Motivation Monday, Projects

You don’t have to want to do it

I love my job.

Really. It’s a cool job, and I love doing it.

But there are parts of my job – mailing Quarterly 941 Tax Return to the IRS, filing sales tax reports on time, reconciling accounts, keeping track of addresses, remembering the passwords for various websites, answering the phone for telemarketers, renewing my insurance and licenses, catching up when I’ve fallen behind on some of those tasks – that I don’t particularly enjoy doing.

I like working with individuals, having conversations that help people grow, seeing people improving their flexibility, strength and coordination, engaging with people, teaching.

BUT – If I don’t do the things I don’t like doing…I won’t get to do the things I do like doing. (sorry for all the double negatives here)

Does that sound crazy?

What’s even crazier is that I love having done the things I don’t like doing. I love the feeling of relief that comes when a nagging or unpleasant task is over. I love knowing that I haven’t let some large thing slip through the cracks – or if I have let that thing slip through the cracks that I have filled the crack and things will no longer slip through it.

I think it’s useful to keep this in mind because it helps you do the things you don’t love doing. Because they have to get done whether you want to do it or not.

So – for this week – remember, whatever it is for you. You don’t have to like doing it.

 

Motivation Monday, Projects

Wish your alternate self well

One of the things that I’ve found follows me through life is the wondering questions, “what if…”

What if I had majored in x?

What if that relationship had worked out?

What if I had made that move after all?

What if I had turned left instead of right?

I think this idea is most beautifully expressed in Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken:

The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
I love these two lines of the poem:
“Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back…”
It’s true. There are many decisions we never get to come back to.
In Science fiction, there’s a popular trope of the alternate universe. A parallel world where at one time, one decision was changed and everything that followed was different.
kira_and_the_intendantMy favorite example of this is the alternate universe episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space 9. I’ll be honest, I prefer the DS9 universe where people are kind, ethical, work hard, solve problems, etc. But it’s fun, about once a season, to imagine that this utopian world could have been different. darker. That things weren’t destined to turn out that way.
What does this have to do with motivation?
Sometimes, I find myself falling into the trap of regretting the roads not taken in my life: the opportunities turned down, the choices made or not made.
Then, I remember that there could be an alternate universe out there. A place where I did make that decision. There could be millions upon millions of alternate Maggie’s in the parallel universes out there living out all the dreams, hopes, and desires that I can’t fit into this one life that I am living. She’s living with the positive and negative side effects of that decision, just as I am living with the positive and negative side effects of the decisions I’ve made in my life.
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Then, for whatever decision I’m feeling wistful about today, I wish that alternate universe Maggie well.
I hope that whatever decision she made – whether it was to choose a different job, travel the world, spend a year in silent meditation in a cave in Bangladesh, become a vegan – worked out well for her and that she’s happy. Then, I choose to wish myself well, too. Because unless we discover an anomaly in the space-time continuum, this is the only universe I get to experience. And I get to experience less of it when I’m dreaming and imaging I’m living some other version of my life.
So, I hope you enjoy our wonderful universe this week, and wish all of the alternate realities out there a great week, too!
Motivation Monday, Projects

Ask for help

Two weeks ago, I wrote about how for that week, I needed to stretch myself and get it done. It was a week where everything needed to happen, and I needed to do it.

After 24 hours of contemplating this, I cracked.

I realized that I didn’t have the emotional or energy reserves to be Wonder Mom or Super Woman for the week, and I needed help! So, I did what any grown woman would do in that situation, I called my mom.

“Don’t you want to drive down and spend the week with me?!?!?!”

Luckily for me, it worked out, and as a bonus I got to spend a few days not just with my mom, but also with two of my sisters and her dog. It made a hard week more fun for me and my daughters.

I often think I’m being weak or lazy when I ask for help, but I think it’s also valuable – dare I say essential – to recognize that we can’t do everything for ourselves or by ourselves. Sometimes, you need a little support, and other times, you need a lot of support.

So, I hope that this week, when you need it, you’ll remember to ask for help.

Motivation Monday, Projects

Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing

Fun Fact: When you get to Florida, about halfway down the peninsula, you move from the temperate climate with the four seasons “spring, summer, fall and winter” and instead have a more tropical climate that follows the “wet season, rainy season” pattern. I live right at the edge between the tropical and temperate zones, so we have “seasons” but it’s mostly a wet and dry season.

