Category Archives: Reclaim Your Dreams

When Life is Not for the Fainthearted

I was heading on a family vacation where our biggest stressor was how to bring all the bikes over to the island with limited bike rack slots.

Then my Uncle died, he was ill but sooner than expected.

A friend texted that her dad was in the hospital.

Walking my pooch and a man grabbed his barking dog as we passed – a little too aggressively.

And the tenuous state of our US democracy …well.

I texted back my friend whose dad was in the hospital…

LIFE though, it is not for the fainthearted sometimes. 

She agreed. So what do you do?

You send your family off on vacation and will join them later so you can attend your uncle’s wake, even though you are not sure it will be of comfort to anyone. And then you see another Uncle, who you love so much and you hold hands and chat and wish you saw him more. And you talk to your sister in the parking lot who always has been there for you, literally since the day you were born.

You take the night shift at your dad’s bed side and stay when it turns into a 23 hours.

You make a call to adopt a dog and hug your own pooch a little tighter.

And you send a text to your Senator. And you hope and you pray that freedom wins.

And yes, you walk on the beach and feel grateful for the beauty. And blessed for friends who get it and family who you know are there for you always, and kids, now teens who are your heart.

And you love life anyway…

You don’t do everything and what you do is never enough. But you do something…One thing anyway. Over and over.

And you still you love life anyway …even enough to dream bold dreams when you feel like you may be fainthearted… because you aren’t. At least not today.

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Journaling Prompts to Focus Your Activism

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world. -Harriet Tubman

 

The Resistance has been in high gear since millions of women join forces in January to officially stand up for what we believe in and stand with those that are most vulnerable under the current administration. That may seem like a long time ago and although we have had some victories, there have also been setbacks and being asked to do so much in the midst of our family and work commitments, has left many of us feeling weary.

If this sounds like you, take a few minutes using these journal prompts to be intentional about how you want to focus your activism. This is the perfect time of year, to take a step back as there are an infinite number of important options, but without intentionally considering and deciding on a direction, you may be weighed down by too much activity or a lack of fulfillment in how you are spending your time. Although developed specifically for Activist activities, they can be applied to other areas of your life as well: 

    1. Make a list of the local or world issues, problems or subjects are most important to you? (e.g., voter suppression and GOTV, Russian election interference, environment, immigration, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, civil rights, healthcare, etc.)
    2. Now look at your list. Is there one that you feel called to? Or one that when looking back in five years it would be most important for you to have contributed? Or one that you feel is most urgent? Circle it.
    3. Optionally, are there particular skills that you can offer to support or lead the Resistance in this area? (e.g., writing, legal counsel, etc.) Or is there one particularly group that you feel connected to and committed to?
    4. Write down your one issue and/or the one skill, activity or group you’ve included. (e.g., My issue the Environment and focusing on the Environmental Voters Project; GOTV and helping to flip the Congress in 2018; Women’s empowerment and AWE) Decide how much time each day (or week) you’ll commit to your issue over the summer. 5 minutes or 5 hours, you decide.
    5. Write down one activity or group that you can QUIT (yes! quit!). You’ll be much more productive and impactful with focus.
    6. Name one self-care activity you will also commit to. It can be a creative pursuit, running, binge watching Netflix, or you name it.
    7. Your one area of focus doesn’t preclude you from helping out on other campaigns or activities when you can. Type “RESIST” to 504-09 for an easy way to fax a note to your Senators and Representatives anytime.)

 

Click here for ideas for taking up space in your own life

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12 Ways to Take Up Space in Your Busy Life

 

If you don’t choose how you spend your time, someone else will spend it for you.

Author Unknown

Here are some ideas for taking up space in your own life – with your voice and your time.

 

