Making the leap

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Imagine yourself standing on the edge of a stream. It’s not huge, but it’s wide enough that you’re a little scared of falling in if you were to jump over it and getting yourself from one side to the other would definitely take a big leap. It’s just you and the stream.

Now, the side of the stream you’re on is fine. There’s some decent berry bushes, the grass is soft and comfortable. You could just sit down in the sunshine, snack on some berries, and be content.  And, besides, you can’t really see what’s on the other side of the stream very well anyways because, besides the place you’d land if you were to jump, there’s trees clouding your view. So staying here, on this side of the stream, where it’s safe and there’s berries and sunshine and a soft place to sit – that’s fine.

Now imagine, you’re sitting on your side of the stream and all of a sudden you notice a flicker through the trees on the other side. At first, it’s just a slight distraction and you brush it off. Then you hear the chiming of some music and you notice the flicker again. Is that an ice cream truck? You brush it off, but it’s a little harder this time. Then more music and you actually see the outline of the truck. It’s definitely an ice cream truck.

And. You. Love. Ice Cream.

Suddenly, your safe side of the stream doesn’t seem so great any more. Berries vs. ice cream? I mean…come on.

So you start to work up the courage to jump over that stream. At first you take a run toward it and balk. You’re scared, it’s understandable. Then finally, after convincing yourself that the ice cream can’t be denied, you take a running leap and soar over the stream, running at full steam through the woods, and right up to the ice cream truck where you delight in enjoying your favorite flavor in a waffle cone.

The Stream and the Ice Cream

Now, what if you replaced the parts of that story with normal, every day things? Humor me this example:

  • Current side of the stream = your present. It’s safe. There’s some nice things. But it’s just fine (especially once you know what’s on the other side of the stream).
  • The other side of the stream = your future. There’s something great over there. You may not be able to see it at first (blocked by some trees), but the longer you pay attention to the signs of what’s possible (the flicker, the music), you realize that it’s where you really want to be.
  • Leaping over the stream = the action to go from where you are now to where you could be.

Now, what happens when we try to cross our metaphorical stream?

We might realize that we imagined the stream was bigger than it actually was (aka we freaked ourselves out more than necessary).

Other times, the stream’s bigger than we thought it was, but that means we’re so much prouder of ourselves when we accomplish the leap.

And other times, still, we leap and we fall in the water. But what’s the worst that happens in that case? Most times, we just get wet. Yeah, being all wet sucks, but the stream’s shallow so it’s not like we drowned or anything. In this instance, I see two choices.

  1. We can choose to wade back to the safe side of the stream.
  2. We can slog through the stream to climb up on the new side.

The first option is fine, as long as we don’t get so upset at being wet that we refuse to try the leap again. Remember, even though you got wet, you can adjust your technique (a longer running start, jump higher, etc.) to make a better attempt. You learned something by falling, so that you can improve the next time.

What are you dealing with in life right now where you feel like you’re staying on the safe side of the stream? It might be a job, a relationship, a fitness goal or something else entirely. What sort of leap do you need to take to get to the other side? And will you be courageous enough to take it?

I hope so. Because ice cream is always worth it.

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Wooden spoons and watching the traffic

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I had a breakthrough the other day and I’ve just been waiting for the time that I could write this down and share it, because I think it’s something anyone in a marriage, relationship, friendship, family, etc. can probably relate to. Here’s what happened:

The Wooden Spoon

The other night, I chose to head to bed but my husband stayed up and was making himself a smoothie. Now, our blender’s okay, but it’s not the greatest. It especially struggles with the frozen fruit we use in our smoothies, so often you have to get a spatula or a spoon and keep pushing the contents of the blender down on the blade, just to make sure everything gets pulverized adequately.

So, I wake up the next morning, I’m putzing around the kitchen, loading the dishwasher, etc. and there in my sink is one of my wooden spoons – the end of it completely mangled. It was clear what had happened – my husband had grabbed the wooden spoon to push all the ingredients down in the blender and got the spoon a little too close to the blade.

I’m not going to lie; my first thoughts weren’t nice.

