My Word or Theme for the New Year

I have always made New Year’s Resolutions or goals. Most of the time I’d achieve several of those goals, and made significant progress toward the others. However, I always felt a sense of disappointment or a feeling like I’d missed out on an opportunity or something important.

For all my self-reflection I still felt disconnected from my life. Like I was just on auto-pilot rather than paying attention and driving. It wasn’t until I changed up my New Year Resolution ritual that I started making progress toward goals that mattered.

MY OLD RITUAL

New Year’s Resolutions give me the same peace and reassurance I would get when creating any action plans. It gives me a sense of calm and focus in the scattered white noise of “What Might Happen.”

It’s not unlike looking at a blank white page. The yawning new year of possibility. The empty blankness of a potential story.

I used to sneak off and find a quiet moment in the hubbub of New Year’s Eve, and take a moment to write down thoughts of the past year. They were stream of consciousness and unguarded and (usually) filled with a lot more self-criticism than highlights. Then, sometime after the ball dropped, I’d go to my journal again, and write down my hopes for the coming year and what I want to accomplish, which would then be translated into SMART goals.

It was all so technical and textbook and exactly what I did for my day job to achieve success.

The problem was, I wasn’t achieving success. Not my definition of it, anyway. Yet, I kept achieving my goals.

I usually just chalked it up to my usual self-critical, high achiever nature. I was dissatisfied because I was never satisfied, and I believed I wasn’t supposed to be satisfied with anything. At least, not in this life.

AWAKENING

I wasn’t completely passive over the years, and I don’t think anyone would have characterized me as such. I’ve been told that I was confident and analytical and independent, all attributes that I admire. But, most people that I interacted with at the day job (which took up 90% of my waking life) would never have called me goofy, silly, or creative, which I also felt embodied the Real Me.

I had completely embraced this role of being the Professional (which is a role that I thought I needed to be in order to drive the sales results I needed), that I ignored, ridiculed, and suppressed anything else that didn’t conform to that view of myself.

(Most of my life I was textbook INFJ. Only in the last 10ish years did I flip to an INTJ).

I was enjoying success at work. I had a wonderful relationship with my husband and we would go on these epic adventures. I had a goal to write novels, and even though they weren’t quite polished or publishable, they were still being written, so that’s a positive, right?

I was doing all the right things, so why was I still feeling like I was missing out on my life? Why did I want more?

Of course, the first thing I did was chide myself for wanting more. That was materialistic and bad. But, I knew I didn’t want to stay where I was, so the only choice was continue going up the ladder and be promoted, right?

After (too many) years of self-doubt, I finally stumbled upon thought leaders and books that have changed the way I viewed myself and my accountability toward my life. I didn’t have to be unsettled or dissatisfied with my lot in life always wanting more. The “more” that I wanted wasn’t material wealth or gain. The “more” I wanted was living a life that used up my full potential and talents.

What I had been feeling was stunted growth. I always felt on edge, like I had to do and say the right things or be a certain way. Like I was playing a bit part in the story of my own life.

I had crammed all of me in a too-tight jacket and pointy-toed heels.*

In just a couple of years, I had attained success and awards that only 1% of my peers would reach. I was set up as a mentor and coach. I was respected and sought after.

I didn’t have a concept for it at the time but looking back, I realized my soul wasn’t getting fed.

The only time I felt true joy and light was when I was creating and writing, and I ignored it or wasn’t serious about it because I needed to make the practical and responsible choice of getting an income and providing for my family.

Thankfully, I stumbled my way out of that soul-crushing job into a place where I realized that I wasn’t the problem. It was the system. I didn’t want to move up in a corporate system that wasn’t feeding my soul. And only when I removed myself from that environment, was I able to see that I wasn’t wrong to feel stifled.

It’s OK to want other things. It’s OK to want a career that doesn’t involve moving up a corporate ladder. It’s OK to choose out.

It’s OK to choose me.

