Goal Challenge Check In

So, How is Going…REALLY?

I am doing great, thanks for asking!

For me, and the folks I coach, I find that weeks 1 and 2 are fueled by sheer excitement and potential! Which is great! Experience has shown that when motivation starts to wane it is discovered that the either 1) the goals are too big and a sense of overwhelm and panic at the time horizon sets in or, 2) the lack of rituals fail to get one over the hump of important/mandatory, but tedious tasks.

Today, let’s tackle the first pitfall before we get there.

One of the biggest issues regarding setting goals is to keep them at a high level. We all want to accomplish things in life. But setting goals that are too general (read BIG) is going to make it difficult to accomplish them. It’s also going to be difficult to measure how you are doing. The best approach is to break big goals into chunks. Give your smaller goals a second look and see if the scope exceeds the 12 week framework. If so, break it down so that each week you are moving the needle. Also, make sure that your goals are not too small and you are spinning your wheels. Just right-sized goals take time and can change based on weekly accomplishments and RITUALS. This is where the 12WY really shines. It helps you with this hard part so much!

Think of the chunks as action items. These actions are measurable units that you put to milestones. You need to set them up in a way that holds you accountable. Otherwise, they won’t get accomplished.

Write your goals and action steps down on paper. Put it in a place where you can view it every single day. It’s okay to record them electronically as well, although some people find it difficult to keep both the paper version and electronic version in sync. It’s personal preference. If you feel you can succeed with just one or the other, that is the way to go.

It’s okay to dream big with your goals but be realistic about accomplishing them. When you break your goals down into action steps and find they are not within your ability or skill set to accomplish within the specified periods, rework them until you find the right mix of actions. Making the goals and actions too difficult will set yourself up for frustration when not being able to accomplish them. Also, a the scoring practice of the 12WY helps you with this other hard part!

For me, I scored a 95% on Goal One, which was great because mid-week I realized one of my smaller goals was too vague to really measure progress. So I clarified it by making it into two smaller defined goals, but rated myself 0. I have four little goals that roll up into the one big goal and the average was 95%. The second goal, which was a weight loss goal of 1 pound a week was 80.25%. I did lose the pound but most likely due to increased workout intensity and length. The late night dinners got a 4 got me out of the 7 days. I am still in it to win it!

We will be back next week and I will share my tracking system and talk about rituals as an effective tool for building habits and persevering when motivation dips, which it will!

Flex Your Productivity Muscle

End Procrastination with the October Goal Challenge

We’re all guilty of doing it, more often than we’d like to admit. Procrastination may not be just about turning in your work project at the last minute. It can be putting off important life decisions like whether or not you should ask your boss for that raise he promised last month, or whether you should join a gym, leave your boyfriend, have a baby, etc. Choices are endless, therefore, the opportunities for procrastination are endless, too. The up side? The opportunities to choose action are endless as well so let’s get to the tips to help you develop action-based muscle so you can progress in the accomplishment of your goals!

1. Turn Redundant, Non-Urgent Tasks into Habits

We all have enough willpower to get about 3 or 4 tasks done each day. Habits use other parts of our brain rather than the prefrontal cortex which is associated with rational thinking. So, when you train yourself to do something out of habit, rather than look at it as a mundane task, you think about it less which means you’re using less willpower and you won’t fall into the procrastination rut.

Things like brushing your teeth or making your bed have all become daily habits which you automatically perform without even considering putting them off. Why not turn healthy eating, daily exercise, or turning in reports ahead of time into daily habits as well?

After that it becomes easier, but you still have to keep yourself motivated and inspired. Procrastination is all about taking that dreaded first step. So why not ease into it with the knowledge that after a certain amount of time, or once I’ve finished X, I can watch videos on YouTube or go get a cup of coffee. Make it pleasant for yourself because the reward is the part that the brain assimilates to gauge your enjoyment level. If you’re happy, then your brain slowly turns this task into a habit which you look forward to, instead of something you dread on a daily basis.

2. Break work tasks into chunks.

Instead of cleaning out the entire garage, do the right side first, take a break, then do the left side, take a break, then finish off the rest. At work, big tasks may seem daunting when you look at them as a whole. The answer? Break it down into smaller tasks. Make an outline of the entire project, and then divide it up into smaller tasks.

