to deal with any residual pain. I was attempting to clean out my email and opened a video from Marie Forleo. Marie asks “Feeling Lost?” Even though we have heard these little tid bits a million times before, it is refreshing to hear them again. Here are 4 ways to start over when things fall apart:
- Everything happens for a reason.
- Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. Feel the pain without your story!
- Be present.
- Do the basics one day at a time.
As humans, we rationalize everything. That’s fine and in this case, allow yourself to sink into the belief that everything DOES happen for a reason. You are exactly where you need to be. This may be a difficult thing to accept. Feel that. It may help to close your eyes for a minute. What does it really physically feel like to be rejected? Feel the physical sensations without the story that you tell yourself about what happened. This will keep you present. Practice this over and over again. Take care of your needs, do what needs to be done, one task at a time, one day at a time. Simple, surprisingly not easy.
I also received a short post from Leo Babauta at Zen Habits: The Obstacle is the Path. It embodies the four points above. Why are you running from discomfort? Why are spending your time wishing things were different from the way that they are? I want to love my life and myself the way that we are right now. I am still playing the broken record of the moment I was rejected and I am still experiencing the disappointment. However, I keep bring myself back to the present and focusing on the success and opportunity that is a result of taking risks.
Be brave. Be bold. You only live once.
Ka-POW! So it came, so it went. So it goes. What a month! How did I do goal-wise? This is when it’s a good time to know what your measure of success is. If I hit my target 1 out of 2 times, do I feel successful? This month, I feel like a failure as far as measuring certain actions: days at Crossfit, mobilization, eating well/paleo, writing, hours at work, reading and counseling.
How do I feel like I failed? I only did “serious” mobilizing 10 out of 30 days this month. In the same way that I feel I need to focus more on diet and nutrition to improve my overall health (versus exercising more), I believe that I need to focus on mobilizing effectively to improve my athletic performance. My knee needs targeted help, so do my shoulders. They aren’t going to magically get better all on their own, so I need to show them some love. More than 10 days of love per month.
I have not been writing everyday. I have barely been writing at all. I wrote 14 out of 30 days. Not terrible, but not good. It sucks, actually. I feel so disappointed. It’s physically more difficult to sit and write. Not writing for 20 minutes a day, letting it slip for multiple days at a time, makes it infinitely more challenging to get ideas out in a way that flows. Writing for smaller chunks of time on a regular basis allows me to review what I have written recently and begin to play with ideas that intrigue me. The process of work and play come out. The editing process begins to unfold, structure and substance begin to arise and that feels awesome. Saying to myself that I will post to It’s All in the Blanket only twice a month is a terrible idea. It is nowhere near enough to motivate me to write everyday. However, maybe what I was posting would be well crafted and “deep” if I did write everyday in between those posts… That being said, I have a huge list of topics I would love to write about, so posting twice a month really doesn’t cut it.
Bottom line: I feel like I’ve failed as far as writing throughout April. SOoooo, I signed up for Leo Babauta’s Sea of Change program this month! May = Writing Month! I’m getting back on the horse. Leo is sending out accountability emails and writing prompts for the month of May. Let’s start fucking shit up! It’s also Bike to Work Month and National Masturbation and Radical Self-Love Month. I have BIG goals surrounding all of these things! May is going to be very exciting! Are you ready!?
Mobilizing and writing are where I can feel the disappointment most acutely. Overall, I feel like I haven’t measured things as much as I was aiming to. It makes me feel like a failure, not being able to fill out my measurable goals sheet for April. My conclusion is that I took on too much. I bit off more than I could chew. I have more specific measurements, I can get numbers for almost every category, but I’m not particularly impressed in my level of involvement in any of them.
The way I am trying to change my attitude towards jeans is similar to how I want to rephrase my attitude towards goals this month. In the last month, I have found every single pair of pants that I own are ripped. I have had most of them for over 3 years. Finding new jeans is hardly ever an enjoyable experience. Since beginning CrossFit, my body has changed a lot and I am still adjusting. I find that most jeans are made for skinny people or people without muscles. Pants tend to be too tight in the thighs and butt. I have endless ideas for making sexy clothes for fit and curvy people, just another business idea kicking around. So during my quest to find new jeans, I realized I would feel really shitty about myself and my brain would get stuck on repeat “What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with my body? Why don’t these pants fit perfectly!?” This is bullshit.