And what I realized I wanted was to be in business for myself. I wanted Freedom. Around 2 years ago, on New Year’s Eve 2014, I wrote a new kind of resolution. Operation: Freedom.

MY NEW RITUAL

On New Year’s Eve 2014, I wrote myself a story. It was kind of depressing, but it was a story nonetheless complete with highs and lows and learnings. But I didn’t end it with action plans for creating a better 2015. I continued writing the story, writing it in present tense. I described all I felt and saw and did. I wrote out what I created for myself and what I was known for, and I ended it with a “can’t wait to see what happens next.”

Then, I re-read what I had written, and saw a motif. I realized that in order to accomplish what I needed to get done, I needed to be fearless in action. I couldn’t play it safe or be stuck in analysis-paralysis. Fearlessness is acting in the face of fear. I would “feel the fear, but do it anyway.”

Everything I wrote out for myself in 2015 came to be, and it felt good because they were the Big Things that mattered to me. I was making progress on the goals that fed my soul, and gave me a sense of deep satisfaction. I became debt-free, which was a huge burden lifted. Talk about Freedom! My husband and I enjoyed an anniversary trip to Maui, where we got married. I was still working a day job, but it filled my creative and business side well, not to mention, paid me more than the soul-sucking one. I made progress toward my writing goals. And I laid out a strong foundation for my business.

I wanted Freedom for 2015, and I did it by embracing the idea of Fearlessness.

For 2016, I did a similar exercise, but instead of Fearless, I chose the word Curiosity. It was a subtle difference, one that I could relate to more authentically.I loved acting fearlessly, but I also know that fear is important and signals something, so I didn’t want to quite be fearless all the time.

Besides, I was tired of acting. I’d been acting for the majority of my adult life, and I didn’t want to pretend to be something I wasn’t in my entrepreneurial endeavors.

So, Curiosity would be the fuel that pushed my boundaries in order for me to grow. Curiosity would be the guiding thought that would empower me to “try it out.”

If I ever felt that body-cringe of fear when faced with a new and different idea, I would open up, and lean into it instead. Lean into new experiences. Lean into new challenges. Lean into vulnerability.

Because I did that, I have made strides to launch my business, write new content, create a passion project, and found a coach and mentor to accelerate my success in 2017.

I know 2016 isn’t over yet, but I already know what I want 2017’s theme word to be.

Why.

The last couple of years, and the experience of over a decade, has imprinted this truth into my life: that I need to absorb what is useful and aligned with my core values and purpose. Discard anything else. I need to ask Why? before I even think of adding something else to my vision.

I already know that I can accomplish goals. My question now is: Why is that a goal in the first place? Is it aligned to the outcome I want?

Simple. Efficient. Effective.

See the difference? I think of my outcome first. Then, I design my goals to get me to that outcome.

Thank you for your time today. Maybe in the future I’ll create a challenge around creating Simple, Efficient, Effective action plans. “SEE Your Goals, clearly” or something like that. Still an idea, of course, but it has merit, for sure! 🙂

xoxo

Liza

*there’s nothing wrong with business suits and stylish shoes. I love them! But I also love sandals, Converse, being barefoot…you get the drill.

#challengeaccepted

In honor of the coming New Year, I’m setting up a challenge at the end of January/beginning of February where we could live out our Dream Week and finally get to those projects that you wish you had time to do but never get done.

Maybe it’s committing to working out or finally cleaning out your closet. Whatever project you want to complete or habit you want to add into your life, that’s what we’ll be playing with, and actually making progress on, that week.

And who knows, if you all like it, we could stretch it out for a month

I don’t have the specifics yet but it’ll involve emailing out daily prompts and challenges in order to keep us at our projects.

If all this sounds like fun, and/or is exactly what you need to keep the momentum on your New Year’s Resolutions, stay tuned for more info, including where to sign up!

xoxo

Liza

Only do X if it aligns with my Why

Most of the past decade has been driven by what I can now identify as #FOMO–Fear of Missing Out. I’m sure this is related somehow to the Fear of Success that Steven Pressfield mentions in The War of Art.

