Posts Tagged ‘intention’

7 Steps to Living with Intention

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How self-aware are you? I consider myself pretty self-aware. It’s a skill that I have been cultivating for years. And I am a seeker, constantly reading and learning and working to be my best. But something I still struggle with is consistently living with intention and having the courage to hear and then take action on my heart’s desires. It means acting on what is authentic and true for me daily while saying no to the rest. This practice involves so much more than self-awareness and it’s just not easy.

But what’s even harder than living with intention, is paying the price for always saying yes. A life of hustling, of just going through the motions or letting others decide your priorities for you, means you risk missing life’s really important stuff. By saying yes to every big, shiny opportunity, we miss the little things–the tiny moments where love lives. One of my favorite quotes says “if you miss love, you miss life” and that’s just not something I am willing to miss anymore.

Now that I am in my amazing 40’s (where you finally start to care a whole lot less about what others thinks of you), I have developed a practice of checking in with my wants daily or even multiple times a day. If we aren’t intentional, it’s so easy to say yes to things that seem fun or positive or like a great opportunity in the moment, only to discover that when it’s time to deliver on that commitment, our heart’s not really into it and we aren’t inspired to follow through. We must remember that there is always a trade off, so every time we say yes to something or someone, we say no to ourselves, our priorities and our goals, which for me involves my family, my health and our joy.

When I was growing up, I was taught to be a person of my word and to always be responsible. In the South, especially for women, we are taught not to disappoint people. Our job is to make everyone around us happy and that typically means saying yes a lot! I was also taught to be a hard-worker. “Don’t be lazy, Tobi”.  By trying to avoid lazy, I created a life as a workaholic, a person addicted to achieving. And whether I consciously realized it or not, in my mind, achievement equaled my worth.

These ideals, teachings, raising, conditioning–whatever you want to call it, caused me to be a person who followed through with my commitments no matter what, even when I over-committed which was often. And even to the detriment of my health, my happiness and my family.

Living with Intention, listening to your intuition or your desires, and following your heart means un-learning these core beliefs that were passed along to you, but that no longer fit. “Being responsible” the way I learned it as a child, has meant doing what pleases other people. It has meant sacrificing my wants and goals at times, particularly in the area of self care. I believed for years that putting myself first was selfish, or at least taking care of me was something that I would get to after I did all the things I promised everyone else. Now I know self care is imperative for me to be and give my best to the world. And there is almost nothing worth forgoing taking care of me first.

I also thought for years that success came with the hustle–that the harder you worked the more successful you would be. Or worse, that to be successful, you HAD to work hard. But I have learned that working harder doesn’t equal success, but it can definitely equal exhaustion. If working hard guaranteed success, all those working 3 jobs to make ends meet, would be. But sadly most are still struggling, and they are definitely tired. However, I don’t like the saying “work smarter, not harder” either–I mean do any of us really think we are working “stupid”? I believe the key is working differently, or really it’s about thinking differently.

The reality is that we get most of our values from our parents and usually our parents are well-meaning, I know mine are. Parents want their children to be successful, to be happy, to be liked. But there comes a time somewhere between your 20’s and your 40’s that you start to consider whether all those beliefs your parents instilled in you, really work for you. And it takes a lot a courage to decide that they don’t work anymore. As I raise a daughter of my own, I am becoming so much more careful about the core beliefs and ideals that I instill in her and about the way I model and talk about success. But I am not perfect, and so I know she will have to decide at some point if the ideas I passed down, work for her. I now know there is more to life than work, being responsible, and pleasing others and I only hope I can model that for her in a way that serves her future self.

I have been moving in the direction of slower and more intentional living for about six or seven years and it is not a straight line from workaholism to living a life of balance and alignment. It is messy and hard. Shiny, exciting opportunities present themselves every day and we have to have the perspective and the tools to know when to say yes and when to say no. I believe we are here to do more than just push ourselves through another day of hustling. Yes there are trade-offs for every commitment, and some of them are really costly. I have learned this the hard way.

To live with intention, we have to get comfortable disappointing people. The old Southern way of making everyone happy just isn’t an option for me anymore, and it’s likely not working for you either. In fact to choose my family and me, I know I am going to disappoint multiple other people every single day, and just like with anything else, the more I practice it, the better I get at it. Yes, I am becoming a “master disappointer”.  And to my surprise, it feels good!

