Category Archives: Personal Growth

Sailing Off Into the Sunset

I have this feeling that I’m in one of those years where I’m leveling up, and it feels very freeing, but it’s also stressful. In a good way.

2008 through 2011 were very challenging, unsettling years for me where it seemed that everything that could go wrong, did. I was not in a phase of making progress toward big dreams in my life then. If my life was a boat, then my boat had been ravaged in a storm and was full of holes, and I was so busy frantically trying to bail out the water to keep from sinking that I sure couldn’t focus on sailing away to discover new land.

2012 was the year I finally got all that water bailed out, and patched up all the holes. The boat looked a little worse for wear, but it was keeping afloat and I’d found calm seas. Didn’t really get anywhere, though.

And now 2013? THIS is the year of discovery. This is the year where things are actually moving in the right direction. I not only got my own apartment without a roommate, but IT HAS A SPARE ROOM. I upgraded my old beater car to the car I’d been dreaming about for years. I took a vacation to Vegas to hang out with a bunch of strangers from the Internet who have turned out to be some great new friends, and I checked my most dearly held item off my bucket list:  I went to see Shania Twain perform live. It’s looking gooooood this year.

But there’s a lot more I still want to do. Things I need to do. Bigger things, things that would have a bigger impact on my day-to-day life. Career things. Expanding-my-comfort-zone things. Taking big risks that have the potential for huge reward or crash-and-burn disaster.

That’s the clincher, of course, is that these things will require me to leap outside my comfort zone, and that is Scary with a capital S. So there have been some freakouts.

My general process for dealing with overwhelm looks something like this:

  1. Lightbulb goes on… big idea! Inspiration! Excitement!
  2. … which lead to more ideas, more than I can keep up with. Write them all down.
  3. Shit, I’m losing some of my ideas before I get them inked on paper. OH NOES I WILL NEVER GET THIS TO WORK IF I CAN’T REMEMBER EVERY SINGLE RELATED BRAINSTORMY STEP. STRESS! HULKSMASH!
  4. Deny & hide. Watch some Netflix.
  5. Turn off Netflix, take a good long hard look at brainstorm notes and attempt to create an action plan.
  6. Realize just how much work this is likely to take, how uncomfortable or risky it’s going to be, and how little time I have to get it done and how impatient I am for progress. This usually hits me in waves.
  7. FREAK THE EFF OUT. Cry for two days and watch more Netflix while talking my sister’s ear off about how my life is so hard and I’ll never amount to anything and this is all impossible.
  8. Get over myself and get to work on that action plan.
  9. Watch as my hard work yields actual results. Celebrate with champagne!

I’m doing a pretty good job of staying focused on #8 most of the time these days, but I’m having my moments of #7. Thank God my sister is a saint but also not a pushover and will listen and offer advice but then call me out when I’ve been navel-gazing for too long. I hope to be able to share some of the bigger stuff I am working on soon.

What’s your recipe for dealing with overwhelm? How do you “do it all”?

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Prioritizing My Life List Goals

Have you guys heard of Go Mighty? It’s an incredible resource for goal-setting, created by power bloggers Maggie Mason, Amber Doty, Laura Mayes, and Sarah Bryden Brown. The idea behind Go Mighty is to create your life list there, attach “stories” to goals, and for Go Mighty members to help each other in any way they can to achieve goals. As someone with a life list on my own blog, a list that is constantly being culled and added to and edited, this appeals to me very much.

Over the last couple of weeks, Maggie has been running an online life list class that I’ve been participating in, and it’s had me thinking critically about what it is I want to do with my one wild and precious life. As a major planner, I always have goals but it’s the action where I often get stalled out. There is so much about my life currently that I want to keep building on. It’s been a long time in the works, but this year I finally feel this sense of inspiration and urgency about making some of these changes happen. I’ve already done two big ones this year… I replaced my junker car with the car I’ve been dreaming about for five years, and I moved out of the home I shared with a roommate into my very own two-bedroom apartment. But this is just the beginning. I want this year to really shake things up, now that I’m on a roll and I’m in a good place emotionally to ride the roller coaster.

