I’ve so got this, I thought one afternoon, driving down the freeway.  I was thinking about a new section of the book I was writing.  I felt so happy, so lucky.  I had been trying to figure out how I was going to structure this one part of the book and it had finally come to me.  I recorded an audio note on my iPhone as I drove to my writing class.  Excitement and passion swelled my chest.  I whispered a little prayer of thanks.  In that moment I could visualize all the pieces falling into place, my dreams materializing.  Fuzzy figures in the distance, they transformed into sharp focus.  God, it was a good feeling. Awesome, in fact.

The next day, good feelings gone, I muddled through a thoroughly critiqued (by my peers) chapter of my book, trying to find the right words. That old familiar feeling resurfaced–fear & self-deprecation.  My Inner Negative-Nelly chimed in:  Really, you think you can do this?  You couldn’t even do this one chapter perfectly.  Maybe you aren’t really meant to do this.  Maybe you have no idea what you’re doing, or worse, maybe you just don’t even have it in you to produce something good.  Maybe you should just give up.

The tendrils of paralysis began to twist and unfurl their way into my motivation. Realizing what I was headed for, I spurted, “Nope! F-that.”  I’m not slipping down that spiral again.  Screw it, I’m going to muddle through this whatever it takes.  Because sometimes, I am awesome. Even if I don’t feel like that right now.

Those who risk doing something they love, something they feel drawn to do, something they feel strongly about, will experience doubt.  It’s human nature. It’s normal.  And honestly, I think it’s the universe testing your resolve.  It’s probably not going to be all smooth sailing for most of us.  But that’s precisely what gives the experience intrinsic value.

We’ve all heard the adage: If it was easy, everyone would do it.  I’d also like to add: If it was easy, it just wouldn’t be that great.  If everyone wrote like Mary Karr, Joan Didion, or F. Scott Fitzgerald, their craft would not be so powerful.  If everyone could paint like Picasso or Michelangelo – their art would be considered average.  While there’s no doubt these artists are insanely talented, none of them just woke up one day and were perpetually awesome.  They tried and failed. Their work “sucked” sometimes, but through that failure they did not give up.  They didn’t give up because they knew deep down they had something special to share with the world.  You’ve got that thing too — that thing that only you can give to this world.

If you’ve already committed to following your dream, whatever that may be, the question is no longer whether you will continue, but rather, how well you will do this thing.  But when you’re drowning in that sea of self-depreciation, flailing and feeling like shit about your efforts/talents, you need some kind of buoy to cling to.  Allow me to throw you your buoy (or life-raft): remember a time when you were awesome.  As your negative thoughts pull down on you fight back by recalling a time when you felt like you could conquer the world.

Here are some prompts to get you thinking about times when you were awesome.  Go through this list.  Write down your ideas.  Next time you feel like you’re drowning, you can grab on to one of these and begin swimming back to shore.

-Describe a time when you felt most at peace. What had you done to get there?

-Think of the moment when you first had the idea to do this (whatever it is you’re venturing to do)

-Remember a moment you realized that you were going to be OK.

-Recall when you received a compliment that meant a lot to you – what was it? Own it.

-Write down an occasion when you finished something you were proud of.

-Note any goal you’ve achieved (whether it’s losing a pound, telling someone how you felt or anything).

-Recall a fear you faced (& maybe even conquered).

-Savor the memory of a meal that you made especially well.

-Make note of an award you received.

-Stumped?  Ask some trusted friends what it is that they like most about you, or one of their favorite memories of you.

and the list goes on…

You get the idea.  Build up the cadre of examples of when you were awesome and you’ll beat back the doldrums quicker than ever before.

Hope that helps.  Remember:  Believe in yourself, even if you’re the only one who does. (If you build it, they will come)

So the next time you’re feeling low, just remember when you were awesome.

If you have other tips, please share below. 🙂 Or if you want to share something about yourself that is just, well, awesome please do!

 

 

Have you ever had one of those moments where you’re just putting your dream “out there” and suddenly the Universe/God takes notice and decides to throw you a bone?  Those moments are divine.   Last week was like a big “Yep, you’re on the right track, kiddo,” from God.  It seemed that inspiration came from every outlet I was exposed to.  Friends, colleagues and family provided new tools, so much in fact that it took me a few days to process.

It feels like optimism is literally flowing through my veins.  And I want to share that with you!

I have to taste-tested each of these resources before I recommend them to you.