Working in 30-minute increments also helps break down tasks into smaller chunks which are manageable and not so intimidating. After the 30 minutes, take a break and assess your work. Seeing how much you’ve accomplished will give you that boost of confidence you need to keep at it.

3. Remove distractions.

Checking your email every 5 minutes isn’t doing you any good. So, once you’ve committed to doing the job, limit distractions by putting your away. You can find apps that help you stay on track, but some will say that’s completely missing the point.

The important thing is that you set up a certain time for checking emails or your social media, and once you’ve started your task, you avoid the urge to take a sneak peak.

Another serious distraction is multi-tasking. Even though it may seem that you’re being productive, the truth is it’s a complete waste of time and energy. Think about it, it takes your brain about 20 minutes to completely focus on one task and give it 100%, and then you bring in another task which means you decrease your focus level by half, bring in a third task and the focus drops even lower. So even though you’re working more, your end results will be below average.

4. Work during your peak hours.

We all have certain times during the day when we’re most alert. Some of us are morning people, some are night owls, and some have more energy during the afternoon hours. Find out what your peak hours are and tackle your most difficult tasks then. You’ll be more of a powerhouse then with your brain working at its maximum capacity.

We all have the ability and power to make positive incremental steps–build those daily habits! After all, Coaching Legend Vince Lombardi once said “Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” Get into gear this week with the October Goal Challenge!

Make the Plan, Plan to Work

Hey, there! Is your vision clarified? Milestones identified? Great! But, if not, start here. If so, then let’s get into firming up the plan and the plan of attack!

Bye-Bye, Comfort Zone

In digesting and implementing the 12 Week Year by Moran and Lennington, I found the next steps to be the hardest to do but they made the biggest difference. They were a challenge for me as they spoke directly to my comfort zone. I had done relatively OK in my life with minimal effort. I had not grown because when I set a goal, especially an annual goal (New Year’s Resolutions ring a bell?), I stalled due to lack of urgency and the mindset that there was always enough time to “get it together”. When the time horizon was upon me, and I could accomplish what I set out to do, then I did. When it was not going to happen without some type of discomfort, it didn’t. And subconsciously, I made the requisite excuses (to myself in 99% of the occurrences) and vowed to do better. But make no mistake. There was no Vanessa Williams singing to me. It was clear that my comfort zone was too small to accommodate my desired progress. We humans do not generally like discomfort. But once I decided to build that muscle, some real grit, things shifted. Hopefully, you are comfortable with accountability; this method for goal setting accomplishment forces you to embrace it. And you will like it.

Step 3: Defining Goal Metrics and Controlling Time

Note: The book discusses these concepts as tactics and process control.

Picking up where we left off, we have our lofty vision clarified and some milestone goals that serve as stepping stones. For me, I am going to tackle two goals, to build my email marketing list and to lose a 12 pounds (1 pound per week). Looking at the first goal, it needs some refinement. Goals need to be SMART: Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. For the 12WY, they should also be positively stated and assigned to some one for accountability (personal goals are ALL on you. If you have a professional goal or want to apply this methodology at work, then teammates would be assigned a specific sets of tasks.)

So, to correct my goal of building my list, it will now read: Grow subscriber list from 17 to 75 in the period beginning October 5 and ending Sunday, December 27th. For the weight loss goal: Lose 12 pounds during the next twelve weeks. Both are written in action-oriented verbiage, are specific, measurable, attainable (although not comfortably but I won’t DIE), realistic, and time-bound. Let’s GOOOOOO!

Time Control

This is where we develop the time management and process control piece. 12WY teaches three time blocking strategies and I use them in the way described! 1) Strategic, or deep work, blocks for at least two or three hours daily. Covid-19 has changed my work so much that I have a one two hour block there and one 90 minute at home. This is the nose-to-the-grindstone, only interrupt me if I am on fire, concentrated highly-productive work block; 2) the buffer block, where you deal specifically with flow interrupters like, emails, calls, sticky notes, and little fires that pop up. I have one of these 60 minute blocks at my job, and one 30 minute one at home as I work on my business. I typically sit to do light tasks as my family waits until then to interrupt. Then I give them the block and get the little to bed and then have my deep work block late; and 3) the breakout block, where you step completely away from all work. HA! This is the family time block where I help with school work, dance with the little, cook and workout! My husband works long hours so and the big girl is a ghost 19 years old, so it is usually me and the little and this works for us.

