30 Before 30 Update -Christmas Style

Christmas Update on my 30 by 30 project. What’s done, what’s in progress, and what have I given the boot from the list.

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ChristmasCardImage

Hi to all my Christmas Card readers! I wanted to be sure you got the full update on my 30 before 30 progress… but I realize (alas!) that none of you want to a 2 page Christmas letter.  I get it, don’t worry.

If you didn’t realize I was doing this project here’s where I first blogged about it.  If you click here you’ll find the last update I wrote in October.  April 3 is fast approaching to finish, but I’ll probably give myself until April 30th to complete the items.  One of my personal life philosophies is that “Getting there is half the fun.”  This is probably because I owned this suitcase as a kid.

care bears suitcse

Also because learning (and setting goals) in my personal life is something I consider it’s own reward.  I particularly like this quote in Warren Bennis’ book On becoming a Leader –

“Learning is experienced as a personal transformation.  A person does not gather learnings as possessions, but rather becomes a new person.  To learn is not to have, it is to be.” [emphasis mine]

Executive Summary. If you read nothing else, here’s what you need to know.

  • 9 Goals finished.
  • 8 Goals actively in progress
  • 2 Goals dropped due to obstacles.

Progress Report since October 3.

Goals I finished.

Although I originally planned to run the entire North Shore Trail Series (as both a New Years Resolution and part of this 30 by 30 list) some important things came up on the way.  For example, my brother-in-law’s wedding in Indiana, my final day of spring semester classes, and leading a board level retreat at church – an activity I consider to be one of my top accomplishments this year. The final race of the series was October – where I ran Ravenswood, in Gloucester MA.  I love that race, it’s beautiful.  Trail racing is also as hard as I remembered from HS cross country, and I’m not surprised that this year I racest my slowest pace times, despite actively logging more miles than last year.  There were other factors involved too, I’m sure.  Here’s the final NSTS point counts.

Floss Daily – I cracked down on my lax tooth care habits in November/December and worked hard on flossing every day.  How did I make this happen?  I started brushing my teeth with Ethan every night.  This is one of my favorite things about kids – they keep you real.  How could I not floss when Ethan wanted to as well?!  Attaching the new habit you want to do to an old habit is a proven method for making things stick.  After making this every part of my day, it’s pretty much routine now.

Goals Actively in Progress/ Half Finished

Meeting up with an old HS friend. Actively working on this… but scheduling old friends into your new routines is hard too.  Hoping to meeting up with plenty of old friends during Christmas break.

The Economics Course.   I completed the first 3 weeks of this Macroeconomics course… but then our internet was a little bit out of our control for about 5 weeks.  I couldn’t stream video.  When it finally got put to rights, I’ll be honest, I spent a week and a half catching up on my favorite TV Shows (Once, The Mindy Project, and New Girl) rather than learning more about the classical economists, supply side economics, and budget deficits.  The class wraps up this week… and there’s not way I’ll finished 9 weeks of material in the next 3 days.  We’ll see where this goal goes.

Recognize Influencers.  I ran into a woman I used to work with who really influenced how I build teams, achieve cohesive groups, and think about what it means to be inclusive.  We didn’t always see eye-to-eye when we worked, but she strongly influenced how I work with others and how I view leadership and success.  It was really great to let her know this, as well as apologize for some of my less than stellar behaviors. Two more to go!

Goals I dropped/ Am Skeptical I’ll finish.

Mentoring. I signed up to mentor a freshman at SSU this fall… but my student dropped the program and I was left without a mentee.  I’d still like to do this, but it looks like formal mentoring isn’t in the cards for me yet.

Graphic Design/Photo Editing. Depending on how I count this one, I’m either done… or it’s probably not going to happen. I has a really fun time over the summer reading more about graphic design theory.  This fall I spent an enjoyable evening completing this Skillshare Course in Lettering, and even produced this sign!  But, lately, I haven’t had very much interest in manipulating images.

Hand lettered Psalm SignReflective Summary

I could still probably pull off 25/30 of these goals… especially if I put more effort into the long term ones.  I spend a totally disproportional time job hunting compared with achieving any other goal.  However, this goal is also the most important to me.  Figuring out what to do with this blog/blogging future, then clarifying our family’s five year plan fall right under that.  The other goals are pretty peripheral… even if rock climbing would be really fun.