That’s all to say, we’ve officially entered the wet season, and it has been wet for the last two weeks.

This is a blessing for thirsty yards and has slowed the spread of wildfires we’ve been experiencing frequently this Spring. But, it also means that the air is full of allergens and we’ve experienced a huge increase in our local mosquito population.

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Mercifully, the Zika fear has largely passed, and we in Florida don’t usually have to worry about mosquitoes passing along diseases, but the bites are nevertheless unpleasant, and the urge to scratch a bite is almost impossible to resist. But…the fastest way for a mosquito bite to heal is to leave it alone. This is difficult to explain to my four-year-old, and we have an on-hand supply of benedryl cream, children’s benedryl, witch hazel, and other home remedies to ease the discomfort of the mosquito bite.

I was thinking about that today because I think there are many mosquito bites in our life; annoyances that are tempting to scratch, but the more we scratch, the worse it gets. In fact, the relatively harmless bite can become infected and dangerous is you scratch it too much.

In these situations, the best thing we can do is leave it alone. Many situations will resolve themselves without our action and the more we do to “help” the longer we make it last.

I hope this is a helpful tip for you! Let me know if it works for you and how you decide if something is a “mosquito bite” or not.

Motivation Monday

Take Chances, Make Mistakes, Get Messy!

Lately, we’ve started a tradition in my house of watching the 90s PBS Hit, The Magic School Bus with my daughters while we eat lunch.

It is a compromise. I don’t like letting my daughters watch a lot of television, but if I say, “No you can’t watch television ever.” The older one asks to watch tv ALL the time. So, we schedule it. At lunch time, 2 episodes.

Also, I love The Magic School Bus. In every episode, you know it’s time for a field trip when Ms. Frizzle (voiced by the amazing Lily Tomlin), says, “I think it’s time to take chances, make mistakes, and GET MESSY!”

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Isn’t that a great mantra?

How often do we avoid doing something because we’re afraid of taking chances…because it might not turn out well. How often do we stick to what’s safe because we’re afraid to make mistakes. And how often do you avoid getting messy?

One of the things I love about the show is that the kids in Ms. Frizzle’s class do make mistakes, they make bad assumptions, they get messy. But, they always figure it out and learn a valuable lesson along the way.

So often we give other people permission to take chances, make mistakes and get messy – but we don’t give it to ourselves (I know I don’t!). So…even if it’s just a little step…I hope you look for opportunities to follow Ms. Frizzle’s advice this week and step outside your comfort zone to see what happens!

Have a great week!

Motivation Monday, Projects

I take my positive attitude very seriously

A few weeks ago, we were talking about self-esteem in one of my taekwondo classes. A little girl, about 7, raised her hand and said, “You can have a positive attitude in school, or you can be serious.”

I responded, “I take my positive attitude very seriously.”

I think my student has unconsciously learned something that most of us believe – we can either have fun or we can get stuff done.

But why is that?

Why can’t we have fun while we get stuff done?

I went on to say to my student that I think being silly and being positive are very different things.

I’m going to be really hokey here – but I take my positive attitude very seriously. I make a choice every day to be grateful, to remind myself of the things I love, and practice joy.

I know there a plenty of reasons to feel despair about the world. Just yesterday, I read about child marriage, sea turtles eating microplastics and how women in refugee camps don’t have adequate access to menstrual products and facilities to manage their periods. So yeah – there are a lot of terrible things in the world, and not only are they terrible, but they’re complicated and hard to fix.

But the fact is, I’m not doing anything to help any of these problems if I sit around feeling terrible about it all day. 

