Tag Archives: dreams

11 Ways to Move Forward When You Feel Stuck

photo cred: lauren-mancke via unsplash

No matter how meaningful your work, everyone feels stuck sometimes. Here are research-based quick, easy actions for getting past the inertia and taking action when you are feeling stuck. Pick one when you are resisting moving forward or are generally stuck on what’s next.

  1. Plan ahead. Make a task list for your day (or week) the evening (or weekend) before. In the morning, go through your list of to-dos in a mechanical way. Nothing to think about. No decisions to make. Look at your list and do it.
  2. Don’t worry alone.* If you cannot get out of your own head or past your resistance, call a friend who believes in you. Make a pact with someone who will be there for you, with an ear of support. Promise to always answer calls from one another and to only take a few minutes.
  3. Take a shower. There is actually science behind this method. A shower enacts cornerstones of creativity including: dopamine release, relaxation, and distraction from decision making. Some creatives/innovators are known to take several showers a day when in the middle of a project.
  4. Exercise. Go for a quick walk. Try an interval app. Jog in place. Do 20 jumping jacks. Stand in mountain pose.
  5. Take a micro-action daily. Break down your to-do’s into steps that seem ridiculously easy. This is the most effective way to break free of inertia.  
  6. Clear out a drawer or quit an activity. Clearing physical space or your schedule can clear your mind and energy too.
  7. Use the power of morning pages. Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way, suggests starting each day with a written braindump – no agenda, no worrying about how it sounds. Even if you write, “I don’t know what to write over and over again.” I’d say start with one page and see if it helps free your energy.
  8. Know your goal. Remind yourself every day where you are headed and WHY. Write your BIG goal and your WHY down everyday. If you are unclear on your goal, download this exercise from Reclaim Your Dreams to get started.
  9. Read every word of The Art of War.  In his book Steven Pressfield focuses on how to move forward on creative projects and work through resistance.
  10. Start with thanks. Begin every day with a list of one to three things you are super grateful for.
  11. Rest. Don’t quit. We all need a break so step away from the computer and take a nap or grab a cup of tea or….you name it.

*Thanks to Dr. Halowell via Marie Forleo for this gem of a quote.

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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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5 Ways to Hustle Like a Motha’

untitled-design-2The word hustle is often used by online marketers to describe the relentless hard work of moving toward a vision or dream. When I read the bravado on this topic, it annoys me. Not because I judge ambition. I love and respect ambitious and hardworking people (including my own)! But I know what the hustle looks like when you have kids or are a caregiver (and/or are working a full-time while starting your dream business) and it doesn’t look like most of what I see online.

Recently, I made my perfect Monday hustle plan on Sunday evening including a check in call first thing Monday morning with a colleague that is my writing buddy who helps me keep on track with my writing goals.

Great structure and accountability habit, right?! …Except my son was running late for school (which he never is) and missed the bus. We planned to speak a little later than usual…but her mom, who is in the early stages of dementia, needed to be taken to an emergency appointment. (Backdrop…my colleague also has two teens and runs a very successful acupuncture business.) Early afternoon then? Well, typically, but my daughter was sick and had to be picked up from school. Although my husband works from home, he was at a meeting in Boston.

When you are responsible for other humans, hustle can feel disjointed some days even for those of us that have the luxury of working from home and have supportive partners to share the load. (The woman that waited on me at Starbucks this morning is not as fortunate.) The rhythm may be different and the pace even a little slower than you would like sometimes, but it is doable to make the professional progress you desire in the midst of it all. I have done it in my own life and have witnessed many other women (including some of you) doing it too. Here’s how I hustle like a mother:

  1. Know your goal, why it’s important to you, and write that sucker down.  It sounds trivial but this is the most important step. Without clarity of purpose, there is always a reason to not get something done. Exceptions are more the rule in life. The question I always ask about my goal is “how can I get this done despite my current circumstances?”
  2. Narrow your focus by quitting. I hate this one because I want to be helpful all the time to everyone. Last year I learned how critical it is to narrow focus to one or two specific goals for the year. Even dreams need to be prioritized. I rarely say an immediate “yes” to anything anymore. For example, I wouldn’t have grown a technology practice to seven figures, started the What’s Your Brave project or written Take 5 for Your Dreams and Reclaim Your Dreams if I hadn’t resigned from almost every volunteer commitment I had (and the list was long). This is hard for me; I still feel guilty about it sometimes. But I was replaceable – and I mean that in the kindest way; when it comes to volunteering/work, we all are.
  3. Plan your one non-negotiable action the night before. And I mean ONE. I make the day’s plan the evening before, know what the one non-negotiable priority for my day is and chunk that out into one to five essential micro steps I can accomplish to get there. 
  4. Focus on values. I don’t want to hire out picking up my sick daughter and my colleague wants to take care of her mom. Now that my kids are getting a little older, I see these moments as opportunities to connect rather than interruptions and distractions, but I also have vocational goals that I feel called toward and I am not willing to sacrifice those either. Now I know my values. I don’t need to clean my house or lead volunteer committees, but I want to spend as much time with my kids as I can and move forward on my vocational dream.
  5. Practice self-compassion. (Or alternatively, a who-cares attitude about stuff that doesn’t matter to you.) It never doesn’t always look pretty and my house is kind of a mess, but I am learning to keep it in perspective. 

