From Resolutions to Reality – Two Helpful Guides

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I quit my job 12 days ago, on the winter solstice – the shortest, darkest day of the year. This was a bold but deeply calculated move.

For months though I’ve had my eye on January 2, 2017, knowing it was the first business day of my new venture – a new company, a new book, new blog, new direction. It’s all very exciting. It’s also the first day in three years I wouldn’t go to the office. And that’s just tricky.

Wisely, I decided January 2nd should be tightly managed.

So, I got up at 5:30, studied, took the dogs for a walk, they found stray dogs hiding my in my barn, so I dealt with that. Then I took a shower, shaved my legs, got dressed, put on makeup and dried my hair.

Minus the stray dogs, that’s a typical morning for me – when I had somewhere to be.

I still have somewhere to be.

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What I plan to do in 2017 is essentially a mountain of resolutions, but if I don’t put my boots on and climb it every day, it won’t get climbed.

Of course, how many times have I set out on a grand climb in January, only to be lying in a hammock in the grassy foothills by Valentines Day?

But this year, I’ve been training with a couple of smart people. What they taught me, they can teach you, so you can climb your mountain.

Ready?


#1 Marie Kondo – The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Last fall, people were raving about this Japanese woman’s little book on organizing stuff. I bought it, read it and said, “Right. Let’s do it.”

By applying her simple criteria for deciding whether or not to keep an item –  a book, a blouse, a file of papers – I cleared at least half of of my belongings out of my house. Here’s the before and after of my kitchen I posted on Instagram.

Clutter steals mental energy, which I need right now, and the trick is not to organize better, but to have less stuff.

Kondo’s approach is simple:

Take every piece of clothing out of every closet in your house. Everything. Then hold each item, one by one, in your hands and ask, “Does this bring me joy?”

If not, put it in a pile and take it to Goodwill, so it can bring someone else joy, which is joyful in itself. All the other questions about fit, style, cost and someday are irrelevant. Joy is the only criteria.

When I did this, I took 200 hangers of clothing out of my closet and put about 80 back. It’s astonishing, embarrassing and freeing all at once.

Can you see the benefit of this exercise? Particularly if you plan to do something radical like quit your job and start a new company? There’s a reason high level people wear the same things every day.  It frees up their decision making for more important things.

Clutter, physical and psychic, drains us. Get rid of it and use your brain for something else.

#2 Steven Covey – The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. 

Covey’s book is a classic for a reason. My favorite thing to emerge from it is his advocacy for what he calls “Quadrant Two Time.”

Look at the graph below and decide in which quadrant, or on what tasks do you spend the most time.q

Are you in a crisis? That’s quadrant one – a combination of matters both important and urgent. Sometimes life is like that, but if you’re there all the time it’s worth asking why.

Do you rush from one meeting to the next, unsure what you accomplished? That’s quadrant three, the combination of urgent and not important tasks. A nasty precursor to life in quadrant one.

Or do you lounge around in quadrant four consumed with non urgent, non important things like Facebook and Netflix. Are you trying to decompress from your time in quadrants one and three? I get it but….

Now look at quadrant two – home of not urgent but very important tasks – the place where contemplation, deliberation, dreaming and planning occur. How can we expect to execute big plans if we spend no time plotting how to go about it?

I now book quadrant two time into my calendar every week.

Sometimes it gets hijacked by urgent things, but whatever. This practice is where my new business was born. It’s also where I plan how I want my life to be in 20 years, ways I can improve my marriage, and what I can do each day to help other people. Covey has some great resources to help you in the same process.

Friends, it’s not unusual to consider our big dreams, it’s unusual to act on them. With regular, deliberate climbing.

focus.pngSteven Covey and Marie Kondo are two reasons this blog is going to retire soon. In its place is a whole new world of creativity, encouragement and resources to help you get to know the God who created you, so you can figure out what he created you for.

If that sounds interesting, subscribe to this blog to stay in the loop with our rollout, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Here’s to new beginnings. Yours and ours!

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Afraid of Failed Resolutions?

Do you have a big goal for 2016? Are you shoring yourself up today, with solemn vows, threats and motivational thinking, so you don’t quit by February?

Me too. Here’s a thought for today.

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The War of Art by Steven Pressfield was one of the best books I read in 2015. In it, he says the enemy of our progress is not the size of our goals but the “Resistance” we face in our daily attempts.

Yes, exactly! That’s what I do when I quit running or writing or practicing my French. It’s not even a conscious decision, it’s just that life seeps in the cracks, expanding and contracting until my resolve crumbles like busted up asphalt. 