What was he thinking? How could he be so dumb? Couldn’t he pay attention and not shove the spoon all the way to the bottom, knowing that there’s this super sharp spinning piece of metal down there that’s only job is to chop things up into super tiny pieces?!?! Is he just TRYING to ruin my kitchen utensils?! UGHHHHH…

Yeah, I’m not proud, but that’s where my mind jumped in the moment.

Watching the Traffic

Before I finish this story, I should take a step back.

Over the past six weeks or so, I’ve been “working on me”. Better fitness. Better career. Better self. In the “better self” category, I’ve been meditating, using the guided meditation app “Headspace“. (Side note – I highly recommend it if you’re a beginner at meditating and need a little assistance, like I do.)

One of the first things you learn about in the Headspace guided meditations is the idea of “watching the traffic”. So often our minds are racing, jumping from thought to thought. Headspace recommends treating your mind as thought you’re sitting on the side of the road, watching the traffic go by. Each thought is a car. Some cars might stick out more than others. You can see that big, flashy car. You can acknowledge that it’s there. But then, you let it pass and go back to just watching. This analogy has been incredibly helpful for me in mediations and even outside of meditations, when I see myself getting fixated on something (especially frustrating thoughts). (Here’s a great video on this idea.)

Letting the Car Go By

So, here I am, taking my morning walk and still irritated about this spoon. Sarcastic, nit-picky, nagging thoughts are running through my head. Man, when I talk to him, I’m going to say…

And then, all of a sudden, I realized this irritation and frustration about the spoon was one of those big flashy cars backing up the traffic in my mind. Any other cars – potentially happy, inspiring, motivational thoughts – were getting caught behind this big negative one.

And so I chose to let that car pick up speed and drive off.

What followed was nothing short of a breakthrough for me. I recognized I was having that negative thought. I acknowledged it. And I let it pass by. What flooded in after it was thoughts of love, acceptance, and realization.

My husband hadn’t been trying to ruin the wooden spoon. He had just been making a smoothie and it was an accident. It was only a spoon – I’ve got lots of others. At the end of the day and in the greater scheme of things, this was no big deal.

Choosing Your Reaction

How often do we fixate on the tiny things in life that annoy us? How often to we harp back at people, toss out a sarcastic comment, or just make sure they have a little piece of our mind? Honestly, I can speak from experience and say that I do this way too much. Laundry laying around – Jeez, can’t pick up after yourself, huh? Dishes all over the counter when the diswasher is empty – How hard is it to pick up the plate, open the dishwasher and set it in?! <with over-dramatic demonstration of this, of course> Even if I don’t verbalize it, these sarcastic quips float around in my head all too frequently.

Oy.

I was sharing this story with my sister recently and she said, “You know, my boyfriend has said the same thing and it really makes me stop and think. He has said, ‘You know, I’m not trying to make you mad, right?’

And how true is that?! Most people in our life love, care and respect us. They aren’t trying to push our buttons on purpose. And how’s the old saying go? Something like, you get to choose how you feel/react?

So what if we took more time (myself included) to recognize these thoughts in ourselves, realize what’s happening, and let that car/thought pick up speed and drive off? And what if we replaced those negative thoughts with more compassionate ones? Would that make a huge impact on the quality of our relationships, making the world a happier, more loving place?

If this experience with a wooden spoon is any indication, I think so.

When a kick in the pants is mandatory

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I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the things I’m really working on is trying to get into shape. In high school, I was always active – gymnastics, dance team. But when I hit college – boom, full stop. Just go to the gym? Just to exercise? With no competition to prepare for? No team of girls to hang out with? No skills to learn? Thank you. But, no thank you.

Queue sedentary lifestyle fueled by some of the most delicious (and terrible for you) junk food.

My saving grace was that my college campus was huge and I walked everywhere. It wasn’t uncommon to get a few miles in daily, just in getting to class and work. Once I graduated, though, that built in movement went to the wayside. Suddenly, I was at a desk 8+ hours a day, driving back and forth to get to that desk and sitting on the couch indulging in Netflix and pizza at night.

