Tag Archives: joy

Toss Those Lists and Dive into Something New

Somehow, rather unconsciously I believe, my resolve for this year became about doing instead of thinking about doing. While I have always been a list maker, believing this was the way to be productive, my attachment to making lists has gone by the wayside. Lists are about organization and getting things done. My new motto is more about process and finding ones self and purpose. While lists are not a bad thing if you are going out to do errands, what I’ve discovered is that they stand in the way of spontaneity and being in the moment; seeing what life brings and places in front of us. This change for me began with one of my favorite authors, Mark Nepo, and his book “Things That Join The Sea And The Sky. Philosopher and poet, Mr. Nepo gives us words that are soft and gentle, but still profound and wrenching and life shaking. His short essay “Quieting the Thieves” inspired me to start changing the way I was living. I read a little Mark Nepo every day and find him inspiring on many levels. If you do read some of his work, let us know how you like it and if it has inspired you!
We are given lists and steps we need to take throughout much of our lives. Since kindergarten there has been order placed upon us. School, work, marriage, kids, more work, more education; all signs tells us if we do things in a certain order we will have happy and successful lives. If that is true, then why is it that so many people I know and talk to (including myself) are still searching for something. It isn’t that we haven’t been successful or haven’t raised great kids or enjoyed the work we have done. All good…except? What is it we are supposed to be doing? I hear this from people who love their jobs and from people who are looking to make a change. It has nothing to do with money or “success”. It has everything to do with our mortality and our wish to leave a positive mark on the world and feel the deep peace that knowing our purpose provides.
For me, the notion of doing and not thinking about doing has freed me from living in the world of excuses. How often do you find yourself saying; “I would love to try that!”, “Wouldn’t that be fun”, “I want to ________(fill in the blank with your own desire)” Do it! With so much information out there it is easy to get mired down in the research of something we want to do, which can kill any initial joy. Just try something, have some fun. Always wanted to draw? Grab a sketchbook and pencil and go outside. Want to write. Grab a pen and a piece of paper and write something down. Doesn’t matter what. Write a letter to someone. Write down a dream. Write down how the backyard is looking as spring approaches. Movement will create movement in the same way that letting thoughts stay as thoughts creates stagnation. Don’t hide your work. Show it to your partner or send it to a friend. Doesn’t matter how “good” it is. Be proud of yourself. Sharing will make you keep engaged. When we start doing, we start becoming aware. We see what is happening at that moment; what is the universe giving us and showing us. Don’t overthink it. If you find something engaging and you want to learn more then go for it. But before you go on Youtube or start looking at books and classes and supplies, just have fun.
Doing helps us get closer to our purpose and to understanding this life we are given. There is no failure other than not giving something new and different a shot and seeing how it opens your eyes and where it takes you. Remember, it may not be exactly what you try that is the purpose in your life; but the awareness you develop, the people you meet and being curious enough to follow a path it suggests may lead you to something much bigger then you ever believed possible.
If you have a story about finding an activity that has inspired you and lead you down a path that perhaps you weren’t expecting please share it with us!

Find Your Inner Renaissance Person

Inspiration is found everywhere. When I was a kid, I was crazy for every new craft that I saw and dove into endless projects with enthusiasm and determination. I loved going to the fabric store and the dime store, which carried all sorts of craft supplies. For a short time I was obsessed with making layered jello creations in goblets and clear dishes. During the summer one of the schools had what I remember as a 2 week day camp for making all sorts of stuff. We braided belts, made tiled trivets and woven pot holders. You could also do ceramics and a host of other activities that kept us out of the house and having fun.
I had no problem spending my days in the craft world, or outside playing with my friends. There was never the thought that I should be doing something else, spend my time more wisely or curtail my imagination. As an avid reader I loved adventure stories and tales of overcoming hardship which further fueled my imagination. Schools at the time still taught art and encouraged creative endeavors. My 4th grade teacher loved Mexico and we spent time doing projects about the country and also learning to speak some Spanish.

So what happens as we become adults in the world? Yes, we have to face the reality of working and family and day to day living. But why do we seem to often turn our backs on the creative process, talking ourselves out of trying new things and not allowing our imagination to flow? And more importantly how can we get back to a place where we learn for the joy of it and without expectations or a cluttered mind.

