Archive for the ‘52 Weeks of Joy’ Category

The Joy of Saying YES to Yourself!

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How many days do you give yourself permission to follow your heart? To listen to your body? To be in charge of your own schedule? When I am consulting with other business people and creatives, I call this driving the bus. And it sounds great, doesn’t it. Many of us want to yell “Hell yes I am in charge of my own life!” but how many of us really are? Probably very few.

We are taught from a very young age that someone else is in charge of the “rules.” We are expected to meet other peoples’ expectations and deadlines and parameters. We learn that we “should” do a lot of things and that we “have to” be a certain way or check certain boxes or finish certain activities to be accepted, successful, popular. We learn that life is all about achievements and belonging instead of following your heart or your gut.

There is a lot of lip service these days given to being authentic, to “you doing you.” But I don’t feel like we give ourselves or others permission to really do that. And I have to tell you that I am over this masochistic way of living. It takes a toll on your physical and mental health but especially your happiness and joy. I have been a rule follower for about 45 years now. But I am tired of following the rules someone else created for me, or worse, that I set for myself based on achieving some level of success or attaining the approval of others – my family and society.

Whether your personal set of rules and expectations come from your parents and their core beliefs (this is where most of us start our rules), from society, from your professional industry, from your political affiliation, or just from your own super-high standards like I have, it’s time to challenge those rules, to dig deep and have the courage to design a life that really brings joy. It’s time to say YES to ourselves.

I want this more than anything for my daughter. Recognizing now that I am a recovering workaholic – addicted to work and achievement – I have a lot of wisdom to share with her about what an authentic life looks like. I know that no amount of success, accolades, awards, or accomplishments really feed your soul. And trust me, being on this sort of hamster wheel is exhausting. I’ve learned that the things that are truly meaningful in life are about connection – true connection with those you love plus loving and accepting yourself and a whole lot less proving, hustling, and trying to work our way to some level of happiness. Working your way to Joy just doesn’t happen long term.

So as you may recall, I have two resolutions this year – yes only two. That is saying a lot, because this major goal-setting, workaholic mama is crazy about goals and resolutions. I have had years where I had 10 or more. Geez! How did I think I could focus on 10 things at once?!? But this year my two resolutions are find more joy and love myself more.

And loving myself more means saying YES to myself. So what does that mean? It means when I feel like lying in bed all day on a Saturday or even on a Tuesday morning…I say YES and rearrange my schedule! It means when I feel my gut and my neck get all tense and tight because I have committed to something that I shouldn’t have and I ask myself if I can back out of it…I say YES and I make the call to un-commit! It means that if the old version of me is saying I “should” be accomplishing my next big goal or dream and my authentic self says I just want to lay low for a while and rest…I say YES! Saying yes to yourself takes courage. It means ignoring FOMO or “the fear of missing out” in exchange for putting your health and wellbeing first. It means taking a chance that someone will be mad at you, disappointed, or that they will forget you or not ask you next time and that’s scary. But it’s also empowering.

Most of us, especially women, spend a lifetime denying ourselves and our wishes in exchange for doing what makes other people happy. Especially in the South, we are taught to be quiet and look pretty. We are taught to go along with what other people want and don’t make anyone feel uncomfortable. We are taught to say yes to everyone and everything but us. We are taught the “responsible,” “admirable,” “appropriate” thing to do is what other people want us to do, or what we said we were going to do. We are not supposed to change our minds. In many ways, we are not supposed to be honest. We are not supposed to cause a problem. We are supposed to suck it up and do what makes everyone else feel good. And I am here to tell you that doesn’t equal health and happiness. That is not a recipe for joy.

So what would it take for you to stop telling yourself you have to, should, must, ought to, promised to and all those other absolutes you are pummeling yourself with, and start saying yes to your heart, your body, and your mind? What would it take for you to have the courage to say I thought I wanted that, but now I want something different? Or to say, that was great for a season of my life but now I am in a new season? Or as Maya Angelou said, when I know better I do better? What would give you the guts to do better with being kind and honest to yourself and saying YES to what you really want?

I know it’s hard, but it’s oh-so worth it. Be true to you before you commit to anyone else. Keep your word to yourself about what is right for you and what you really want. We’ve heard it so many times and it’s so hard to really believe, but life really is short. And it’s way too short to live a life that you dread every day or that sucks the life out of you on a regular basis.