Once in Lifetime Plans and New Chapters in Life

The older I get, the more I realize, there are no such things as once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Not even that five month trip I took one time to New Zealand.

once in a lifetime

On Saturday I facilitated an orientation at my church for new leaders filling new positions in our new governance structure.  Watching people share their hearts, passion, and vision for these new roles, clarifying expectations, and being able to have a small part of this day was the culmination of an epic summer for me.

Each week this summer I felt stretched to my limit as I helped coordinate elements of this church transition and nominating process, alternately navigated my disappointment and elation about certain parts of my internship, and felt the full weight of being done graduate school.

However, in order to lead this orientation, which I desperately wanted to do, I turned down the opportunity to run one of the North Shore Trail Series races – despite my New Years Resolution and my 30 by 30 desire to do these things.

(Also – speaking of foiled plans – for the second time the Stand Up Paddleboarding appointment I’d made with friends was cancelled due to inclement weather – I may have to scratch that one from the lists.  Or blog about how i’m going to manage things that I’ve missed the window of opportunity on).

This choice between two things I really want to do is representative of one of my Secrets of Adulthood I think.

There are no once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

For me, this paradox, something both true and not true at the same time, comes up over and over.

As a teenager and young adult I felt bombarded by this phrase, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities were being thrust at me from all sides – to study abroad, choose a college, date, take summer jobs, travel.  Everything seemed like it gleamed with the possibility to change my life, and if I didn’t make the right choice I was going to miss out.  Trusted and not-so-reliable sources all had opinions on what the right choices were, too.

With a little bit of time on my side I’m beginning to see that there aren’t really any once-in-a-lifetime opportunities – even though, technically – everything is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

If you stand back a moment you realize – the event can be repeated. A five month trip to New Zealand.  Getting a college degree. Acting in a play.  Taking part in a flash mob. So you missed this one – don’t worry – there will be another chance with the right amount of money, time, or friends.

Taken as a total experience however, with each of the particular and terribly personal details in place – everything is a once in a lifetime opportunity.  I won’t get to travel “by myself” again – even if I choose to go alone on a trip, simply because “myself” doesn’t exist the same way it did in 2006 – without a husband, child, masters degree, and deep rooted involvement in a local church. Even if I take the same trip, follow the same route, and go by myself – it won’t be the same – it will be something new.  It will be a different once-in-a-lifetime experience.

As much as I hate the cliche “live every day as if it were your last” when I consider the sentiment behind it – that each day is a very particular occurrence, that won’t happen again – I am inclined not to gag quite so much.

Although – if every day really were my last – I’d eat donuts for breakfast daily.

Here I sit – with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of job hunting for a new position in a new field.  I have a certain amount of trepidation and desire to run straight back into the arms of all or any of my old jobs (yes, even outdoor education).  I’m choosing to call this a learning opportunity, and to take it as a chance to continue to be stretched to my limits, because it’s bound to make me uncomfortable.

Yet, at the same time, this isn’t the first time I’ve job hunted, and based on my readings and research on the topic of career development – it’s completely likely and predicable that I will not only change jobs, but careers several other times in my life.  I will invent new ways to tell my story that make it seem as though these moments of self-doubt and transition were simply logical next steps that I navigated with ease.

So… once in a lifetime… or not.

Further In and Further Up

I have a(nother) decent idea for a creative nonfiction memoir/self-help type book kicking around in my head.  I get those a lot.  Unsurprisingly it pulls together a lot of themes that I’ve blogged about over my 3(ish) years here at All Growing Up: coming of age, navigating the jump to web 2.0 and the idea of digital bilingualism (different from digital natives or digital immigrants), the importance of values, millenials, the frustration of not knowing what to do with your life… and so on.  I’m working slowly on refining the overwhelming amount of material I’d love to include in it.

One crazy thing I like to think about a lot is how deep life can be. My sister came up a couple weeks ago and asked me what life is like at 28.

Paraphrased conversation: Her “So besides take care of E what else do you do?” Me: “Oh you know, go to grad school, work part time, belong to a church community, hang out with my friends, volunteer with SalemRecycles. read a bunch.” Her: “That’s it huh?”

I’m 7 years older than her… which is a significant difference in terms of life experiences in your 20s.  But one thing I kept trying to impress on her is that the deeper you choose to know something, the more avenues it opens up – not fewer.

 

Tardis

(Okay. I know almost nothing about Dr. Who. But even I’ve heard about the TARDIS – where the inside is bigger than the outside).