Deepak Chopra talks about mental claustrophobia as one way we prevent ourselves from enjoying the creative process. We tell ourselves we can’t do something before we even get started and are often 10 steps ahead of ourselves and far from being in the present moment. Before even attempting something we let our fears about so many things kill the joy and fun we could be having. We need to find that single mindedness and focus we had has children. So much emphasis is placed on multitasking that I fear it takes away from our ability to be in the moment

Remaining curious as an adult is so important. Not everything that sparks an interest needs to have a permanent place in your life, but being open to learning and trying new things will keep you vibrant, engaged in the world, and a good conversationalist at the very least. Perhaps someone suggests a book and you wonder what on earth you would find interesting about that particular topic. That happened for me when someone suggested I read “The Boys in the Boat”. Other than an appreciation for the grace of the sport, I have never had particular interest in rowing.  But this is one of the best books I have ever read. Yes, I learned a little about rowing, but I also learned a lot about teamwork, about what it takes to make a team, to make a boat, about discipline, about the inner fortitude of an earlier generation that seems lacking in the world these days, and about the Berlin olympics under Hitlers regime. I never expected I would gain so much knowledge and insight from a book about rowers and rowing.

Have you said to yourself more than once that you would love to learn a new language? If the answer is yes or perhaps you are planning a trip to a foreign country and would like to have a basic knowledge of the language, try http://www.Duolingo.com. It is a free language learning website plus they also have an app for your iPad and phone. Lots of choices here including Vietnamese, Turkish, Polish and Portuguese, along with Spanish and Italian. Unlike all the memorization we did in high school language classes, these lessons are short and interactive, allowing you to be as serious, or not, as you want. I’ve been learning Polish on Duolingo and I actually prefer it to Rosetta Stone.

Most college and universities have separate programs for adult learning with some offering day trips or longer excursions. There are usually a wide variety of subjects often taught by one of the college professors. Some meet weekly for several weeks, other for just a time or two. Art institutes or nature centers/botanical gardens also often have one day weekend or evening workshops and/or demonstrations.

Want to give writing a try, but not sure where to start? Give http://www.750words.com words a try. Free for the first month, and only $5 a month after that, the goal is just what the title says. Sit and write 750 words every day. Of course you can go longer than that if you want. They have monthly challenges and also tell you the mood of your writing each day along with words that you repeat often. You can have something specific you want to write or it can just be free flow. I have done both and recommend it highly.

Become a renaissance person! The ideal of the renaissance man who knew a little bit about a lot of things isn’t such a bad thing. Yes, we usually need some sort of expertise in an area so we can earn a living, plus it is nice to have some expertise at a hobby or two. But don’t stop there. The sky is the limit with all the possibilities that exist. Be curious, be open, let go of perfection and have some fun. We need fun in our lives, and while you may decide not to pursue a something after satisfying your curiosity about it, you may be able to inspire someone else who may have an interest in that particular thing.

Here are a couple of other ideas that you may find interesting or helpful.

Read the Mad Man Knitting Blog http://www.madmanknitting.wordpress.com. Gregory Patrick literally knitted himself out of homelessness with his adorable teddy bears. You may learn a little about knitting (actually more about the process of knitting), but what you will learn and be inspired by is his insistence in not remaining in a dark space facing personal challenges and the challenges currently going on in the world around us. Every post I read from him humbles me, makes me grateful, and makes me try harder to be a better person in this world.

Are you a history nut or love adventure stories and/or biographies. Books can inspire us on many levels; to write, to travel, to be braver in our own lives. One book I just finished that did all three for me is Beyond the Call by Lee Trimble with Jeremy Dronfield. Many times the heroes of the world live quiet and unassuming lives. One of these men was Robert Trimble, a world war 2 fighter pilot. While he had an outstanding flying career during the war, the story of the lives he saved in Poland once the camps were liberated by the Red Army, and from right under the ever watchful eyes of the Russians is nothing short of amazing. His family knew very little of his efforts, but as an old man he told his son the story of his covert mission, and Beyond the Call is the book that resulted.  Like the Boys in the Boat, I learned about a wonderful man and hero to many, but also so much more about WW2, our relationship with Russia and an appreciation for what former prisoners endured after their release. While I have an interest in world war 2 history and Poland in particular, you don’t need either to enjoy and be amazed by this man’s story.

Hello Again

Hoping there are still some of you out there, a big hello to my faithful readers.

With the sincere belief that absence makes the heart grow fonder, I apologize
for my lengthy break and hope you won’t be too hard on me.

For those of you who don’t know, last winter I moved back to my hometown of
Kalamazoo MI. I am grateful to be here and look forward to sharing my journey
with you as we go along.

But for now I will be short and just say that changes happened rapidly in my life and,
amidst the whirlwind, I did not stay with my writing. While I can now
say that was definitely a mistake, I am once again putting pen to paper
to help us all find ways to accept, create, and embrace change in our lives.