Within the blocks, you have your tactics or daily tasks and activities that prioritize and drive the movement of the goals. So for my weight loss goal, my tactics could be a) weekly weigh in, b) eating a salad lunch daily to decrease calorie intake, c) 3 cardio and 2 strength workouts weekly. The premise of the 12WY is that if I do my tactics at a rate of 85% or better, I can reach my goal by the end of my 12 week period. For the list-building goal, tactics could be a) create opt-in content to gather emails, b) create and sell ads for the opt-in landing page or website , c) create email sequence to welcome and nurture those new subscribers, and d) track engagement analytics.

Here are SEVEN free resources that you can use to help you track progress. I am using only two and they are enough. I am using the Asian Efficiency Scorecard and the Weekly Road Map! The last post will talk about taking score and the weekly accountability meeting! And, then we are ready for the 5th and a full launch! If want to know what you can do next may I suggest, calendarizing your time blocks and checking out the weekly roadmap. It has proven to be instrumental in moving me in the right direction with the least discomfort!

For both goals, I know what I will be doing on a weekly basis to reach the goal. Those deep work blocks could be used for development of the opt-in content, or for a workout session. It is tougher to get the time for personal goals but not impossible. Do you binge Netflix? Are all the teams your teams and you can’t miss a game? What comfort would you have to give up to move closer to your vision? Like, Follow, Comment!

It’s Fall, Y’all! – Goal Challenge!

The Autumn Equinox debuted on September 22 at 10:21 a.m. ushering in the official beginning of fall in the Northern Hemisphere. One of two days with 12 hours daylight and dark, National Geographic tells us that even split in the day is linked to the reason that the Earth has different seasons and cycles of weather. I really enjoy learning about the lore and actual influences of nature’s cycles in our lives and energies. As I have gotten older, I try to rely more on the wisdoms that have stood the tests of time and Mother Nature reigns supreme.

Whether you prefer the Southern sun all year round, or find solace in the huge snow drifts of Wyoming or Vermont, the seasons do change. I’m one who has learned to find peace in the changing of the seasons. In Texas, I grow tired of triple-digit heat ALL DAY, with air that has a palpable weight. Autumn brings crisp air (AIR!) and a rejuvenates my mind and body. The transitions and energies of each season is unique and special, but to be clear, Fall is my favorite season–hands down.

As creatures of nature, not just habit, we can tap into both the subtle and striking energy changes brought on by all of nature’s cycles, particularly at the onset of Fall. The second half, moving closer to winter has it own energy!

With fall, comes a time where usually parents are sending kids back to school and the comfortable routines resume. It is a time that can bring energy to tackle projects before winter sets in and can be a natural catalyst to accomplishment. I am going with this energy full throttle this year! Come along!

The Challenge!

If you have not read the 12 Week Year by Brian Moran, please do! He says a lot but my take-aways and I use it are simply:

“the number-one thing that you will have to sacrifice to be great, to achieve what you are capable of, and to execute your plans, is your comfort.”

Brian Moran

“It’s not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” —Henry David Thoreau”

Brian Moran

So, I have been plagued with being busy but stagnant and I wanted to change it. A deeper look at why lead me to the realization that it was simply comfortable made me angry with myself for wasting the one resource I could ever get back-time. That, naturally, highlighted the first quote for me and I made the conscious decision to move out of my comfort zone by expanding it to a new level, a level that included productivity over busyness.

The book is awesome, lots of resources abound on the web and on the author’s website. This is not a sponsored post nor am I an affiliate so moving on. READ: I will be talking about my take and how I use it to increase my personal and professional productivity only.

In talking about this book to friends who have not read it (but BOTH read my blog!), I decided to try my hand at breaking it down for them.

Steps 1 and 2: Clarify Your Vision and Goal Setting (Milestone)

This week our task will be two-fold: 1) to clarify our visions for the next three to five years. The uncertainty of life (i.e. PANDEMIC) has undoubtedly got you thinking about what you want from life. This week, write those visions in specific terms like, “I want to scale my business to $10k monthly” or more intentionally aspirational like, “I want to live comfortably enough to not worry about income and also give back”.

Then 2) chose only one milestone goal that will take about 12 weeks to complete. This was by far the hardest part to get the hang of. Babies have a vision of walking. You can see it in their eyes as the stare at your expensive or irreplaceable items on tabletops and shelves. Being on two feet is where the action is. But, alas. First, they have to sit, then crawl, then stand. These are milestone goals that are necessary to accomplish before they are able to actualize their vision. Identify your milestones to your vision. We are going to tackle the first one in this 12 week year.

