In case you missed it, I’m hosting a FREE webinar on March 31. I’d love to see you virtually! Now, onto the blog…

 

 

 

Last week, we talked about our fear of the unknown and finding comfort in the familiar. We all need to find a way to deal with what we’re feeling. But for most of us, our everyday lives have been significantly altered, so let’s dive into where the proverbial rubber meets the road. We’re all primarily stuck at home. Now what do we do?!?!

Extroverts are miserable without the crowds and parties that sustain them. Introverts are miserable with their formerly quiet spaces being occupied (sometimes loudly!) by other family members with little means to escape. Ambiverts are miserable because they experience both sides.

Basically, everyone is experiencing some form of unhappiness, so right now, know that others are feeling the same as you. Uncomfortable. Frustrated. Freaking out! There are a lot of intense emotions. And with good reason. Many of us haven’t spent this much uninterrupted time with our spouses in years (or ever!). But honestly, whenever you put any more than one person into a confined space, whether tiny house or McMansion, eventually tensions are going to rise.

What can we do?

  1. Embrace the messiness
  2. Get creative

How do we embrace the messiness? Well, it starts by lowering expectations. You’re not going to be able to get as much work done with your kids home as you would if they weren’t there. You’re also likely not in a position where you have 7 hours free to teach your kids a full day of school following the exact schedule their teacher does. So cut yourself some slack and lean into the messiness. Once we stop expecting things to be like they “used to be” we can embrace where we actually are instead.

Then, it’s time to get creative! This week was supposed to be spring break for my kids. We’re not going anywhere (obviously!), but that doesn’t mean we’re going to be sitting around this week staring at each other!

We wrote down exotic destinations that would be fun to visit and drew one out of a hat yesterday. For the rest of the week, we’re going on a virtual trip to Australia! We’re making paper passports, doing kangaroo crafts, and learning about a place we’ve never been by checking some e-books out of the library. It’s simple, free, can be done from home, and it’s fun. In fact, my kiddos were so excited about it, they packed actual bags this morning to start the virtual trip!

Maybe you’re frazzled from all the change that’s happening now. That absolutely can stifle your creativity. But lucky for you, there’s lots of cool free things available right now that you can just start using! Here’s just a few ideas.

Audible (a division of Amazon) is offering free audiobooks for kids as long as schools are closed. The stories are for kids from preschool age into their teens. Stories are available in six languages.

While the kids are distracted, you can enjoy the sound of silence and catch up on your reading with a free trial of Kindle Unlimited (it’s for 30 days, so hopefully we’ll be past the worst of it by then). And if you don’t know where to start on Kindle Unlimited, my book, Change Authentically is available there! Happy reading!!

Maybe you’re missing music and being at concerts right now. I can’t help you with being jostled by a crowd and possibly spilled on, but you can listen to a million songs with no ads (and borrow Kindle books for free) with the Amazon Prime Music free trial. Dancing with wild abandon optional.

We’ve been checking in on zoo and aquarium cameras around the country. Just because we’re stuck at home doesn’t mean we can’t still see the world. Check out the exciting action of the turtles at Discovery World! 

We’ve also been getting as much fresh air (no link needed, just open your front door!) as possible. Sometimes all together, Sometimes just the kids. Sometimes with one parent and the kids so the other one has a little time to themselves. Find something that works for you. My Fitbit tells me that last week I was more active than I have been in 2 months, so I guess that’s a positive outcome, even if my productivity was lower. Remember, changing your expectations will make all of this easier!!

Most of us wouldn’t choose our current circumstances… but we CAN choose our response to them.

#PositiveAction Pick one creative excursion you can do from the comfort of your own home this week!

 

 

Image by tookapic from Pixabay

Positive action is an iterative process. We try something small, learn from it, and react to the information we’ve learned. It follows this pattern: 

Action–>Assess–>Adjust  

Yes, it really can be that simple. Try something small. See what happens. Make an adjustment and do it again. The point is to keep taking action without getting bogged down by trying to plan everything out from now until the end of time. When we take the plan-everything approach, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and then most of us, myself included, take no action. Starting small is key.

Positive psychology has had an exponential growth in popularity and overall, that’s a wonderful thing. I also believe that while our thoughts are extremely powerful, they aren’t the only thing for us to rely on. The positive gets you so far, but it needs to be coupled with action in order for you to be truly successful. You need action to implement the changes you want to see in your life and your work. And because change is hard, it’s critical that you see progress quickly, rather than in days, months, years. As you learn from one Next Step, it will inform the rest of the Next Steps you take. 

