Your Thoughts Are Worth Hearing

littlemonsterFears are like monsters. THEY WILL EAT YOUR FACE IF YOU LET THEM.

Personally, my fears are practically endless. Normal ones, like plane crashes and something happening to my kid. More exotic ones, like alien abduction or actually appearing naked before an audience. I could catalog them all for you, but you’d get bored. Fast.

Suffice it to say, I’ve had to work very, very hard to keep these fears from standing in my way. And even despite that, they have. Why, for instance, have I known I wanted to be a writer since the age of five (true story, ask my mom), but didn’t go to journalism school until I was 26? Why did I write several manuscripts but only make a real effort to get them published a few years ago? Fear, plain and simple. I’ve chosen safe and easy routes, and frankly I’m not the hardest worker either. But for the most part, this reluctance is due to a lack of faith that people want to hear what I have to say.

Why? I’m not sure, but I do know that many people suffer from this same problem. The thing is, the world is a huge place. There are so many people out there it’s basically impossible to say something that won’t spark interest in at least a few like-minded souls. I don’t care if you’re convinced your dead pug is speaking to you through your grandmother. Or you collect stones shaped like the Pope. Someone, somewhere, wants to hear it so what are you waiting for?

More to the point, what am I waiting for? The perfect moment, the perfect statement, the perfect me? It doesn’t exist. We all wish for our perfect selves, but in reality, that’s too much to live up to, and awfully hard to by friends with.

Like Seth Godin said: “The only thing worse than starting something and failing … is not starting.” So start. Fail. Then start again. And when you’ve figured out that process, come tell me how you did it, because I would love to hear your thoughts. (See? I told you someone did.)

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Notes on the Habit of Following Through

VioletBasket Very little in life just happens. That’s why it’s baffling to me that, despite understanding this maxim very well, I fail to follow through on so much. I’m not even talking about things I have to do: I regularly put off things I want to do. Why? What does this say about me?

Sometimes I feel like I’ve spent my whole life intending to make certain dreams come true, and then watching the Big Bang Theory in my underwear instead. I hate this about myself. So I did some research, trying to figure out why I possess a fatal lack of follow-through.

Well, according to a Harvard study entitled Making the Best Laid Plans Better: How PlanMaking Increases FollowThrough, some plans just suck. In fact, some plans aren’t even plans.

If you really want to follow through on something, you should:

* Want to do it

* Make a concrete plan of action

* State it publicly

* Think about how to overcome the obstacles

Your plan will also work best if you have not already made a competing plan, if you are naturally forgetful, if you have time limitations and if there are specific moments during which your plan will be most effective.

Of course, these strategies don’t comprise a cure-all, but I had the opportunity to test them today, with good results. I’d been wanting to take some pictures of my daughter for a while, and snow presented the perfect opportunity. But when I work up late this morning feeling blah, I almost didn’t do it. Luckily, I’d already made the plans. Basket: check. Coat: check. Camera: check. Plans: CHECK. Plus I’m super forgetful, the snow wasn’t going to last, and all I had to do was actually take the darn pictures.

Guess what? I actually did. Now I have a bunch of bright, colorful, snowy pictures in my photo library that weren’t there this morning! Note to self: make more plans.

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Don’t Let the Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good

ChiveBlossomI’ve wanted to break my camera out for forever. Wanted and been afraid.

For a while I was convinced there was something wrong with me, and I simply couldn’t use it. For a while after that, I was convinced there was something wrong with it. It just wouldn’t take photos. Like, it had a lens and a shutter and a button to push for the actual picture-taking process, but for some reason I’d never manage to make it work. Then I thought it was actually, actually broken. So I let it sit on a shelf.

Guess what? Just took it to get repaired. There’s a hair on the lens I can pay $60 to have removed, but that’s it.

Hmm.

The real problem, it seems, is that I’m afraid of taking pictures. Because I’m not Ansel Adams. Silly, right? Only Ansel Adams was Ansel Adams … and by the way, he was really good friends with my great-grandfather. True story. More on my claims to fame later.

The point here is this: Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. It’s one of my favorite sayings by Gretchen Rubin over at The Happiness Project. And she is so right. So I broke out the camera today. Took some winter shots. And I’m not sorry.

WinterPictures

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10 Pick-Me-Ups When You’re Feeling Blue

Sometimes life feels impossible.

My approach to this is often a full-blown, diva-style breakdown where I decide I simply must spend the day trying new pedicure styles, or reading Harry Potter, or going on three-hour walks to get away from it all. As I get older, however, these responses are less and less effective. My daughter hampers  things, work must get done, the kitchen is messy. It’s not just me and my hubby and our ever-eager doglings anymore. So I’ve had to find other ways to deal.

Oddly, I often cheer up much more quickly with a small effort than by making a big show-stopping declaration. Here are a few of my favorite tricks:

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1. Do something you love and wish you could do more of, but only for 10 minutes. If you love to bake, for instance, spend that time getting your ingredients and mixing bowls ready to make brownies that evening. It will remind you that there are better things are coming. If you’re out in the world, pull out your phone on break and read a post on your favorite blog. No, you won’t really have time to get into it, but you will most likely snap yourself out of your present mood.

