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.

And It’s Leap Day

So, I felt the need to blog today. As if I needed to put a stamp on this day to recognize that yes, indeed, it’s a 29th day in February and that a 29th day in February is a Rare Day that needs to be Memorialized and Celebrated. Or something.

At any rate, in honor of the fact that I can only really write “February 29” every four years, I’ll share 20 mini-goals toward my big life goals that I WILL make happen by the next Leap Year. I’d write 29, you know, because of The Significance that is Today, but as you’ll see, I already had these 20 mini-goals in mind, and I didn’t want to spend extra time making up nine more, when I could be accomplishing the goals on my current list. Like the first one. I’m sure my crit partners would like for me to get on that one, like now.

(Plus, I kinda hate nines and prefer round numbers.)

In no particular order, except for #1:

  1. Finish WIP2. Query it.
  2. Meet my writing buddies at DFW Con. Be accountable.
  3. Go to my paythebills job Event this year (a BIG deal, trust me!). Be inspired. Go next year.
  4. Go to World Fantasy Con. Be a Fan Girl.
  5. Write and finish WIP5. Because it’s snarky yet sweet.
  6. Write and finish WIP4. Because it’s an overwhelmingly huge fantasy novel, and I love challenges.
  7. Write and finish WIP3. Because it reminds me to forgive.
  8. Rewrite my Hot Mess of a first novel. Because by now I will have the skill to execute its storyline.
  9. Be credit card free. Being able to give generously to people means more to me than amounting crap I don’t need.
  10. Read all of Haruki Murakami’s books. Because his stories are what I want to write, but lack the skill.
  11. Revisit the idea of going to graduate school.
  12. Go on a Disney cruise with my family. Because I want to visit Harry Potter World. I said it.
  13. Grow a vegetable garden. Because paying $4 for a salad is ridiculous.
  14. Return to Maui. Hopefully a few times. Refresh my spirits.
  15. Go on a mission trip. Maybe Brazil, or back to the Philippines.
  16. Learn to surf. For real.
  17. Road trip to more national parks. I missed out on Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone Park the last time.
  18. 90% of my food will come from local, organic sources. For reasons too numerous to share here.
  19. Own a puppy. Because my husband has this need to love and be loved.
  20. Continue to meet my physical fitness goals. Because it’s more fun to DO these things in a body that can keep up with my travel goals!

What milestones are on your list?

Image attribution: Shalom Jacobovitz

Seasons of Inspiration

Tornado Warning

Image by RaGardner4 via Flickr

Here in Indiana, weather is…unpredictable.  The calendar may say that we are firmly in the spring season, but nature has its own ideas.

Last week, I…

…hid in the basement during a tornado warning.

…took pictures of hail pelting my car.

…pulled on my fuzzy boots because it snowed. Again.

…woke up in the middle of the night as a thunderstorm rolled in and I thought a tree crashed through my roof. (That’s happened before.  Twice.  So, you can understand my paranoia.)

…basked in beautiful sunshine as I ate my lunch outside, to the delight of my sun-starved skin.

It’s both awe-inspiring and humbling to see the influence that nature has on us and how we in turn, respond to it.

I have been working on a couple of Works In Progress now, which isn’t as confusing as it seems since they’re so different and are at different stages.  My first WIP is in a revision stage, and honestly, I plan to focus on it more this month than my second WIP, which is only in the rough draft stage.  So even though first WIP gets more of my structured writing time, I still let my muses play with second WIP during random times like driving to work or while my store is empty.  That’s the beauty of a rough draft: unbridled creativity and imagination.

My first WIP, I started writing in the fall during NaNoWriMo.  It’s dark and disjointed and looking back, probably reflected the madcap emotional turbulence of both NaNoWriMo and working through two retail jobs during the holiday season.   My second WIP was born on a bitter morning, the bleak winter landscape a perfect setting for a character filled with the helplessness, anger, and resentment that biting, sub-zero temperatures can create.

This week,though, something odd happened as I drove to work.  Well, two things really.  First, because of extremely gusty winds (I’m talking blow-you-into-the-next-lane-without-warning gusts), I ended up driving 5-10 miles under the speed limit.  (No comment on my normal driving speed.)  Second, I realized that I was dreaming up words for another WIP.

Now, this bout of inspiration didn’t just happen.  The WIP my muses brought to mind is one that I’ve had in the back burner for basically my whole life, but I have never dared to capture it in words.  My current WIPs were born out of fun ideas that I followed to their inevitable conclusions.  They are exercises in my mental stamina and discipline to finish a task. This other WIP, though…it’s different.

This WIP (which for clarity we’ll call third WIP) matters the most to me because it encompasses all of my unspoken fears, hopes, loves, dreams.  It’s basically a straight window into my soul.  As such, even thinking about it both inspires me and intimidates me.  I’m too emotionally invested in it, which is why I never felt like I can write it the way it needs to be written.  The way it deserves to be written.  So, I’ve gotten used to just ignoring it.

But then, the wind whipped just right and I imagined a curling wave.  The humidity and warmth reached a specific threshold and I delighted in memories of tropical sun showers.  My cautious wariness of other cars brought to mind the winding road to Hana (on Maui).