I have many goals, and often get so excited about all of them that it’s tough to focus and do anything to move any single goal forward. One of Maggie’s assignments in the course was to select five of your goals as the highest priority, to make them happen within the next 12 months or at least get started on them. I have been working through the assignments in the virtual classroom, but I wanted to share this one over here too. The goals I’ve selected to prioritize over the next twelve months are the following:

  1. See Shania Twain perform live. I’m beyond excited to report that this dream for the last 15 years will be coming true next month when I attend Bloggers in Sin City in Las Vegas. My roommate there, Karlyn, and I will be having a good ol’ country night and going to see Shania together!
  2. Increase my annual income by $15,000. This is one that I won’t be talking about too much in advance, more in hindsight… but I have a coffee chat scheduled with a career mentor next week to discuss strategy and options, so that’s a start!
  3. Create outfit “uniforms” for work, upscale/glam, and casualwear. I will be posting about this soon.
  4. Run a seminar or workshop series. My best friend and I have a burgeoning idea for this already! I would be beyond thrilled if we could turn it into a side business venture.
  5. Take a culinary class with Dirty Apron Cooking School. I’m happy to report I’ve signed up for one in October, and cannot wait to attend! October can’t get here fast enough (that’s the first and last time you’ll ever hear me say that.)

So, they’re out there now! I’ve posted ’em in public and now I’m accountable for making these happen. Keep you posted…

What are some of your key goals right now? Do you have a life list? If you do, or you want one, please join me over at Go Mighty so we can connect and help each other.

33 Lessons Learned on my 33rd Birthday

Today is my 33rd birthday and I wanted to share with you 33 lessons, observations, and truths I’ve learned along the road.

  1. Your parents will fail you in some ways. This is because they’re human. You must learn to find the different types of support you need from the people and places who can provide it. This will sometimes be your parents, and it will sometimes involve actively leaving your parents out of it.
  2. Scary things are only scary because they’re outside your comfort zone. Your comfort zone always has room to expand if you just find the courage to press against its walls and stretch them out.
  3. On that note: Overwhelmingly huge goals can seem quite manageable when broken down into small steps. You should take one small step toward something that’s important to you every day.
  4. Life without carbs is not very much fun!
  5. You should not take the advice of someone who doesn’t share your values relevant to the issue at hand.
  6. Set your alarm clock 5 minutes earlier than the time you think you’ll need to get up.
  7. Clothes that must be ironed are essentially disposable. Ironing boards are purely for extra shelf space.
  8. Trust your intuition. It knows what’s best for you, even if it’s not what you want to hear.
  9. Do not give up what you want most for what you want right now.
  10. A grateful,  positive attitude goes a long way.
  11. Pay yourself first and save a little more than you think you can manage (you’ll surprise yourself and manage it just fine). And don’t wait until you’ve paid off every penny of debt you ever incur to start saving. You’ll never save anything that way.
  12. On haircuts: Call me boring, but stick with what you know works.
  13. The way your body looks does not actually matter all that much.
  14. Read everything before you sign. Don’t sign something you don’t understand.
  15. Not everyone is going to like you, and in general you won’t like the people who don’t like you. This is not a problem, it’s a natural screening system to help you find Your People.
  16. Having a practical skill or two will save you many dollars. Learn to change your own car oil, cook a great meal, hem your own pants & skirts, do your own web design, or SOMETHING.
  17. Travel. It will enrich your life in ways you cannot imagine.
  18. If you can’t afford actual travel, read a book and you can be in far away lands in mere moments. Bonus points if you can read in the sun, or on a beach.
  19. Friends are the most precious resource you’ll ever have in life.
  20. Puppies are the cure for EVERYTHING.
  21. Your job doesn’t need to be your life’s passion. (But it needs to not actively make you miserable. That is toxic.)
  22. If a person’s words are out of sync with their actions, pay attention to their actions.
  23. Don’t grind your teeth.
  24. You will not always agree with the decisions of others. If it doesn’t actively affect you, stay the hell out of it. Live and let live.
  25. Most of the obstacles you present as reasons to lose your shit because you’ll never achieve your dreams are completely surmountable. (Not that I had a recent temper tantrum worthy of an overtired toddler because I kept spraining my ankle and would NEVER! HIKE! AGAIN! When all I needed was an ankle brace. That would never happen)
  26. 4:59pm on Friday is the best moment of the week.
  27. Keeping an old car that’s fully paid off is a good financial decision, until it reaches that point that it becomes a money drain due to repairs. At that point, get rid of that sucker ASAP.
  28. You will hurt people if you reject them, and you will hurt them even more if you try to soften the blow by giving them hope that things will work out when you know they won’t. Sometimes it’s cruel to be kind. Just be respectful but blunt and tell them it’s over.
  29. A walk in nature will connect you back to yourself if you feel out of sorts.
  30. Life is a constant game of trade-offs.
  31. The sexy 4 inch heels that you can barely walk in and pinch your feet will never see the light of day. BAD IDEA. ABORT MISSION.
  32. It will make you feel really old to know that kids who were in kindergarten when you were in college are now in college. Despite this…
  33. 33 is not old. I’m not really sure how it happened that I became a 33-year old person. I swear I was just in high school, and then I blinked and I was here.

