Living a Life of Purpose with Small Children

The third session of the Crafting my Life Online Class is now underway – but it’s not too late to register. Sign up before February 7 for a chance to get in on all the life-crafting fun. This is your last chance – I don’t have plans to run the class again. I will be doing lots of other cool things, though. If you want to be the first to hear about those, and be eligible for special discounts and other perks, subscribe to my mail list.

When I lost my job in 2009, I had an eight-month-old infant. I had this idea that I could spend six or nine months figuring out the next chapter of my life, and then I could set about implementing it. It was going to be great. I’d use my lay-off as a sign to really ask myself the big questions, and I’d build a life that was more in line with my personal values and passions. It was going to be awesome. I was going to take the world by storm. It’s almost like I forgot that I had an eight-month-old infant.

Babies: Cute, but not Always Helpful

Here’s the thing about babies: they’re super-cute, but they’re also rather a lot of work. That eight-month-old infant started crawling. The he started climbing. Pretty soon he was walking, and running, and jumping. After a while, he wasn’t so much a baby as an active toddler who did things like flush toys down the toilet and jump out of our living room window. He stopped napping altogether, and he made liberal use of the word “no”. Most of the time I didn’t have much energy left for much of anything. It probably goes without saying that the world wasn’t taken by storm.

He got into the butter
Small children are cute, but not necessarily a big help when it comes to pursuing your dreams

This Too Shall Pass

There’s good news about babies, though. They keep right on growing. Eventually, they stop being toddlers and start being preschoolers and kindergartners and even teenagers. Whatever you’re dealing with from your kids at the moment is temporary. It will pass. Until it does, you have three choices:

  1. Adjust your expectations … and your timeline.
  2. Find childcare, or get some kind of help, so that your kid isn’t jumping out the window while you’re working.
  3. Experience a lot of frustration because everything feels much harder than it should be.

Yummy!
My other toddler also got into things when I wasn’t looking

Achieving Your Dreams and Living a Life of Purpose … in Time

There’s no right answer here. There is, however, a wrong answer and that’s number three. You’re not going to be able to work at maximum efficiency when you’re also taking care of a small child at the same time. Expecting yourself to is only going to lead to unhappiness. So cut yourself some slack, and don’t beat yourself up if you’re not churning out work at a superhuman pace. Your kid will get older, and it will get easier. Until then, there’s no expiration date on your dreams.

I talk to lots of moms with toddlers who feel a little bit aimless and adrift. I understand where they’re coming from, because I felt a little bit aimless and adrift when I had a toddler. It’s hard to be purposeful when you have to watch a little person like a hawk to prevent injury and make sure that you don’t end up with poop on your floor. Or poop on your kitchen counter (and yes, that one literally happened to me). All of your mental energy is absorbed. The important thing to know is that this feeling of being a little bit scattered is not a personal failing. It’s a byproduct of the stage your child is at. When you know that, it’s a little bit easier to give yourself a break.

Parenting is the most important job there is. I believe that strongly. However, it’s not always the most personally fulfilling job (see: poop on kitchen counter). This is why giving yourself the space to dream is important. Just don’t let those dreams become burdens, because you feel you need to do them right this minute or else. You don’t. They’ll be there waiting for you, whenever you’re ready to follow them.

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

The next session of the Crafting my Life Online Class is starting on Monday, January 30. Once this session is complete, I don’t have plans to run the class again. I will be doing lots of other cool things, but if you’ve wanted to take the class and you’ve been holding off, this is your last chance. Register now!

I was at a mom and baby group recently, and a new mom was lamenting her breastfeeding difficulties. She said, “That other baby was way smaller than mine, and she just latched right on with no problems. It’s not fair!” I felt her pain. It’s no fun when things don’t work out the way that we hoped, especially when there’s a baby involved. It’s also no fun when we feel as if we’re falling short in some way. No one enjoys that.

This kind of pain often comes about as we compare ourselves with others. I would like to propose a simple solution: just don’t. In the words of the “Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann:

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

It’s true. In a world of over seven billion people, the likelihood that you are the absolute best or worst is pretty small. In fact, it’s so small that it’s effectively zero. You may fall on the high or low end of the bell curve, but wherever you are, you will find people who fall higher or lower. It’s a mathematical fact – and I say this as someone who has taken far more than my fair share of math classes. What’s more, there’s nothing to be gained by comparing.