So if you want to live with more intention, here are my top 7 tips to making it happen…

  1. Create Space–If your schedule is jam-packed like mine has always been, you cannot get perspective on what is good for you and what is too big of a trade off. When you are worn down by too many commitments, you are much more likely to say yes in the moment. You have to create some space in your life. Whether that means meditation, prayer, yoga, taking a nap, walking in nature, or bing-watching your favorite Netflix show, slowing down and creating some breathing room will allow you to step back and better evaluate all those shiny opportunities that are being hurled at you every day. And when you’re rested, you’re more likely to say no to a lot of them.
  2. Write it out–I journal every day, sometimes for as long as an hour. It’s how I work through my thoughts, ideas and challenges. Writing clears my mind of worries and fears. It helps me remember what is important. It’s where I count my blessings. It keeps my priorities top of mind and my goals too. Give it a try. I think it makes living with intention much easier.
  3. Have a Waiting Period–Just like in some states where getting a marriage license or buying a weapon requires a waiting period,  there should be a waiting period for saying yes. So often when someone asks you to commit to an event or idea, it’s on the fly, right? You are usually juggling 10 other things at that very moment, so what do you do? You break down and say yes. Waiting to give an answer until you are able to clear your head and focus on the costs and benefits of saying yes, can make all the difference. So let that call go to voicemail or let that email sit in your inbox a day or two and then answer. You will thank yourself later.
  4. If it’s not a Hell Yes! It’s a No–Time is our most precious commodity, but we often treat it recklessly. We only get 24 hours in a day and tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us. Do we really want to be so casual with how we spend those valuable hours and moments? Or worse, give them away to people that aren’t on our short list of most important people? I know I don’t. So when considering any commitment, if it is not a HELL YES!, then it is a no. Easy peasy, right? Ok, maybe not easy, but it’s totally worth it.
  5. Give up Excuses–Stop with the excuses already. If you are going to succeed with living intentionally, you have to be confident in just saying no, with a smile of course. Give yourself permission to say no just because. You don’t have to have an elaborate excuse like “I’d love to do dinner with you but my great-aunt’s neighbor’s dog is having it’s seventh birthday and I really have to be there!” Feeling the need to come up with a reason or excuse is just silly and it’s a waste of your time. Have the guts to say “Thank you. I wish I could” and move on. Don’t even say “maybe another time” because then you will have to think up a wild excuse all over again the next time they ask.
  6. Do the Math–Every time you say yes to someone, you are saying no to something else like family time, rest, and your health. Nothing is without a trade-off. So take committing seriously. Do the math and make sure you are willing to give up important moments, goals and your priorities when you say yes.
  7. Dance with Ones that Brought you–There is an old saying, especially in the South that means give your attention to those that have been with you along with way, that have paid their dues, and had your back. For me that means my family and a handful of true friends. There have been many times that I said yes to the world or my industry in search of recognition, money or excitement, or the promise of some big payoff in the future, while saying no to those that mean the most to me. At the end of the day, all that other stuff is fleeting and much of the future payoff never even comes to pass. Other people will forget about you easily, when you aren’t giving them what they want over and over again. And you hope the ones that brought you, are still waiting for you when you return.  So pick them first, and be very selective about committing to the rest. No matter how much you give to the world, it will always want more. And like they say on Project Runway, “One day you’re in and the next day you’re out”. So I choose to be “in” with my family for the long haul. They deserve it.

If you want to learn more about living a slower life, check out some of my favorite life-changing books and resources that have greatly influenced my path…

Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

Friends, I literally wrote in every margin, dogeared every page and practically underlined and highlighted this entire book. I felt like Shauna was telling my life’s story! (And she’s going to be on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday this month, y’all!) This book helps you see the extremely high cost of giving yourself to your work and the world, including the toll it takes on your health, your joy and your family. For all you Type A, working moms like me who are trying to make your mark on the world, get this book today!

Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner

I just discovered this book by a blogger I have known about for years and I couldn’t put it down. I read it this week in about 2 days and had quite possibly the biggest Ah-ha moments of my life. It helped me answer some BIG life questions that I have been asking myself for a while. It’s a must read for all you Provers and Hustlers like me, who have tied your worth to your work. I was sad when this one was over, and I am sure I will soon be reading it all over again.