If your Aspiration is to get a new job in an industry you’ve always dreamed would be fun to work in, you don’t want to plan out every possible step from now until you retire from that job. Instead, try something smaller, like researching job descriptions to compare your current skill set to your desired role. What did you learn? What will you do next?

This is the fun of the Next Step! I love that it is a manageable chunk I can quickly and easily do. It goes back to the old (and somewhat gross!) adage: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. 

The same is true for each of us. How do we achieve our Aspiration? One Next Step at a time.

The intent is not to find the most perfect thing to do; it’s about testing, learning, and moving forward. It’s easy to get paralyzed by the sheer number of choices when you’re looking for the perfect thing, so if you find yourself struggling with this step, try to think about the absolute smallest thing you can do. It might be so small, it seems insignificant, but when done consistently, it’ll become significant progress.

Each Next Step is something that brings you closer to your Aspiration, while maintaining alignment with your Identity. Remember that the best Next Steps are small and something you can do quickly to assess progress and make any needed adjustments. The point here is to avoid getting too far down a particular path before discovering you need to course correct. 

#PositiveAction What is the smallest Next Step you can take today toward an Aspiration?

Next Steps are the sixth element of ACTION, part of a series focused on positive action. Here is the full series:

 

Image by Gerd Altman on Pixabay

I took the above picture while I was out walking last week. I try to get outside more in fall because it’s my favorite season! On my walk, I was enjoying sunshine, warm air, and all the sights and sounds of fall when I came upon this feather. It got me thinking (which I’ve learned to embrace, since I have yet to find a way to keep my brain from running down random pathways pretty much all the time!). 

This feather used to be attached to a bird. I’m no ornithologist, so I can’t tell you which one, but here’s something I do know about birds. They need feathers. Feathers help them stay warm. More importantly, birds need feathers in order to fly.

This feather was on the ground. Not helping a bird fly. I starting thinking about that fact: the bird was still flying, even without this feather.  

As humans, we are infinitely complex. We each have different strengths, skills, talents, preferences, beliefs, habits, experiences, and more. And each day we continue to add to our respective lists. However, some of those things that were useful to us in the past may not serve a purpose anymore. Just like that feather. 

Here’s how that’s been showing up in my life lately. I used to enjoy a bowl of ice cream while watching my favorite show. It was a fun treat. And then it started to become more of a habit. Something I was doing more often than not each week. I needed to let that habit go (along with several pounds!). 

Here’s another one. I was raised with a belief that a good job was one with a steady paycheck and a lower incidence of layoffs. I’d never examined that belief or questioned it to see if it matched my reality. Then, I left my safe job in corporate America to start my own business. It became apparent pretty quickly that this particular belief wasn’t serving me anymore and I needed to let it go if I wanted to move forward.

We’re entering fall, the season of letting go. It’s important to give yourself space by saying no and this is another way to do that. It’s a great time of year to step back and see what you can live and work without. Let the leaves (and feathers) fall!

#PositiveAction Find one habit or belief that is no longer serving you and let it go!

Photo by me during a walk on a gorgeous fall day!

As I’ve shared before, I used to wish for different strengths. It’s so easy to look at someone who is using their strengths and lament how you can’t do it as good as they can. And you’re right! That’s not your strength and it’s not what you should spend your time doing.

I listened to a great Disrupt Yourself podcast recently about figuring out your strengths when you’re struggling to surface them. The tip that I loved: What is something that made you weird as a kid and how can you leverage that now? It’s a fun thing to think about… once you get past the shame and embarrassment of your bad haircut/clothing/personal style/etc. that accompany the memory!

It can be hard to identify your strengths, particularly if you’re new to the world of work. There are lots of different approaches you can use to help you come up with answers. Often, it’s more challenging to acknowledge and appreciate your strengths after you’ve identified them. 

As one example, I remember going through an MBTI exercise early in my career and having the feeling of flunking the test! More accurately, I wasn’t yet comfortable with owning aspects of my personality like being an introvert. I incorrectly assumed that extraverts have more fun* and I was destined for an unfun career and life, complete with a BORING label stamped across my forehead. *Note: extravert fun is a different kind of fun that actually isn’t fun for me, but rest assured I’ve managed to have my fair share of introvert hijinks!