If you measure yourself against one of your peers and fall short, you’ll likely feel discouraged. You may even give up on whatever it was that you were doing altogether. If you come out ahead, you’ll likely feel pretty good. You’ll probably really enjoy that little zap of approval you get. You may enjoy it so much, in fact, that you start seeking it out. In both cases, the result is the same: we avoid things we’re not “good” at, and pursue things we are “good” at. What we like begins to matter less than getting a good grade on some kind of imaginary report card.

The thing is, life doesn’t hand out report cards. In life, your performance is evaluated not by how you measure up to others, but how satisfied you are with yourself. The time you spend comparing yourself is wasted effort. It can’t tell you how happy you are. It can, however, distort your thinking, until you’re trying to fit yourself into a mold that doesn’t work for you. This is how so many of us lose sight of our own dreams and passions. We’re too busy comparing ourselves to others to think about what we really want for ourselves.

Instead of comparing yourself to others to get a little hit of approval, pursue your own joy. Do something for yourself. It doesn’t have to take much time, and it doesn’t have to cost a thing, but do something. After you’ve done that, do something else. Build a life for yourself on your own terms. Be awesome. Have fun. Forget about what other people are doing, because they’re not you, and their missions in life are different. The more effort that you put into finding happiness on your own terms, the easier it will be to drop the habit of comparing yourself to others.

Stopping the comparisons isn’t easy, but it’s totally worth it. So start small, keep at it, and build a life of authenticity and purpose for yourself. That’s what Crafting my Life is all about.

Crafting my Life Online Class Giveaway!

The next session of the Crafting my Life Online Class is starting on Monday, January 30. That is SOON! Registration is now open, and I’d love to have you along for the journey. If you’re ready to spend 12 weeks dreaming big, tackling your dragons, and making real steps on your journey towards living with greater purpose and intention, then what are you waiting for? Register now!

I’ve decided to offer a free class registration to one lucky person. Class fees are normally $117 USD, and include all of this fabulous stuff:

  • 12 weeks of class materials, delivered to your inbox.
  • Membership in an online community.
  • Exclusive videos and audio interviews.
  • Missions to help you take action.
  • Live chats.
  • Complimentary one-on-one coaching sessions.
  • The chance to do something real and meaningful for yourself, because you deserve it.
  • A complimentary copy of the Crafting my Life Playbook, with 114 pages of life-crafting awesomeness.

You don’t need a lot of time to do the Crafting my Life Online Class. I designed it so that you can take 10 or 15 minutes a day for yourself, to create a life of greater intention. You can work on it from home, on your own schedule. You can even get your kids in on the action, if you want. This is about meeting yourself where you are, and creating changes that work for you, whatever your life looks like right now.

If this sounds like your thing, then enter to win the complimentary class registration. You have until 9:00pm Pacific on Friday, January 27. There are two ways to do that:

  1. Subscribe to my mail list. If you already subscribe, you’re already entered!
  2. Leave a comment on this post, telling me what you’re doing for yourself in 2012.

If you do both, you get two entries.

If you’ve already taken the Crafting my Life Online Class and you win the draw, you have the option of taking it again or giving your free registration to a friend. If you’re currently registered, you’ll have the choice of taking a refund for your class fees or inviting a friend to register along with you.

Good luck!

Crafting Relationships: Dealing with Energy Drains

Ready for a change? The Crafting my Life Online Class is starting on January 30! Advance registration is open now, at $20 off the normal class fee. But you need to get on that quickly, because it ends on January 23. To get the advance registration link, and to receive regular news, updates and offers, subscribe to my mail list.

Living with Intention, Handling Negative Energy

Living a life of intention is about knowing that your dreams and your happiness and your whole self matter. It’s about making your best contribution to the world, on your own terms. It’s about knowing that you are enough. But perhaps most of all, living with intention is about inviting things into your life that work for you, and make you feel good.