Did I hustle that Monday in the midst of it all? You bet, though not at the time or in the way I prefer. Rather than putting my goal off until the next day, I asked, how can I get this done now despite the changes in my schedule? Later that day, I went for a quick run which always stimulates ideas and wrote in my car. It wasn’t pretty or perfect, but it was done.

How about you? How do you hustle like a mother?

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How to Do Anything That Scares You

This summer a friend called and asked if my son and I wanted to join her family with some other friends on a whitewater river FUN-yaking tour.

Some people step out of their comfort zone when they give a presentation or take a business risk. For me, it happens taking any serious (and my definition of serious has an admittedly low bar) physical adventure. But, really how difficult can a river trip called, “FUN-yaking” be? Feel the fear and do it anyway, right!

So yay, I pictured a lazy river ride like this:

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And said, “We are in?!”

On the day of our fun adventure, I started to feel a little worried when we arrived at the site, and there were helmet and life vest fittings involved. But this again, makes perfect sense. They were a reputable company, right? So safety first and of course, liability issues and all. (Do I even know how to kayak?)

Then the nice lady in charge began her safety presentation…including techniques on breaking free if we got stuck on a rock (or I should say I, because you run solo on a fun-yak just you and the beautiful frickin’ river).

She mentioned that you were not to get out of your kayak (where’s the fun prefix?) under any circumstances. It was when she explained how to keep still on your back with arms and legs up when if you flipped over to avoid getting trapped between two rocks and drowning that I was convinced we were headed for this:

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And that is pretty much the picture (slight hyperbole), I carried for the bus ride to the launch site and I continued feeling panicked worried until we boarded our fun-yaks and started paddling.

As it turned out, the conditions weren’t quite a river of glass, but were obviously not even close to the Class 5 rapids I was anticipating. A good work out with some fun and easy waves. I did (like everyone) get stuck on a few rock because the water was low in spots, but I used the graceless shimmy technique I learned during the safety lesson (or got help from another fun-yaker) and was on my way. Everyone had a blast and I was all in for trying one of the whitewater rafting trips (Class 3 and 4) that they also run on the river.

My fun-yaking experience reminds me of what happens when we pursue big, meaningful work or take other life risks that take us out of our comfort zone. Going for it always seems like a great idea to start. Then when it is time to take action, fear sets in and you imagine overwhelming and insurmountable circumstances (most of the time not supported by fact). But if you take action, you find it’s almost always scariest before you start. Though you may hit obstacles, you figure it out and use what you know (or get help) to move toward your goal (of getting out of the fun-yak as quickly as possible – kidding.)

Take 5

What’s the easiest way to pursue a dream that scares you? It’s usually scariest before you start, so start taking small actions as soon as you can. 

Is there a dream you would like to pursue, but feels overwhelming? Identify one small action you can take toward it today.

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Take Up Space in Your Busy Life: A Fun and Free 7 Day Challenge

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

This challenge has ended. sign-up for free tips or join us for the 21 Day Passion Project, beginning July 18th.shutterstock_279026699

Join us for this fun and free challenge starting June 20th that will take 5 minutes or less and will easily integrate into the course of your daily activities.

Why Take Up Space?

It is easy to be lulled into waiting for the elusive right time to pursue your boldest desires or simply nurture yourself. But the truth is that the only perfect life phase for living fully into who we are starts today. If you are feeling squeezed out of your own life, then join us for this fun and free challenge to intentionally take up a little more space in your own life. It will take 5 minutes or less of your day!

When is the right time to express who you are in your own life?

I was chatting with a friend recently who shared that she never had time to pursue her art, bemoaning her endless to-do list and all the obligations pulling at her.

