You can be content while striving to be better

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how being content and striving to be better are not opposites, and yet we often see them that way. You can love your body and have a positive self-image while working on losing weight for your health. You can be happy in your job while looking for new opportunities. You can cherish moments at home with the kids and work towards having a more organized house.

But so often we see things as polar opposites. If we are on a diet, it’s because we hate the way we look. If we want a new job, it’s because we hate where we are currently. If we want a clean house, it’s because we’re fed up with the mess.

Friends, I’m here to tell you (and me) that it doesn’t have to be that way. Love and cherish the season you’re in now. Be grateful for everything that is great in your life. But by all means, go out there and CRUSH IT!

Not only can you be content while striving to be better, you should. Here’s why. When you’re content, you’re more pleasant to be around, happier, and more motivated. An employee who is content at their job is more likely to take on more projects, therefore making that person more desirable to other companies. If you’re happy with your body, you’re more likely to try out new things that can lead to weight loss, like a dance class or a walking club.

By being discontent and fed up with your current life, you might actually be stunting your growth.

Start by counting your blessings. I’ve heard that phrase time and time again, but it hasn’t really sunk in until recently. Gratitude is so important. So many of us skip right past all the little blessings in our lives onto the complaints. But if you are reading this right now, you have a lot to be thankful for. You have access to a computer and the internet. You have free time to read. You have the breath in your lungs.

Count your blessings. Look for opportunities that come your way and pursue them with all the might you can conjure up. Let’s do this!

How to dig yourself out of a great big hole

Last week, I talked about being overwhelmed after coming off a down period. I have been working fervently to get ahead and make progress, but I always feel like I’m behind. The harder I work, the more behind I feel.

Do you ever feel like that? Overwhelmed to the point where you just want to bury your head in the sand (or Netflix) and hope it’ll all be solved when you get back?

One thing I’ve been thinking about is how being overwhelmed can turn into a form of self-sabotage. Working my butt off but still coming out one step behind makes me less motivated to do the work. And the less motivated I am, the less work gets done, which in turn makes me less motivated. You see this terrible cycle that is forming?

So how do you dig yourself out of a great big hole? One shovel-full at a time.

  1. State your priorities. So what if thank you cards and birthday cards don’t get out today. (I’m talking to myself here.) Focus on the dishes, laundry and other items that will explode if you neglect them.
  2. Look for ways to be more efficient. Where are areas you can cut down on the time spent?
  3. Minimize the clutter. The more things you have, the more you have to keep track of.
  4. Delegate what you can. Enlist a family member or friend to help.
  5. Take the first step! This is important. It can be easy to avoid the issue but the longer you let it fester, the more it tends to grow. Sometimes, all it takes for me is to say “I’ll work on that for 15 minutes.” I can push through exhaustion, frustration, whatever if it’s only for 15 minutes. More often than not, I get motivated to keep going.

I have hope that in my case, if I keep putting in the time, I’ll start to see results. I definitely need to cut back on certain items (such as the aforementioned cards and taking my son to the park every day) until I get my basics covered (ahem, the clutter that dots every surface of the kitchen).

Keep on truckin!

I’m overwhelmed.

I’ve noticed that I have hills and valleys when it comes to my energy level.

Most days, I’m fairly even keel with a decent amount of energy and motivation. I follow my schedule, I make progress on both little and big projects, and I pretty good at maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Every month or so, I’ll have a few days with an incredible energy surge where I’m completely outgoing and super excited about everything, followed by a few days which I call my down period.

I used to be in this habit of signing up for everything outgoing and extroverted during my up periods, then bailing out of those things during my down periods. In my down periods, I find it hard to do anything, even simple tasks like dishes and laundry. Since becoming aware of this cycle a few years ago, I’ve tried to notice when I enter the cycle.  When I’m in an up period, I try to be guarded about what I sign up for and try to at least keep up with basic tasks when I’m in my down period.

Right now, I’m coming off of a down period, one in which I’ve actively worked to keep up with the basics. I went out to socialize in a women’s group even though I didn’t feel like it. My son and I have gone the playground every day even though it’s stinkin’ hot outside. When I’d rather be laying on the couch I’ve forced myself to get up and run around the house playing chase and hide and go seek. My motivation to cook has waned, but I’ve battled that by making easy dishes like salad and pasta.

