You know that “thing” you want to do – write a book, travel the world, become a speaker…
Whatever your thing is – do you know way deep down at your gut level WHY you want to do it? It’s not as easy as you’d think. It takes a lot of “why’s” to get there.
Because I want to help others.
That was my answer when I asked myself why I wanted to write a memoir. Help others do what, and why do I want to help them? Who are these people I’m trying to help? How will my story help them?
When I was in Middle school, the weirdness of my life made me feel different from everyone else. It wasn’t one thing; it was several little things, like:
Being raised as an only child knowing I had multiple siblings
The parents who raised me suffered from deep depression and later hoarding
I was in the hospital so many times I developed a great medical terminology vocabulary
The Aunt and Uncle who raised me were brother and sister not husband and wife
The list grows to epic proportions when you extend it to present day. I’ll spare you the rest for now.
So what’s the big deal about knowing your Why?
It will be your driving force. The thing that keeps you going – especially when you have to do the hard work that’s not fun or sexy. Your Why will help you cross the finish line.
This is the progression of my Why:
Why do you want to write a memoir series?
Me: To help others.
Me: I know what it feels like to be different, and I want to make a difference.
Me: When I was nine, I read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and it changed my life.
Me: I could relate to Maya Angelou’s story. It made me feel like I wasn’t alone. It gave me the hope and strength I could have a better life too.
Me: We all have a story to tell, but most of us don’t tell it. Maybe my story will give someone the strength or courage to take a step towards a better life.
Your dreams, ambitions and Whys are yours and yours alone. They have to mean something to you. It doesn’t matter what works for anyone else. You’re not them. You’re you.
Work on your “Why” and hone it down until it’s strong enough to make your “thing” a reality.
Does having a life you love mean you’re happy every minute of every day?
Of course not. If anyone tells you they are – run!
Those Internet ads with a guy grinning from ear to ear next to an exotic car with a mansion in the background make me laugh – then they make me grit my teeth and silently scream. The headline in big bold letters promises to help you become rich beyond your wildest dreams.
But will you be happy? How many people have won millions in the lottery and went broke soon after? Sure, some people would be happy with that mansion or car. But I suspect that happiness would wear off if you weren’t doing something that made you feel fulfilled from the inside out.
What would you do if you didn’t have to worry about money? Travel the world, give back in a way that’s meaningful to you?
Building a life you love doesn’t happen overnight.
Creating that life requires digging down deep to identify what’s important to you.
What brings you happiness and joy? Several friends and former clients left successful, yet high-pressure lives and made a complete life change. One bought a farm. Another left to explore the world. No roots and no plans, just living freely as it suited her.
The thing I’ve always craved is freedom. While I was in corporate America, I enjoyed the people I worked with and loved my clients. Several years later I was recruited into another company, and then another.
Over time, I turned into a workaholic which left me feeling unhealthy and unhappy.
Working for someone for the rest of my life wasn’t something I ever aspired to. I wanted to be like my relatives who had their own businesses and the freedom to run it as they felt it should be. They worked hard, but they loved what they were building. They also had a life they built on their terms. Being a workaholic was filling a void I hadn’t come to terms with yet. I needed my freedom.
I have no regrets about any of the experiences in my life, even the ones that weren’t pleasant. They all led to where I am now. I have the freedom I sought. I’m young enough to enjoy it, and old enough to know I still have a lot of work ahead of me. I also know I love this stage of my life and it doesn’t feel like work.
Are you ready for change?
Don’t wait. If you’re not in a position to make a change build the foundation. Take a hard look at your life. What’s working, what’s not?
There are steps you can take now. If you want to start your own business, do your research now. Attend networking events. Want to spend your life traveling for a living – reach out to people doing that now.
Whatever your heart desires will take time, soul-searching and planning. You can do that for free now. Pick up a pen and paper or type away and put some solid ideas in place. Keep the momentum going and look for every opportunity to connect with others. Doors open as soon as you put your ideas into motion.