  1. Pick one thing. If you are an activist and volunteer contributing to so many activities that you feel ineffective and tired, take a step back and choose one activity or organization that you focus on. That’s your commitment. All other activities are optional. Go here for a simple process to pick your one issue.
  2. Quit meetings for a month. Instead of going to volunteer meetings, try practicing connection and contribution while you go about your daily activities. Live up to your responsibility as a human, but look for those opportunities throughout your ordinary day
  3. Express gratitude for one way you take up space today. It doesn’t matter how big or small it seems; identify one way that you express who you are in your life right now.
  4. Make time for brief moments of solitude. Even just a few minutes during the day can help you connect to yourself rather than being caught up in outside forces.
  5. Ask the Big Questions. Begin consciously considering what you want your life to be about, what your passions are, and what you would regret not pursuing. The answers to these questions should drive how you spend your time.
  6. Quit. If you are too busy to pursue what is most meaningful to you (or to take the time to figure out what that is), something has got to go. Evaluate your current optional commitments; begin by cutting out those that drain you.
  7. Create art. Buy a small journal or notebook just for self-expression. It will be one of the best purchases you will ever make. Spend even one minute a day writing or drawing a picture. No directions required.
  8. Make a Rote Response Card. Sometimes we end up compromising who we are because it is hard to say no. Write down on a small card your response to requests for your time or an opinion you are not prepared to give. Doesn’t have to be eloquent—“Huh, I’ll have to think about that and let you know” works.
  9. Initiate juicy, meaningful conversations in unlikely places. Shake things up…be determined to bring big ideas or something you are passionate about into sidelines conversation or while waiting in line at Starbucks. This is life-changing and I guarantee you will feel empowered and see humans differently when you do this regularly.
  10. Re-connect to a childhood passion. Think about what you loved to do as a kid as it can be a clue to your truest expressions.
  11. Express your uniqueness daily. Create a daily practice of doing or saying something that expresses you without regard to its popularity or commonality. It can be an expression of a core value, as simple as a wardrobe choice, or declining a social engagement that will leave you feeling drained.
  12. Make time to do absolutely nothing. Schedule time with no agenda other than to do whatever you want in that moment.

 

 

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Take 5

Taking up space is meant to be fun and freeing not a burdensome addition to your to-do list. Start by choosing one of the ideas above or try this favorite of mine: 

Give yourself room to play. Schedule a date with yourself to do something outside of your normal routine that expresses who you are or simply makes you feel a little giddy. Take photos in the city; Pretend you’re a screenwriter and spend the morning jotting down the characters in your movie; Grab a sketchbook and make a graffiti design; Research an EarthWatch expedition; Go for a run in a strange town…or you name it. 

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On Purpose and Politics

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I wrote this in my private client FB group a while back but it is generally relevant.

A month or so back I posted a blog i about a dream that I had with Hillary In it. I prefaced the blog by saying “this is not a political post.” 

It was not and I meant that. This is a group focused on reclaiming purpose and I wanted to respect the differing political view points of those here. I never hid where I stood, (ha – obviously). One only needed to see my profile picture which was a photo of HRC with the caption “keep calm, I am on my way” for the last year or follow my personal feed to see my passionate support “on my sleeve”. 

But now I see that I made a mistake. Not in respecting others viewpoints, but in silencing my own voice in this forum whose very existence is about purpose – because my own calling down to my bones is inextricably linked to empowerment and social justice for all – and politics, always but particularly this year is core to that in my view. 

Here, where we are focused on what really matters, writing about time
management and micro steps (albeit helpful) on days when my soul was screaming, “let justice reign” was being untrue to my voice and by association the world. 

Many of you know there is a secret Facebook group called Pantsuit Nation with over 3 million members. The men and women coming from every religion, socioeconomic, political party affiliation, race, gender and other demographic imaginable shared countless powerful stories about why they were supporting Hillary Clinton, all based on their personal experiences and a sense of human decency and respect for all.

I have wondered in the last days what the results of the election might have been if people like those in PSN had shared their compassionate, powerful personal stories publicly. (not a judgement as for some it would have been dangerous to do so.)

So what does this mean in real life? Not sure yet but the sobering results of the election have me once again asking the big questions.

If it did you too, don’t go back to business as usual. This is an opportunity to consider your life in the deepest way possible. 

As we are in the last quarter of the year, join me in considering what calls you down to your bones. For the sake of the world’s and your own soul, don’t ignore it. Don’t know what to do. Start today by free writing what comes to mind when you ask that question.

What calls you down to your bones? No judgment just write. #strongertogether #dontletitgo  ❤️❤️❤️❤️

When the Every Day is Everything

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“Be kind for everyone is fighting a hard battle.’ -John Watson (pen name Ian MacLaren)

It was a hectic morning. My daughter had to leave before 7:00 am to meet her high school sports team; my son for his usual early morning bus ride to junior high school.

And off they go…the passage of time hasn’t escaped me for a long time. But even more so today, though we are harried getting lunches and packing bags and finding socks – I intentionally take in every moment. Nope particularly today, I won’t hurry to get past the moment.

Whether at work or at home, my mind naturally tends toward strategy and macro action. See donuts in front of the gym after a basketball game. I explain to my kids why a donut after a game is not a good health choice, but I also want to understand the research on kids’ eating habits and how this decision to sell these sugary snacks impacts our kids’ long-term relationship with food and what we can do to change the policy. I know…I am a blast at parties and my children love this about me.