Snag these creative resources to start your year off right:

Click image to download

1.  Visit the lovely Susannah Conway’s website and download her free Unraveling the Year Ahead 2014 workbook.  Sometimes we all just need a little hand-holding when it comes to figuring out what’s next.  This workbook is a great tool.  Thanks to my friend Emily for sharing this with me.

 

A Year of Writing Dangerously cover2.  Buy A Year of Writing Dangerously, by Barbara Abercrombie, well, that is, if you’re in to writing – even just for fun.

I’m only a few days into this book, but every day is another meaningful, meaty inspiration.  It’s so good it’s almost too good.  I haven’t stopped savoring the previous day’s inspiration when it’s already time for today’s treasure.  It’s like being at an all-you-can-eat buffet of carefully selected gourmet fare.

I am a big fan of Barbara Abercrombie, in fact she is one of the first authors I came across, years ago, when I was toying with the idea of becoming a writer.

Visit her site here:  barbaraabercrombie.com

3.  Sign Up for Monica Bhide’s Powered by Hope, a one-year long digital storytelling project.  It’s free and it’s just one  inspirational email per week, “to get you thinking,” and then on Fridays you can chat with Monica live on Facebook.  It just started on Monday, Jan. 6th so jump on board.

Powered by Hope Monica Bhide

I was immediately intrigued by Monica’s story because she too had a former life before becoming a writer and one day (ten years ago) decided to finally pursue her dream.  She has become quite the successful writer as well.  She is one of the top 10 food writers on Twitter.  In addition to several books, her work has been published in The New York Times, SELF, Food & Wine, Bon Apetit & more.

Her first email (sent Monday) helped me set my week with the intention of focusing on what I really want to do, not the 1,000 other things I could do.  I look forward to the next and subsequent emails.

So what are you waiting for? Go sign up before you miss too many inspirations! Plus it’s Free.  Join the Powered by Hope movement >

(You also get a pretty amazing free gift when you sign up – like whip cream on top.)

 

The Complete Artist's Way Julia Cameron4.  Finally, Buy & Use The Complete Artist’s Way: Creativity as a Spiritual Practice, by Julia Cameron. “Wow,” is the first thing I have to say.  I received this book for Christmas, from my wonderfully supportive mom.  I started working through the 12 week creativity reawakening exercises.  Let me tell ya, if you want to be a more creative person, whether it’s in your art, craft, writing, speaking, even work you will grow leaps and bounds by implementing the principles in this book.

I’ve been wanting to read/practice this book for years, but my life has been quite tumultuous.  I finally have the time and support to commit now and I am utterly enjoying it.  I consider myself a pretty creative person – a designer, brand strategist, writer, etc. but this book is helping me open the floodgates and court the muse like I never have before.

 

As you step into this New Year I encourage you to imagine the possibilities and visualize what could happen if this year becomes the year you finally commit to your dream(s).

Have some creative or inspiring resources?  Please do share!

If you’re ever in a down moment, need a little inspiration, Sara’s got it for you. I heart this video/song! (And yes, I’ve been known to spontaneously dance in public – my kids & boyfriend can attest to that).

 

10,000 hours, that’s what experts, like Malcolm Gladwell, say it takes to master a subject.  Whether it’s chess, cooking, or public speaking it takes that long to truly master your craft.  Daunting, huh?

That’s a ton of hours, if you really think about it.  For instance, let’s say you have a ton of time and can devote 20 hours per week to your craft.  It would still take you about  10 years to become a master.  Oh gee, is that all? Piece of cake.  (I figure I’ve got about 6k hours left to become a “master” at writing, and probably  9k hours left to becoming a public speaking master.)

To be honest, it’s a pretty obscure goal.  I mean, sure there’s a sense of accomplishment to saying “I’ve written for 10,000 hours!” but after your friends congratulate you and then roll their eyes, there’s not much left.  It’s not as if there’s some certificate of completion or doctoral degree to be awarded.  So perhaps it’s more useful to set a more tangible goal, like who you want to be, and then choose the goal.

In  Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed (a must read, btw) he quotes grand master of chess, Jonathan Rowson, “When it comes to ambition it is crucial to distinguish between ‘wanting’ something and ‘choosing’ it.”   If you decide for instance, that you want to become a best-selling author, you may not only not become one, but you will then suffer the disappointment and regret of falling short of this goal.  However, if you choose to become a best-selling author, then you will then “reveal your choice through your behavior and your determination,” as Rowson says, “Every action says ‘This is who I am’.”