Being an introvert doesn’t make me weird, there are lots of introverts in the world. My enthusiasm isn’t weird either. Lots of people are psyched about things! Neither is my bent toward efficiency and order (though many will argue those traits are a little over the top!). It’s not my love of reading or cats or nature or TED Talks or thrift shops or anything else. But when you combine all those things that make me, me, you get something completely unique and original. 

And that’s true for Every. Single. Person. None of us can really be “normal”, since that doesn’t exist. This planet is filled with 7.5 billion unique, original, weird people and counting.  

If the “keep it weird” campaigns of many cities like Austin, Portland, and even Milwaukee will attest, weird is more about celebrating something unique. Weird is now a compliment. 

Interestingly, many of my clients struggle to talk confidently about their strengths and communicate the immense value that they bring. So we work together to make sure they are comfortable embracing their story in all its weirdness. This is absolutely crucial to your personal brand. Sharing your value helps other people to know what they get when they work with you. It creates clarity for others and gives you freedom to do your best work.

You can work authentically by owning your strengths, idiosyncrasies, and especially the stuff that makes you weird. That’s your unique blend of skills, perspectives, and talents that NO ONE else in the world can bring.

So whadya say? Let’s keep it weird, people!!

Image by Tracy Lundgren from Pixabay

 

My “office” (pictured above) is also where we eat meals, play board games, do homework, create artwork, and so many other activities. As a matter of fact, a realtor would probably call this room the dining room or eat-in kitchen. Our house doesn’t actually have a dedicated office space.

Here’s a list (and photo evidence below!) of some of what I had to remove from my office in order to take the first picture: swimsuits and towels dried, but not yet put away from swim lessons; an incomplete to-do list; a quantity of crumbs unparalleled by Cookie Monster; Trolls movie soundtrack CD borrowed from the library (I like my kids to experience older technologies to better appreciate new ones!); and a water bottle with food still caked on the side. I could continue the list, but you get the idea. Plus, it only occurred to me to take a picture after I was about halfway through cleaning it up!

I know what you’re thinking: I should stop trying to do work in such a crazy place! But here’s the thing, although it’s imperfect, it works for now. Would it have been more ideal to start my business when I have a dedicated office space (preferably with several layers of sound proofing and a mini fridge… which, when installed my family will likely never see me again, BTW!)? Sure, but then I probably never would have started, because there would always be something else imperfect holding me back.

The same is often true for people in their careers. We wait for the perfect job description, the perfect timing, or the perfect company. And because none of those things actually exist in the funny little place we call reality, we never take action. 

In order to break out of the perfectionist mindset, here’s a few ideas:

  • If you think a job posting sounds interesting… apply! 
  • Just because the timing is inconvenient in taking on a new opportunity is no reason not to go for it anyway! 
  • Stuck at a company you hate because you figure they’re all the same? You may be surprised to discover that there are lots of great places to work that probably are a better fit for you than your current employer.

So, do I give up the dream of an office of my own someday? Definitely not! But I also don’t let it hold me back from doing what I need to do to be successful today. And you shouldn’t either.

P.S. If you’re feeling especially stuck, you may enjoy reading this.

Do you have a big dream or maybe a tiny nugget of an idea inside your head that you hope will happen someday? Great! Hope is an amazing tool in many instances. But it doesn’t make dreams and ideas happen. Action does.

In the book, Slow: Simple Living for a Frantic World by Brooke McAlary, she spends some time exploring the idea of imperfect action. Rather than waiting for the exact perfect conditions to do the thing you’ve been waiting to do or hoping to have unfold, instead identify the action you can take now, albeit imperfect, to move you toward what you want.

Is there something at work you’re hoping will change? Identify one action you can take to make that change happen. Is your dream to write a book? How many sentences (or words!) have you written to get you closer to that goal? Do you want a new job? Start thinking strategically about what steps you need to take to get to where you want to go. Wishing and hoping isn’t a strategy.

I encourage all of my clients to start taking actionable steps toward whatever it is they are targeting. It’s easy for all of us, myself included, to come up with excuses and reasons why we can’t or shouldn’t get started. That means we usually put off doing those steps that could help us get to where we want. Then we end up struggling with why the change we seek is taking so long or give up entirely because it feels like we’re not making progress.

As a recovering perfectionist, I completely understand. It’s hard to push forward when it’s not perfect timing, or perfectly worded, or perfectly planned out. But there’s at least one thing you can do to move forward (arguably, there are many, but start with one!). 

There’s a saying, sometimes attributed to Chinese proverb, that says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

You don’t need to wait for the timing to be perfect; you just need to pick one thing and move forward imperfectly.  Start starting already!