I hit the pause button as much as I can. I hit pause, take a breath, and then say to myself “Bitch, please! What the fuck is wrong with these jeans?!” The therapist I have talked to since 2004, Tonja, has told me that I should practice thought-stopping. A practice that I am not very good at. So, here I am, practicing. Notice that son-of-a-bitch thought that makes you feel bad → stop it. Then replace it with positive one. It’s good to have a go-to thought to replace any negative thought with. The Jeans Quest auto-replacement thought is: What is wrong with these jeans?
To bring this analogy full circle, what I am trying to accomplish is the following: instead of asking myself “what is wrong with me? Why did I not accomplish all 54 million goals on my list this month?” I am attempting to reframe my thinking with thoughts such as “What stopped me from accomplishing my goals this month? What’s wrong with the goal? How can I take a step back and set myself up for success next time? What’s wrong with this system?” This is the only way I can stay motivated for the coming month. I can approach new goals today because I know the weakness was lack of focus and making goals that were too big. How will I do better in May? I am going to focus on writing.
And guess what? I found AWESOME jeans. They don’t only fit, they feel and look amazing. People tell me so. I love them. Here’s a major plug: CrossFit girls, drop the $$$, Lucky Brand has jeans that are bangin’! They fit and flatter my curvy muscles and are delicious feeling. Try on a pair of these pants and then celebrate your bad self with a mimosa. Jeans aren’t worth crying over (which I have done). Thank You Lucky Brand, Thank You Tonja – cheers to living boldly! Love, Strength, and Vigor, Baby Cakes.
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 recently read a short and sweet article on how to solve issues surrounding purpose and motivation by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits. His solution is simple: help other people. Since I am one of many who struggles with finding my purpose (actively struggling here), I believe I would benefit from this advice. Being in my mid-20’s, I can see how self-centered my life currently is and I would like to shift my focus from self-serving to providing a service. I am enjoying this phase and doing self-improvement has always been a passion of mine, but I definitely strive to create connections with my community and I feel powerful when I help others. Babauta explains that the most important element of this concept is the shift in focus, from being concerned about one’s own hurdles or blocks, to asking “where can I contribute?”
In order to shift from self-analyzation to community-contributor mode, Babauta lists some excellent questions. “What can I do to help people in need?” or “What problems are out there that strangers might have, that my particular skill set could solve?” I think that this is a brilliant way to reframe our approach to finding purpose in our daily lives. Though simple, this is tricky because it is a significant change in mindset.
I am experimenting with a 14-day challenge based on this article because getting into the habit of shifting focus is one I would like to cultivate. In my last Interchange weekend we engaged in a practice where we laughed for 20 minutes, cried for 20 minutes, and then sat in silence for 20 minutes. This is the ultra-mini version of the Osho Mystic Rose meditation. The goal of this practice is to “bring out all the poison of your being”. It calls upon us to fully engage in the practice of laughter, tears, and observation in order to clear away generations of pain. The connection for me here is that these things are not so easy, but with regular practice we can make monumental shifts within ourselves. Babauta’s suggestion of lending your focus to others requires you to become more aware of your thought processes and be committed to changing the way you pose questions. The 14 day challenge that I am currently engaged with is just a baby step: I am noticing where and how I contribute to others and my community everyday. I do not push myself to take it past observation, but sometimes it occurs to me “how can I help today?”
Babauta then adds a couple of other steps that are generally great rules to live by. They echo “have the courage to start small.” I have about 20 different 14 day challenges kicking around in my head, but I have to remind myself: Keep It Simple! It is best to focus on one thing. When Stevo and I are analyzing a goal or a task, he asks me what the likelyhood is that I will accomplish it, on a scale of 1-10. If my answer is not a confident 9 or a 10, we back up and come up with a smaller step. In reality, like here and now, of course we all have a bajillion things going on in our lives. But if you can come up with one 14 day challenge, or one intention for your day, your chance of success is much higher. And that’s what we want to do, we want to set ourselves up for success. Why? Because as Babauta writes:
“It’s quite nice.”