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.
I’d love to hear your Why.
Because I care.
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:
- Meditation/yoga/Tai Chi
- 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.
My Grandmother taught by example.This beautiful indigenous immigrant from Mexico was one of the strongest and most insightful women I know.
There is Always Enough
No matter how many people showed up at our door, my grandmother created a feast. Homemade tortillas from corn she ground, vegetables and herbs from her small garden and arroz con pollo appeared on the dining table before anyone could refuse.
When my grandfather died at 42 and left her a widow with nine children, she kept food on the table and clothes on everyone’s back. Not a small feat during the Great Depression and World War II. Like many during her time, she made clothes out of flour sacks, and cooked filling meals made from scratch.
She and my aunts made money by ironing and mending military uniforms. She rented out the small house my grandfather had built behind the main house. All seven of her sons served in the military and they each sent her money from their pay. My Grandmother always said that even after my grandfather died, she never feared being without a roof over her head, money, or food. There was always enough.
She and my grandfather immigrated to America because they saw the opportunities. They saved their money and bought their own home and built another one to rent out. Her ability and willingness to take action and control what she could, gave her a sense of peace and happiness.
We’re More Alike than Different
In the 1940’s, our neighborhood included people from Mexico, Poland, and Italy to name a few. Despite the different languages, customs, and cultures, people helped each other. They shared food, information and skills.
By the 1970’s, the neighborhood changed, but the kindness among neighbors stayed the same. Our family was the only Mexican family and the rest of our neighbors were African-American. It wasn’t something we thought about until the KKK dynamited ten empty school busses to protest desegregation.
This was the first time I encountered racism. I didn’t understand why some people didn’t like others because of the color of their skin or the language they spoke. My grandmother called it ignorance. “We all want the same things. Love, understanding and a better life for our children. We’re not all that different from each other.” She said.
Be Kind to Others
If a friend or neighbor needed help – my grandmother was the first to offer. If she wasn’t able to help, she’d call one of my Uncle’s to see if they could. She always put herself in the other person’s shoes.
While other people told us we lived in a “bad” neighborhood, we knew better. Our family lived in the same home for decades, just like many of our neighbors. We helped each other shovel snow, shared food, celebrated births and grieved over deaths.
I was only nine when my grandmother died of a heart attack. Family, friends and neighbors filled the funeral home. For a woman that spoke little English, she left an impression on everyone she met. I learned to treat others with respect, to be kind to everyone – even though the other person might not be kind in return. “You never know what someone else is going through.” she would tell me.
Watching her live her life was a wonderful gift. I still miss her and do my best to pay her love and kindness forward.
What lessons did you learn from your grandparents?
You hate your job but you you can’t bring yourself to leave.
You tell yourself you have to think about your family. Your kids will be in college soon. You need the stability of a paycheck. You drag yourself to work, put your time in and try to decompress on the commute home. By the time you walk in the door, you’re toast. You’ve given up on that side-hustle you started because you don’t have the energy or the time.
I call bullshit. You don’t have the energy because you’re in a soul-sucking job you hate. It crushes you every morning and every night. Binge-watching Netflix gives you an escape until the next day. By the time the weekend rolls around, all you want to do is NOTHING.
There are other jobs out there. If you want to work for someone else, the best time to look for a new job is when you have one. You worry you’re too old; you don’t have a current resume, or you let your skills slide.
Fear does that. You’re not too old. You can learn new skills online. Hire a professional to write your resume – it’s amazing how many skills and strengths you take for granted. Let a pro help you uncover them.
A well-chosen career change can give back the time and energy you need to work on that side hustle again. Work toward building something that will make you happy in the long term.
A job search might sound overwhelming – but not nearly as overwhelming as being unhappy for the foreseeable future.
Life to so short to let fear control you.
What’s holding you back? I’d love to help.
An Asthma and Allergy specialist introduced me to the Mind/Body connection when I was six years old.
After a series of tests, he told me it was hard for me to breathe because I had Asthma and allergies. He explained what Asthma was and showed me pictures of what happened in my lungs while I was having an attack.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I can show you ways to train your brain to help you and your lungs relax when you’re having an attack.”
