New Year’s Resolutions: Do you know your why?

Screen Shot 2013-12-23 at 9.26.46 PMNew year, new you. You are focused, determined and ready to take action. You’ve made a plan and you’ve made it S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely). You know exactly what you want to accomplish. This is going to be the year.

But wait a second. Before you join the 40% of American adults who will resolve to hit the gym, drop that cigarette or change their lives in some other positive way, there’s something you may not have thought of. You might know what you want to do, but are you clear on why you want to do it?

The why is easy to overlook. Let’s face it, just resolving to do something often times feels like more than enough motivation. And once we make a commitment to change or do something, it’s hard to deny the impulse to take action as soon as possible. These are important things. But there’s an even more important thing to do before you start – understand why you want to do this in the first place.

The why is the purpose, the motivation and the determination to do something. It is what puts the resolve in resolution. If articulated well, it’s like magic pixie dust that turns a goal into an unstoppable mission.

How do you understand your why? Here are three questions designed to help you tap into to your most meaningful, powerful why.

Why do you really, really want this?
The people most successful at achieving their goals fully believe in their goal. The goal is created from true and deep desire. And ultimately they believe that their life will be better, even in a small way, as a result of accomplishing their goal.

So, ask yourself, why do you really want this? Why is this a must-have in your life? And how will accomplishing this make your life better? Imagine what life will look like and feel like having accomplished this goal. And capture that vision, that feeling. Make sure it’s positive, not based in negativity, fear or the popular “because I have to” theory. Make sure you dig deep to truly understand the motivation, and the effect, that this goal will have in your life.

Why now?
If you’re like most people, you might be working towards a goal for the second time (or third or fourth). And while there are lots of reasons that people don’t accomplish their goals, I believe timing has a lot to do with goal setting and achieving. By timing, I mean picking the time when you are mentally and physically ready.

So, why now? Why is now the right time? Why can you not live one more day doing what you’re doing or not doing what you’re not doing? And for those of you going after something another time, what is different now about you/your situation?

Why do you deserve this?
I’ll be upfront, this is often the toughest one for me. For many of us, goals have become wishes, something we hope will come true. But achieving a goal requires a bit of entitlement. You have to believe you are entitled to what you want. You have to believe in yourself. And this has to start with you. Your friends, family, beloved pet can have all the faith in the world in you, but this is ultimately between you and your goal. And if you don’t have faith in yourself when things get tough, doubt will likely win.

So, ask yourself, why do you deserve this? What is it about you that makes you worthy, deserving, righteous, chosen? Now is not the time to be humble – channel your inner fan club.

Striving towards a goal is hard. You will reach a point (for most, about 5 days from the start) where you will ask the inevitable question “is this really worth it?” When faced with that question, the only thing likely to keep you from diving back into your former decisions is your motivation, your why. Your why has to be big enough, important enough and personal enough to outweigh the overwhelming temptation to quit/stop/give up. If you haven’t clearly articulated your why before you start accomplishing your goal, it will next to impossible to find when you are blinded by the uphill climb towards your goal.

So, once you’ve captured your why, keep it front-and-center by reminding yourself of it every day. Put a post-it of your why on your bathroom mirror. Or better yet, use technology, to keep your why with you when you need it most. The Intention Reminder app allows you to create your own visual reminder – write a motivating message, choose an inspirational picture (the app provides backgrounds or you can take/use one of your own photos) and set your daily reminder for when you most need a boost or encouragement.

You can do this. And now you know why.

What maternity leave has taught me about being a working mom

Tomorrow I turn in my stay-at-home-mom card and head back to work after a 3-month maternity leave with my third child, Thomas.  You’d think that, having done this twice before, going back to work would be as simple as slipping on my pumps and grabbing my briefcase. But as working mothers everywhere know, the emotions during this transition take you for a torturous ride each and every time.  We can blame it on the hormones or the lack of sleep, but I think the real root of this emotional surge is because it’s a transition when our lives as moms and our lives as professionals completely collide with one another.  One day you’re living as a stay—at-home mom, the next day, you’re a working mom.  And with that transition, come the fears, guilt and worries as these lives play tug-of-war for our time, attention and our hearts.

For me, maternity leave has been one of the most clarifying times in my life. Perhaps it’s because my newborn has a funny way of forcing me to focus on the present moment.  Each cry and smile of my newborn has me completely transfixed on the here and now, oblivious to any outside world. Maybe it’s because, to my huge surprise, life at work did go on without me for three months, after so many moments when I told myself “if I don’t handle it, things will fall apart.” While maternity leave is no vacation, it is a luxury to take three months, step away from your day job and look at your life from a new perspective.  It’s given me the chance to really learn more about myself and about how I want to live my life.