For me, my vision is to replace my work-for-somebody else with income from my online coaching business (which I launched about three months go. Short story long–not a clear plan, spinning wheels, ready to progress). Milestone goals include creating a suite of courses, creating digital content for residual sales, build email marketing list, monetizing my Youtube channel, and recreating the process for another person. Whew…chile. The only goal I can actually accomplish is to build my list. The other goals all have some other milestone goals within them. Building my list can be accomplished with some weekly tasks and metrics for success. And the great thing is, doing it will help the other goals. For giggles, I am going to tackle a second goal. I would like to lose a pound a week for 12 weeks. Next time (two days), I am going to talk about good goals and we will set the weekly tactics. Then we will be ready to start our 12 week year on October 5th!

Are you feeling frisky this fall? What would you like to accomplish this quarter?

Love in the Time of Corona

For me, watching coupling trends or items of the like are of interest to me. I mean, real trends, not gossip. For example, China reported a record-high number for divorce filings in March, after their nation exited lockdown. This was timely and interesting to me as I found the report just as we entered sheltering-in-place protocols in Texas. I have always held the adage, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” as a universal truth, particularly given my own personalities and needs for time alone. For me, this applies to the kids, too! Albeit, in smaller amounts or time increments. So, I have held the opposite to be true as well. Too much time results in somebody getting on someone else’s nerves, and the pandemic protocols begged the questions: Why? Can I prevent reaching the breaking the point? Will I still want to after the smoke has cleared?

What is it about closeness, and specifically lots of time spent together in close quarters, that is so damn hard. I started to look for answers before the proverbial shoe dropped so I could arm myself. My mom is widow, so this was one reason I did ask her. I was fortunate enough to have a friend who is older and married. He and his wife have been married for 50 years and are both retired. He takes a dance class with me. He does this without his wife, who is really a lovely person. I reached out via facebook and he responded enthusiastically.

Basically, he said when it is just the two of you, you hyper-focus on the things you don’t like about a person. The trick is to tick off the things you do like as well. Make it a mental exercise. Also, you have got to do something that is yours. For us, we both love the Y. She swims while I dance. We have mutual friends there but may not see them together all of the time.

Ahh! I felt like I could help keep the scales balanced. Any time a light was cast on a what I considered to be a personality flaw, I would say, “but he is/also does _____”. No problem, right?

When I tell you the scales were broke, busted, and I was disgusted in a matter of days, please know I mean it. Things like the way he slept or breathed while he slept had really started to be all I could focus on. Like, how is he even sleep already? But about 10 days in, I realized that I was the only one who was feeling like this. Why? My husband got to leave the house. His business is essential and he got to leave the house-daily. While I was inside with an invisible teenager (except when the meals were ready) and a super-attached primary school child with diverse needs (hint all of her needs required physical contact at all times with –in her mind).

So, before I filed for divorce, I reached out to the teenager and told her she needed to step up and entertain her sis more so I can have some alone time so I do not commit homicide. I hinted that I might start with her. This special time , which I have come to call Quarantine Squared, is a little quarantine within the bigger overall quarantine, and it made huge difference. Everyone in our family has called a Q2 time-out. The concept was then explained to the husband and I told him where I needed him to step, too.

Immediately, some pressure was released. In addition, we both tried to find some ways to do couple things. The following are things that you can try, even now, as many are still living pretty restricted lives, as we are.

  • Talk about what we miss from our former lives and how it makes us feel. Restricted movement patterns/freedom, loss in finances, or even loved ones to this illness are all things that may need a compassionate ear. This alone helped us a lot. As racial inequities have been highlighted and exacerbated (especially in my day job) talking about it really helped!
  • Relive fond memories and day-dream about when this is over…
  • Enlisting a friend to be a sounding board for the usually harmless vetting that needs to happen at times. I know I have a married friend and we serve on each other’s personal board of directors in this capacity. We don’t belittle the spouse or divulge personal or sensitive details. It is just girl talk about if I find one more unmatched sock… NOTE: Take care if this person is family! Will vetting change their view of your spouse if you stay together?
  • Use the time together to get to know each other better. Hands down, this was my favorite thing. We have been married ten years and I have learned quite a bit about him during this time. Little things about his family, pre-us memories, small things, big things. It certainly explained some things and I ended up with an even deeper connection and appreciation for him and his perspective on things. I also taught him a thing or two about me! LOL!
  • If these don’t help, please don’t hesitate to try teletherapy. Sadly, I have witnessed some marriages end during this time, and likely there were pre-existing issues or resentments. Either way, the help of a professional can help give you the tools to resolve them or at least get to a healthy place emotionally so that there is no baggage in a new relationship going forward.

