It’s Our Choice

I am a suck-the-life-out-of-my-day kind of woman. From the moment I get up in the morning until the moment my head hits the pillow I am on the go. I really do not know how to slow down. Some might think that is a bad thing and say I am relentless while others might think of it as being tenacious. Regardless of what others think, we all get to decide each day how we are going to approach our day.

This recent Daily Om, titled: “Do What Excites You” says it so well:

“Each day, we make choices that influence the character of our experiences, and our decisions determine whether our paths are rousing or tedious, breathtaking or tiresome.”

I want my life to be rousing and breathtaking. I want to learn, grow, and be challenged. If you are bored you are not trying hard enough. How is it even possible to be bored today? There are endless ways to entertain ourselves, even if they are tedious and brain numbing. Sure, I have my days where the wires in my brain do not connect for some reason and all I want to do is veg out on some bad game apps on my iPhone. Candy Crush anyone? That, however, is the exception rather than the norm.

So, what in life rouses you? What takes your breath away? New ideas? Compassion? Empathy? What makes you in awe of the world? Remember, we can choose to make decisions in our lives that invigorate, inspire, and challenge us to look at life in new ways. We can do that every day. It’s our choice.

A good idea has a life of its own.

Can you imagine making a recipe from every country in the world? Sasha Martin did it. Over the course of a few years, she made a meal from every country in the world. She did 52 countries in a year, took each week to research the food, recipe, ingredients, and customs and make the selected meal and then published a blog post about the experience. Her husband did not really start out as a fan. A picky eater from the start. I would say she changed his life. Eventually her blog turned into her memoir: “Life From Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness” by Sasha Martin. She did not give up. Even at times when she was completely burnt out, she was relentless in her priorities and effort to complete the project.

It is a book about food, family, and how to balance life. I love the idea she shares on page 335 as it is often the way I approach things in life:

“’When I don’t know what you do about something,” she tells me, ‘I just leave the idea alone for a while. A good idea will feed itself and grow. A bad one will disappear—as it should.”

It happens all the time at work. A project surfaces and the solution that presents itself looks to make sense, and then sometimes it just does not happen or work right. Whenever that happens, I do not look at that as a failure, I see it as a product that is developed and it not ready. Maybe it just needs to go back on the shelf for a while. Sometimes it gets taken off the shelf months to a year later, and then it is ready, it makes sense, and is timed just right. Other times that product never leaves the shelf, its time was not meant to be.

It might be in your personal life. It happens for me sometimes when we plan a trip. There are times when we know immediately that we should buy tickets. The timing, cost, and event all make sense, and it all works out. Other times, when a decision is not easily made, and you let it alone, you might find that a new idea pops up, or maybe a fare sale happens, or you learn that plans have changed at your destination. Then you are grateful you gave it a bit of air and delayed your decision.

Martin’s quote is such a good reminder to let it go, leave it alone, and see if it finds it way off the shelf. A good idea has a life of its own.

Empathy and Grit

Yesterday my team went out to lunch and one of the items we ordered was polenta fries. One of my favorites especially with the dipping sauce that often comes with them. I found that polenta fries are not something that everyone had tried before. Polenta made from cornmeal make me think of southern cooking most likely because of the cornmeal and how similar it is to the texture of grits.

Which leads me to the true topic of this blog post. Grit. Yes, polenta fries at lunch made me think of grit, which made me think of the book I recently finished called “Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck” by Jon Acuff. He has a plethora of ideas about careers, and adds in some great ideas about empathy and grit. Empathy is something I have been thinking a lot about lately. I can often plow through the day checking items off the long to do list, going from thing to thing, and while people are my top priority, it might not always come across that way. Acuff gets right to the point and this idea kept it simple for me to remember the two components of empathy:

“At times, empathy will feel complicated, but it’s not. It only involves two things: Understanding someone else’s needs. Acting on them.” page 191-192

I can do that. Understand, and act on needs. Can you?

Which leads me to grit. Gosh, I love that word. What is it about the word grit that makes me think of rolling up your sleeves and getting dirty? Doing whatever is necessary to get the job done. Sweat, blood, tears. Well I prefer just the sweat, I can leave the blood and tears behind.