So, as I prepare to reemerge in the corporate world, I believe the things that helped me survive maternity leave can also help me survive the working world.  I’ve captured these lessons and will carry them with me into my transition back into the workplace.  And in honor of all the working moms out there, who work so tirelessly at home and at the job, this is also for you.  I have and always will be in complete awe of working moms – who I believe are the most strong and resilient people on earth. My hope is that these lessons may spark or reinforce something inside of you.

Fuel up!

For as long as I’ve been a mom, I’ve had people tell me “you have to take care of yourself first.” If you are one of those moms with the courage or wits to do that, I applaud you!  It was never that easy for me.  For God’s sake, there are lunches to pack, butts to wipe, laundry to do! My need for organization and my “work first, play later” upbringing has always made it that a difficult rule for me to follow.

What is truer for me is the thought that we should do something every day to fuel ourselves.   Every day, there should be something that doesn’t feel like a to-do, but a ya-hoo!  Something that feels joyful, indulgent, and happy.  As working moms, we have an endless line of people and things competing for our time.  It’s important to have something, at least one thing, we can call our own that energizes and makes us feel good.

So, what fills your tank? For me, it’s a good walk outside.  And on maternity leave, I gave myself that gift every day.  And some days, it was literally a walk around the block.  But even if it was a short burst, it gave me some fuel.  It made me feel good, it made me feel like I was giving myself something, and importantly, it felt like something I could call my own.

I foolishly used to think it was good enough to add this fuel on the weekends or on vacation days, but I’ve realized that I need a bit of fuel each and every day to keep me going.  If I don’t, I find myself feeling burned out.  In today’s culture, we complain that we’re burned out with our jobs and our responsibilities.  But have we ever stopped to consider what exactly we’re “out of” when we say we’re burned out?  I’d suggest that at these times we’re out of ourselves – that we’ve depleted ourselves of, well, ourselves.  It’s when the balance of to-do and ya-hoo feels like all work and no play.  So, it’s essential to give ourselves some fuel every day to prevent us from burnout.

Sounds great, you say.  But when am I going to find time to squeeze that in?  Start small.  5 minutes a day.  Can’t swing that?  1 minute a day.  I’m serious.  Take 1 minute and do something that fills your tank.  I have a hunch that once you start; you will look for ways to extend the timeframe.

Stop and notice the moments

With a newborn, we’re pretty much forced to stop and take notice of what’s happening in the present moment.  A baby’s cry stops us in our tracks as we quickly try to assess the situation and stop the crying (and regain our sanity!). We get a list of developmental milestones – “firsts” – to anticipate and celebrate – sleeping through the night, cooing, rolling, walking, first teeth, etc.  And each bitty milestone seems so momentous.   With newborns, we give ourselves permission to stop and take notice, and importantly, to marvel in the miracle that is life.  We’re on the lookout for what’s happening, we anticipate the milestones and often we want to be “the first” to see and announce these milestones.

Yet in the go-go of adult life, where us working moms are trying to squeeze in 30 hours of work in a 24-hour day, we often forget to simple S-T-O-P to take notice and marvel at what’s happening around us.  It could very well be for fear that if we stop, we’ll never get going again!  But seriously, there is something important in stopping to pay attention to what’s going on around us.  What good things are happening in your family’s life?  What “firsts” have happened today?  What’s changing?  What’s needed?  What accomplishments are you, your kids, your extended family happening that are worth celebrating?

Before I go to bed, I’ve started taking 5 minutes to simply ask myself a few questions:

What’s great in my life right now?

What were my favorite moments today?

What do I need to pay more attention to?

For me, this completes my day in a framework of gratitude and appreciation.  It’s a more relaxing way to end the day than ticking off my to-do list for tomorrow.  If you’re motivated, write these questions down in a daily journal.  Or, just give yourself a moment to stop and reflect on these questions. Maybe it’s in the shower.  Or during your morning commute. Or for 5 minutes at lunchtime.  Whenever it is for you, there is power in taking 5 minutes to disconnect and reflect.  Life is happening every day, but it requires us to see it in order to appreciate and soak it up.

Focus on what you’re giving, not what you’re giving up.

Guilt and working moms often seem inseparable.  We can feel guilt over the smallest thing.  Ask any working mom and I bet they can easily rattle off a list of the things they feel they’re giving up and/or feel guilty about by being a working mom.  As I sit here gearing up to go back to work, it’s so easy for me to get consumed with what’s not so great about going back to work.  Oh, the things I’ll miss out on, the things our family could use more of, the stuff I won’t get done, the stuff I won’t get done well, etc, etc, etc.  Our minds have a way of building terrific cases and finding evidence for any story we choose to believe.  And when we’re focused here, it’s a downward spiral of dread, despair, guilt….insert your own icky emotion.   Yuck!