Every relationship a person had was likely tested in a variety of ways during the sheltering in place. For me and my husband, we are no longer in the strictest phases and have survived not just in tact, but better off, relationship-wise. It was not a breeze. Nerves were stepped stomped breakdanced on. But the single most important thing I learned was a true gem I gleaned from an article I read. In a marriage, or partnership, you must play to each other’s strengths. Me whining about doing more housework or juggling the little’s school and therapy demands is not likely going to change. But I am also not going to lug 100 lbs. back and forth as we move boxes for my mom (I could but it is infinitely easier for my husband), worry about all the vehicles, security and other things that have fallen into his realm of duties. These delineations are not all based on conformity to stereotypical gender roles either. They are where our strengths lie. He is physically stronger. He carries the heavy stuff. He is a carpenter and builds homes. He fixes stuff. I am a former elementary educator. I do the school stuff. We promised each other that we would be a helper and partner to the other. Sometimes, it is not equal, but it is equitable. I do the things that help him do the things he is good at and vice versa. He does this unwaveringly and without complaint. I learned that this is my biggest struggle and I have a new perspective on our partnership. And, things have never been better.

What are ways that you relationships have or are weathering the storm of the pandemic? Please drop a tip, comment, or question!

Healthy Snacks for Thriving Students

Whether your kids are going back to school this fall or taking virtual classes at home, one thing that won’t change is their endless need for after school snacks. Parents, like me, have been fighting a variety of battles of wills during the sheltering at home. Many I have talked to have admitted that nutrition and food choice battles were some of the ones most frequently dodged or exchanged for a little ease and peace and quiet.

This ferocity of the battle can be amped if there are other factors, like not great habits by adults or household influencers, or like in the case of the Little one, diverse abilities that can affect sensory processing or sheer willpower. My girl, as I have said, has Trisomy 21 and that girl is stubborn. I have had not had to “Mommy Dearest” her, but I have learned the hard way that I have not set a great example and while I have cleaned up my act to the tune of 25 pounds lost since April, she is not as easily influenced by my choices. It has been tough and often she repeats her desire for chicken “luggets”, “fench fies”, and soda for HOURS. No exaggeration. Eventually, she takes the food I offer out of sheer hunger. Often, I have to feed her a few bites to get her to try it. Almost at a 100% rate, she will eat what was handed to her, report she liked it, and we do battle again the next meal. It does not carry over, at least not yet.

I have basically tried to fix her dinner meals. If I can get some consistency here, I plan to tackle lunches as she is at work with me right now for virtual school. She will go back in two weeks (GAH! PLEASE!) and then I will gladly leave it to school lunches and peer pressure. She had really started to eat better at the beginning of the year and then WHAMMO! The pandemic brought a lot of her progress to a sudden halt.

As adults have put on a few pounds during this time, it is time to tighten up for ourselves and for kids. After all, they do as they SEE and not what you SAY. Keeping this in mind as well as the fact that the parents control supply lines, you can help your child get back or track or start to develop the kind of eating habits that well serves them well throughout their lives.

For me, my girl, who is a grazer by nature, is content to eat the same snacks. She likes fruit sauces (I make them), and smoothies (I make these too!) and baked veggie chips, yogurt, some fruits. I try to her snacks pretty unprocessed but am having no luck shifting items from the snack list to meals. So, we are all, in this together!

So how do you get your children to eat healthy snacks?

Studies show that children need to be offered a new food anywhere from 10 to 15 times before they will readily eat it – and enjoy it.

That means that it may take awhile!

But consistently offering healthy snacks, fruit, vegetables, and whole foods will pay off.

Instead of allowing your kids to choose their own snack from the pantry, plan to set out the healthy snack that you want them to eat each day after school.

Whether that means putting berries in a bowl, slicing an apple or celery sticks with a side of peanut butter, or preparing a healthy snack – put the snack on the counter in the same place each day.