Ever have one of those days where all you want to do is work on “that thing” but life has other plans?
Yes, we all have. How do you deal with them? Do you let them get under your skin or do you go with the flow?
We’re having work done at home and I’ve chosen to stay here to answer questions as they come up. I also don’t trust our dog Kaida enough to provide her the opportunity for adventure through an open door or gate.
The work is something we’ve wanted to do for a while – so it’s a great thing.
Me trying to concentrate and write with pounding and clanging on the other side of the wall – not so much.
When I found myself irritable and deleting more words than I was adding, I took a break and went for a round of fetch with Kaida. She had no interest. She was too distracted and busy guarding the house from “intruders”.
My next go to is a speed bag. The hand-eye coordination required to hit the bag repeatedly is a great way to reset my brain and get it back into focus mode. As a bonus, it’s a great workout. I went to the garage ready for battle. Rather than cry, I laughed when I saw the path to the speed bag blocked by tools and materials.
That made me stop and assess. Would the world stop spinning on its axis if I didn’t work on my writing during that specific time? Nope. Was there anything preventing me from writing in the evening? Nada.
Time for a mindset adjustment – what COULD I do that didn’t require as much concentration?
There were several things on my to-do list that were no-brainers. I renewed and re-evaluated services I was using. I made changes for the better, including one that led to a great connection for a project I’m working on. None of that would have happened if I hadn’t caught myself and changed direction.
That said, this wasn’t a case of walking away from a critical deadline, or not writing because the “inspiration” wasn’t there. Most times, inspiration isn’t there – you sit down and write, anyway.
This was the awareness to let go of the normal routine to stay in the right mindset to be productive.
Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. Lao Tzu
We live in a time where it’s easy to keep our life under control. Apps remind us of appointments, tell us when to be there and the best way to get there on time.
The tough part is when things don’t go according to plan.
That’s where it’s critical to know yourself. What are your triggers? How do you catch yourself before you go completely off the rails?
Everyone is different, especially when it comes to coping skills.
That’s something only you can answer. It comes from observing the way you feel and react to whatever is causing you to feel anxious or irritated – anything that’s not your happy place. Different things work for different situations.
These are the things people most often tell me have helped them:
Music that makes you feel happy
A safe place that allows you to relax
A trusted friend/coach or advisor
The better you know yourself, the easier it will be to keep yourself from getting too stressed.
It may take some time to get good at catching the subtle changes in your mood before they get out of hand. On a good day, how do you feel? Whats the first thing you norice when that changes? Is there something you can do right away to stop it, or get it under control? Is there something on the list above that you haven’t tried?
Let me know what works for you – or what your triggers are, I’d love to help.
Most of the time, I like my ADHD. I received the formal diagnosis in my forties but I always suspected that my brain isn’t wired like everyone else’s.
By the time I was in 4th grade, I’d developed a fascination with how our brains work. I chose “Left Brain Right brain” by Sally P. Springer and Georg Deutsch as my first “big deal” book report.
I remember it well because my Uncle Joe had to sign it out of the Public Library for me since I was under the age of 18. The librarian explained there was a reference to human sexuality in it and he teased me good-naturedly for a long time after that – wondering what it was schools were teaching these days.
This was around the same time I heard teachers talking about kids they thought were “hyper.”
That’s how I snuck by. I wasn’t “hyper” on the outside. But if you took a peek into what was going on in my head when I appeared to be paying attention – you’d definitely know something was not like the others.
By the time I was in the workforce, I read an article that was a perfect description of me as a child. The article broke out differences between ADHD symptoms in girls versus boys.
The word “hyper-focus” was the first to make me take notice. If something got my attention, I could work on it for hours and days on end. A great book – I’d read it in one sitting. A job I loved – can you say workaholic? The internet in the 90’s…
What I found even more interesting was the mention of inattentiveness. Wasn’t that a conflict? It wasn’t for me. If the topic wasn’t of interest, my mind was off in a million different directions. This was a symptom attributed more to females than males. Being withdrawn and having poor self-esteem were two more. I was also that kid in school who’s disorganized locker was overflowing.