Even though I’m multi-passionate and want to Do It All, I have taken the sucker’s path and followed every whim to figure out what all the fuss is about regarding X–X being whatever project seems to be trendy or popular.

I don’t regret the rabbit trails I’ve followed, because I am extremely curious and love figuring things out.

Like, the one time years ago I was so overwhelmed with knitting curiosity that I just had to buy knitting needles, a thing of yarn that I thought looked pretty (it was but it scratchy and NOT comfortable), and a how-to guide for beginning knitters.

I learned how to knit and was on my way to a scarf in about an hour. I could have finished the scarf in another hour. Yet, it took my literally years to finish it. I worked on it maybe one line at a time.

It turns out that I love owning knit scarves and gloves, but I didn’t feel the need to knit my own outerwear. Of course when Etsy exploded on to the scene and all these knitters suddenly became successful business owners I thought, “Well, there goes a lost entrepreneurial opportunity! I could’ve opened up my own Etsy shop!”

Should I have opened a shop? Would that have made me happy? I barely finished a scarf even though I knew how to knit. I just liked learning how to knit, and once I learned, didn’t feel the need to repeat it.

I made peace with my decision because I didn’t truly love it (I barely liked doing it), and why would I go into business doing what I barely liked doing? I already had that experience with my past day jobs, I wouldn’t do this for my lifelong dream of self-employment.

That’s been my pattern with other things and hobbies and topics that I’ve stumbled upon over the years. I’m grateful for loving the feel and idea and act of learning and collecting experiences over acquiring stuff…but I wonder if the downside to all of this broad seeking is a lot of knowledge without any depth or wisdom.

Like I somehow crossed over that boundary from the land of Curiosity to Scatter and Distraction.

Could I be justifying my whims and love for All The Things and desire to Do All The Things behind this veil of being an Inveterate Fullfiller-of-Curiosity? (I have decided to make that my new job title, FYI.)

If so, what is it that I’m trying justify? What am I trying to defend or validate? And more importantly, what am I hiding from myself with my multi-passionate curiosity?

Could I really be hiding my Fear of Success under layers of wanting to Do All The Things??

The obvious answer to me is yes.

Yes because All The Things are lovely to me, but a lovely distraction.

Yes because though I love the thought and idea of All The Things, I have a pretty narrow focus on the end goal for my life: Author. Entrepreneur.

Yes because All The Things do not and have not served me in my progress toward those end goals.

(Ironically, I have ALWAYS achieved whatever tasks I focus on. Unfortunately, those tasks have at best validated the idea that whatever I focus on,  I accomplish (with great effort). At worst, it has delayed my own version of success. (This thought is the most depressing because I value time so much. This blog used to be titled “Redeeming the Time” before I just simplified it as my blog.)

So. I’m going to take my own medicine and advice and choose a lane and drive it. One lane. I am going to remember my Why, and only choose those tasks and activities that will get me to my Why. I will no longer wonder if I should be doing X, I’ll know because I will refer to my Why.

If X aligns with my Why, then I will do it. If not, I will dismiss it.

I will remember these quotes:

“Activity does not equal Productivity” + “You don’t need a new plan for next year. You need a commitment.” (Seth Godin) = Happy Liza

I will be like Gryffindor’s sword and only take in what will make me stronger.

Something positive to end my reflection on: I did have one main constant and focus this past decade, and that was to be successful in business and drive profitable sales growth through an engaged, loyal, and motivated sales team.

I may not have a book deal yet.

I may not have had the courage or conviction to start my own business 5-7 years ago.

But, I have those things now, and I have over ten years of experience creating profit for someone else to give me the confidence I need to know that I can do it for myself.

Thanks for reading.

xoxo

Liza

 

Training for life.

“We do not rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training.” Archilocus

I love how in the fitness community, those who live Fitness like a lifestyle call exercise or working out, Training.

I love thinking about fitness and work outs as: “I’m training for life.”