I think most of us have experienced her frustration. Life, after all, is busy. Often incredibly so. Daily work, family, volunteering and other commitments can make days and (gulp) years pass quickly, leaving little time for long-dormant personal passions and dreams. This is a familiar mantra for my peers: women with kids/teens still at home and often also running a business or working in a corporate setting. This was different though. My friend’s struggle gave me significant pause because she was in her late 60’s and has been an empty nester for quite some time. Wow…the busyness really never ends, was my immediate response.

What’s the structure of the challenge?

Research and our anecdotal experience show that sticking with anything new is easiest when it is fun, almost effortless, and broken into small, micro steps.

This challenge will take 5 minutes or less of your time and is meant to be integrated into your daily routine. Each morning you will receive the day’s challenge via email. We will also add you to a private Facebook group so that you can share in the fun with others also completing the challenge. If you are ready to take up a little more space in your own life, sign up here:

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10 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

Female feet closeup of woman standing at the sandy beach next to the shell heart

I was chatting with a friend recently who shared that she never had time to pursue her art, bemoaning her endless to-do list and all the obligations pulling at her.

I think most of us have experienced her frustration. Life, after all, is busy. Often incredibly so. Daily work, family, volunteering and other commitments can make days and (gulp) years pass quickly, leaving little time for long-dormant personal passions and dreams. This is a familiar mantra for my peers: women with kids/teens still at home and often also running a business or working in a corporate setting. This was different though. My friend’s struggle gave me significant pause because she was in her late 60’s and has been an empty nester for quite some time. Wow…the busyness really never ends, was my immediate response.

What she shared, reminded me (again) how easy it is to be lulled into waiting for the elusive right time to pursue our boldest desires or simply nurture ourselves. And that the truth is that the only perfect life phase for living fully into who we are starts today. If you, like my friend, are feeling squeezed out of your own life, here are some micro-habits to get you started on a path of intentionally taking up space and reclaiming your life:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Make time to do absolutely nothing. Schedule time with no agenda other than to do whatever you want in that moment.

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.  

xo Paula


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Why Hillary is in My Dreams

You can be what you can see. -adapted from Marian Wright-Edelman quote
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I don’t often have vivid dreams, but this one felt so real that it stays with me two weeks later.

In the dream I was attending a business event in a swanky hotel’s  ballroom, similar to ones I have been in many times. I was sitting in one of many rows of chairs set up for a workshop due to begin soon.

As I was waiting for the session to start, I noticed that the hotel staff was busy setting up chairs for a second event on the other side of the ballroom. I knew immediately that Hillary Clinton was coming to speak. I also knew that although my event would be fine (and ordinary and perhaps  flat) that I was called to the other side of the room where the excitement was palpable.

Without hesitation, I moved over to the other side of the room.

(Too typical I know), but I looked down and realized that I still had my pajamas on and immediately bolted home to get dressed.

After being temporarily distracted at home, I hurried back to the event, worried that I was too late, that I had missed the window of opportunity, and then looked down seeing that I was now only half prepared (as I was still wearing my pajama pants!)

But it was too late to return home and finish getting ready.

And with that I ran back to the Hillary event, snagging a front row seat and founded myself surrounded by several other women, ranging in age from twenties to seventies and beyond. As we waited for HRC to take the podium, I huddled close to these other women; our emotions palpable as we shared why we were there. Hillary Clinton did arrive in the end and it was just as spectacular as I imagined.

Politics aside, the symbolism of this dream is almost absurdly personal as I have been struggling with whether or not I should respond to a particular calling.

Do I stay where I am (the fine, but ordinary and flat side of the room)? Or do I take it up a level, where there is excitement, but risk? Can I do this? Am I ready (No. Definitely not, but perhaps, half ready. See pjs). And the most sobering question of all… Is it too late? 

When I awoke, I was inspired and clear-headed. After her defeat in 2008, like many, I assumed that Hillary Clinton’s window of opportunity to become the first female president had closed and now, here we are in 2016, it is once again a possibility as she has just made history as the first woman to be nominated for President of a major political party.

I know how HRC’s historic rise impacts my daughter and son and a generation of girls and boys across the United States who are watching a 240 year barrier lifted. (You can be what you can see.)

But, what moves me just as much, is that I also see the significance for a generation of women and men in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and beyond. Women, who for a variety of societal and personal reasons, started toward a bold dream late or perhaps are ready for a new vision and calling.

No matter your political views, I hope that Hillary’s nomination serves as a powerful reminder, that despite defeat and obstacles and yes, age, that it is not too late to pursue your dream, to answer a bold calling…

That all of us, can do and be whatever we want starting today even if we begin only half ready with our pajama pants on. 

Do it. Take the risk. Began today. I sure plan to.

xo Paula

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