We are supposed to feel good every day. We are not supposed to be constantly exhausted, stressed out, and overworked only leaving the miserable, grumpy, tired, and depleted version of ourselves for our families to deal with at the end of every day. If you are feeling that way on a regular basis, something is wrong. I’ve been there. And I am so happy to be in a much more relaxed state these days. I’m sure my family is happy about that too! (wink)

If you are creating a ridiculous schedule where your life is so full of noise and very little peace, how can you ever even hear your body or mind when it’s screaming at you that you’ve had enough?

Listen to yourself. Love yourself and say YES to yourself. Remember that no one ever says on their death bed, “I wish I had worked more” but most wish they had followed their hearts.

You deserve it.

Joyfully yours,

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Joy of Loving Your Work

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Today was an amazing day. So amazing, I forgot to post my blog this morning because I was shooting my home for an upcoming issue of Traditional Home. Days like today are the fun days. You know, the days that it feels like you’re living in your sweet spot!

And I’ve talked about my word of the year for weeks now in my 52 Weeks of Joy series. I’ve mentioned how I’m rediscovering or creating new joys in my life. It’s a daily practice. But believe me, it’s not as easy as it sounds. There are dozens of reasons every day or at least every week that can bring you down if you aren’t vigilant.

One place where it can definitely be challenging to find joy is in our work. Most of us spend more time each day at work than doing anything else. So it’s really important to our happiness and well being to make sure that our job brings us joy many more days that not.

All of us have had times when the joy of what we do is drained right out of our workdays thanks to deadlines and stress. It can be hard to get motivated enough to get out of bed when your work isn’t inspiring you. And even though I am passionate about the work I do, I can’t tell you the number of times over my 18 years in business,  when I’ve thrown my hands up in the air and said, that’s it, I QUIT! Just shut the doors, we’re done! And when we add on top of that our responsibilities at home, it can really get overwhelming.

So if you are feeling burned out, drained or overworked, or if you can’t remember the last time you felt like you were working in your “sweet spot”, then it’s time for you to commit to finding joy in your work. Sometimes the problem is that your job or industry has changed due to factors outside of your control and you may start to ask yourself why you continue to do this job everyday. And believe it or not, that’s a good thing. When anything in your life is so painful that you are motivated to make a change, that’s exactly when something amazing is going to happen!

So what steps do we take to put that joy back or maybe find it for the first time? Well as problematic as it can be to watch all those fabulous photos, amazing destinations, and incredible projects everyone is posting on social media because it makes us envious or think that we’re doing something wrong, it can also be motivating. Yes, “Comparison is the thief of joy”, but it can also light a fire under you to make your life what you dream it can be. I do turn to Instagram often for inspiration including ideas for what I want in my life especially in the way of travel with my family.

So if you’ve lost the happiness and passion you had for your business, what can you do? I have some ideas for you:

First, stop everything for 10 minutes today. I want you to turn off your phone and your email and shut your door. Then I want you to get a piece of paper and a pen, and I want you to write down why you got into this business in the first place. And do not get up until you have a reason that isn’t “I want to make money.” Because you could do ANYTHING to make money. You could probably do a lot of things that didn’t have the amount of aggravation and stress you’re feeling right now.

What was it? You need to get back to whatever the motivation was for your business, and rediscover it so you can bring back your joy!

You may also want to remember what positives you get from your business. What 2 or 3 things do you love about your business? Maybe you like the freedom of your schedule. Maybe you like not answering to a “boss.” Or maybe you like being in charge of your destiny – whatever it is, you need to write those down and remember them, too.

You know what else is really the enemy of happiness? Being overwhelmed. That’s why I wanted you to create a moment of zen, without phones or distractions, to focus on what is important to you. I wanted you to stop the “overwhelm” for just a few minutes or better yet a few minutes every day with meditation or yoga. That is definitely working for me this year!

When your to-do list seems as long as the Great Wall of China, taking that first step on the wall can seem like an enormous and almost impossible task. But that one step is everything. If you can focus on one goal, one task, just one step, it can really help you take action. Taking action, even a small one, is really motivating. It’s an accomplishment, and that can really help you keep going.