So, I take time to remind myself of the things I’m grateful for: I’m grateful for air conditioning; I’m grateful for my daughters; I’m grateful for my health; I’m grateful for sunshine; I’m grateful for my dog; I’m grateful for the problems and challenges I’ve had to figure out in my life because they’ve expanded my capacity; I’m grateful for the families that trust my husband and me to teach their children Martial Arts; I’m grateful for telephones; I’m grateful for the internet; I’m grateful for reliable transportation; I’m so grateful for my husband – I’m grateful that he’s neat and tidy; I’m grateful that he’s a wonderful father; I’m grateful that he accepts me as I am and helps me be more; I’m grateful for indoor plumbing and clean running water…

Once I get started, I find myself appreciating my life, the world I live in and I feel more empowered to do something about the problems that are in front of me. Maybe I can’t save all the sea turtles, but I can stop using plastic straws, I can use reusable grocery bags, I can stop buying plastic silverware. I can donate a box of pads to a local shelter. It’s not a lot. It doesn’t solve everything, but it’s one thing. And once you’ve started one thing, there’s a chance you’ll do another thing.

The magical thing for me about gratitude, love, and joy is that they instantly replace the feeling of despair and helplessness with something better. Knowing that good things have happened and are happening helps me have faith that these good things will continue to happen.

It’s a little thing, but it helps.

If you need more convincing, I give you my favorite exercise philosopher, Elle Woods:

Do you have any tips for developing a positive attitude? I do take this very seriously, and I’m always looking for more ideas and strategies to keep my spirits lifted! Leave a comment below!

Motivation Monday, Projects

You shouldn’t always do the opposite of a bad thing

There are some people in my life, and I’m sure you have them too, that I refer to as “reverse barometers.” These are people – whether it’s a manager at work, government official, distant relative, etc. – with whom you want to share nothing in common.

It’s tempting to think to yourself, “if so-and-so does this, then the best course of action is to do the exact opposite.”

Unfortunately, that is usually not the case.

What I have found over and over again is that the “reverse barometers” in my life are not doing everything wrong. Sometimes they have a tone, an attitude, an approach that is ineffective, but doing the opposite does not guarantee a good result.

I took a driving class once, and we had the opportunity to practice driving on a course that simulated hydroplaning, obstacles on the road, and other dangers you might see on the road. And one of the big things I took away from that class was that you shouldn’t overcorrect in your car. It’s dangerous and jarring.

In your life and leadership style – whether you’re a parent, a friend, a manager, or some other sort of leader – I believe that you’ll find that gentle course corrections are smoother, easier to maintain and more effective. This can be hard to do because we often have strong feelings about the “reverse barometers” in our life. But, I think it’s helpful – for our souls and for our actions – to give them a little grace, and not assume that EVERYTHING they do is wrong.

So, this week, I invite you to look at a frustrating leader in your life or experience, and see if you can decide what about their approach you think you could tweak or modify to make it more effective. A small tweak can lead to a big change!

Have a great week!

Motivation Monday, Projects

5 Tips for Overcoming Insurmountable 1st Steps

Many weeks, my Mondays start with me thinking:

“It’s 9:00 AM! Why haven’t I had breakfast, responded to all my email, played with my kids for an hour, exercised for 45 minutes, meditated, showered, shared a dynamic conversation over coffee with my husband, and planned my whole week? I’m such a failure!”

My expectations are a teensy-weency bit unrealistic.

The only reason that this is a problem is that once I’ve started getting down on myself, I tend to have a hard time getting started on the things I want and need to do. For my business, I frequently need to process memberships, order merchandise, and take care of routine accounting tasks, but when I sit down at my desk, I’m so overwhelmed by all I have to do that sometimes I don’t get any of it done!

These are some strategies I use to help myself overcome the weight of the greatest insurmountable first step – getting started!

  1. Make a playlist

Upbeat music is remarkably helpful for getting you started actually doing something. I find I can’t focus when I’m listening to people talking, so even though I love listening and learning from podcasts, when I need to get stuff done, I listen to music. Some of my favorite songs are on our 3:30 Project playlist on Spotify.

Spotify is a great tool because you can create your own custom playlists or listen to playlists other people have made!

2.  Do SOMETHING early in the day

My workday doesn’t usually begin until about 1:00 in the afternoon, which I know is a little unusual. But what I’ve found is that I still need to do some work that gets me closer to a goal or takes care of an important task early in the day. If I don’t, I tend to feel like, “well, today’s been a waste, let’s try again tomorrow.” I recognize that this is not true, but it’s easier for me to keep the momentum going than to try to start from scratch later in the day.