I’m using fitness as an example, but your training, your daily habits, your discipline (which I know is the least sexy word in the dictionary, right next to phlegm and mucous) in creating action in your life…is relevant for any part of your life that’s worth pursuing: financial freedom, business savvy, writing the Great American Novel, physical prowess, …

When Life Stuff eventually happens, all that unpredictable, unexpected Stuff that makes us stumble will make us want to fall back to your comfort zone. But how quickly you wallow, how quickly you recover, how quickly you can shake it off, how quickly you are even affected by the event at all, comes down to your training and what you have allowed yourself as a baseline.

You don’t need to start big to develop discipline. In fact I enjoy small wins. The discipline of making your bed is something tangible and productive, and starts your day out with a feeling of accomplishment. Small wins or what I call everyday efforts become more like synergistic actions. The whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. For Harry Potter nerds out there, I think training my nervous system like Gryffindor’s sword—it only takes in what makes it stronger.

Creating action toward a meaningful habit will amount to bigger changes in yourself than just the habit itself. In creating these small wins, you are giving yourself that new neural pathway toward the habit of winning.

Sidenote: When you have the discipline to take action around something you want in your life, something changes. You become more humble, coachable, teachable—you seek out mentors you admire, you seek out a group of people where you support each other toward a higher goal and purpose. You become focused on what truly matters to you and you will want to create more of that stuff in your life.

Someone once said that “Success is not about how much time you spend doing what you love; it’s how little time you spend doing what you hate.”

I hope you fill your day with what you love, creating so much action toward what you want in your life that it blots out those things you merely tolerate or hate.

Have a great day.

xoxo

Liza

Do Less. Achieve More.

The years have taught me how to whittle my “To-Do” list down to into three basic buckets: Writing. Fitness. Personal.

Yet, there was this Other presence that kept butting in. There would be things that came up that never made it into my scheduler nor were they things I necessarily focused on. They were the trivial many. Those miscellaneous things that I thought were important.

They were things and people and events that I tolerated because I thought I needed to tolerate them.

*Things like unexpected emails or texts from my day job. Reacting to negative criticism (even if the reaction was mainly internalized and never said aloud, I would let the negativity fester and grow before I released it). Going to unplanned, last minute events.

Now, I not only do I have a To-Do list, I have a Not-To-Do list. And it’s a simple filtering system. Whatever it is that doesn’t align with my values or helps me to create massive action to my goals will go on my not-to-do list.

Or, as someone once said: “If it’s not a Heck YES!, it’s a no.”

Now, I choose to ignore criticism. I unplug myself from the day job when I’m off. I choose activities that add to my health, wealth, and personal values.

I’m not a master at this, and in fact, will probably be a lifelong student of this practice. But in light of my values of freedom, efficiency, and achievement, the choices of what I need to do and not do are remarkably simple to make now.

(*And, yes, there are things that I do to this day that I need to do. But thankfully, those items take less of my time.)

Current Food For Thought:

Tools of Titans, by Tim Ferriss

Essentialism, by Greg McKeown

The War of Art and Do The Work, by Steven Pressfield

A New Story.

After many, many years of simmering in my head, I finally have a storyline for a character that I have kept close to my heart.

She is special in that she was my very first protagonist/MC that lives in the real, contemporary world. (And, to date, I have only gained one more contemporary/realistic story in the sea of science fiction and fantasy stories I’ve written.)

This storyline and structure surprised me, to say the least. But, my MC has been telling me her story all along. I just wasn’t listening well enough.

I know what I’ll be working on for NaNoWriMo next month.

This Week

READING RECAP:

This week–like this entire month, heck like this entire year–has just blurred by. Blurred. Days just *blinked* past me.

I didn’t even finish any one of my books that I’d borrowed from the library! #readerfail. I’m still planning on reading them though. I will make it a point!

A new book that popped up on my radar is The Bird and the Sword, by Amy Harmon. My friend raved about its beautiful words, and I was curious enough to eyeball Amazon and get a feel. The first page ensnared me, and I quickly sent myself a free sample and now I have to have it. Did you click over yet to experience it yourself? No? Seriously, check it out HERE and if you’re not rolling around in awe at all the delicious words, then I don’t know how we’re friends.