We can’t control every encounter in life. For example, today while I was walking down the street this guy walked out of a coffee shop swearing loudly. He was angry about something, he wanted the world to know, and I just happened to be in the right place to hear it. Sometimes we get the grumpy cashier when we’re buying groceries, or we’re seated beside someone at a party who wants to share their anger at the current political system, or we end overhearing someone on the bus as they have a loud argument into their cell phone. Encountering random negativity is unavoidable.

There’s a difference between encountering random negativity, and inviting negativity into our lives. The truth is that some people have a way of draining us of all of our energy. It’s not that they’re bad people, or that they mean to bring us down. We may even genuinely like the person who’s draining our energy. For instance, it may be that someone you care about is going through a really hard time, and unloading it on you. You want to help them, but you also realize their hard time is leaving you with little energy to care for yourself. So, what’s the answer when you find yourself dealing with a lot of negativity and drained energy, but you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings?

. Love .
Image credit: Denise Mayumi on Flickr

Tips for Dealing with Energy Drains

Here are some techniques that can be helpful when you’re dealing with someone who’s draining your energy:

  1. Cultivate positive relationships. Surrounding yourself with people who make you feel good, and who help you feel energized, is very important when you’re trying to create positive change in your life. By working on the relationships that sustain you, you’ll become less dependent on the ones that aren’t working for you. You’ll also be reminding yourself that your happiness and well-being matter.
  2. Don’t be constantly available. You don’t have to pick up the phone every time it rings, and you don’t have to read every email the moment it arrives. If you’re trying to accomplish something, you can screen your calls. You can also create email filters, so that messages from certain people get sent to a folder to deal with when you have the energy. You can take your profile offline in Facebook, Skype or IM. Do whatever it takes to conserve your energy so that you can focus on your priorities, instead of being distracted by drama.
  3. Stop explaining yourself. One of the things that many of us struggle with when it comes to saying no, or putting our needs first, is how we’ll explain ourselves. But the truth is, we don’t have to explain ourselves. In fact, the less said, the better. Once we start making excuses and offering explanations, we’re opening the door to someone trying to work around our objections. If you really just don’t want to do something, a simple I can’t make it or That doesn’t work for me will get your point across clearly and politely.
  4. Repeat after me: I deserve to be cared for, too. Many of us spend a lot of time caring for others, without asking for anything in return. We’re trying to be nice, so that other people will like us. But when it’s never reciprocated, and our own needs aren’t being met, it isn’t healthy. Your happiness and well-being matter. When all of your energy is being drained so that you’re not even able to take care of yourself, let alone anyone else, no one wins.
  5. Think of the children! When we’re listing the things that matter most to us, our children are usually pretty high on the list. But when we’re allowing someone else to drain all of our energy, they sometimes end up getting short shrift. It’s pretty hard to be patient and engaged with your toddler when you’ve just spent 45 minutes on the phone listening to someone complain. It’s not happening. If you can’t set boundaries for yourself, set boundaries for your kids.

It’s not always easy to remove the energy drains from your life. But the more that you surround yourself with positivity, the better you’ll get at asserting and defending your own needs. And the closer you’ll be to creating a life that actually works for you. You deserve it!

How do you deal with relationships that are draining your energy? I’d love to hear your own tips and ideas for building relationships that enhance your life, instead of leaving you feeling depleted.

Early-Morning Yoga

Ready for a change? The Crafting my Life Online Class is starting on January 30! Advance registration is open now, at $20 off your normal class fee. To find out about that, and receive regular news, updates and offers, subscribe to my mail list.

I’ve never been much of a morning person. I’m a little bleary-eyed when I first wake up, and it can take me a while to get moving. In my ideal world I sleep until about 8:30am, and do my morning routine. Then, by about 9:30 or so, I’m ready to get something done. But when you have kids, you don’t really get to set your own schedule. This is how I found myself up before the sun doing yoga.

My early-morning yoga routine came about because I hadn’t done any yoga for months. When my last yoga class ended in June of 2011 I told myself I’d use the DVDs I have at home, but I didn’t. I planned to do yoga in the evening after the kids were in bed, but by the time the evening rolled around and my work was done, the last thing I felt like doing was getting out my mat. Yoga just didn’t happen, which made me kind of sad.