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

I learned of this amazing book when taking Hilary Rushford’s course, Elegant Excellence (great course by the way!), and I am about to start reading it for the third time (Thanks Hilary!) This book is about the “disciplined pursuit of less”. Greg shares how he worked right through the birth of his son because his boss and the world expected him to, and how he hurt his wife, and ultimately lost the respect of the client he was trying to impress. For all of us who regret putting work first and missing out on the most important parts of life, this book is a must read. And it will help you understand that when you do one thing and do it GREAT, then you can make more money, in less time, with more joy than trying to be all things to all people. Read this book…and then read it again!

Here’s wishing you lots of slow, intentional living and joy!

xo,

 

 

My Word of the Year for 2017

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(By the way, get this fab mug here…)

Oh how I love the turn of the new year! I love nothing more than a fresh start–a new opportunity to design our lives just the way we want them to be. And for a big believer in goals, this is THE best time for setting a path to the life you want. I enjoyed time with family this weekend to relax and restore and eat my black-eyed peas. But today it’s serious goal setting time. And every good goal need a plan.

For the last five years, at the beginning of the year I’ve chosen a word to represent my intentions and goals. A word to be my guide for the next 12 months. It’s an annual ritual that I love, and that I take very seriously. Over those years I have chosen the words Discipline, Inspire, Action, Significance, and last year I chose Focus. I would say of all these, Significance was maybe my favorite because it meant looking for experiences and work that were truly meaningful. My favorite that is, until now.

I really believe what one of my favorite gurus, Dr. Wayne Dyer (who we lost in 2016) said. He said that intentions create reality. In other words what we put our minds to, becomes what we are.

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In 2016, my word was Focus. My intention was to be laser-focused mentally and emotionally on things that I wanted to achieve all year long.  Many times we as humans focus on the bad in life, or gossip, or challenges. And if what we focus on is what we become, that can be a dangerous practice, right?

Last year I wanted to have a head-down approach to my life.  I planned to forgo things that were merely good in lieu of the GREAT!  To say no to things that only seemed urgent so I could focus on what really matters. I decided to dig deep with the help of a few key advisors including my husband, in order to decide what I wanted my next few years to look like. I decided to focus on laying the ground work for the future that I want to manifest.

And though I had some HUGE successes in my design and consulting businesses and especially in my product designs last year, it was my marriage and my family that became my top priority. And oh WOW, have I ever reaped the rewards in those areas! It’s been so much fun when many of you have noticed and commented (on my social media and in person) over the last few months, about the changes you can see in my happiness. You’re right!

Relationships are like flowers, they need time and attention to bloom. And though my life seemed perfect before this year of focus, I didn’t realize that some of my relationships needed more time and attention than they were getting. As so many of you know, it is so hard to balance business and life, and for years my family has been patiently supporting my endeavors while I have tried to give them everything they needed. So 2016 was their turn to get major attention from me and I am thrilled that my family and I are truly happier than we have ever been because of it! Yes, I needed to be more connected to them too, and I was often too busy to even notice.

I also focused last year on downsizing the parts of my business that weren’t bringing in big profits or big success (like getting rid of my big brick and mortar we no longer need in lieu of a fabulous studio at home) so that I could be sure that the time I do spend on my business has the biggest payoffs with regard to fulfillment and finances. It was all part of my focus to balance work and family for the biggest rewards.

So when considering my word for 2017, I took a look back at my previous Word of the Year posts and something interesting happened. My intention to “Focus” in 2016 naturally led to my 2017 Word of the Year. In fact, if you look back at the blog post from January 2016, you’ll see the list of things I vowed to focus on…

I will forgo the good and Focus on the GREAT.

I will say no to many things that seem urgent and Focus on what matters.

I will travel less so I can Focus on my family more.

I will Focus on what I REALLY Want.

I will Focus on change.

I will Focus on what I can control.

I will Focus on what excites me.

I will Focus on being healthy.

I will Focus on finding Joy.

And what you will see is this year’s perfect word right there in the post. Because the last thing that I said I wanted to focus on was…

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That’s right, my word for 2017 is JOY! I said last year Joy would be part of what I wanted, but it was probably more of a side note, a secondary thought or at least one of several things I intended to seek.