That was a huge paradox that I didn’t get for a long time.  I’ve always prided myself on having a wide range of interests, being, as St. Paul says “all things to all people.”  I like to know a little bit about a lot of things: farming or philosophy – the Cartesian coordinate system or the digestive system. I think the current way of the world (ie: let me google that for you) is made for people like me. It brings me pain when people bring up a topic and I have nothing to contribute to it – with google, I can make and form an opinion in the space of three articles.

I didn’t want to choose one thing to pursue – because I was afraid that this would somehow limit my options. However, I’m getting older and the truth is, you have to choose. Well, you have to choose if you want to contribute meaningfully.  An introduction to a topic may make for good cocktail conversation – but won’t serve you in making a significant impact.  Perhaps it’s my own subjective growing older experience… but I want to make an impact.

Five Ways to Gain Self Knowledge

5 Ways to Gain Self Knowledge

One of my core beliefs is the importance of Self-Knowledge.

Self Knowledge is vital in order to discover how you should act in the future. Self awareness can help you to be more consistent and authentic in your decision making, to be realistic when goal setting, and to allow yourself make mistakes and build up your areas of weakness.

Sure, I know I’m not a morning person and I love comedies, but I’m referring much deeper information.  I’m thinking more along the lines of what enduring traits do you bring with you to new situation? – or conversely –  how do you manage to get in your own way?

Self-Knowledge may seem as easy as taking a moment to navel-gaze on a quiet weekend, but there are a couple reasons it’s harder than you might think.

One of the biggest obstacles to self knowledge? People are constantly on the lookout for items that reinforce what they think they already know.  We have pre-conceived notions of ourselves that might have been formed in childhood by our parents or certain situations.  As we move through life we are likely to selectively pay attention to the things that confirm those opinions.  This is called confirmation bias. Just ask all those people out there who listened to their friends that told them they “couldn’t make art” and now they think they’re “bad at art.” (Personal belief: It’s impossible to be bad at art. Museum of Bad Art aside for a moment).

Here’s a story from my own life: In high school, I was told that I was a good student and smart.  I also got good grades.  But like I shared over at Connect Shore, I had terrible study skills, rarely looked for connections between subjects, and I just accepted what I read.  I would never have thought to examine my belief that I was a good student when I was younger, because I got good grades.

Here are some ways I’ve used to discover who I really am over the years – you may find them useful as well.

1.  Meet New People.  People tend to stick with friends and others who share the same interests as them, unsurprisingly, but it’s also common to stick within your same age bracket when meeting others. Are all your friends the same age as you?  Consider be-friending those who come from different backgrounds perhaps by volunteering.  Meeting those who are older – perhaps at work, through book clubs or other meetups.  Don’t forget to ask questions about what has made these people who they are – what are some of the defining moments of their lives?

2.  Search for Different Ideas – Ideas and movements change over time. Conservatives of the past used to be some of the most ardent conservationists, desiring to see green spaces preserved for future generations.  Now, much less so. While ideas from the past have changed the way life is today, they have also changed themselves in the process of changing the zeitgeist.  I love the language and imagery that Peter Berger uses to describe societies which are built upon the sedimentation of past novel actions.  Even as we perform our actions we are either harkening back to past times, or perhaps deviating a finite but meaningful amount – then creating a new story or role for future followers.   Reading old books, particularly those before 1970, and books outside of your own discipline can give you these moments of insight into yourself and our collective history.

3. Take a Personality Test.   While  quizzes that reveal which Harry Potter character you are may be endlessly amusing those are hardly the type I’m talking about.  Instead, both popular personality tests like Myers-Briggs and lesser known tests like the DiSC have helped me discover different facets of my personality, as well as providing context for the assessment.  I’ve loved talking a variety of career tests over the years such as the Strengthsfinder and O*Net occupational assessment.  Even serious psychology tests such as the Schema Therapy Test have been insightful, with a little help in interpretation.

4.  Keep a Journal. Journals don’t have to be for recording the day to day humdrum.  They can be for responding to prompts like “ At what point in my life was I the happiest?” “What is one lesson I want to learn from the last 3 months?”  “What do I want to accomplish in the next year?” “How did my parents marriage (and/or divorce) affect the way I see relationships?”  “Who was the biggest influence on the way I see myself.”  Examine defining moments in your life, or perhaps write down things that bother you. I am continually surprised by how much I re-write my own past in discussion, and upon rereading my journals realize I wasn’t nearly as clever –  or wronged –  as I think I was.