That’s resistance and life’s not going to stop doing that. The professional shows up and hunkers down anyway, while the amateur sighs and rings in February.

I don’t suppose it matters much what you’re trying to do in 2016 –  lose 20, get out of debt, write a book, make your marriage better – the victory exists in the daily showing up, deciding to go pro.

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But the professional is not dumb either, so rather than set a bunch of lofty goals I’m bound to fail at, I’ve crafted a few small ones, which, if I attend to them daily, should add up to something interesting in 2016.

Here they are:

  1. Write a little.
  2. Get on my mat.
  3. Drink water.
  4. Walk.
  5. Speak French.

Small and quotidian, without arbitrary quantities, (Science says that helps), each of them is something I enjoy, so if I will simply roll out my mat and get on it, or sit and my desk, I’m bound to stay longer than I planned. Over time, that adds up to interesting.

Pressfield who’s also written several heady books on Ancient Greece, says the question is not, did I write with genius today but rather, did I overcome Resistance? Did I sit down and try?

That is such a better question.

One more thought on the matter:

Do you ever wonder how King Solomon felt when his dad rolled out the plans for the Temple in Jerusalem and told him to build it?

Probably not, but I have.

“Uhhhh Dad?”

Here’s what David said to Solomon to encourage him, and it seems like a thought worthy of posting on the bathroom mirror this New Year’s Day.

stars6Remember, our part is to show up daily and act!

How nice that He promises to help us along.

Quit Staring At Your Muffin Tops

Let’s just get this out of the way, shall we? It’s New Year’s Eve, and I suspect, by the new muffin tops spilling over the edge of my yoga pants, I may have eaten too much again this year.

Shocking!

Last night, I made my yoga students hold Warrior II foreverrrrrrrr, while telling them to leave the self-loathing over holiday gluttony on the mat. “It’s a waste of our time, ladies! You’re strong and beautiful, and you’re here getting stronger and more beautiful. So good! Three more breaths.”

Warrior II. Photo Credit Tim Cigleske

Warrior II. Photo Credit Tim Cigleske

A teacher of mine is fond of saying: You cannot be selfish and happy, and that’s why I think New Year’s resolutions, particularly those surrounding weight loss, slip off us like soap in the shower.

We want to get in shape, because we think it will make us happy, and to a degree it’s does, but I’ve been at my “goal weight” and seen all the muscles in my arms, and guess what? I just found something else that needed fixing. Relentless discontent dogs me when it’s all about me. In other words:

I OBSESS ABOUT MY MUFFIN TOPS WHEN I STARE AT MYSELF IN THE MIRROR.

So in 2014, I’m going to quit staring at myself and stare at somebody else instead.

Like the couple in church who, despite having at least three, sometimes five, kids, just swooped into CPS-land and got four more. It is a proven fact that helping them makes me happier than losing ten pounds.

Or perhaps I will stare at another family I know that’s a little short right now, and run to Sam’s Club for them. That plan bubbled up at Love Dinner Saturday night because there is a need, we know what it is and we can meet it – simple.

The Love Dinner gals have been cooking this in their own kitchens for months now. One of them used a Macy’s gift card she got for her birthday to buy new clothes for a Hispanic woman living with her three kids at the crisis center. Another helped an older woman clean up her child’s vomit in Taco Bell. Another gave a young mother pushing a stroller in the dark, a ride to the grocery store and back home.

See, the LD gals know that the Love of God must be attached to hands and feet. This country is drowning in theology while the world dies of hunger. How can that be when the Bible says, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:26

Muffin Tops Cannot Survive this Pose! Photo Credit: Flashflood

BTW – Muffin Tops Cannot Survive this Pose! Photo Credit: Flashflood

The good news about love and service is that it feels good. When somebody’s life is demonstrably better because you showed up, it’s exhilarating and holy because you sense there’s something larger at work. Though you can’t see it yet, you are building great amphitheaters and skyways and rose gardens in the eternal Kingdom of God.

And it’s easy. Look around.

Does some kid in your neighborhood need a trusted adult? Is there an elderly widow who needs a cup of tea? AIDS orphans surely need a sponsor, and Mercy Ships needs a lot more doctors, nurses and dollars for the new ship.

So go ahead lose the ten pounds here’s a tool I like, and come to yoga in Mineola; then unhand the muffin tops and go get happy helping someone else. Let me know how it goes.

Happy 2014!