This year it’s THE word. So what’s the difference in Joy and Happiness you ask? One definition I found said it this way…Joy is a stronger, less common feeling than happiness. Witnessing or achieving selflessness to the point of personal sacrifice frequently triggers this emotion. Feeling spiritually connected to a god or to people brings joy.

So my intention for this year is to let JOY shine in my life, both personally and professionally! I guess I got a taste of real happiness last year when I up-leveled my personal relationships, and now I want MORE. Joy will be the litmus test of every decision I make this year. If it doesn’t REALLY bring me JOY then it just won’t make the cut in 2017.

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But it goes deeper than that. It won’t just be the test when an opportunity arises. Joy will be the catalyst for more BIG changes this year for me and my business.

I want to make sure there is JOY in my design work. I definitely love my work but often a lot of “have tos” creep into my schedule or my projects. This year, I will go back to just taking the work that I am passionate about. And what I am most passionate about? Designing homes that support people in their goals, their intentions and their wellness. So look for some shifts in the design work I do. I am no longer willing to do work that doesn’t truly inspire me and bring me JOY. But if you want a home that makes you healthy and happy, then I may just be your designer!

I will expand on the JOY I feel when I help others through my consulting work. Many of you may not know that I don’t just work with designers, but all sorts of businesses to help with their marketing and social media, their online presence, their personal wellness and work-life balance and their overall brand. Our list of consulting clients includes all sorts of creatives types from lawyers, realtors, designers, and contractors to info product companies, telecommunication companies and financial advisors. Every type of small business can benefit from the work we do and this work brings me JOY! I will also do more personal and life consulting this year. Yes, consulting will be a big part of 2017 for me.

I find much JOY in my product designs and media partnerships and I will expand those in 2017. I can’t wait for you to see what I am up to in this area of my life. I have a few big announcements that will be coming soon.

But, most importantly, I want to focus on the JOY I have with my husband, my daughter, my family and a few close friends plus our 2 amazing pups this year. Have you seen how cute our new puppy is?!? Yes, I guess I am elated by the connection and fulfillment that my relationships brought me in 2016, so more than anything else, I want more of this in this new year.

There are turning points in all of our lives, more and more as we grow older, that cause us to stop and take stock of our lives and where we are. I’ve had some of those (a few bigs ones in 2016), and I’m sure you have, too. They remind us of what is most important to us and who we really care about in our lives. They also show us who really cares for and supports us,too. They make it clear who and what brings us JOY!

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Does that mean I’m turning my focus away from work? Not at all! Okay, well maybe some of it. I am going to travel less for work (yes, even less than last year). I am going to live less out of habit and more from intention. I plan to celebrate what I love about my job and my partnerships. I will do more of what makes me happy and less of what makes me stressed. It’s almost like I’ll be cleaning out my emotional closets and only keeping what brings me JOY. It’s sort of like Marie Kondo’s “the life-changing magic of tidying up” but for my life.

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Life is short. It really, really is. And I am so glad that JOY will be the motivator for me in 2017 to stop “thinking about what will make me happy” and start only doing the things that will. It’s going to be a BIG push out of my comfort zone, even for a person like me who spends quite a lot of time out there on a limb. It will mean pulling the trigger on a few things I have been meaning to start and on more things I have been meaning to stop. And that’s scary stuff.

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I want more time. Free time, family time, down time. And the only way to create that kind of white space in my life is say no to a lot more and yes to a lot less. It will be hard, but it will be worth it. I plan to choose wisely.

I am going to lean into to my purpose and let go of some outdated dreams and expectations that I have been hanging on to. I am going to let go of the past and enjoy my present because being in the now is really just that, a gift.

I am so blessed, and my days of rushing towards the next gigantic achievement in some effort to make me happy are over. Because what makes us happy isn’t “out there” its an inside job. And inside is where I will cultivate the most JOY this year!

So what is YOUR intention for 2017? Can you seek more joy? We all need more happiness in our lives, but maybe it’s JOY you should really go after! No matter what you plan for the next 12 months, I truly wish you a JOYous new year!

with love and gratitude,

Tobi-Signature