Now, I can’t help but wonder: should I follow my muses into this third WIP?

SO TELL ME: I know writers find inspiration everywhere, but do YOU have seasonal “moods” when it comes to your WIP? Do YOU find yourself reading a book or genre during specific times of year because it “felt” more like summer or winter?

Because Sun and Sand Make Me Ridiculously Happy, AKA, The Requisite Post-Vacation Post

Still a little travel-sore

Well, I’ll go ahead and say it: I need a vacation from my vacation!

I got in at 5am after road tripping back home to Indiana from Marco Island, Florida.  A 1200-mile trip that should have taken 20ish hours took me about 18 hours…my excuse if I had been pulled over?  “Officer, I really really want to get home.” :lol:

A little back story:

Every year for our anniversary (September 25! This year was our seventh anniversary, woohoo!),  we do something a little more beachy or adventurous (in honor of the fact that we flitted off to Maui for our own wedding).

For our first 2 anniversaries, we had the opportunity to explore different Hawaiian islands.  In 2004, we tagged along with my parents when they visited friends in Oahu, and were able to be in my cousin’s wedding on Kauai.  Of course, we had to return to Maui in 2005, because Maui no ka oi! (Maui’s the best). ;)

In 2006, we spent it with family in New York, because we knew that my grandmother was not long for this world (she died February 2007).

In 2007, we explored California, driving up and down the Pacific Coast Highway.  My parents had recently moved there in the latter half of 2006 to be closer to my grandmother after being New Yorkers for 20+ years.

In 2008, I had the opportunity to inherit my parents sporty CR-V, and get a cross-country road trip out of it (something I’ve always wanted to do!).  So, we flew out to California, and meandered our way back to Indiana, taking lots of pictures along the way!

In 2009, I was craving sun and sand again, so, we decided to take up our father-in-law’s offer of using his condo on Marco Island, Florida for our sun and fun needs.  Since we’re trying to be responsible adults, we decided to return to my father-in-law’s condo on Marco Island this year so that we had another year to save for a trip back to Maui.

 

A typical day on Marco Island:

-Around 10, walk down to the beach to get some morning sun while doing my morning, pre-breakfast (but post-coffee!) cardio

-Back to the condo to swim in the pool for an hour, which for me means taking turns tanning in and out of the pool.  I’d bake for a bit on lounge chairs, and when it’s too hot, jump in the pool for a few laps before taking a break and baking on the chairs again.  That’s my idea of an interval workout!

(oh, and the elevator was being repaired, so it was 5 flights of stairs for us each time we wanted to go anywhere/do anything.  Some people may be inconvenienced by that.  But, I thought, “Cool. Sprints!”).

-Around noon, eat breakfast, which for the first half of our week is traditionally bacon, eggs, and toast (or croissants!).  The best aromatherapy is coming back to a condo that smells like maple-y bacon.

-From 12-4pm: Depending on the weather, either cool off in the condo, while watching copious amounts of HGTV, Animal Planet, and the Discovery Channel and deciding which local restaurant to eat at for dinner. (Generally, at this point it will rain for an hour anyway to break up the humidity; also, we don’t have cable TV, so HGTV is basically our secret indulgence). Or, cool down poolside, and if it’s especially hot, float around in the pool for a bit.

-Around 4-7: Go on the hunt for thrift store goodies, food, and ice cream.  Mark is obsessed with Good Will and other secondhand stores, and of course, who doesn’t like food and ice cream??  We try to patronize as many locally owned businesses as possible, but a trip to Coldstone Creamery did work itself in there.

-From 7pm on: Watch movie marathons, or episodes of home renovations on HGTV before passing out around midnight. (Again, we don’t have cable TV, so these are definitely treats for us!)

-Lather, rinse, repeat.


Anniversary Special

So, for my actual anniversary, we decided to walk on the beach again, yay…but this time, instead of enjoying a condo-cooked meal of bacon, eggs, and croissants (which, by the way, I’m a total expert at cooking), we walked up to one of the restaurants lining Marco Beach (aptly named, Quinn’s on the Beach), and splurged on a little brunch.

I ordered the shrimp BLT (which had arugula instead of a traditional lettuce, served on a French baguette, yum!).

We finished off our day bobbing around in the pool, and otherwise not moving until our requisite steak dinners at 7pm, for which we were only mildly hungry.

Afterward, we enjoyed a movie marathon of the living dead (Resident Evil! I Am Legend!), because nothing says “I love you” like watching survivors of an apocalypse kick butt!

Happiness is the meeting of sun and sand

I tend to be a lot more relaxed during these vacations because the holiday season in the retail industry is most frenetic (I don’t like using the word “stressful” as it has lost it’s meaning and impact), and I like to soak in as much sun and fun to carry me through till January (where I usually take a vaca in the middle of the month for my birthday.)

I always believe that the best souvenirs are a killer tan, and beautiful memories/pictures of a very relaxing and stress-free time. Here is my last view of the beach.  I’m sure you agree with me. ;)