So, that brings us to this morning, when I started to realize how much of a mess the house is. The counter and kitchen table are full of clutter and the dishwasher is waiting for me to put away the clean dishes. There’s laundry to fold and carpets to be vacuumed. I did pretty dang well keeping up with what I could during my down period, but now I wished I would’ve spent more energy on washing dishes than on going to the playground every day.

So, now it is naptime and I’m faced with a choice. Do I spend the next hour or so whipping the house back into shape or do I go take a break and watch YouTube? I know what I want to do, but I also know what I have to do. I also know that cleaning never seems to take as long as I think it will.

Do you have periods of down days? What do you do to overcome them?

A budget is not a handcuff

I hear a lot of people talking about budgets as if they’re a handcuff, a restriction or a drag. For the last few years, we’ve kept a budget and learned some things non-budgeters wouldn’t know. Let me share with you some reasons keeping a budget is awesome:

A budget gives you freedom.

Keeping a budget has allowed us to pay off debt, pay for two cars in cash, and go on vacations, all without worrying whether we’ll have enough money to pay the bills. When a new video game comes out that my husband has his eye on, we have the money for it because it’s been put in the budget.

A budget can strengthen your marriage.

Every month, my husband and I sit down and talk about the budget for that month. It gives us a few minutes to communicate and be on the same page. Agreeing on financial goals ahead of time avoids many arguments. We’ve never had a situation where he buys a truck or video game system without my knowledge. Marriages have ended when the spouses weren’t on the same page financially.

A budget can help you think long-term.

Think of the awesome things you could do if you cut out the frivolous items that mean nothing to you. Would you go on a trip? Would you buy a new pair of shoes? Would you save money for your kids’ college?

A budget puts you in control.

Keeping a budget every month keeps you in control of your money and allows you to direct extra dollars to something that matters most to you. No longer do you find yourself at the end of the month wondering where all the money went. With a budget, you can look at your bank account balance of $400 and know that $375 still needs to go towards food and utilities.

A budget prioritizes your spending.

Simply put, a budget helps you spend your money on things or experiences that are most valuable to you. You may realize that you’re spending $100 on morning coffees. You might rather forgo those things and use the $100 to get a massage instead. You might not because your morning coffee is part of what makes you “you.” It’s your respite from a world of chaos. And that’s okay. Knowing what’s important to you can allow you to use your money on your priorities.


Moral of the Story

A budget doesn’t have to be a device that keeps you from doing the things you love. In fact, it can be a tool that helps you achieve your goals and live the life you’ve always dreamed of. It can help you take the money you earn every month and develop an organized plan for your dollars. You work hard for every penny, and you deserve to use that money in an intentional way that helps you grow and prosper.

So, tell me what your thoughts and/or hesitations are about keeping a budget. If you don’t keep a budget, why? What are some of the first thoughts that come to your head when you hear about budgeting?

If you do keep a budget, what have you learned through the process of keeping a budget?

Redo your thoughts.

I have an issue with jealousy. The stupid, non-logical kind that is petty and mean-spirited. Like the time I was jealous of someone’s car that I didn’t even want. Or the times I’ve been jealous that someone I want to be friends with is friends with someone else.

The problem with jealousy is that it’s not logical. I know it doesn’t make sense. Just because someone has something I want doesn’t mean I can’t also have it (or something similar). I could buy a new car if I wanted to, but in reality, I have other priorities (like being completely debt free, feels good!). Someone else having a good time doesn’t mean that I CAN’T have a good time. Someone else getting pregnant doesn’t prevent ME from getting pregnant. You see how illogical jealousy is?

I could scold myself for having such thoughts and get grumpy at why I’m such a jealous person. But instead, I’ve started to redo my reaction.

Take the friends situation for example. I saw a picture on Facebook of people I’d like to become friends with hang out with each other…without inviting me. My first thought is jealous and mean: “Ugh. But I was going to be friends with her. Why didn’t she invite me? Did nobody think to invite me?” I knew I was being jealous and was going to just move on and try to get over it, but deep down, I felt not wanted, inconsequential, and bitter. I didn’t want to feel this way towards people I’d like to be friends with. So, I looked at the picture for the second time and redid my reaction. “Oh look, it’s such and such. I know them! It looks like they had a lot of fun. I’m so happy for them.”

And you know what? Magic. I instantly felt the bitterness disappear and be replaced with love and warmth. These are people I care about, and I do want them to be happy, regardless of if that involves me. Just because they hung out together once does not bar me hanging out with them forever.

I encourage you to try it. If you find yourself having negative feelings that you aren’t proud of, try to revisit the situation in your mind and develop a different response. The results may surprise you.  And once you do, tell me about it! I’d love to hear your thoughts and experience.