5. Create a Council of Friends. As much as you can discover about yourself from objective personality tests or seeing how you differ from others, very little can stand in for trusted friends or experienced mentors.  Although many times it’s tempting to relax with friends and move mindlessly from entertainment to entertainment – don’t neglect soul baring conversations.  Ask tough questions, or analyze past decisions you’ve made in order to discover how you think and what you can improve in the future. Asking for others thoughts on your choices can reveal both strengths and weaknesses.

Hey if it was good enough for the Oracle at Delphi, it’s good enough for me.

//this post was updated from an earlier blog post of the same title.

Advice for the inbetween Times

Advice for the inbetween timesAdvice For The In-between Times.

May is a good time to give advice because people are looking for it:  Life changes happen a lot around this time of year: There are Graduations, Weddings and Babies, Apartment hunting, Job hunting and on and on. We may want to figure out New Years Resolutions on our own – but when things seem a little out of our control – and there are other people involved – we want some advice.

So, a little advice from someone who’s the veteran of quite a few life changes:

Answer the questions you can: When I entered college my major was undeclared, and by the end of the year I had switched it to English.

Why did I make that decision?

Looking back, one of the big reasons was because people didn’t know how to handle the label “Undecided” when they asked “What’s your major?”  Neither did I.  I wanted to be able to answer their questions, but I couldn’t.  I didn’t want to live in no man’s land. Of course, as soon as I switched my major to English, the question became “Oh, what do you want to do with that?”  Which, I also didn’t have an answer for.

People ask questions, and frankly, they’re just trying to make conversation.  It’s okay to say, “I don’t know.” If you’re afraid of shocked silence – you could also say “I’m interested in this (job, idea, movement) but I don’t have all the details figured out yet.” Your roles (or non-roles, like being ‘undecided’) shape you – but very few of your defining roles will last your whole life.

Make a contingency plan : Any information you gathered before you made your plan (no matter how exhaustive) is incomplete.  Before I got married, I quit my job to travel with my new husband; little did we know we’d be pregnant in less than two months.  I had made the job-quitting decision based on the best knowledge available.  However, the information I really needed – was a unknown.  Sometimes our best plans, best intentions, most carefully laid schedules are all based on information that can quickly become outdated and foolish.  At that point, cobble together a contingency plan, and go from there.

 Collaborate –I love the process of networking, but I hate the idea that I have to sell myself like a commodity. So often I find myself asking “Wait, what am I really good at again?”  If you’re confused about your skills – Back your friend’s projects.  Support their charity, champion their new business, read their writing.  It might give you ideas, and it will also create a support network for when you do figure out what you have to offer.  As one of my favorite writers, Gretchin Rubin, says, “People Succeed in Groups.”

 Something will always be the problem – No matter what changes in your life, there will always be something else.  My old camp director used to say “There’s always a harder camper waiting in the wings.”  The number one whiner of the week may have been sent home from acute homesickness – but the girl that wets the bed every night is just waiting to drown you.  Whatever your biggest problem right now – even if it’s solved there is another one waiting in the wings to take it’s place.  I find it helpful to, as Ann Vokamp says, Choose Joy.  Others would say to Focus on the Positive, but the idea is the same.

 These are four actions I’ve learned through my own life transitions – what are some things you’ve learned?  Also – who do you turn to for advice?

And, some recent great blog posts on advice I’ve been reading –

When is the best time to form habits?

(The spring 2013 story up until now – grad school up to my earsan attempt to prioritize – which brings us to…)

Habits.

Last week I had the pleasure of listening to Kelly Plosker speak at my local MOPS group.  She is bright, entertaining, hilarious, encouraging, thought-provoking, and authentic.  In short, she’s one of my favorite speakers.

She speaks often at our group – about things like vision, priorities, and how to keep yourself from going insane as the parent of a small child.  I love that.  However, this time, she spent a portion of her time talking about Habits.  I thought I should listen because I’ve been thinking a lot this semester about excellence and priorities, and how to live a good life by choice.  It seems as though, if these important things are to become second nature – the only way to do it will be through habits.

Most of the time I don’t think about my habits.  To be honest, I think that’s how it’s supposed to be.  These are your go-to routines, the bones of your day.  You don’t think about this critical framework…for the most part.

Kelly, she told us, Your habits are built during the easy times, so they will get you through the tough times.

And therein lies why she’s the speaker giving advice, and I’m the one listening and soaking it in.  Because my habits are usually just sort of routines I fell into.  I don’t much think about them, until they aren’t working. 