Remind yourself of any successes you have in your business too! I’m guilty of not doing this sometimes myself. We get so caught up in grinding away at everything we have to do that we forget to stop and say “Hey, I just did a BIG thing there!” Maybe you want to make a list on a white board where you can see it all the time. Or maybe you want to even set a reminder to have a glass of champagne when you get home. However you have to do it, set a routine to celebrate all of your accomplishments, your JOYS, from small ones to really big ones!

And finally, be sure you are finding inspiration for yourself. Inspiration really does lead to joy! So if you need to go to a museum, or read a book, or take a day trip somewhere, or go to the spa when you should be working so you can relax enough to be inspired, then do it! I suspect that inspiration and creativity were one of the reasons you listed for why you got into this business in the first place, so find ways to bring them back into your work life.

Here’s to us all having more days in our “sweet spot” this year!

Joyfully yours,

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Joy of Yin Yoga

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Yin yoga changed my life. About 6 years ago I discovered Yin style yoga. I had been practicing yoga on and off for years but was typically doing flow yoga or even hot yoga now and again. I had no idea Yin even existed. Sadly there is no Yin yoga studio in Little Rock anymore but I now practice Yin at home in my personal yoga studio. More about that in a bit

So what is Yin, you ask? It’s a type of yoga involving super long holds in typical yoga positions…as in 8 minutes in a forward fold. The point of it is to bypass the muscle and get into the connective tissue. You know the connective tissue? It’s that stuff that basically shrink wraps your joints. And as we age it doesn’t remain as pliable or flexible as it once was which can cause all sorts of joint pain, back issues and injuries. If you are a nerd like me and would like to learn more about Yin and it’s benefits, this book, The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga, is for you!

I find that Yin has a lot of the benefits of Restorative yoga too. And I know, I know, lots of “real” yoga peeps think Yin and Restorative are for sissies. Well as Oprah would say “here’s what I know for sure”. I get cardio in my life in tons of ways including walking, hiking, tennis and other intense exercises. So I am not lacking in the sweating and burning calories department most of the time. But where I am always in major need is in the stretching my body and relaxing my mind categories. My personality is definitely Type A and some might say I’m “intense” so instead of adding more fuel to the fire so to speak with hot yoga or something fast paced, what this hard-working mama needs is something that calms me down and makes my body feel oh so good. And I mean YIN FEELS GOOD! It’s truly hard for me to decide if a massage or Yin yoga feels better.

And what I learned about Yin is that it’s sort of like yoga meets meditation. Because trust me, when you are in a hold for 5-8 minutes or longer, it definitely becomes about quieting the mind, especially in poses like Dragon that are super painful. So for me Yin is a double win because it is a major dose of mental work with a super dose of stretching my body.

You can also think of Yin as in the opposite of Yang. Yang qualities are fire, intense, fast, restless, active. Yang isn’t all bad, it is also positive, light and  sunshine. But for me, too much Yang is a problem. And my personality is absolutely way more Yang than Yin. We need to balance our personality with whichever qualities we don’t have. So I am the perfect candidate for Yin yoga because I am definitely high-strung, very active, easily stressed and I also spend a lot of time sitting at work, on airplanes, and in front of my computer so my hips, hamstrings, low back, neck and shoulders get really tight. The difference in my body and my demeanor with a Yin yoga practice is remarkable. Just ask those people who live with me when I’m not practicing Yin (wink!).

I really understood the power of Yin yoga over the last couple of years when I took on a lot of extra things like expanding my consulting company, and 4 licensed product lines, and I let my Yin practice fall by the wayside. Boy did I ever feel the pains of not having this gift of yoga in my life. And my body went from feeling like a 30 something to an 80 year old in about a year’s time. I was actually surprised at how far backwards my health and flexibility went by not making time for this therapeutic form of exercise.

 

So if you are like me, Type A all the way, give Yin yoga a try. I practice every day now and my life is better for it. You can do it right at home with yogaglo.com on your computer, tablet or phone. And if you have Apple TV like me, it’s even easier to stream it on your TV. If you’re looking for peace, health and lots and lots of JOY this year, Yin yoga is the way. Namaste!