3. Prioritize your to-do list

Stephen Covey talks about the importance of differentiating between what is urgent and what is most important. Responding to emails, texts and phone calls can take over your day because those feel urgent. We can get carried away taking care of other people’s priorities and missing our own. Make sure you know what your most important task for the day is an get to that first rather than putting it off – even in favor of shorter tasks that can be checked off your list quickly.

4. Break down big projects into smaller steps

I often get hung up on multi-step tasks because I over-chunk it. For example, earlier this year I was working on filing my corporate tax return. And when I thought “TAX RETURN” I was overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start. But, when I broke it down into smaller steps (ex. collect documents from 2016, print out statements from banks, charities and loans, download software, etc.), I was able to make some incremental progress, which gave me momentum in taking care of the big task. I find it remarkable how much a little forward progress can give me the motivation to keep going on a big project.

5. Give yourself credit for the progress you’ve made

Often I wait until I’m totally done with a project to give myself a pat on the back. But when you withhold praise from yourself, you’re less likely to keep going and making progress. You deserve to feel good for the progress you’ve made – even if it’s just a little bit. So, even if you just did one teeny-weeny-iddi-bitty little thing, it’s progress that you can build on! Great job!

 

Do you have any great tips for getting started and making progress on Mondays? I’m always on the look out for ways to be more productive! Leave your tips in the comments section!

 

Motivation Monday, Projects

Your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness

In my Martial Arts academy, we teach sparring. It’s usually considered an advantage in our style to be tall – taller people have long legs, so they have more reach and can often kick their opponent before their opponent reaches them. But, if you can get around their legs, their height becomes a weakness. Taller people tend to be easy to get off balance and if you get “inside” you can hit them with a punch or hand technique, and their legs are too long to kick you away.

In business, large companies have a lot of power – they have large advertising budgets, nationwide distribution networks, bargaining power, research teams and analysts at their disposal. But their strength is also their weakness. By necessity they have bureaucracies to manage day-to-day operations. If they want to make a change, they have to spend a lot of time and money re-training everyone in the company. They can get rooted in an “old” way of doing things and be blindsided by changes in culture or technology. And in the age of cell phone video, as United Airlines has recently experienced, if you have one series of unfortunate PR events, the whole company is damaged.

I think it’s helpful to remember this because it’s useful to consider the downsides of your strengths, not so you go through life second guessing yourself, but so you can avoid being your own worst enemy. Maybe you’re someone who is energized by new projects or ideas, but you have a hard time following through to the end. You can acknowledge and address this potential liability by teaming up with people who will help you follow through, or you can structure your career or activities to be focused on starting new things. Maybe you’re someone who’s really good at seeing the potential risks of a new venture, but you tend to get analysis paralysis and delay taking actions. Your strength can hold you back if you don’t recognize it and find a way to move forward.

I hope this idea helps you think about your strengths and not be held back by the weaknesses that accompany them!

Also – I feel like it wouldn’t count as a Motivation Monday without a clip from an animated movie, so here’s a fun illustration of this idea from Kung Fu Panda

Motivation Monday, Projects

Being where you are

This week, I’ve felt a little discouraged because I haven’t made more progress on my goals: I’m not caught up on everything I need to be caught up on; I’m not managing my time as well as I’d like; I have a mountain of work that I want to do that I’m not doing up to my standard.

When I look around, I see people who are doing the kinds of things I want to be doing. And from my perspective, they are doing them way better than I will ever be able to do them, and I just feel like giving up.

Why bother trying to write a Motivation Monday blog when there are 10,000,000 other resources that are way more motivating than anything I can offer? Why bother trying to put your voice out there when other voices are more eloquent and articulate than anything I can write? Why bother trying to run a business when 90% of small businesses fail anyway?

So, today, I’m going to try to remember that these people I look up to didn’t start out as the eloquent, together, polished, inspiring people I see today. They started wherever they were with whatever resources they had.

“Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.”
― Mary Anne Radmacher

My resolution for the new year was to be and do a little better. I know the only way to reach a destination, whether it’s a physical destination, an accomplishment, or a mental state is to take one step in the right direction and adjust as you go.

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So, wherever you’re going. I hope you take a moment today to give yourself credit for all the distance you’ve already covered and have the courage to try again today and tomorrow to take one more step.