Eventually, I realized that if I wanted to do yoga, I needed to get to it first thing. The later it was in the day, the less motivated I would be. I started setting my alarm about half an hour earlier, and getting up before my kids to do a little bit of stretching in the early-morning quiet. Sometimes, when my alarm goes off, I kind of resent it. But when I’m finished with the yoga and rolling up my mat, I’m glad I did it. I feel like I’ve done something for myself before my day even beings, and that’s actually pretty great.

We all have these things we mean to do, but don’t get around to. Sometimes it’s because we don’t really want to do them. But other times, it’s because we just can’t see how to fit them in. I could make a whole lot of arguments here about motivation and setting priorities and all that jazz, but that’s really all just a lot of hot air. I don’t think that a pep talk is going to give you more hours in a day. What we really need isn’t greater motivation and clearer priorities, it’s better scheduling. Do those things that make you feel good first. Be creative about fitting them in. And be gentle with yourself in the process.

Sometimes in life, you get to set your own schedule according to your internal clock and when you work best and what else you have going on that day. Most of the time, though, you have to make concessions, working around other people’s schedules and your baby’s naps and preschool drop-off and pick-up. I believe that it’s still possible to make a little bit of time for yourself. You may just need to shift things a little bit, make some concessions, and adjust your routine. It might not be easy to figure it out, but it will be worth it, because before you’ve done anything else for the day, you’ve taken care of yourself. And you deserve to be taken care of.

Do you ever get up early to work or work out? What do you find is the best time of day to get things done? And how do you take care of your own needs? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Crafting my Life Online Class, Version 3.0

I have been talking about running the Crafting my Life Online Class again ever since the second run ended in August. In fact, at this point, I realize this is verging on The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Or maybe The Woman Who Cried Class. But I am happy to say that it is a go, and it is starting SOON.

The next session of the Crafting my Life Online Class starts on Monday, January 30, 2012. If you’re not familiar with the online class, it’s a course designed for busy moms who want to live a more authentic and purposeful life. If you feel like you’re ready for a change, and you’re ready to focus on yourself and your dreams, but you don’t have a lot of time, this just may be what you’re looking for.

The Crafting my Life Online Class runs for 12 weeks (plus an extra rest week in the middle). Each week you’ll receive material to think about, videos, audio interviews with some amazing folks to help you expand your thoughts, play sheets to help you think about what this looks like in your life, and missions to help you take action action. Every step of the way, there is an online community of your fellow life-crafters to support and encourage you. We’ll also be scheduling live chats during the class, and you’ll have access to some free coaching sessions to help meet your individual needs.

Because this class is targeted towards moms, it’s structured so that you can work on it at your own pace, in your own time, from the comfort of home. You can even work on it with children hanging off you, if that’s your reality (it’s certainly my reality). When there are kids around, we just don’t have hours to devote to introspection and quiet contemplation. The good news is that we can change our lives, anyways, by meeting ourselves where we are right now.

As parents, we give a lot of ourselves. Crafting my Life offers you a chance to create a little bit of space for yourself. You’ll think about the big stuff, follow your bliss, tap into your creative side, make plans and slay dragons. You’ll also create space, manage your money, strengthen your relationships, and more.

If this sounds like your thing, registration is starting soon. Here’s the scoop:

  • Advance discount registration, for those on my email list, starts on January 16. It costs just $97, which is $20 off the regular price. To get in on that, subscribe over there on the right where it says (wait for it …) “Subscribe”.
  • Open registration starts on January 23. It costs $117.

If you purchased the Crafting my Life Playbook, you’re eligible to dicount the full purchase price from your class fees. If you’re a past student who would like to enroll again, you’re also eligible for a special discount. Contact me for details, or to register.

The countdown is on. If you’re ready to get serious about making a change, I hope that you’ll join me and embark on your own Crafting my Life journey.