Three types of people

“There are two types of people in the world: those who say ‘there are two types of people in the world’ and those who don’t.” – Gloria Steinem

There are three types of people in the world:

  • The Fakers: those who plaster a sticker and a smile over any pile of disaster in their lives and tell you everything’s “Fine. Great! Thanks for asking!”
  • The Downers: those who are “real” when it involves complaining about their lives and how there’s nothing they can do about it.
  • The Awesomes: those who are real and accurately portray that life is full of ups and downs.

The last few days I’ve been talking about sharing our imperfections, but I’ve been fuddled by one question: “What is the difference between being real and being real depressing?”

I’ve come across a few Downers in my life and immediately turn into a Faker. I smile and nod or lament and nod or agree and nod. Downers make me uncomfortable because there is nothing you can do to make them feel better.

Life is full of ups and downs. Anyone’s life. Everyone’s life. Even people faced with genocide or extreme poverty can find love and compassion at times. And yet, some people will find something to complain about even in the most ideal conditions. This isn’t being real. Just like you can slap stickers on a steaming pile of disaster, you can also slap a steaming pile of disaster over any idyllic life.

This isn’t being real. Just like you can slap stickers on a steaming pile of disaster, you can also slap a steaming pile of disaster over any idyllic life.

Show your imperfections…then move on and make progress. Being real is about being happy in jubilant times and sad or angry or frustrated in horrific times. Showing your imperfections is about having confidence that your feelings are valid and worth sharing.

Because guess what? Your feelings are valid and worth sharing.

(I just realized that I’m writing a blog post complaining about people who complain. #Inception #InceptionIsFrom2010 #HOLYCOWItsBeenSevenYears?!?! #TimeFlies)

My imperfections

Yesterday, I wrote about how we should show our imperfections and show others how you can be content AND imperfect. As part of my process of growth, I’d like to share some of my imperfections.

My imperfections

  • I once spent 40 minutes trying to decide on which brand of toothpaste to buy. I was with a friend, and she won’t let me live it down. I’ve always struggled with indecision. Doors of opportunity have opened and closed while I am still trying to figure things out.
  • I’m a stay at home mom, and I still don’t have time for Pinterest-worthy crafts and activities.
  • I am afraid of a lot of things. I’m afraid of spiders, success, life passing me by, networking, and unexpected death, among other things.
  • I think I’m not good enough. When meeting a group of women who are already friends, I often think I’d be a burden to them. They already have friends; why do they need me? I’ve missed out on a lot of great friendships because of this mentality.
  • I’ve been decluttering for two long years…and I’m still not done. I’m undoing years of messy habits, I’m indecisive and I lose interest when I’m nearing the finish line of a big project.
  • I say I want to lose weight, but I really enjoy my naptime ritual of eating ice cream and watching Netflix.

Those are some of my imperfections. What are yours?

Let imperfection ring!

In the book “Make it Happen,” author Lara Casey talks about how showing your imperfections can cause a domino effect, helping others feel more comfortable and content in their own imperfections. “‘She is imperfect and content, so maybe I could be too.'”

The juxtaposition of the words “imperfect” and “content” caught me off guard, meaning that subconsciously, I thought the two couldn’t exist. All this time, I’ve been working hard on getting my life together, feeling like I had to do that before I could help others. I felt that it would be a crime to give advice to others unless my life was perfectly in order.

Reading this quote made me realize the exact opposite. You must start speaking your truth and sharing your advice NOW. The fact that you are not perfect is an asset, not a detriment. It shows that you can lead an awesome life in spite of challenges that are thrown your way.

Who wants to take advice from the lady who’s got it all together? She has perfect teeth, her hair’s always in place, her children are polite and her house is always clean. Contrast that to the woman who enjoys life and laughs even when the baby spits up on her work clothes (right before she walks out the door). She lets the kids make a mess while baking cookies, and she laughs when the dog jumps in the mud puddle.

I’d take advice from the second lady. That lady knows how to have a good time. In spite of all the mess, she’s truly got it all. She enjoys life to the fullest, isn’t so hard on herself, and isn’t afraid to show her imperfections.

Let’s be that lady. Let’s share the messy parts of life, and let’s support each other without judgment. Let’s laugh when life takes a sideways turn and cry without shame when life warrants it.

Action vs. Result

In my neverending quest to lose weight, eat healthy food, go to sleep early, and watch less TV, I came across a sudden abrupt but obvious observation. The action of doing something is separate from the result, and I often love the action and hate the result or vice versa.