A New Outlook on my Biggest Dream

I love goal-setting and resolutions, but I didn’t want to make too many this year. I think it’s better to focus hard on a handful of things that I’d really like to accomplish, rather than spread my efforts too thin and end up with a mostly unfinished to-do list by the end of 2013. So, I asked myself what I wanted the most right now, and one of my answers surprised me so much, I made a huge change to a couple of the things I’ve always been working towards and dreaming about. I decided to forgo an annual resolution list and came up with a 5-year plan instead. My surprising wish was this:

I want to be free of feeling that I’m on a deadline to find the love of my life.

Whoa, right? This is big. I feel like I’m on a deadline because more than anything else in the world, I want to have children. I don’t need to have them right now, but I need to feel that it’s going to happen for me in my lifetime, and I’ve been feeling a rising panic that I’m running out of time. I’m not too old yet, but this feeling is not crazy. I’m nearly 33 years old and I’m single. If I met my perfect man tomorrow, we’re not realistically going to be trying for kids for at least a couple of years, and that’s with pretty swift procreation plans! That puts me at 35 before I am likely to start trying at the earliest: the very age that we’ve all been warned is the time that a woman’s fertility begins significantly declining.

I don’t like dating with this mindset. It makes me feel like I’m just in it for the sperm donor, though I do also want to find love. I am sick and tired of dating in general, as a matter of fact. I miss sex and the comfort of a loving partner, but I haven’t made an effort to meet any new guys in months and I do not  miss going out on worknights to spend an hour or more in awful conversation with a guy 5 years and 30 pounds over what his profile claims, when I knew 30 seconds in that it wasn’t going to work out. I do not miss wasting money on dates with guys that I don’t care about much or at all. I like putting that money towards saving for a new car instead, and spending my time reading new books or laughing with my besties.

But how to be free of that fertility deadline? I still hope that I might be blessed with the experience of pregnancy, childbirth, and having my own biological child one day. But more than that, I want to be a mother. That kid doesn’t need to look like me or share my genes in order to give me the experience of parenting.

I’ve decided to work toward the goal of taking in one or two foster children within the next five years, and let go of the goal of finding a partner who would ultimately the future father of my children. I can do this on my own, and there are many children in awful foster and family situations who need someone stable and caring to give them love. I would like to do this with the idea of eventually adopting children and being their forever home, but I have a lot of research and preparation ahead of me for the next several years in order to make this possible.

So the real steps that need to be taken to make this a reality for me are:

  • Increase my income to a level where I can afford to rent a 2 bedroom property on my own, without the help of a roommate or fostering income.
  • Increase my emergency fund savings to $20,000 without compromising any other aspect of my financial plan.
  • Research the foster care system and possibilities for fostering to adopt in BC. Read about parenting on an ongoing basis. Spend lots of time with my friends’ children and ask other parents about the day to day reality of caring for children.