Fast-forward five years to an ill-fated day five weeks ago.

After about six months of being frustrated because my clothes weren’t fitting, I bit the bullet and signed up to work out with a personal trainer. Now, I had worked out with a trainer before and, while I loved the gal I worked out with, I can’t say that I was super committed to it. I didn’t really have weight to lose, wasn’t training for anything specific – more or less, working out with her had been a way to make sure I was getting in the gym once a week (even if that wasn’t enough to make a huge difference).

I knew from the moment I met my new trainer, though, that this was going to be different. First things first, she put me on the scale.

?!?!

I had gained 15 pounds since the last time I’d been weighed, probably a year earlier. How was this possible?! I’d been the same weight roughly (through the grace of god or good metabolism – whatever) since pretty much high school. This was not good.

But as I thought about it more, I came to realize I was lucky it had only been 15 pounds and that I’d gotten off easy for so long. I didn’t move. I didn’t exercise. I ate nothing but junk food. I’d done this to myself.

And that 15 seconds on the scale was enough to give me a swift kick in the pants.

My trainer is one tough cookie, and I’m so thankful for that. In the last five weeks since that ill-fated moment, I’ve been eating better than I ever have and working out 4-5 times a week. I’m feeling better about myself and have finally gotten to that point where you’re like, “Oh, this is what people mean when they say that being in better shape gives you more energy.”

Amazing…

When you need a kick in the pants

I tell this story not to toot my own horn about getting in shape – there’s plenty of those stories out there if you want them. Rather, I tell this story to show that there are times when the only way you’re going to make a change is when you get an overwhelming, shocking, unexpected kick in the pants.

Ever have one of those?

Those kick in the pants moments often come when you’ve been coasting for too long. Everything’s been just fine. No need to put in extra effort because, well, it’s no big deal and you’re alright with where you are.

And then you have a “Holy $***!” moment.

Maybe you didn’t get the promotion you thought was so obviously coming your way. Maybe you get handed divorce papers when you thought your marriage was perfectly fine. Maybe you have some sort of health emergency.

Whatever it is, that kick in the pants is often the only thing jarring enough to wake you up to the reality you’ve been living in. And then there are two questions you’ve got to ask yourself:

  1. How the heck did I get here?
  2. What am I going to do about it?

Now, a lot of people hang out in question one. And it’s great to be self-aware enough to realize how you got to this point so you don’t repeat past mistakes. But it’s question 2 that’s the difference maker. Only those who make a choice to do something about it have the ability to turn their kick in the pants moment into a life changing opportunity.

For me, the kick was was gaining 15 pounds without even realizing it. I had to make a choice then and there to keep going like I had been and let that number creep up to 20, 25, 30 pounds or make some changes now to feel better about myself in the long run. I don’t know what your kick is. But whatever it might be, ask yourself – am I going to take advantage of this swift kick, or keep getting knocked down until it’s too hard to get up?

Going off-leash

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In honor of the fact that today marks 2 years since I’ve gotten my puppy (yes, I’m one of those people who calls every dog a puppy, no matter how old it is!), I’m going to tell a little story:

When we first got Leo, we lived in a house with no fenced-in yard. We were first time dog-owners so weren’t quite comfortable with setting up an invisible or in-ground fence yet, either. So whenever the dog needed to go outside to do his business, we would just take him out there on his leash. Rain or shine. Snow or sleet. If Leo needed to go outside, we both went out.

Flash forward a year or so.

We’ve since moved and now have a yard with a fence. When we first moved in, it was like, “This is great! Now I don’t have to go out in the snow, rain or sleet when the dog needs to go out!”

Or so I thought.

See, Leo had gotten used to having us with him when he needed to go do his thing. And the fact that we now had a fence didn’t mean he wanted that to stop.

He needed moral support, I think.

Now, sure, we’ve been in this new house with a fence for a little more than a year and he doesn’t always need us to go out with him. But every once in a while…

And so I was thinking about this the other day when we were having a bout of “I’m not walking off the deck unless you get out here too, no matter how bad I’ve got to go.” stubbornness when it occurred to me:

Isn’t this just like a lot of young people these days?