If your child doesn’t want the healthy snack, that’s okay. He or she will survive without a snack.

Eventually (maybe it will take 10 – 15 times!!!), after understanding that the presented snack is consistently the only option, he or she will most likely come around and start munching!

Here are 5 easy snack ideas that kids can help prepare as well as enjoy!

  1. Baked Sweet Potato Crisps- slice (mandolin or spiralizer), season, and bake!
  2. Yogurt Parfaits – provide fruit, granola without added sugars (or make your own), and yogurt. Kids can do their own layers–may not be pretty but it may help the kids try their own creations.
  3. Humus Dip with dippers – Cutting the tahini is an easy way to lighten up humus, which is really just pureed beans. You can experiment with chickpeas, black beans, edamame and a variety of seasonings, add veggies or crackers and BOOM!
  4. Ants on a log – A Classic! Cream cheese, peanut butter, and raisins or any other dried fruit can be a fun way to tweak this classic to your child’s tastes.
  5. Peanut Butter Fruit Dip – a little peanut butter mixed with Greek yogurt can be used as a dip for fruits or even veggie or crackers! Lots of possibilities

If you have favorite healthy snacks that your kids love or tips and tricks to help encourage to try new foods, please drop a comment!

It’s Hard Out Here – Pimping or Not (Part 2)

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Let’s resume our conversation.

Last time, I used an all-too-common example, a lost job. A lost job, no matter the why, is an opportunity for new enterprises — a new business, a trip, time off to spend with family and friends, continued education, and more. Training our minds to look at adverse or undesired situations in this way is the trick.

Well, here comes a bit of bad news–I cannot tell you how to do for you. Only you should train your brain. This makes sense. Think of how folks refer to cults and organizations, or even relationships that seem to rely on a sort of brainwashing to control the other person. No one says, “Sign me up for that. I do not want to be in control of my own mind”. This is really just a scenario where one person forfeits their power, for a plethora of reasons, and the power person then trains their brain for them, usually to their benefit. Pavlov’s Dog, plain and simple.

Difficult situations are going to happen despite intentions, preparations, or purity of heart. Knowing this is inevitable, we can be confident that on large and small scales, we will have ample opportunity to practice our brain training.

You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it

Margaret Thatcher

When Disaster Strikes

It is healthy, and quite necessary, to grieve the loss or change that feels like loss. But it’s also important to take responsibility for every stage of our lives and take a proactive approach to every situation. Only then, can we find meaning in our lives and minimize uncertainty. Taking the responsibility with acknowledgement is where we hold on to the power to choose our next steps.

Luckily, the hard task of introspection is not the only way to find meaning in difficult times.
When hardships come, it’s easy to over-think the situation. However, focusing at least part of your time to giving to others helps putting life in perspective.

Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth

Muhammad Ali

When you give away your time and energy to help others, you create a connection with others. Life is no longer something that happens to you. Instead, it becomes a network, which you can influence in a positive way. When disasters strike, it is very easy to get wrapped up in fixing whatever you need to fix. When we hyper-focus on our selves, we forget about the connectivity we have with others. Service brings perspective.

Finally, difficulties are part of life. Trying to avoid them is not only futile, but it also prevents you from focusing your energy in purposeful, selfless work when appropriate. Therefore, if difficulties cannot be avoided, you should face them with patience and compassion to yourself and others, including strangers.

Every situation leaves a mark on you. That means something. It means you’re growing, building your own path of self-acceptance and compassion. You have the power to take control of your life by reflecting non-judgmentally, accepting each situation as an opportunity, and working with and for others.

Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others

Booker T. Washington

It’s Hard Out Here – Pimping or Not (Part 1)

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

Life Lessons: Learning How to Find Meaning in Rough Times

In times like these, hopelessness is increasingly becoming a common feeling. There are tragedies on the news every day and in our lives frequently. The economy. Riots. Pandemics. Discord every where we turn. On top of that, our daily lives can bring challenges and negativity as well.

Every person faces these situations differently, though. For some, comfort is to be found in religion and spirituality; others turn to meditation or therapy. And still others, unfortunately, adopt unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as drinking, drugs, and other risk-taking behaviors to manage their grief, anguish, frustration, or hopelessness.

However, a shift in how we look at hard times can also help in adopting more positive coping mechanisms.

Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.