Everywhere I look it seems to me that people are making big changes in their lives, or working
toward change. I know people who have moved to new cities, people who are changing
jobs or looking for a job (yours truly included). Others are fine tweaking what they do, little changes, to make what is already satisfying and fruitful to them even more so.

Change, even when we are embracing and accepting it in our lives can still leave us feeling a bit frazzled and frantic. When we are working and being productive in our lives it seems that all we want is to not work; to have our days free to pursue all the things we love to do and don’t have time for. And now perhaps we have that and don’t enjoy it because we feel guilty that we shouldn’t be doing fun things when we aren’t spending every last second trying to find work.

As long as you are being proactive in looking for new work, why not enjoy the extra time you have instead of being in a constant state of worry. Creating balance between just enough worry to keep you motivated while enjoying yourself and being open to new experiences as you continue along your path is the goal. It’s about making your entire life work so that you get up every morning and do what brings you joy in life and makes your heart sing. If new work isn’t coming easily, maybe that is a sign that you should be thinking about a different direction in life; digging deep inside to create a new path that brings joy along with a paycheck.

Who knows what good things can come out of pursuing something new or expanding your involvement in something you already love. I took a knitting class, mentioned that I was looking for a part time job and the very next week a woman said her son was opening a new restaurant and looking for people. Turns out it wasn’t what I was looking for, but one possibility in one week from a group of three people isn’t bad.

Am I going back for open knitting evenings? You bet!

Stay tuned for more about job searching, becoming fearless, letting go of perfection and a host of other topics to help you navigate your way through this wonderful world we call home.

Setting Goals instead of Expectations

By definition, expectations are almost guaranteed to bring you disappointment. Expectations involve a disregard for reality while harboring a belief that something should or will happen simply because we entertain a thought or desire.  If you have ever watched a toddler throw a fit because he didn’t get the candy or ice cream he thought he deserved you are seeing total disappointment of an expectation.  Gradually we grow out of throwing tantrums, but sometimes it is harder to get rid of expectational thinking and we wind up being just as disappointed as adults as we were as children.

Choosing to set goals will lead you to your desire often times faster and with fewer mistakes since goals involve directing our efforts towards the end or outcome we desire. Setting a goal will still involve that original idea or desire, but instead of thoughtless and unplanned pursuit of that desire, time and effort must play a part.  Working towards and attaining a goal helps us become more confident and move forward be creating more goals in our lives.  This allows us to leave that disappointing realm of expectations and create real change and purpose.

It certainly isn’t wrong to envision the attainment of our desires, and one helpful step is to create a vision board. Simply cut out images, or print them from your computer, of what it is you want and attach them to a poster board or cork board. Anything and everything you desire  in your dreams can go on this board. Vision boards give us something concrete and material to look at; they take our dreams out of our imagination and provide a visual reminder of where we want to go.   They can be a first step in the journey of making the changes you desire in your life.  Once you are able to take a first step, the next one will be a little easier.

Taking our dreams and desires seriously demands that we act in a way that will bring them to fruition. Choosing to live in the fantasy world of expectation will bring disappointment and discouragement almost always. To have success in any area in our life takes dedication, hard work and planning. That is what goals are made of. They require that we learn new things, pay attention to our surroundings, and learn from others how to create a successful and joyful life.

As a means of encouragement I urge you to do something every day, no matter how small, to get you closer to your dream.

Here are some ideas to get you started. Feel free to expand upon them or share your own ideas with the rest of us!

Mind map your goal
Write a business plan. Start small and expand it as your plan grows. It can even be one sentence to start.
Don’t be afraid to talk to others who have expertise in your area. Many people love sharing their knowledge about how they fulfilled their goals.
Take a class.
Meditate
Get enough sleep.
Don’t worry, worrying is a waste of time.
Be organized. Know where your information is and where to access it.
Be focused.
Read everything you can about what interests you and what you feel passionate about.
Let your dream evolve and take shape as you increase your knowledge. and gain confidence. Don’t remain rigid in your thinking.

I imagine that many of you have books that you find inspiring and that don’t stray far from your reading chair or night stand. One such book for me is “Infinite Possibilities, The Art of Living Your Dreams”, by Mike Dooley. I have read this book several times, and often just pick it up and let it fall to whatever page it will. Mike Dooley’s enthusiasm is infectious and he will definitely get you thinking outside of the box and help you change your perspective into one that will help you live a joyful and purposeful life.