Now, stay with me here. I’m not saying young people need help going to the bathroom. What I’m saying is that a lot of young people have gotten so used to constant support – from parents, teachers, friends, coaches – that the minute they’re given free reign to do what they want or try things out for themselves, they get hesitant.

My generation – Millennials – gets dinged for this a lot. They all got participation trophies. They’ve got helicopter parents. They don’t know how to take initiative. I get it. We’re used to constant support. We’re used to being told what to do and how to do it. We’re used to a pat on the back when we’ve done well. And that’s not always realistic in the business world.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a middle ground.

I believe that both young people heading out on their own and the supervisors/managers they’ll eventually work for can take a lesson from Leo, such as:

  • It can take some time to get used to being on your own and “being off the leash”, so to speak. Take as much time as you need.
  • Sometimes, you’ve just got to do things by yourself. That doesn’t mean that someone won’t be keeping an eye on you from the window to make sure you’ll be okay.
  • Find some friends. Leo loves going outside with his friend Bailey (my sister’s maltese poodle) and couldn’t care less if I’m around. Sometimes venturing out into the unknown is a lot easier with a buddy by your side.

So with that, go forth and venture off the leash in some area of your life today! (And, if you’ve got the chance, go snuggle a puppy for good measure.)

 

 

2 reps or 3?

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I’ve been trying really hard lately to get back into shape, or at least set some better fitness habits. I’ve been going to the gym on a decently regular basis (for me), I’m working out with a trainer once a week and I’m trying to eat better. Baby steps, but motion in the right direction.

The other night, I was at the gym working out by myself. I’d done 15 minutes on the bike as a warm-up and now I was working my way through an ab workout I’d found on Pinterest.

Nine exercises. Sixty seconds each. Three times.

Simple enough, right?

I should back up and tell you that, when I’m working out by myself, I get bored really easily. That boredom usually leads to the lazy part of my brain taking hold.

***

Lazy Voice: Well, you’ve already got two reps in.

Rational Voice: Yeah, but I’m supposed to do three.

But two is already better than none.

Yeah, but I’m supposed to do three.

But you’ve already been here a half-hour. Aren’t you ready to go home?

Yes, but what’s another 15 minutes?

***

I can’t be the only one that’s had this inner battle between the Lazy Voice and the Rational Voice, right? It’s like the devil and the angel on your shoulders from all those old cartoons. The two sides of your conscience – the one that knows what’s right and what’s wrong. The one that knows the easy way out vs. the one that knows you’ve got to put the work in.

The question is: which one wins?

This inner battle doesn’t only come into play during workouts.

Have you ever had one of those days at work where if you just put in another hour you’d be so far ahead for the next day, but in reality you just want to cut out early and hit up happy hour?

Or what about that 30 minutes after dinner where it would be really helpful to start a load of laundry so you’re not rocking the sweats tomorrow, but sitting down for a binge-watch of Orange is the New Black just seems so much more appealing?

Lazy vs. Do the Work. Right vs. Wrong. Effort vs. Indulgence. It’s a battle for the ages.

So how do you make sure Do the Work/Right/Effort wins out?

I’m not sure there’s any one answer. For me, it’s making sure the self-talk of that voice is louder. It almost takes on the tone of Rocky or Denzel Washington a la Remember the Titans or (because I’m a former gymnast) Bela Karolyi circa 1996 Summer Olympics.

Let’s go! You can do this! Put in that 15 minutes! Finish that report! You go, girl! 

By making sure my supportive inner voice is loud, powerful and encouraging, 9 times out of 10 it wins the battle inside my mind. My workout the other day? I finished all three reps and I walked a mile before I headed home. And I felt better for pushing through.

What do you do to make sure your Do the Work/Right/Effort voice is the victor? Share in the comments!

 

Calm the heck down

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Do you ever have experiences where you work yourself up into a tizzy so much that your internal voice needs to reiterate in a shouty, annoyed tone, “Would you just calm the heck down?!?!” Maybe one of these days I’ll actually listen.