I got nervous when I couldn’t breathe and it made my asthma worse. He told me there was something called “belly breathing” which I thought was hilarious. I went into a laughing fit, followed by a coughing fit – which triggered my asthma. It was the perfect opportunity to teach me how to slow down my breathing and relax.
It took a while to get the hang of belly breathing, but I loved the idea of training my brain to help my body.
As I got into my teen years, our family dynamic became more and more chaotic. I stopped using belly breathing. The stress got worse and my Asthma flare-up’s were getting harder to control. I realized that instead of belly breathing, I constantly held my breath.
Debilitating migraines that made me throw up became a norm. Asthma squeezed my lungs while migraines kept my head in a vice grip. I let myself get stuck in a vicious cycle.
My Body was Wreaking Havoc On My Mind
At sixteen, an asthma attack kept me in the hospital for a week – something that hadn’t happened in years. Once again, my doctor reminded me to not let my symptoms get out of hand and to stay calm and relaxed. I was too embarrassed to tell him about my home life. I didn’t see the point, there wasn’t anything I felt I could do to change it.
The hospital stay was the first time in years I had felt good. While I was there, I didn’t have a migraine and my Asthma was under control again.
After a few weeks at home, I was back to asthma flare-ups and migraines. I was better about using my inhaler and calming my way through the attacks, but I wasn’t able to escape the migraines. They brought me to tears.
The body-mind chaos came back with a vengeance when a migraine hit at the same time as an asthma attack.
I fell into a trap of hating my body for being sick. I couldn’t imagine feeling like that for the rest of my life. The more negative feedback I gave myself, the worse I felt. I knew what I was doing, but I couldn’t stop.
Instead of decreasing my meds at the follow-up appointment, I had to increase them. If I didn’t get myself under control, I would end up in the hospital again. The sad part, is that I wouldn’t have minded it.
After another lengthy conversation with my doctor, I went back to belly breathing. He added one more technique. When my lungs felt tight, he suggested I close my eyes and imagine that my airways were opening.
This helped me when I used an inhaler. I’d never gotten used to the jittery feeling it gave me. This technique gave me something else to think about while the medication got into my system.
Fast-forward to the present.
I haven’t been hospitalized for asthma in twenty-three years.
In what once felt impossible, I started running even though I had exercise-induced asthma. A few months later, my lungs felt amazing. My lung capacity was at an all-time high and with the consent of my doctor, I stopped taking asthma medication.
The greatest gift my doctor gave me was a positive coping mechanism that helped me understand that I did have control over my body. It gave me the confidence to run 5k’s and half-marathons, back-pack through Yosemite and live a healthy, happy life.
*Please consult your physician before making any changes to your health regimen!
How have you stopped your body from wreaking havoc on your mind? Let me know in the comments.
Have you ever called yourself an idiot, or worse, when something didn’t turn out as planned?
Stop that! An outcome doesn’t define you or your worth.
The growth mindset looks at an unfavorable outcome as a learning experience, not a failure. It’s ok to feel upset, but it’s never ok to berate yourself.
Need to nail that pitch? Reach out to someone whose work you respect and ask for advice. It can be as simple as asking for tips on how they prepare to deliver a killer pitch. Most people love to help. If you don’t ask the answer is always “no”.
If you put in the effort, challenge yourself and stay resilient when things aren’t going the way you hoped – it will pay off. The growth mindset will help you focus on improving. A fixed mindset will make you focus on being judged.
Ask any professional musician, speaker or athlete if they still work on improving their craft.
Spoiler alert – the answer is yes. So, never stop learning and don’t compare yourself to others – learn from them and create your own style.
I’ve heard people at the start of their career say things like “Oh, I could never do that” or “I could never be that good” while observing someone who has invested years and thousands of hours practicing whatever it is they’re doing.
Be mindful of where YOU are in your own career or journey. Rather than comparing yourself, identify one or two areas where you’d like to improve. Make a list of all the ways you can enhance the knowledge or skill you you’ve identified.
Workshops, classes, and seeking a mentor are just a few ways to expand your knowledge. If you’re on a tight budget or tight on time, online classes and audio books are a great option. Instead of checking status updates on your phone, listen to or read something relevant to your goal – every tidbit of new information will increase your confidence and expertise.
Best of all, it’s the perfect way to train yourself to choose the growth mindset.
What are you working towards? Let me know in the comments below.