I’m really enthusiastic about the freedom and stress relief I’ve created in my life by shifting my perspective on what it means to be a parent and how that should happen. This has lifted a big weight off my shoulders and made room for a new possible future that has my heart singing right now.

2012 Recap

Happy New Year! And thanks to Amy Estes for this lovely quote: “May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”

2012 was a year of recovery for me. I wouldn’t say I made progress forward so much as undid some of the backsliding of the prior three years, which were painful and awful and had started to seem never-ending. I’m glad that finally, finally, I feel that things have turned around and I’ve experienced some big moments and experiences this year. Some of the more memorable ones:

  • A great karaoke birthday party with my closest friends to ring in 32 in February.
  • My sister moved out of my apartment, forcing me to either get a new roommate or move, neither of which I wanted to do. But I found a fantastic new roommate and now friend, Kate, who moved into my place in June with her two dogs and reminded me through her friendship that I’m still capable of a wonderful and rewarding experience living with another person (something I’d begun to question after so many failed romantic relationships! And although my relationship with Kate is in no way romantic, it brought back my confidence that some people think I’m pretty fun to have around.)
  • I learned that when someone’s words and actions don’t tell you the same thing, you should believe their actions. This led to me breaking up with Mike, which was devastating but necessary. He kept telling me what I wanted to hear but wasn’t treating me well.
  • I took a solo trip to Hawaii. I’d been wanting to go on a tropical vacation for years and decided to stop putting it off just because I didn’t have a boyfriend to join me. I tried paddle-boarding for the first time, ate strawberry guavas and kukui nuts straight from the tree and enjoyed the heck out of fresh local pineapple. It was a blast and I hope to return one day.
  • I finally found a workout that I love, that really gets my heart rate up and burns some calories, and isn’t a problem for my herniated disc: hiking Vancouver trails! I even lost a little weight this summer after plenty of pounding the trails. I’m trying to replicate it as best I can during the winter with snowshoeing.
  • I joined a book club with one of my best friends, and have been reading much more ever since.
  • I made a few new friendships that I consider already to be significant and am so happy to grow my social circle to include these lovely new people!
  • I stopped working independently in finance and joined the family practice. This has been a much better fit for me doing similar work, and allowed me to finally start making some good strides in my own personal finances.
  • I discovered that my right ankle is extremely prone to sprains and have spent 3 of 12 months in 2012 with an inflamed ankle. I will be buying a high quality ankle brace to reduce the recurrence of future sprains, which has a very negative effect on my exercise schedule!
  • A friend lost her child to cancer. I was honoured to be able to help her by fundraising and creating an online platform for her to share her story at such a difficult time in her life.

Here’s to great new things in 2013! What was your biggest moment in 2012?

Quiet: Insights to my Strengths and Opportunities

Image source: Goodreads

Image source: Goodreads

I’m currently reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain and really enjoying it. I have long described myself as a “social introvert,” sticking that word, “social” in there to dispel assumptions others often jump to when they think of introverts. I’m not particularly shy or quiet. I’m not afraid of public speaking or public performances. I’ve conducted seminars at work and spoken to groups as large as 200, and I’ve acted with lead parts in school plays and excelled in those arenas. I like parties.

However, I do need time to recharge after social events or public speaking by spending time alone with a cup of tea and a book, my laptop or just my thoughts. If I don’t get that time, I am C-R-A-N-K-Y. That’s the biggest telltale of my true colours as an introvert, but there are others. It’s one thing for me to be the centre of attention onstage, where my role is very structured and defined, but I hate it in social settings. I’m fine hanging out in large groups, but I let others drive the discussion while I hang back listening and speak only when I have something important to contribute. I despise small talk and find it very difficult to get to know others who are not open to more meaningful topics right off the bat. (I’m one of those people who, upon meeting you the first time, can talk immediately about the fight you just had with your mother, but if you try to talk about the weather I’ll clam up after a few moments). I’m pretty terrible at persuasion; if my points don’t speak for themselves, I’m not someone who shows enough charisma, outward passion or confidence in my ideas or services to be able to convince someone who has doubts. This has been a career challenge in recent years as there has been a large sales element involved, and I prefer the control of self-employment to working for a company.