WRITERLY RECAP:

So, as I said, my recent life has been a blur. That’s because I have been a nonstop working machine. Just this week alone, I averaged 18-hour workdays with 4-hour breaks to sleep. (Yesterday, I worked 20 hours straight for the second day in a row, with breaks only for food. I think.) (I’m here on just right under four hours of sleep, so if I’m a little loopy, well, you know why.) If I wasn’t at the pay-the-bills job, I was writing. Website content, emails, feedback, stories, you name it, I was probably writing it.

I feel like most of the people around me think I am an obsessive workaholic. They’d be sort of right of course, but it’s in a weird, “Why are you doing this to yourself?” kind of way. Like, I’m doing something torturous or something.

Uhm, I’m in my creative cocoon where I feel untouchable and in control of my life. I “do this to myself” because I freaking love it! I told a friend just the other day: writing, ideating, creating…it energizes me. This isn’t the soul-sucking work of unfulfilled potential. Writing–the creative and business side of it–calls to me and compels me to work until my eyes give out. THIS is what people talk about when they make those clickable quotes that are splattered all over Instagram. Stuff like: “Do what you love, love what you do” or “Do what you love and never work a day in your life”…those kinds of quotes.

I get all of those quotes because I live it every day.

Speaking of clickable quotes, let me add a fave to it: “Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.” Buddha. I like this because it doesn’t shame the word “Work.” Work to me is wholly positive because I see the redemptive power of work every day of my life. My work gives me purpose, and I love every minute of it, and won’t apologize for it or make myself smaller just because others perceive “Work” as this horrible thing.

(If your Work is horrible, choose another form of it, or gain a new perspective. Completely transformative experience for me.)

I used to sleep as much as possible because I was a vivid dreamer. I loved that in-between feeling of falling asleep, anticipating the stories in my dreams. (They usually revolved around epic, end of the world type struggles…or whatever I’d been reading at the time.) And then my alarm clock would blare and I would be so miserable thinking about the day ahead, of the long hours of uselessness and busy work. All for what? A paycheck?

Now, as soon as my alarm sounds, my eyes open, and I can’t get up fast enough. Recreating the snippets of my imagination into whole, fleshed-out stories is so much more fulfilling than the shadows I experienced while dreaming. Creating is intoxicating and satisfying and addictive all at once. AND I’M DOING IT ALL FOR FREE. (Mostly. For now. 😉 )

Of course it’s also tedious and challenging, but the reward of seeing a story come together in a meaningful way is just beautiful. ::le sigh:: Just yesterday, I was reading through my manuscript, and basically had been feeling like a beachcomber, inspecting every bit of sand under a magnifying glass. I was so tired of picking at the beach that was my manuscript with what a backscratcher, that I put down my pen, grabbed more coffee (and kept both hands on the mug), and decided to skim for a few pages.

I got so lost in the story, that as I read over one of the main turning points, I literally started tearing up. At my own words. Like, I smeared my untouchable eye makeup wiping my eyes because I was crying.

I know I was basically sleep deprived, but forgetting for a moment that I wrote this thing, and the thing made me cry in a good way, was so, so gratifying after what has seemed like a neverending suckfest of words. (And I mean “neverending suckfest” in the best way possible.) It’s like, once I stopped looking at every grain of sand and only seeing imperfections, I was able to take in the entire panorama and be in awe of all the elements of what makes a Beach so spectacular: crashing waves, sunsets, long stretches of send…this is what I think of when I think Beach; all the elements together and not just the sand. It’s a very important part, but it’s not the only part.

(If it were, I’d hate the beach. Ew. Sand is tenacious and gets everywhere. Everywhere.)

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Anyway, that’s been my week (and month and year…) so far. Hopefully, I have some fun recaps for you next week after my upcoming writing workshop.

So, what’s been happening with you?