It’s not the Idea, It’s the Execution

Ready for a change? The Crafting my Life Playbook is available NOW. Get ready to change your life in 2012 with 114 pages of ideas, tips, play sheets, missions and more. Work in your own time, at your own pace, and find greater purpose and authenticity. And it’s been reviewed! Find out what Jen Arbo had to say about Crafting my Life.

Some time ago, I was interviewing a woman for an article I planned to write. I let her know that I was recording the call for my own reference, so that I could listen again later and quote her accurately. I was talking to her because she planned to open a business shortly, I thought it was interesting and I wanted to write about it. When I told her I was recording the call, she expressed concern that I would make her idea public, and someone else would use it and beat her to the punch. She was planning to open her business to the public within two months of the day I interviewed her, and was just getting her final ducks in a row.

This fledgling entrepreneur isn’t the only person I’ve spoken to who is concerned about having an idea stolen. In my last post, I wrote about my decision to build Crafting my Life in the public eye. I wanted to let people see all the unpolished moments, because it’s the best way I know to create authenticity and build support. It also forces me to have clarity of vision, because I’m explaining my ideas to other people while they’re still being formed. It works for me. But I know that many people choose not to tell people what they’re working on because they’re afraid someone else will essentially take their idea from them.

Having your idea stolen is no fun, there’s no two ways about that. Ask any blogger who’s experienced scraping – where someone else re-publishes their writing without permission – and they’ll tell you it sucks. But at the end of the day, I don’t think it’s having an idea that gets you where you want to go. The first mass-produced MP3 players appeared in 1998, but no one bought them. It wasn’t until Apple launched the iPod three years later that MP3 players took off. Where the rubber really hits the road is in the execution.

If you have an idea, and you want to make that idea a reality, the best thing to do is get out there and make it happen. Put in the legwork to make your thing into something tangible, network and talk to other people who’ve been there and done that, and let as many people as you can know about this awesome idea you’re working on. That’s how you’re going to meet the guy who can connect you with the other guy who ends up being your business partner. That’s how you’re going to find the person who can design an amazing website for you or sell your thing in their store. It’s also how you’re going to find your biggest fans. Everyone with an idea can use all the fans they can get.

Many people have great ideas that they never act on. It would be a shame to allow your fear of being stolen from paralyze you, so that your idea becomes just another thing that never happens. So don’t let it happen. Act. Create. Do. Share. Learn. Grow. But most of all, believe. Believe in yourself, and your idea. Don’t let fear stop you from making it happen.

When Should you Take Your Thing Public? Early and Often

Ready for a change? The Crafting my Life Playbook is available NOW. Get ready to change your life in 2012 with 114 pages of ideas, tips, play sheets, missions and more. Work in your own time, at your own pace, and find greater purpose and authenticity. And it’s been reviewed! Find out what Jen Arbo had to say about Crafting my Life.

When I started Crafting my Life, I made a deliberate decision to build it in the public eye. I’m not sure that many people came by to visit this site at first, but I started posting to the blog right away. Before I had a logo designed, I started a poll, asking people to help me come up with a tagline. “Motherhood, redesigned” was chosen as a combination of one of the poll options (motherhood, redefined) and a suggestion from a friend (motherhood, re-engineered). I’m being honest and not coy when I say that I don’t know what I’m doing next, and I share my decision-making process publicly.

Not everyone does this. Some people like to keep their work private until it’s finished – or at least a little bit polished. The idea, I think, is that you appear more organized and professional, and you’re less prone to having to explain to people why you didn’t do that thing you said that you’re going to do. But I think this drive to only present a carefully-crafted face to the world has downsides, too. It leads us all to believe that somehow everyone else is more together than we are, because we never see anyone else’s struggles. I didn’t want to contribute to that culture of perfectionism, so I showed my early work.

One of the other things that led me to make Crafting my Life public from the get-go was my experience on my blog at Strocel.com. I found that most people are very supportive. In fact, others are often far more supportive of us than we are of ourselves. You know how sometimes it’s easier to talk up a friend, and that awesome thing she’s doing, than to talk up yourself? I think the support from others comes from the same place. As I blogged about my daily life, I found that when I shared my truth, my people heard it respectfully. And when things didn’t work out, they understood. So I made Crafting my Life an object lesson in life-crafting, and let people see me build something from the ground up.