Of course this is not new news; we’ve heard this philosophy of positive visualization before in books like The Secret.  Particularly poignant though is the idea of choice when it comes to who you will be.  There’s something especially powerful and frightening about choosing one’s destiny.  There are a lot of “what if’s” in life, and it can be petrifying to take the reins and say “this is who I will be.”  Ironically enough, there is also something equally terrifying about not choosing, effectively letting the chips fall where they may, possibly never living up to your own potential.

How can you choose to be who you want, knowing there’s a possibility you may fail?  Life is both implicitly simple and dangerously complex.   It has certain “rules;” for instance, you can say that you will be a flower, but you will never actually metamorph into a petalled perennial.  Yet someone can grow up in poverty, living in a van and then, with determination, become one of the funniest, wealthiest comedians in Hollywood (yep that’s Jim Carrey) .  So how do you know if it is possible to be the person you want to be?  In essence, are you thinking unrealistically that you want to be a flower?  This the point at which some logic is thrown out the window and you move into the realm of possibility.  Is it possible, in some way, despite the challenges you face, to become what you want to become?

Where is the possibility in your life?  I know you’ve got a million excuses for not being “where you want to be.”  I’ve had them too and still wrestle with them.  But at every crossroad you make a decision to either move closer to who you want to be or further away.  It may not be an easy journey, but it may be a possible one.

Contrary to what many success gurus say, you very likely will not start making six figures 3 months after you decide to choose your dream.  God knows I haven’t had that experience and honestly, I’d be a shitty person if I had.  There is beauty in the hard work and chaos that goes along with fighting for your dream.  Sometimes the universe just aligns with your goals and it is an unbelievable ease.  Other times the universe tests your resolve.

In order to live in the Possibility zone, it takes faith.  You have to start having faith in the possibility that you can achieve your dream – YOU, not someone else.  You can have 100 people who believe in you (and boy does that feel great), but if you, at your core, secretly do not, then you’re in for trouble.  Sure you may even make it to your goal, bolstered by the love and support of others.  Believe you me I am not downplaying that support.  I would be nowhere without the help of my support system.  However, unless you learn to have faith in yourself you will always be seeking out the acceptance of others, which is just plain draining.

On my desk, I keep a framed little artwork piece with a quote from St. Theresa, it’s an absolutely beautiful quote and this line is just perfect:  “May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith,”  Just soak in that for a bit.

Think of the unending possibilities for you if you can have even a start of faith, in yourself and choose.  You aren’t on this earth for nothing, choose who you are.

st-theresa-may-there-be-peace

And of course, I couldn’t write this post without a shout out to Incubus’ Make Yourself:

 *Read Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed to see what that foundation is.

 

get-stuff-doneI’ve recently been given the gift of more time (hope it’s not temporary)!  Now, that’s pretty much a miracle, especially for a single mom.  So how is it that I feel like I get LESS done now that I have more time?

It’s amazing how many “To Do” items keep cropping up now that I have more ‘free time.’  From laundry to doctor appointments to bills, there’s always something.  Have you ever felt this way?  It’s like none of these things seem really important in-and-of themselves, yet they had to get done.

I’m going to confess that I have a compulsion to get shit done.  It started when I became a single mom without child support.  I pretty much feel like I always need to be productive, except during my designated relax times.  But I get distracted too (one of my biggest distractions is the internet).  Keep me away from Facebook or reading articles online because a “quick minute” turns into hours, fast.  

So how do you keep the momentum going if you’re trying to get ‘er done?  

Here are my TOP 5  Get Sh*t DONE! tips (some from 4 Hour Work Week)

#5.  Limit interruptions.  Turn your phone off, close your email program, log out of Facebook, tell everyone you can’t talk right now, shut your door, escape to the library, whatever you need to do.  Interruptions are the devil!  You can always check your phone, email etc. once you’ve completed your task.

#4.  Dress for success.  I know this sounds silly, but for some reason you just feel more professional & focused if you prepare for your day/work – even if you work from home.  So go ahead, take a shower, do your hair and wear a nice shirt – you’ll feel more prepped for your tasks.

#3.  Create a sense of urgency by using a timer.  Think about how much more productive you are when you know you have a limited amount of time to do a given task.  (For example, cleaning up your house when a last minute guest is about to stop by)  If you’re working on your computer, use http://e.ggtimer.com to set a timer that will interrupt you when your time is up.  (I like to set a timer for each specific task, i.e. check Facebook, write an article, etc.)  This also method also gives you that bonus warm, fuzzy feeling of completing something before the timer buzzes!