Not everything in this book applies to me, but I see a lot of myself in it. I have read a lot about introversion in the past so I wasn’t sure if I would learn much new in this book, but I like Susan’s angle of playing up the strengths of introversion. This is an angle I haven’t seen many places before. Introversion is usually described as a barrier to overcome, an obstacle to your success that you can learn to work with if you tame and mold it, but never is it seen as a shining light to be celebrated and embraced.

This passage’s excerpts (related to a surprising discussion of how Guy Kawasaki outed himself as an introvert on Twitter in 2008) was a particularly interesting insight to me personally:

On August 15, 2008, Pete Cashmore, the founder of Mashable, the online guide to social media, weighed in. “Wouldn’t it be a great irony,” he asked, “if the leading proponents of the ‘it’s about people’ mantra weren’t so enamored with meeting large groups of people in real life? Perhaps social media affords us the control we lack in real life socializing: the screen as a barrier between us and the world.” …

Studies have shown that, indeed, introverts are more likely than extroverts to express intimate facts about themselves online… to say that they can express the “real me” online… The same person who would never raise his hand in a lecture hall of 200 people might blog to 2000 or 2 million, without thinking twice. The same person who finds it difficult to introduce himself to strangers might establish a presence online and then extend these relationships into the real world.

Though I’ve been a very inconsistent blogger who has not, in fact, shared much online in this little space lately, I’m pretty active on Facebook interacting with friends and organizing social events. I have a very active Pinterest page and adore Goodreads for sharing and learning about others’ book choices. I meet potential suitors almost exclusively through online dating, much to my (very extroverted) mother’s  derision, and I’ve never been able to explain why the Internet has been so important for my social life. I never would have pinned it on my introversion! And better yet, I love the implication that the computer/Internet as an intermediary in interpersonal relations provides an opportunity for introverts to thrive in leadership and sales roles where previously they may have floundered.

I wonder how I and fellow intro’s might use this insight to boost their careers. Can we thrive in sales by making a concerted effort with online presence? What changes can be implemented online to bring in new clients? Can we direct clients via a newsletter to a referral system on our website so we don’t need to ask in person? Some food for thought.

May 2013 bring prosperous wealth and personal growth to all, whether you’re introverted or extroverted!

My "Balance" List

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to start addressing the parts of my life that need attention, to stop being so disappointed, to bring joy back into my life.

I am reminded of a Wheel of Life diagram where you rate on a scale of 1 to 10 your satisfaction in each of these areas of your life: Career, money, health/fitness, friends/family, significant other/romance/intimacy, personal growth/spirituality, fun/recreation, physical environment. At the moment, when I complete this exercise, I score the lowest in health/fitness, fun/recreation, and significant other/romance/intimacy. So I’ve thought about what I can do to improve how I feel about these aspects of my life.

Here is the list of things I’ve come up with to get things back on track:

  1. Create some systems around eating, cooking, and being healthy to make this easier to stick to.
  2. When I’m down or overwhelmed, I have a tendency toward the path of least resistance (i.e. cereal for dinner because it takes 30 seconds to make, letting laundry/cleaning/tidying/chores build up rather than addressing them as needed). So maybe I can jump-start a mindset of things being back on track by putting in the time and simply acting like things are on track. Take the time to prep food for healthy meals. Do one chore per day. I’ll be busy enough that I won’t have so much time to dwell on the negative!
  3. Date for fun for the next couple of months. FUN ONLY. Nothing serious. And in that vein…
  4. Join a singles social club. (Not a dating service! Just fun activities planned for members, all of whom are single).
  5. Take a culinary class with Dirty Apron Culinary School.
  6. Yoga, twice a week, every week. Exceptions only if my disc flares up and makes it impossible.
  7. Walks or moderate hikes. My goal is to do something active at least 4 times a week. Yoga above obviously counts towards this! Use my wall calendar at home to keep track of days when I’ve done this.
  8. Try some water sports in the summer. Go kayaking at Deep Cove. Take a paddleboarding or windsurfing lesson. See if you can get out on a boat.