Sharing my plans and deliberations publicly hasn’t always been comfortable for me. When things are moving more slowly than I anticipated and someone asks what’s happening, it’s easy to start feeling defensive. And when I change my plans, I sometimes feel a little bit embarrassed to be stumbling in public view. In short, I’m human, and I have angst.

In spite of my occasional discomfort, I think that being open and honest about what I’m doing is a great thing. When I tell other people what I’m up to, they’re more likely to offer to help. And when I share my truth honestly, I’m more likely to hear other people’s truths in return. Authenticity is nearly always the best choice, I think. This doesn’t mean you need to court controversy, or share every little thought in your head. It also doesn’t mean that you can’t keep certain things private. It just means that we have more to gain by using our voices, than we have to gain by staying quiet.

My word for 2012 is clarity. I plan to spend this year finding clarity on who I am, what I’m doing, and why I’m doing it. I want to be clear on where I’m headed, so that I have a shot at getting there. I believe that authenticity, and sharing that experience with others, will help me find that clarity. When I use my voice, I’m forced to put my thoughts into some kind of coherent order. I have to consider what I really want to say, and how best to say it. In the process, I’m clarifying my own beliefs, ideas and values, and bringing that clarity to whatever I’m writing about.

So I will use my voice. I will stumble and fall as other people watch. I will dream big, and take action. And I will take risks, so that I can reap the rewards. It may not be easy, but I know that it will be worthwhile, and that sounds like clarity to me. I hope that in the process, I can inspire at least one other person to take risks, dream big and find authenticity, too.

Are you comfortable sharing your thoughts, ideas and dreams with others? And how do you decide what to keep for yourself, and what to broadcast? I’d love to hear how you make your own decisions!

A Word for 2012: Clarity

In 2011 I chose the word space to set my intention for the year. I wanted to create more space in my life for myself, and the things that matter to me. I had mixed results. I suppose you could say that I succeeded, but not in the way that I expected. Life is like that, though – it’s why they tell you to be careful what you wish for.

Choosing a word for the year is not the same thing as making a resolution. A resolution is about saying what you will or won’t do, and a word is about setting an intention. As I carry my word with me through the year, I will use it to help me make decisions and respond to whatever arises in my daily life. It’s a dynamic thing, which helps to guide me, rather than a static goal that I likely won’t achieve.

I like the idea of having a word for the year, so I decided to choose one for 2012. Last year, space just sort of came to me, easy-peasy. This year, I spent quite a while searching for the right word. I considered joy, play, sustainability, purpose, passion and peace, but none of them were quite right. I very nearly settled on believe, which was almost-but-not-quite perfect. Now I know why I couldn’t get behind it – it wasn’t my word, it belonged to my friend Brandee. Finally, during a conversation with the fabulous Christine Pilkington, she used the word clarity, and I knew.

2012_happy_new_year-widew
Photo credit – Ludie Cochrane on Flickr

Clarity is my word, and my intention for 2012 is to find it. I want clarity about who I am, what I’m doing, and why I’m doing it. I want to spend this year taking stock of where I am, and where I’m going next. I believe that once I have clarity, some other things will fall into place, because it will be easier to make decisions when I’m clear on what my goals are.

While the idea of clarity is immensely appealing to me, it isn’t an easy word. Achieving clarity involves making some difficult decisions. It requires you to let go of the things that aren’t working for you. You need to learn to say no, and set boundaries, which can be difficult. If I want to actually achieve clarity, it’s going to require more than a warm and fuzzy blog post to do it.

My experiences in 2011 taught me that setting an intention is a tricky thing. You need to be willing to work for it, and you need to be open to the idea that it won’t necessarily play out in the way you expected. Because of that learning process, I feel better prepared as I set my intention for 2012. I think, maybe, this is why I had such a hard time choosing my word this year. I understood that I needed the right fit, and not just something that felt sort of okay. I needed an intention I was willing to work for, because that’s how I’m going to actually create change.

It sounds like maybe I’m gaining a little bit of clarity already.

What about you – have you chosen a word for 2012? I’d love it if you shared it with me!