But it’s just as true that being a working mom is about giving to our families.  And while it might not be as top-of-mind, we need to build a list of what we’re giving to remind ourselves of the good that being a working mom is providing for our families. So, grab a piece of paper.  At the top, write, “being a working mom is giving my family ______”  and write down 10, 20, 30 things.  Be creative, go for the obvious things.  But give yourself permission to see the good in what you’re doing as a working mom.

For me, the list goes something like this.

Being a working mom is giving to my family.

  1. It affords us the life we want to live.
  2. It’s teaching my kids to follow their dreams.
  3. It’s teaching my girls that women can have successful careers.
  4. It affords our children a great education.
  5. I come home looking forward to seeing and spending time with my kids.
  6. My working has encouraged my husband to do more cooking (and as it turns out, he’s a great cook!)

You get the idea.  As working moms, we need this list and we need to refer to it often.  The “guilty” list in engrained in our minds.  This new list is just as true and we need to reinforce it in our minds, especially on the days that aren’t so great, the days when we can’t be everywhere or do everything we want.  It’s easy to get lost in the short side of things on days like this, but hopefully the list you build will remind you of the long-term value of being a working mom.

So, here I go.  Back to work, but with a new perspective to help me move forward. Wish me luck!  And stay tuned.  I hope to share more working mom stories, tips and lessons learned on my blog.

Julie Vessel is a Group Account Director at mono.  When she’s not building brands or building her family, she also coaches a small handful of working women, helping them live the life of their dreams.

Allow Yourself to Be Amazed

My mother-in-law  has this innate ability to see the joy in the everyday.  And while most of us can appreciate the good things in life, she’s not afraid to profess her loves to those around her.  “I had the best meal ever last night!” or “My grandchildren are the most amazing grandchildren around.”  Initially, I thought this was just the sign of a proud grandmother.  But, it never failed that woven in her regular conversation was an appreciation for things that truly made her heart sing.  After hearing her say “Costco baby wipes are absolutely the best thing ever!” I quickly resolved that my mother-in-law was excessively optimistic.  Clearly there was something wrong with her.  And I resolved to talk to my husband about having her “tone things down.”

Then it dawned on me,  maybe I’m the one who needs to think differently?  When did I become so damn mellow?  When I was a kid, I was the one tearing cool pictures from magazines, telling my friends about the “next big” thing.  For pete’s sake, I was a cheerleader!  But in my middle-aged maturity, I was looking at a different person.  I had become overly realistic.  On a scale of 1-10, I treated most things in my life as a 5 or 6.  .  As we age, it’s natural to become more realistic.  But in taking on in the increasing responsibility of life, I realize that I was limiting my potential for seeing (and seizing) the wonder of life.

I started noticing that most of the people around me were the same as me.  Things were “good, ok, fine, well.”  Rarely did I hear people talk in terms of “I loved this!” or “This is awesome!” or “Things are amazing!”  It seemed as though we had become a culture that was holding out for something better.  We were afraid of going too far out there.  We were skeptical that anything today could be as awesome as what would be or happen tomorrow.

So, I decided to make a change. A shift to try and celebrate the “10s” in my life vs. seeing everything as a 5 or 6.  And I did it by simply choosing to use one of my favorite words, awesome, more often.   I vowed to look for something awesome in the everyday.  And to say “awesome” out loud when I saw or experienced something I loved.

It was such a simple change, but it’s impact was powerful.  I felt more energized by acknowledging the things that I truly loved in my life.  I felt more inspired. The more awesome I acknowledged, the more awesome I saw in my life.   And the people around me seemed drawn and delighted in my ability to speak and see with more passion.

So, on a scale of 1-10, consider acknowledging the “10s” in your life.  Pick a word that best expresses your love of the everyday.  And start putting that word into regular use through out the day.  So simple, but I believe you too will experience an energy and passion for life that is reignited.

It’s quite simple, an awesome way to approach the everyday.

Give yourself the time to make a change.

You want to know the great thing about being pregnant?  That is, aside from the awe of bringing a new little one into the world (because that’s pretty hard to top)?  Well, the one other thing that has totally changed my life is the motto – “9 months on, 9 months off.”

You see, being pregnant is one of the few times I’ve been able to honestly face a change truthfully and realistically.  And, it’s the time when people have supported me exactly where I am, not where I should be.  I’m sure it’s the sympathy people have knowing that I’m going through a life changing and chaotic event that makes them so willing to cut me some slack in the weight-loss department.  And even though I’m certain that at least 10lbs of my remaining 20lbs to go is Ben & Jerry’s chocolate chip cookie dough (with mini Oreo cookies mixed in), people treat me with a compassion and sensitivity that I’ve never felt so clearly in any other change of my life.