Last week, I had to deliver bad news to a client – we’re working on this giant project and we weren’t going to make a deadline. I was sure she was going to be upset and yell at me. I panicked. I practiced what I was going to say. I felt my pulse race. I took a deep breath and dialed the phone.

Client, I’m really sorry, but we’re working as fast and hard as we can but we won’t have this ready by Monday. I’m pulling people off other projects and putting them on this full-time, but it’s a lot to do and it can only go so fast. I know this isn’t ideal and I really apologize for that.

And what did they say?

I know you’re working hard. Keep chugging along and we’ll touch base next week to see where it’s at.

What?!

Where was the yelling? Where was the screaming? Where was the “What do you mean it won’t be done??” That’s what I’d prepared for! That’s what I’d panicked and had my heart racing for!

Color me surprised, to say the least.

I’m a traditional Type A personality that hates to let people down. I aim to please – always have. One of the unfortunate tradeoffs of that is that I hate (hate, hate) delivering bad news. My mind instantly goes to the worst-case scenario of what could happen and I do everything in my power to prepare for that, inevitably to attempt to soften the blow.

But what I’ve found is this:

People – whether they’re your clients, bosses, coworkers, friends, family…whoever – are human too.

Now, I’m not saying that you should go blowing deadlines all the time or continually disappoint people just because they’ll forgive you. But if you’re really trying your hardest and people see the effort you (and in my case, my team) are putting in, they’ll often be understanding when things don’t go as planned. And, being transparent and just picking up the phone (instead of procrastinating in your communication), goes a long way.

Now if I could just remember that in the future, my blood pressure would be a lot better off…

Dealing with disappointment

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Not our year

Being a college basketball fan in March can send you on the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. From the Cinderella schools who make a run in the NCAA tournament to those teams that are always near the top, but just hoping this year might be the one to bring that championship home – March Madness is ripe with excitement one way or another.

Unfortunately, for Michigan State fans, we ended up on the “lowest of lows” end of the spectrum all too early.

From frustration at “only” being a #2 seed on Selection Sunday to losing to Middle Tennessee on the first Friday of the tournament, to say that last week was rough for Spartan fans would be a gross understatement. I was at an on-campus bar to watch the last half of the game and you could feel the sadness emanating as it became clearer and clearer that this year would not be our shot at the championship.

“Not what we’re looking for”

Just 24 hours before Michigan State lost in painful fashion, I was sitting in the airport when I received a call notifying me that I hadn’t gotten a job that I’d interviewed for a week prior.

It was a tough decision, but the team has decided to go in a different direction. Classic HR.

The Five Stages

In both of these situations, I felt my brain going through the five stages of grief.

Denial
Job: This is not happening.
Basketball: This is not happening

Anger
Job: How could they not want me? They’ll regret it!
Basketball: Those dang Spartans! They blew it!

Bargaining
Job: Well, maybe if I just showed them how good I am, they’ll change their minds…
Basketball: Well, maybe they’ll go back and see that there was a mistake and we really should have won…

Depression
Job: Why doesn’t anybody want me?
Basketball: We’re never going to win the championship…

Acceptance
Job: Well, maybe this wasn’t the right opportunity or the right time for me. I’m glad they gave me the chance to interview and I’m sure another great job will come up again soon.
Basketball: Losing isn’t fun, but we’re fortunate as Michigan State fans that there’s pretty much always next year. I’m proud of how our team represented themselves all season and, as always, I’m proud to be a Spartan.

All in how you handle it

This last point, acceptance, is my favorite. It’s the one where you get to reflect and realize that everything will all be okay.

Disappointed as I was to not get the job, I realize that I’m fortunate to have a job now where people support me, my work is valued and I’m financially stable. It may not be the forever job, but it’s a great option while I’m working to find the next great thing.

And the next great thing will come.

I believe in the idea that things happen for a reason and that every experience is one to learn and grow from. This job may not have been the right fit for me now, but something else will come along that I’ll be perfect for.

And as for my Spartans? Well, let’s just say that it’s easier to get to acceptance when you’re represented by coaches and players this great.