Years ago, I wrote a weekly ski column for the Spokesman-Review. (If you click on the link, holy hair.) For one of my articles, I interviewed a girl who had some kind of weird disorder where she stressed out on powder days because she knew in her heart and soul, someone was having a better run than she was – that somewhere else on the mountain, the snow was deeper and better. Because of that, she never enjoyed the ultimate skier’s dream – the reason most of us ski to begin with: The powder day.
I can relate. For the longest time, I struggled with ambition getting in the way of my happiness. I never had enough of whatever it is I wanted so I could never be happy. Someone always had it better than I did. No matter what.
This past year has been different for me. I cringe to even type the words but I’ve been really happy. Why?
It wasn’t a spectacular year if I look at the events. I lost my grandmother, my cousin at far too young an age, and three friends. I relaunched my business from scratch and had a few months with next to no income. I was stressed. I was juggling family needs with business development. I actually conducted a new business call from my hotel room in Palm Beach while my father was undergoing quintuple bypass surgery down the street.
In all honesty, I’ve struggled with this post for over a week because who wants to read about a happy person? When I sent my editor at Vocus this photo to the left to accompany my reading list blog post, he told me no one wants to see a happy person on a Wednesday. This made me laugh, and the words ring in my ears.
My point is, nothing has changed; life isn’t perfect. It never will be. BUT! I have done some things differently and who knows, maybe a few of these things can change the way you go about your day.
Eliminate the bottom sucker projects.
We all lose control of our lives. I had some extra time on my hands when I relaunched Big Leap a year ago. I was a wee bit stressed my phone wouldn’t ring and while part of me thought, I should do more – more marketing, more calling, more networking – the other part told me to take some of that time to do the things that have been on my list for a really long time. I call them bottom suckers because they are way down there, sucking the life and energy out of me. Some of them are so bad and so delayed, I didn’t even want to face them. Things like a parking ticket that had certainly turned into a warrant for my arrest in that state, calls to the State Tax Commission I hadn’t returned, piles of papers in the back corner of my office, and finding a financial planner to help me get our financial life in order.
When I did the first one, I felt a tiny weight lift. It felt pretty good. So I did it again, and again and again. It shifted my psyche – without any bottom suckers, I felt physically lighter and can GSD.
New rule: No more bottom sucker projects languishing on my to-do list. It’s clutter in the brain. Get rid of it.
Choose the story.
Many awesome things also happened in the past year. I just didn’t describe those in the opening. For example, my phone did ring, so I’m glad I got rid of those bottom suckers when I had the time. Because now I’m doing work I love for clients I enjoy. Instead of focusing on the loss I experienced, I focused on what I still had, and what I had ahead of me. I was sad a lot, but I also made something out of it. Read Walking in My Grandmother’s Shoes. and you’ll see what I’m talking about. It’s my favorite post that I wrote.
New rule: I get to choose how events affect me and how that story plays out.
Make time for the things you love.
I have enough to do that I could easily work a 12-hour day. But I’d go insane. And be miserable. For me, writing and trail running are the things I love. I schedule those activities in my calendar. When a client texted me 15 minutes before my scheduled run wanting to catch up for a few minutes, I said I would be available at such and such time (after my run). <– That was a harder decision for me than you realize. I thought I should be available. But I stopped myself and said no. I’m going for my run. The client can wait a couple hours – no one is blowing up.
The things I love become priority, because doing the things I love makes me happy. Erika Napoletano said be your own client first each day and I thought that was a good idea so I have obeyed. I dedicate the first one to two hours of my day to working on my business, or writing my blog. Hey, if I don’t take care of me and my business first, there won’t be anything left to help my clients anyway.
New rule: There are no excuses for not having time to do the things I love. No one needs to know why I’m not available.
I finished with the most important last.
I have a default mechanism that resorts to anxiety and insecurity so I have to work hard to keep a positive outlook. Every day.
Here’s what I do:
Every night before I go to sleep, I think about the three things I accomplished today. I don’t focus on the stuff I didn’t do, or need to do. I think about what I got done. And when I wake up, I think about the three things I’m grateful for. I don’t focus on the things I need to worry about, or the problems I need to deal with.
I might be feeling lonely in a hotel room in Spokane, WA when the 4 am alarm goes off to catch an early flight, but hell, I’m going somewhere because I’m needed. I have someone waiting for me at home along with two dogs staring at the front door; waiting. I have something to smile about when that 4 am bell rings.
Now it’s a habit. I’ve been doing this so many months, that anxiety feels much farther away than it used to be.
When you choose the story you want to tell rather than letting it choose you, it’s fairly remarkable the amount of control you have over the outcome.