#2.  Plan Ahead.  Create two things:  a To Do List and Calendar for your week ahead (I like to do this Sunday nights).  Make your To Do List first, then see where you can fit the items in to your week.  Remember to allot some “free time” for unexpected events and relaxing, and always overestimate how long things will take you.  If you can’t fit everything from your list into your calendar, then prioritize & either bump these items to the next week or see what you can remove from your existing calendar.  Knowing what lies ahead helps create peace of mind and a clear head means better, more creative results throughout the week.

#1.  Get RID of CABLE TV!  A few years ago, when I was operating two businesses, raising my kids and acting VP of Marketing for a women’s business organization, a colleague asked me “How do you manage to do all of that at once?”  “I don’t watch TV” was my answer.  Think about how often you watch TV – 1-2 hrs a day or more?  That’s at least 30 hrs per month.  Just think what you could fit in those wasted hours (Hint, hint: achieving your dreams)  Now I’m not saying never watch, I enjoy a good movie or even a TV show sometimes, just scale back and see what you can accomplish.  [If you’re more of a gamer than a TV watcher…this more than applies to you as well!]

Hope these will help in your quest to get stuff done.  Please share your tips below as well.  I’m all ears!!

 

Surrender.

I needed to hear that today and as the Universe would have it I came a great blog post reminding me of the power of surrender (see video below).  I’ve been struggling with some personal and career decisions lately, and frankly, stressing myself the hell out.  A big stressor was recently removed from my life, but ironically, more devious little stress buggers cropped up in it’s place.  I knew the problem was not just the source of stress, but me and how I choose to deal with it.  Still, sometimes I’m so lost in the problem, I don’t stop to really think and find the solution.  A solution is surrender…and here’s my story:

About 2 years ago I was really struggling in the dating world.  I wasn’t finding anyone I truly wanted to be with and to be honest, there were a lot of guys more interested in getting into my pants than my head.  My mindset of yearning for a mate fed into that vibe, unconsciously attracting the opposite kind of guy that I wanted.  I had the usual cadre of blocks in my head:  I’m not cool enough, I’ve got two kids, my business is flailing, & conversely, I like myself, I think I’m pretty cool, am a good mom, am ambitious, workout, etc. -SO WHY don’t I have a boyfriend?  I was deeply entrenched in WHY.

Then I realized that even if I found my soul mate, at some point, I would, at least near the end of life, be without him again.  At that realization, I decided right then that I needed to get “ok” with being alone.  I had to fully surrender my fear of not finding “the one” and for me, that meant “give it to God.”  I kept working at it because it didn’t come easy, but every day, sometimes many times I would visualize the burden being lifted and me giving it away.  Visualization helped a TON.

The anxiety, the struggle, the insecurity, the stupid decisions melted away and I was comfortable in my own skin, on my own at a movie and alone in my bed.  I flourished in the things, friends and family I loved and loved myself just as I was.  A few months went by and then out of the blue, the most wonderful man I have ever known came into my life.

I’m not saying that if you surrender you’re going to get exactly what you want right away.  Sometimes you will get exactly what you didn’t know you needed in an unexpected form.  (I’ve been there, lemme tell ya)  But, surrender is the key to open the door to the free-flowing abundance of how things are meant to be for you.

Here’s the video post from Carrie of Female Entrepreneur Association that prompted this post today:

And here’s the video of Oprah that she refers to:  Watch BOTH!! 🙂

There have been a lot of positive changes in my life recently and some big moves.  I am at a pivot point with the goals in my life – as you know if you’ve been reading any of my posts. 😉  So today when a Female Entrepreneur Magazine post popped up on my Facebook feed I was stoked to find “just what I needed.”  I wanted to share this with you because it just may be perfect timing in your life right now, to dig in and sort out just what it is that you want.  They are offering a Free download of their The May Review, a guidebook, mind mapping, goal setting tool kit of sorts.

Fair warning, you have to sign up for their email list (but you can always unsubscribe if you don’t like it).

Who knows maybe this will be your weekend to have a glass of wine & plan your pathway to living your dreams!  Here’s the link:  http://femaleentrepreneurassociation.com/2013/05/the-may-review-your-guidebook-planner-map-to-staying-on-track-and-achieving-amazing-things-this-year/

may-review

What if you became a guerrilla gardener, but instead of flowers or grass you plant joy, hope and healing?guerrilla gardeners dumpster

Guerrilla Gardening can be a peaceful protest, a stand for beliefs, and a way to build community.  In urban areas, green-thumbed passionates plant flowers, shurbs or grass to, at the least, make a statement and, even more, foster community cause.  From revitalizing abandoned areas to creating new space for community grown food, Guerrilla Gardening is changing urban life, one  patch at a time.  These rebel gardeners plant in dumpsters, abandoned lots, places that used  to be a blight, a depressive reminder of hopelessness and despair.  More than just beauty or a harvest of food these gardens remind us that hope still exists, even amongst gray harsh concrete,  cold rusted metal and the discarded remains of human use and neglect.