Khalil Gibran

One good way to reinterpret hardships is to find meaning in them.

And how can you do this?    


In the face of a negative event, sit back and ask yourself how you can make the event meaningful.

For example, let’s say you were fired or let go from your job, a distressing situation that can leave you feeling afraid, angry, and ashamed. Particularly if you have a family, debt, or live in an uncertain economy where your opportunities to find a new job are slim to none.

Consider asking yourself questions such as:

  • Did I really like that job? In many cases, we’re stuck in a job that no longer makes us fulfilled, but we are too scared to quit.
  • Is this situation freeing my time for better opportunities? A job you no longer enjoyed could have been a roadblock in your professional development.
  • What did I learn from that experience? The skills you learned at that job can be a jumping board to find better opportunities.
  • What went wrong? In this case, be honest with yourself — why were you fired? Address the causes non-judgmentally.
  • Are there any areas for growth? Regardless of what caused the negative situation, think of how you can use the experience to grow.

By asking yourself these kinds of open-ended questions, you don’t only give meaning to a negative situation. You’re also taking back control of it. And you take control of it by re-framing negative situations as opportunities to grow and thrive in unexplored areas.

It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome.

William James

That is a lot to swallow and possibly the furthest thought from your mind. Especially right in the moment. But the retraining of the mind is possible. It all starts with practice.

This was not my instinctual reaction either. But being frustrated was not yielding the growth, results, or progress I sought either. Then, reading something in a psychology book opened my mind up to possibilities of positive thinking and cognitive behavioral protocols. Long, BORING story short: your mind is powerful and can be trained. Who better than to train your brain than you?

Next time, I will share a different way to extract a lesson from hard or difficult times. For now, start a journal and track your thought patterns or reactions to negative situations. The power of change is in your hands.

Talking to Our Kids About Freedom

I really wanted to write a thoughtful post about teaching kids about aspects and perceptions of freedom. But Black Moms are already all-too-familiar with “The Talk”. In my experience, it has always been delivered to me from the perspective of what I “couldn’t do” or where I “couldn’t go”. I delivered to my eldest daughter the same way and it has served her well to this point (she will be 20 years old in January). And she gets it. My little one, who will be 8 in September, does not process “can’t” and “don’t” AT ALL. So for the past year or so, have been trying to speak to her in terms of what she can do. I do not know that she has learned all that much, but I certainly have.

She naturally exists in a place in her mind where she can do and experience all things. She does not perceive any limitations that she or, with the help of one of the adults here in the house, cannot overcome. She is freedom personified. As this facet of her perception unfolded, I realized that she intuitively does the right thing. She strives to match the freedom in her mind to her environment. She speaks freely, eats, sleeps, plays freely, and this is just her expectation. We tend to call it naivety or innocence but it is so much more than that. She is aware that others are experiencing the same environment differently. But guess what? She does not understand why and she certainly does not care. She is living her best free life.

I am linking to an article here that I will unpack next week in the Mommy Mondays post. Happy Reading! Let me know what you think or want to talk about!

7 Ways to Teach Your Kids about Freedom

July: The Freedom Series

Since June, I’ve thought about the notion of freedom in earnest. In the wake of all that is going on regarding systemic racism, police brutality, and health inequities, freedom just feels… absent; more of a lofty goal than a reality.

For this reason, each week I’ll explore an adjective of freedom. This week I’m focusing on the thought that freedom starts in the mind. My enslaved ancestors were still free to daydream. They were free in spirit. In their mind, they aspired to transcend the physical limitations of their environment. Had this not been true, today could look a lot different.

I posit that names like Idlebird and Freeman were not just about enslavement. They represented a state of mind…a free state of mind. A place that is sacred because autonomy, agency, and promise dwell there. That place is magical and cannot be taken away from any person.

Questions to consider this week abound. A few I’m contemplating are:

  • Are there circumstances that are limiting my growth?
  • Am I shackled to a toxic relationship?
  • What thought patterns are preventing me from liberating my loved ones and myself?

I’m acutely aware that as a Black woman my perception of freedom has always been colored by my people’s history. It’s limited by circumstances such as political, economic, or even this pandemic, all of which are beyond my control. The very acknowledgment that I cannot do what I want, when I want is, to me, there antithesis to being free. But yet, when I close my eyes and dare to seek the comfort of my mind, of solitude, of connectedness, it is when I feel the most free.