Because, in an ideal world, I would have done what Kelly suggests and created a habit when things were easy – when there was time, when I felt love and peace for the world at large, when I was getting a consistent 8 hours of sleep maybe, or had energy to spare?

In short – I would have started those habits 30 (or 66?) days ago.

But, mostly I fell into my habits the way people do – by accident.

So that I didn’t realize I had these habits – until they were already BAD habits – fully formed, taken root, and heartily thriving.

via Hannah’s Discovery.

A few of bad habits look like this:

– “checking facebook real quick” – and then spending an hour on rabbit trails down blogs and news stories.

– Of eating a snack after dinner that turns into one long nosh fest up until bed.

– Study interspersed with distractions and “breaks” that truly ruin my work flow, and create unneeded stress.

– Bringing up parenting problems  – as we’re running out the door, already late to events.

– Realizing my son thinks eating a meal means standing up and walking around… just like his mama.

It seems, for me anyway, that unconsidered habits are always bad habits – and I want to form good habits.

So, when is the best time to form correct habits?

The short answer is: Now.

The practical answer is much more complex – a whole blog worth of complex – because forming a habit is hard. Every good habit I have is the result of hard work and grit.  They are habits maintained in against the forces of time and tiredness, and with continual reinforcement.  (That’s a post for another time.)

Meanwhile, I’m going to work Now on those bad habits above – What about you?  Are there habits you have that just aren’t working for you? When do you think the time to work on habits is?  And how do you do it?

Other posts around the internet about Habits I’ve been reading:

Relevant Mag: 5 Things your Habits Say about you

Cracked: 5 Ways your brain tricks you into sticking with Bad Habits.

Storyline Blog:  How to change a Habit.

 

Regardless of How You Feel, Make Healthy Choices.

I was sitting in my Theories of Psychotherapy class a couple Mondays ago with a bright group of eager young men and women trying their hardest to figure out what is the best method of teaching people how to change.  Each week we’ve been covering a different school of thought – from Existentialism, to Behaviorism, to Cognitive Therapy.  And although each school of thought thinks different theoretical things; is it our perceptions that create our behavior, or our parents, for example.   It turns out that (this is really true) it doesn’t matter what orientation you pick as a therapist, they all have fairly similar effectiveness.

This particular night we were discussing Dialectical Behavior Therapy, which (among other things) stresses mindfulness, and creating a contract of agreement between therapist and client.  The professor, who practices this particular strain of therapy in his practice, made a statement about how the contract is basically to guarantee that the client will agree:

“Regardless of how you feel, Make Healthy Choices.”

And BAM.   A lightbulb went on over my head. {insert cheesy clipart}

This is one of my big “Secrets Of Adulthood.” (I learned about those from Gretching Rubin – some people call them “life hacks.”) 

I used to tell myself:  “Do what Needs to Get Done” which is sort of a nitty gritty “grin and bear it” type of philosophy.  That is, it doesn’t matter if you stayed up all night reading a book and eating muffins and you’re really tired, you have to go to work, to get paid, to be responsible, to pay the bills.  That thought was mostly based on the idea that there’s one right answer to “what needs to get done.”  But now, I can see that that was a really narrow focus, which dealt with very narrow problems.  (Re: Stayed up late reading YA fiction, too tired for work scenario.)

No, the more important thing to realize was that each person carries around this Ideal in their head of a “Healthy Adult.”  Maybe yours is your mother, a friend, or your third grade teacher.  And when you make choices, you’re striving to mimic and imitate this Healthy Adult.

But the problem is, lots and lots of time you don’t quite feel like making the right choices. And I don’t just mean because you’re tired.  Depression and Stress are two really big culprits that can deter people from making healthy choices.  But so can backing yourself into terrible situations like wrong jobs, wrong relationships, and worse addictions than eating too many muffins. Then there’s this big heaping dose of guilt, on top of the shame of messing u

And besides, you’re an adult, You don’t want to make this choice? Then don’t do it – put it off, see what happens…

Of course, that’s a recipe for snowballing disaster.  But paradoxically, making a healthy choice – even the smallest possible step in the right direction –  like putting on real clothes, eating vegetables, taking a walk, or striking one nagging item of your todo list –  puts you closer to being a healthy adult – not matter how far you still fall from the ideal.  Acting on reason, rather than acting on whims and feelings, to brings you closer to that ideal – not farther.

And therein lies the secret – You don’t have to actually feel like doing the healthy thing in order to actually do it. And surprisingly, your mood will improve if you do make the healthy choice, even though you didn’t feel like it.

So, get on it.