What if we, who believe in the power of our dreams, start acting as Guerrilla Gardeners of hope?  Instead of following the norm, imagine planting seeds of confidence, cultivating joy and hope, harvesting changes of mind, inspiration.  Like flowers that blossom with water, care and fertilizer, so gardeners of the spirit can help people bloom in the most unlikely of places – right where they are.  In spite of hopeless times, harsh environments and the never ending over-stimulation of media, there is hope for a fulfilled life.  It doesn’t just lie in what we want to achieve, but rather it is there all along, latent as a seed waiting to germinate,  in our natural state (notice “nature” in that word), a reminder of who we are meant to be.

I truly believe as we free ourselves from the bonds of fear and negativity, as we give ourselves permission to shine as we were meant to, we unconsciously inspire others  to do the same.  I want to be a Guerrilla Gardener, planting the seeds of hope, courage, wisdom and love in as many seemingly hopeless, fearful and abandoned places as possible.  It starts with my own neglected spaces.  Tending my own garden first will give me the tools to help other’s hope flourish.

guerrilla gardening of hope

To inspire you to think about places you might be a gardener of hope, check out this lovely article from Good, about Guerrilla Gardening:  http://www.good.is/posts/10-most-awesome-guerrilla-gardens-from-around-the-world?utm_source=upw

When I was in my early twenties a friend started a spark in my brain that changed my perspective on what was possible.  At the time I was married to the wrong person, had two small children and we weren’t even really making ends meet.  I had to go to the local food bank to make sure my kids were fed.  One day, my friend and I were driving up PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) through Newport Coast, one of the wealthiest areas of Orange County [read: in the U.S.].  To the right were beautiful homes perched on the hillside, overlooking the glittering pacific ocean.  I jokingly pointed to one of my favorites and said, “Oh there it is, hmm my landscaping is looking a little shabby.  I simply must talk to the gardener!”  We laughed for a moment, but then she honestly asked me, “Andrea, don’t you see yourself in a home like that one of these days?”  I said that I didn’t.  After all no one in my family had houses like that and for that matter no one I knew very well did either.  It seemed totally out of the range of anything I could ever hope for.  I also shared that I had been raised in an Evangelical Christian culture where wealth was pretty much looked down upon.  Where it was sinful to even think that you could/should have something that nice and it is a virtue to live in the humility of poverty.  I then asked her the same question back, and was astonished yet piqued by her answer.  She said that of course she saw herself in a house like that some day, why not?

It’s amazing how much what we think shapes our lives.  It’s really the only true place we can begin to change things.  We cannot change our lives or live our dreams without first changing our minds.

This friend was the first person in my life to open the door to giving myself permission to think big.  I’ve always thought life was too short and that I was meant for something bigger than the “norm,” but to actually think that I could live in a big home overlooking the beach, well that was another story.  To be honest, I don’t even want a house like that anymore.  But the things I want (like helping people on a BIG scale) are even more grandiose and exciting.  I’m still, to this day, retraining my brain to live in the possibilities rather than be limited by my fear, insecurities or leftover dogma, but at least I can SEE the possibility now.

I encourage you (as well as myself) to continue give yourself permission to think BIG this week (and on).  Start giving yourself permission to daydream about what it would feel and look like to be living your dreams.  Then write that s#*& down!  Start changing your mind and your life will start changing too!

Here’s a nice little blog post I came across today.  If you have extra time check it out:  http://www.maxingout.com/positive%20thought%20one.htm

-Andrea

I have to be honest.  I don’t feel much like writing tonight.  I’ve worked a lot this week already and slept less than I’d care to admit.  But ironically enough my tired brain thought perhaps an Ann Lamott quote would be good, maybe one about writing.  So I started looking through my copy of Bird by Bird (love), but then found this perfect-quote-of-the-moment online instead.  I hope your day has been fruitful.  Mine was busy, good and long.  Enjoy this quote from one of my favorite authors:

“Your problem is how you are going to spend this one and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.”  ― Anne Lamott