In real life, no matter how far your head is in the clouds or how big your dreams or strategic your work, sometimes, often you have to look for the socks. This is the hardest part of parenting for me because even with self-reliant kiddos the list of mundane tasks is pretty long, and there are many days where I fail miserably at it.

But today, I am grateful as I understand the significance of the mundane.

Today, I make my daughter’s lunch as she gathers her books and take in how meaningful it is when someone you loves helps you when your day is busy. Our time is tight, but I stop for a moment to hug my son good-bye a second time.

Last night we received an email from our school administration. The second this fall. Another student at our high school passed away after losing his battle with depression.

Yes, there is a time to ask the bigger questions, understand the underlying problem. But also today, before school and work and the tasks of the day, I take a moment to remind my kids. I love you. I believe in you. I am proud of you. I’ll strike up a conversation with the person waiting in line that looks tired. And thank the EMT workers for the job they do.

That’s not enough. I will do more. But today that it is all the meaning I can muster. The rest of the world will have to wait.

 

Be the Woman You Want Her to Become

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -Mahatma Ghandi

shutterstock_33451507Be the woman you want her to become. During a conversation recently with a friend about girl empowerment I shared what had been bothering me for a while,

“Did you ever notice that we invest so much time in ensuring our daughters pursue their dreams while most of us ignore our own or relegate our truest dreams to the back burner?”

She had noticed the same thing.

“What message does that send our girls and our boys about the importance of our desires and theirs too?”

If you ask any parent (or child), they will confirm that it is what we model in action that sends the most powerful message to young people Pursuing your dreams wholeheartedly isn’t selfish but is honoring Life and what you are designed to give to the world. It is speaking the truth in action that your life and time deserve the same level of attention and care as each member of your family.

What I have also noticed is that as children get older, they express significant pride in their parent’s professional accomplishments and impact on the world.

Take up space in your own life for the world’s sake and to give the girls and boys that are watching permission to do the same. 

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Five Traits of Dreamers Who Do

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Action expresses priorities. -Aristotle

I have worked with many women and also researched what characteristics and actions result in growing toward successful goal attainment. It is no surprised that no matter how varied the person or goal, there are common traits and actions that separate those who move forward on their dreams and those who don’t. Here are my top five favorites:

  1. Identify a clear vision or specific goal. Know where you are headed and why. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all dreamers have a mega vision to change the world or start a multibillion dollar company (though some do). But it does mean that their actions have a measurable end in mind. In general, goals are best set within a twelve to eighteen month timeframe and should be measurable. So, even if your vision is to end world hunger, think about what you can accomplish in the next twelve to eighteen months to that end. Sometimes women that I have worked with have are interested in developing a skill, like writing. In those examples, the goal is focused on a regular practice (like writing a blog daily or writing 500 words a day).
  2. Take action. Obvious, right? Without action, a dream won’t happen. Period. Taking consistent, imperfect micro action is the best antidote for fear and inertia. Trying “stuff” out before feeling ready requires a choice not to be derailed by mistakes.
  3. Keep your to-do list short and focus on your goal first. There will be many sparkly new ideas, goals, and projects that will vie for your attention. Keeping your list of goals really, really short will give you the time and energy you need to focus and make progress. For every week, identify one to three actions that will move you closer to the outcome you desire.
  4. Know what is meaningful to you. Successful {re}claimers love (or at minimum like) the work they are committed to. But, more importantly, they believe it to be meaningful and important. Passion can develop over time when invested in something where the results matter to you.
  5. Connect to a tribe. Dream seekers don’t go it alone. Mutual, concrete support through setbacks and successes is a non-negotiable must have. Find a friend, a mastermind, a group, or coach. You will increase your likelihood of success exponentially.

Take 5

How about you? Is there one non-negotiable trait or action that helps you to reach your goals?

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The Power of the Sh*tty First Draft

One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted to do.” -Paul Coehlo

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For many years, I didn’t move forward on what I truly desired; there were many factors holding me back.  Now, I see my most significant barrier was expecting absolute clarity and preparedness before moving forward. In other words, I was waiting to be perfectly ready and for a direction to be so unambiguous that there would be no doubt as to whether or not it was the right path for me.