Joyfully yours,

 

 

 

 

 

The Joy of Essentialism

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Have you ever heard the saying “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear?” Well that is what Greg McKeown is for me–a teacher. I am on my second reading of his book Essentialism. I discovered this book last year thanks to a course I was taking online by Hilary Rushford (she taught a great class on doing less by the way!) and this book changed my life.

So now that I have made some MAJOR changes over the last 9 months personally and professionally (we’ll talk about those more soon – I promise!), I decided to read it again. I knew that I would hear things that I didn’t hear the first time around because I am already in a different place thanks to my pursuit of a simpler life and my resolutions to find more joy and love myself more.

I think the biggest gift from Greg’s book is this:”If it isn’t a clear yes, then it’s a clear no.” WOW! Talk about a litmus test for what to allow in your life! And I don’t know about you, but I think I have a harder time dealing with some of the small things like whether to go out with my girlfriends on a weeknight vs. staying home and getting a good night’s sleep than I do with big business decisions sometimes. But whether the decision is big or small, this concept makes the choice crystal clear. If you waiver at all, the answer is no. What a relief that is to me in so many ways. It stops the conversations in our heads, the guilt, the waffling. What a lot of time this one concept can save in our decision making and in our lives in general. Time that we can spend doing something truly meaningful.

Greg and I have a similar vision about people. I love to help others find their passion and purpose, live their best life, find happiness and joy in their businesses and in their homes. And I see so many people doing things because they think they “have to” but not because they want to or like to. And I have definitely felt that way at times. But the truth is this…

Very few things are essential. There are so FEW things that we really must do to be happy or profitable. This is completely in line with my mantra “Say no to the good so you can say yes to the best.” What stresses us out, overwhelms us, makes us want to escape work and life, is saying yes to all those non-essential things that we somehow can’t say no to. How many times I have heard people I am consulting with on their businesses say “Well, they aren’t my ideal client but they were a referral from a friend so I HAVE to take them on.” No you don’t! Or what about when people say “You know, I don’t want to offer that service, I don’t even like doing that, but I feel like to be in this business we have to have that service or people will not hire us.” Ok, so they don’t hire you – you don’t like working that way anyway! The list of things that I hear people doing daily that they don’t want to but “have to” is endless and if we are perfectly honest, it’s also a lie. We DON’T have to do it. We have a choice.

Oh wouldn’t life be so beautiful and people so happy if they had the courage to live a life that is true to themselves. I want this for my daughter, heck I want this for me!  I want this for my niece and nephew, my husband, my mom, my brother, my friends. I want this for our world. A life of authenticity, to truly be who and what you want to be. That would be the most refreshing and inspiring world I could possibly imagine.

I can’t say enough things about this book by Greg McKeown and how this way of thinking has changed my mindset. And it builds so beautifully on other great books I have read like Tim Ferriss’ idea in The 4 Hour Work Week of making as much money as you can in as little time as possible so you can spend the rest of your time doing what you want. Yes, that definitely fits my idea of the essentialist lifestyle and it’s a plan I am putting into place more now than ever.

I don’t know about you, but hitting mid-life made me re-think what I want for the next half of this life. And I definitely want more listening, pondering, meditating and enjoying the most important people in my life. One of the most interesting things in the book to me was discussion of priorities. The word “priorities” only became plural in America in the 1940s. Prior to that is was priority, singular, because really you can only have ONE MOST important thing. But in the ’40s, Americans started trying to do more and be more and at work we were expected to accomplish more.

And now in our lives and businesses we talk about priorities and the list could include dozens of things. DOZENS! Then we wonder why in the world we are so tired, so overworked, so confused and so ineffective all the time. This way of thinking is a sure-fire way to fail every single day. And I don’t know about you but I feel like that often. I rarely feel like I win when I go head-to-head against my to-do list.  But if we had one true priority every day, could we really hit that? I suspect we could. If we removed all the non-essentials from our to-do list, it would probably be really short.

So I want you to know the JOY I am finding in Essentialist thinking and in the quest to move closer to this way of living. It is definitely what helped me find more Joy in Quitting and I know that the more I practice the “Disciplined Pursuit of Less but Better,” the more Joy will surely come into my life and the lives of those I love. Cheers to Essentialism!

Joyfully yours,