My takeaway by the end of the article was that if I was ADHD, my options were to take medication for it, or learn to cope and get organized. Since childhood Asthma and allergies left me with a severe dislike of medication, the choice was easy.
In the early days, planners, color coded folders, and lists with check-boxes helped me manage and hide how I felt on the inside – disorganized and chaotic.
Today, thanks to people like Peter Shankman, author of the “Faster than Normal” book and creator of the #1 ADHD podcast on iTunes, I don’t feel broken. His mantra that ADHD is a gift, not a curse is one all of us with ADHD need to hear. If you have, or suspect you have this gift – check out these two resources – they’ve helped me.
I left home at eighteen because the parents that raised me became hoarders. It was challenging enough to have my brain. The hoarding triggered my anxiety and Asthma. The tendency for risk-taking that comes with ADHD helped me moved cross-country to California with no job, no place to live and not much money.
An ability to hyper-focus allowed me learn new markets and industries when I entered the workforce. I found ways to to do more of what I loved at every company I worked for until I transitioned to being on my own.
It hasn’t been all unicorns and puppies along the way. Finding the right people and right mindset have made it a lot easier. That’s key for anything you’re working through.
Kaida, our new dog, taught me a lot about focus in our first week together. Like all of our past dog companions, she is a rescue. In her case, it was from the illegal dog meat trade in South East Asia.
First, a little background. When we adopted her, we knew there would be rewards and challenges along the way.
Kaida had never been in a house and we didn’t know if we needed to house train her. There was something about her that let us know we would be a great fit.
She’s a Ken-Kai/Shiba Inu mix. Thirty-four pounds of pure muscle with the eyes of a Sighthound and the nose of a blood-hound. She’s very fearful of men and people she doesn’t know, but she’s getting better.
Since I work from home, I’m able to spend the most time with her. We started a daily routine of walking to a nearby park and spending at least 45 minutes exploring. We give her a longer after-dinner walk in the evening. One night, during her first week with us, we needed to give her a shorter walk because of an appointment.
After our walk the next morning, we sat outside while I drank a cup of coffee and she cooled down and mellowed out from her walk. Only this time, she didn’t mellow out. Kaida turned into the Tasmanian Devil. She ran circles around me and the yard at warp speed.
She picked up a “critters” scent in the yard and the digging began. The kind of digging where dirt flies everywhere. Seconds later, her head was deep in the hole. She didn’t respond, her eyes were wild, she was in a frenetic energy state of mind. I’d been down this road before. Part of it was her anxiety, and the rest was excess energy she needed to burn off. This is Kaida in action…
After the digging stopped, I called her over and helped her calm down. Distracting her at this stage is impossible and creates more chaos. The short walk the night before along with being in an unfamiliar place triggered “Frap” – Frenetic Random Activity Periods. Some people also call them the “Zoomies”. Most dogs have them less often as they get older, but an irregular schedule that doesn’t meet their physical or mental needs will create behavior issues.
That morning stuck with me, because we humans, get the “zoomies” too. The proper amount of exercise is a great natural anxiety and stress reliever.
Do you ever have those days when you’re feeling cranky AF and your focus is non-existent? Yeah, me too.
When Kaida came into our lives, she changed my daily routine – in a good way. Her need for exercise is high. Rain or shine we’re outside on the go before breakfast.
By the time I get home, I’ve had my first win – a dose of exercise-induced dopamine and Vitamin D. I go into the rest of my day feeling focused and energized. I’m able to prioritize my day better since I have more energy to check things off my list. Even though I also practice Yoga and take Tai chi that morning burst of energy fuels me the most.
That moment when I saw Kaida digging like a maniac and getting nowhere, reminded me of the days I’ve had when I’m not pushing myself physically. It was an eye-opener and my routine is now an engrained habit.
What can you add to your routine to crank your life up a notch?