Instead of “don’t give up,” I hear “you just had a baby. give yourself a break.”  Instead of “just put your mind to it” I hear “give yourself time and it will happen.”  Interesting.

It’s funny to me that we don’t see it this way for others who are going through change.  We spend the better part of our lives feeding our addictions, but the moment we resolve to change, we’re expected to be changed overnight.  In our all or nothing mentality, we push ourselves to go cold turkey in order to will ourselves to be a changed and noticeably different person as fast as possible.

Consider this:  what if we all applied the “9 months on, 9 months off” philosophy to the changes in our life?  While some might prove ridiculous, like “20 years smoking, 20 years to quit”, the point of this is to recognize that change is a marathon, not a sprint.  And it requires patience, training and small gains to make it to the finish line.

With this in mind, we must decide if we’re making a change for life or a change for the moment.  If it’s for the moment, like fitting into your high school jeans for your 15 year high school reunion, than by all means, carry on.  But I suspect that most of our changes are for life.  A resolution to change something permanently in the hopes of a better and more joyful life.  If this is true, then we must give our permission to move slowly but seriously.

Resolve to make steps for life, not just for the moment.  I will eat healthier vs. I will not eat for 2 days.  This is not about testing our limits or control – this is about giving ourselves permission to change our life in small, doable steps.

And for the fans of those going through a change, remember too that your loved one is going on a terrific journey.  And while your support has never been misunderstood, it could make a stronger impression if it’s actually supporting the life long change vs. the short term.  A simple change of language like “give yourself time” vs. “don’t give up” or “don’t quit” vs. “you don’t have to do this overnight” gives your loved one the true support and motivation that they need.

Most likely, you will accomplish your goal sooner vs. later.  But the permission to take things slow gives you the confidence that you can accomplish it.  And the ability to learn how to live differently – for life.

The power of stopping

I love the profound truth that this poet calls out in the poem below.  Let’s face it, we live in a carpe-diem society that says life needs to be chased, hunted, accelerated.  One look at our never-ending to-do list is proof we’ve fallen into the philosophy hook, line and sinker.  Most of us feel that life is only lived when we do and go – the more voracious and focused, the better.  If you’re anything like me, you’ve had moments when you might realize you’re blindly running through life, but not sure what it is you’re really running towards?

So consider this:  maybe we need to stop before we can go.  We need to detach from the routine in order to ground ourselves in the purpose of life.  To me, it’s as simple as taking the time to be still.  For it is in the stillness and the quiet that we really are allowed live.  It is here that we understand what we are to be doing and where we are to be going.

I encourage you to take 5 minutes out of your day to be still and quiet.  Give yourself the gift of silence – silencing the chaos of the daily routine and silencing the constant messages that flood our mind’s inbox.  Call it whatever feels right to you –  “tune out,” “zone out” or relaxation.  Whatever the label, give yourself permission to take 5 minutes to stop and let life catch up with you.  There is nothing no clarifying than peach and quiet.  And I think you’ll find that in these moments,  life will come and reveal itself to you.

Keeping Quiet

by Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve

and we will all keep still.

This one time upon the earth,

let’s not speak any language,

let’s stop for one second,

and not move our arms so much.

It would be a delicious moment,

without hurry, without locomotives,

all of us would be together

in a sudden uneasiness.

The fishermen in the cold sea

would do no harm to the whales

and the peasant gathering salt

would look at his torn hands.

Those who prepare green wars,

wars of gas, wars of fire,

victories without survivors,

would put on clean clothing

and would walk alongside their brothers

in the shade, without doing a thing.

What I want shouldn’t be confused

with final inactivity:

life alone is what matters,

I want nothing to do with death.

If we weren’t unanimous

about keeping our lives so much in motion,

if we could do nothing for once,

perhaps a great silence would

interrupt this sadness,

this never understanding ourselves

and threatening ourselves with death,

perhaps the earth is teaching us

when everything seems to be dead

and then everything is alive.

Now I will count to twelve

and you keep quiet and I’ll go

Today is all you need

How often do we rest our goals, dreams, hopes, changes on tomorrow?  Tomorrow I’ll start working out.  Tomorrow I’ll make the time to call my mom.  Tomorrow I’ll figure out my life.  A wise life coach recently reminded me that if it’s good enough for tomorrow, then it’s good enough for today.  And while we might not have the time to completely tackle everything we want to change, start or stop, we have all the time we need today to get started.  We have the time to take the figurative or literal first step.  A first step, no matter how small, is the little known secret to accomplishing our goals.  It creates momentum, progress, accomplishment.  All too often we think we can’t take the first step until we’ve completely figured it all out.  Or we can’t take the first step until the time is right.  I’m here to encourage you to take that first step.  Think of your goal.  Think of one thing you can do today to move towards it.  And go!