2. Look around the room you’re sitting in and choose one thing you like about it. It doesn’t have to be glorious. Perhaps you’re at home and it’s a handmade calendar from Etsy (my current favorite, a present from a friend). Maybe you’re at the library and it’s an interesting print from a local artist. You could even be at a restaurant: nice chopsticks? good lighting? pretty bar?

3. Smile. Yep. It really does help boost your mood.

4. Find a window and look at the sky. Even if it’s cloudy, reminding yourself of the hugeness of the world often helps cheer you up. Easy.

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5. Send someone a nice message (maybe using homemade upcycled cards!)

6. Take a pretty picture.

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7. Get moving. Everyone knows it, but we don’t do it as often as we should.

8. Maybe my favorite idea, courtesy of FeedGooder, is to listen to Arnold Schwarzenegger. He. Is. Hilarious. Even when not trying to be, which is often. Ah, the Governator.

9. Read a good book. Sometimes you just need to get away.

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10. Conversely, get back to work. It might not seem like it at the time, but I’ve found that pushing myself through something I really, really, really don’t want to do can give me the biggest mood boost of them all. Make a list of small, easily achievable tasks – everything you can think of – and check them off one by one. Then enjoy the resulting feeling of accomplishment.

Why It Feels Like You Can Never Catch Up With Your Dreams

800px-Marathon_RunnersMy dreams are constant and yet constantly changing.

How can that be? you ask. Well, it’s tricky. Life isn’t like a marathon, with one easily definable target: the finish line. Many of my larger, unspecified dreams (“be a writer” or “be healthy”) contain nested within them smaller, more achievable goals. This aligns with all the research about goal-setting, but leaves me open to the feeling, even once I achieve these smaller goals, that I haven’t really gotten what I came for. Yes, I have a blog. Yes, I’ve written several book manuscripts. Yes, my day job consists entirely of crafting the written word. So have I achieved my dream? Am I a “writer”? Sometimes I say yes; often it feels like no.

I recently read the executive summary for Brian Tracy’s Goals! How to Get Everything You Want – Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible. The book looks fantastic, all about setting realistic goals aligned with who you truly are and what you really want out of life.

I took his advice and wrote down specific, measurable, metrics-based goals for what I’d like to accomplish the end of 2014. The exact weight I’d like to be six months after I push out this baby. The precise monetary target I’d like to hit by December 31. The number of products I aim to post on the Etsy shop I want to open at Thanksgiving. These are great goals, easily measured and totally achievable.

So what’s the problem? Well, on the one hand, there isn’t one. I will probably achieve these things, and they will give me a feeling of accomplishment.

On the other hand, I will look at the scale when I hit my goal weight and think: I still don’t like my hair.

I will peruse my bank statements and realize: I wish it had been more.

When I open my online shop, I’ll have about two seconds of gratification before I wonder: Where are the customers?

These thoughts are okay. They drive me to do better, push on, keep accomplishing and bettering myself. If I didn’t have these thoughts, my dreams would grow stale and pass by the wayside and I’d be left with nothing but a few past accomplishments that lose their flavor very quickly.

Yet this type of thinking poses a danger as well, limiting my ability to enjoy successes as they come and live in the present. I must be wary ingratitude for all that I have and all I can do if I put my mind to it. These are incredible gifts, and spending a year using them to better myself is an opportunity I am incredibly blessed to have. It’s important to fight the tendency to dismiss the now in favor of a never-really-much-better future. Now is incredible, and really, it’s all we have.

Clever Ways to Reuse Old Cards

lots-of-cards

I don’t know about you, but I hate waste. Especially since I’m always seeking ways to make my life prettier and more efficient, I especially hate waste of beautiful things.

Cards certainly fall into this category. I’m lucky to have amazing friends and family, so I receive lots of lovely cards that, over time, really do add up. This isn’t a bad thing, but it DOES leave me with a guilty feeling when I can’t possibly keep them all!

Then the other day, as I was sorting through them, I had a revelation: I don’t have to get rid of these OR store them! I can reuse them, and bring joy to someone else’s life with the same pretty cards that brought so much happiness to me and my fridge for months!

Look at all those lovely cards! I couldn’t bear to throw them out, so I set about repurposing them, which saves me money AND guilt. You really don’t need much, just a paper cutter and scissors, a ruler and glue stick, some pretty craft paper and a set of sharpies, thick and thin.

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You’ll also need some pretty envelopes to house your new stationary, once finished.

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For pretty cards with nothing written on the back of the front page, you can just trim off the back with a paper cutter and match them to a new envelope. Beautiful and good to go! Best of all, you get to borrow someone else’s taste and call it yours. 🙂

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If you love the card but your fan wrote on both pages, trim off the back just the same and use craft paper to create a new writing surface. The fronts will stay the same:

card-fronts

… but the backs get a decorative facelift with a new writing surface. If you want, you can cut out and include elements from the original inside of the card to keep the theme going.

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Some cards are so adorable, all they need is a blank new inside!

cards-new-inserts

Write away!

new-insert-inside

You can also make postcards. Trim off the back of cards with white insides so that their cute fronts stay the same:

postcard-front

… then add your own details to the back of the cards. This includes borders, places for addresses and stamps, and little illustrations should they strike your fancy. I hand-drew everything, but you can also use a ruler to make straighter lines, or even add a little more craft paper and simply stick a stamp on it and throw it in the mail.postcard-back

Voila! Adorable stationary without spending a dime. Such a pretty way to make life dreamier.