“Grit is being stubborn in the face of fear. Grit is the first time you try something and it’s the thousandth time too. Grit is believing in can when can’t is loud. Grit is expecting fear and moving forward anyway.” page 213

Folks often call me relentless and it is true. If I get something in my mind that I am going to do it, well I do. I do not always care what it takes. I am going to find a way to make it happen. It takes grit to do that. I am stubborn and I am going to move forward anyway. Want to roll up your sleeves and join me?

Strategic, relentless, and thrifty

Where do we learn the behaviors that make up who we are? For some reason I was retrospective today. Thinking about my childhood, my teens, college, and my early professional career. At each stage I was a different person and I am still growing into who that is today.

As a kid I was definitely strategic (even if I did not know it at the time). I would find a way to con candy out of the old ladies at church (maybe I would not have resorted to it if it was given a little more freely at home). I learned early on that my sister would get sick on rides at the county fair, so if I asked to go on the spinning ones first I could potentially get the rest of her ride tickets. I was often quiet in the presence of my father when I knew he was in a bad mood, I did not dare piss him off. And I was fun and playful. I liked to be silly.

Somehow as I grew into being a teenager, I grew quieter and more introverted. I had seen too much in my life. Death, anger, poverty, sickness, desertion. As I look back at my senior year of high school, I feel a sadness. I barely made it through to graduation. I was lost and sad, but did not really know it at the time. On the outside I probably looked fairly normal. I was social, had friends, was a cheerleader, but my sadness came from not really having a home or parents to ground my day-to-day life. My last three years of high school were spent at a boarding school, so living away from home (that did not exist) sans parents was strange and so different from my classmates and friends. There was no one I could really relate to.

In college, I eventually found my way and I found my voice. That voice evolved into my professional life and experiences. I began to speak up for what I believed in without fear and decided that I had something to say and did not care what others thought of me.

Throughout it all I have been strategic, relentless, and thrifty. When I decide I want something I figure out how I am going to get it. I had to be that way. No one was taking care of me through high school or college so I learned early on to depend on no one but myself. While I now have people I depend on in my life, there is still always a thread that floats in the back of my mind. Will they drop the ball and I will have to pick it up? Will they follow through with what they said they will do? Each stage of my life has evolved into who I am today. Strategic, sometimes introverted, sometimes extroverted, intuitive, blunt, thrifty, and relentless. I have to trust you, and when I do the rest is history.

How do we slow down?

Do you ever have those days where you are just pooped? You start yawning at the end of the day and you do not know why? You got a good night sleep (and in my case Chris said I must have slept well because I was not talking in my sleep all night). Yet, somehow you just have no energy whatsoever. I know for me it is often because there are too many items on my to-do list, there are too many things I want and need to do.

There are countless articles, blogs, and videos on the Internet that talk to us about how to slow down, how to prioritize our lives, and how to say no. So if it were so easy, why is it hard for so many of us? I have blogged a few times about wanting to suck the life out of my days. I like to get shit done, but does my relentless nature come at a cost? I hate the days when I am too pooped to run, or when Chris talks me out of a routine that I love (he likes me to have a down day from exercise at least once a week).

Take Monday night for example. It was 80 degrees and sunny and Portland and Chris encouraged me to sit outside with him after work and just enjoy the sun and warmth. It was hard for me to resist, because who knows how long it will be until we have another similar gorgeous day? Yet, even while sitting there enjoying the moment I kept thinking, “I want to go for a run, I want to go for a run.” Why? Why do I drive myself crazy about breaking a routine?

Then last night I was physically and mentally exhausted, so I tried to take a nap after work and I could not get warm and could not fall asleep. Again, no run and it drove me crazy. Part of it for me is I love the euphoria and feeling after a long hard run. I am dripping in sweat and I feel like I truly did something 100% for me and no one else. How much of our day is ever 100% for us? What causes the mental roller coaster for what we want (or think we want) and the choices we make?

I know none of these ideas are new, but the struggle is that sometimes there is so much on our plates that often what gets removed are the things that matter to us most. The things that ground us and keep us going. I know these past few days are anomalies for me. I am relentless and will duke it out with Chris so I can run and catch up on a book, but maybe that is not true for everyone. Maybe it is taking 15 minutes to meditate, or even for those of you with young kids having a long hot shower, and going to the bathroom solo. How do we slow down and make better choices?