I often love the action and hate the result.

Situations where I love the action but hate the result:

  • My daily naptime routine of ice cream, M&Ms and Netflix. I love engaging in this activity, and it’s something I look forward to. But I hate the result of being overweight, bloated and sluggish.
  • Staying up late and either working on the blog or eating ice cream, M&Ms and watching Netflix. Working makes me feel productive; the ice cream makes me feel gooood. But alas, both feelings of positivity are promptly thwarted when I wake up feeling like a truck hit me sideways. Any productivity I might have felt the night before is squashed by the fact that I have zero energy to get things done in the morning.
  • Playing video games with my husband. Some games are just dang addicting! I love the fun we have, but often, it goes too far and we spend hours playing. Before we know it, the sun is going down and the kitchen is a disaster zone.

Situations where I hate the action but love the result:

  • I’m exhausted when it comes time to put my son down for bed. The yawns are not for dramatic effect. I hate going to bed so early and feel like the time at night is my time (MIIIINEE!) but going to bed early results in some of the best sleep EVER. I wake up feeling well-rested, and I have the willpower t0 patiently explain to my screaming toddler why he can’t eat super glue (true story). I hate going to bed so early, but I love how good of a mom I am when I do.
  • I love you guys, and I love this blog, but it often takes a lot of force to get me into this chair to write a blog post. Once I’ve written the blog post, I love what it does for my brain. It releases thoughts from tumbling around mindlessly, taking up valuable real estate. It allows me to move forward in a thought process. In the month or so since I’ve started this blog, I’ve already had profound progress in some of my thought trains.
  • When it comes to cleaning my kitchen, I have better things to do. It takes a monumental push to get me going, but I’m always so dang proud of myself when I’ve put in some serious work. (Often, 15-30 minutes of work makes a HUGE difference.) When the kitchen is not clean, it’s a downward spiral. (My son is hungry, but all the dishes are dirty, and the sink is filled to the brim with dishes so I have to unload the sink before I can wash a dish…but the counter is full of dirty dishes, so where should the ones from the sink go?) Spending 15 or so minutes every day goes a long way to boosting my confidence and self-worth.

 

The goal is to figure out how to love both the action and the result. Any ideas? What are the situations where you love the action but hate the result or vice versa? Have you done anything to resolve the disconnect?

Look for opportunities

When my son developed a love of trucks, my mom brain went into overdrive and started finding opportunities. We checked books out at the library about trucks. I pointed out dump trucks driving down the street. We often stopped to watch construction happening at the new shopping center. I found opportunities EVERYWHERE. (Seriously, who knew how much construction is happening around us? In addition to the new shopping center, the neighbors put in a new driveway, old sewer pipes are being replaced around town, the high school is redoing their parking lot, etc.)

Some opportunities are given to us (a mom who cares, a library with awesome selection and transportation to get to the library), but some opportunities we must actively seek out. More than just a toddler’s love of trucks, I’m talking about your life. There may be the opportunities handed to you, but I would assume that predominantly you have to find your opportunities.

Maybe you are super successful and content in your life right now, but I’ve always wondered why I’m not as successful as I had thought I’d be by the point. I was an entry level college graduate during the recession, and jobs were scarce. Companies weren’t hiring and people weren’t retiring for fear of what was happening to their savings. I was told to go to college, get a degree and get that full-time job with benefits (called FTJWB for short). But at the time that I graduated,

I had always been told to go to college, get a degree and get a full-time job with benefits (called FTJWB for short). But at the time that I graduated, a FTJWB was a holy grail that just wasn’t to be found for the majority. Most of my friends struggled to find any job and ended up settling for part-time work in retail or restaurants. Some took years to find a FTJWB (it took me four years and a move from Philadelphia to Wyoming); some never found it at all.

The whole point of my pity party is that I NEVER LOOKED FOR OPPORTUNITIES. I just thought they would appear: in the newspaper, through networking, through endless resumes and applications. But I never looked for tiny, spur of the moment opportunities. The kind that happen when you’re in passing conversation or reading a magazine. The kind that may or may not be related to your dream, but something about it piques your interest.

Are you looking for opportunities? I mean, SERIOUSLY looking for opportunities? Are you keeping your eyes open for cement trucks passing you by or the sewer pipes being replaced at the park? Or are you waiting for the (most likely never to come) planned out and perfect moment of opportunity?

1 2 3 4