That was a long time ago and you won’t be surprised to hear that I thought and worried a lot about my dreams and goals, but didn’t make much progress. Everything changed when I started to apply the concept of the sh*tty first draft. Anne Lamott, NYT best-seller author, describes the concept in her book on writing, Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”

Of course, this sense of doing it just right applies to more than just writing. It is relevant to starting a business or choosing a new career path or starting a blog or showing your photography or going back to school or…

Rather than waiting to be ready to start or 100 percent positive that I was choosing the right goal or creative project (read having the experience and expertise of someone who had already done it well), I started to produce sh*tty first (and second and third) drafts, by taking imperfect action.

And although mistakes are a part of the process, the sh*tty first draft is how I became a VP and Leadership Board member at a start-up, started my own technology consulting company, co-founded my first girl empowerment company, wrote my first book, traveled to India with Habitat Humanity, backpacked through Europe, and how my admittedly non-athletic self even ran my first 5k and sprint triathlon.

All, because I was ready to take imperfect action, sometimes in a very public way. I was (and still am) willing to be a novice, even when I feel embarrassed because what I am producing doesn’t match my high standards or creative expectations.

That’s how I made real progress and you can too! So, don’t wait, okay? I am down with reflecting, preparing and planning as many of you know, but action is the only way you will make progress and gain clarity.

Take 5

For more inspiration, check out this video by Ira Glass on taste and the gap. Then start working on your sh*tty first draft today.

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Why You Should Do It Badly

 

“If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” C.K. Chesterton
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Recently, a psychologist who I deeply respect sent me an email regarding my book for teens, Take 5 for Your Dreams. Here’s an excerpt:

“I was nearly in tears reading your beautiful book…Somehow you were able to take such huge concepts and bring them into focus for moms and teens in a way that was just beautiful – I love the graphics too!”

OMGosh, are you kidding me?! I respect her work with women and teens and was humbled by how clearly she captured the intent and essence of the book. She also passed the book onto a few friends who run mother-daughter book clubs. Wow. Really? That’s quite an endorsement.

But, in addition to taking in all of her juicy, feel-good encouragements, I felt a little embarrassed that she read my book…and had to resist the urge to enumerate the major flaws and inadequacies of the book in my reply. Not out of insecurity, but because objectively Take 5 could be a whole lot better and a part of me wanted her to know that I knew that.

But I did talk myself out it…that would not serve a useful purpose. As imperfect as it is, Take 5 has also impacted thousands in a positive way. Besides, despite its flaws, I did it – I published a book about a topic that matters deeply to me, all while raising two kids and running a profitable consultancy business. The process was pretty darn messy, but also incredibly rewarding. 

The moral of the story is do something that is so important to you that it is worth doing badly. Please don’t wait until you’re ready. Don’t let perfect get in the way of making your difference in the world and living a happier life. Don’t wait for the perfect timing because we all know when that will be. Most importantly, whatever you do, don’t wait for permission to do that thing you want to do.

Other than newborns and nature, I have never seen any flawless work released into the world. Start today. Do something that it is so important to you that it is worth doing badly.

Love, Paula

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How to Feel Good About Yourself

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In just the last few days, I have read and heard countless ways that I can feel good about myself…from consumerism…upping my physical appearance (because we all know that mascara is really how us girls feel more confident) to positive habits like eating clean (it’s not about losing the weight anymore…wink, wink.), decluttering my house, accepting myself just as I am, having goals (wait?! did I read my own stuff), etc. etc.

And at one level, I am bought into all of it (minus the mascara)!

For example, I am working on several new projects and my desk started to look like it was hit by a tsunami so I organized and decluttered it, which has cleared my head (and even enabled me to take this minimalist desk selfie)…unnamed-9

I feel good about starting to run again and my new Saucony (winner of the Runner’s Choice award at least according to the sign at the store, by the way) sneakers.

Of course, when it comes to exercise this isn’t unique to me; The research is conclusive that when you exercise regularly, you change your brain chemistry and so actually do feel better. 

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But still, all these ideas for feeling good strike me as very temporary; When I look back at my life (or even my year) if I spent most of my time focusing on looking good and keeping my house clean, I’d actually feel pretty devastated about myself. 

This led me to thinking about actions and pursuits that even years later, make me feel good about myself in a deep positive way — an organized desk or finally coiffed hair was not on my list…I suppose those sprint triathlons I finished were pretty cool, but even those were not on the list.

Consistently, what was were ways I stood up for what was right, took action that reflected what I believe in and made a difference in someone else’s life.

So how can I feel good about myself? By knowing my deepest values and striving to live by them everyday.  Making decisions and taking action from my brave core – that part of me that knows what is right at the deepest level and follows that action.  Habits like taking a run or decluttering are awesome only if they lead me to loving more and taking action from a place of deep integrity as a way of life.

 

 

 

 

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