Going for the Goal, Part 4: Daily Doses

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This is the fourth and final post in a new series about setting and working toward your goals in a methodical way that increases your ability to achieve them. (And if you missed other posts in the series, you can catch up here!)

Have you ever gotten off track on your progress toward your goals because you simply forgot what you were working toward? (*raises hand*)

It's so easy to forget what we're intending to change because old habits die hard and thrive in our established routines. If we're not incredibly clear about our goals and diligent in implementing them, we'll fall back into our old habits and routines.

But there has to be a way to stick to our goals, right? There has got to be some way we can remind ourselves what it is that we're working toward on a regular basis.

 

WRITE IT DOWN

I've found that the number one key for me personally is to write things down if I really want to remember them, goals included. There's something about the connection between physically writing something down and committing it to my memory in a way that nothing else can.

I actually have memories of writing things down. In college, I took notes like a crazy person, not just because I would go back and read them again later, but because it helped me focus by committing the words I was hearing to paper. 

It's very similar to writing down my goals. When I write them down, I can better recall them later. There are too many thoughts and good intentions running through my head every day. If I don't write them down, they're gone just about as fast as I can say, "what was that?"

But just writing it down on some random scrap of paper to keep from forgetting it isn't enough.

 

PRIME LOCATION

Put your reminder somewhere you can see it frequently. The more you see it, the more you'll be reminded of what you're working toward, and the more motivated you'll be.

Make it the wallpaper for your phone's lock screen. Put a Post-It note on your bathroom or bedroom mirror. Prop it up beneath your computer monitor at work. Write it in big letters on a whiteboard or chalkboard on your wall. 

I don't know what location works best for you-- you can do it however you'd like. But I cannot stress this enough. State your goal clearly. Write it down. Put it somewhere you'll see it on the regular. And begin working to achieve it one small step at a time.

 

TELL OTHERS

If you really want to commit to your goal in a serious way, tell other people about it. When you say the words out loud and let other people in on your goal, it takes it up several notches. Now other people are aware of what you're working toward. They can encourage you and ask you how you're making progress.

I sometimes shy away from telling other people about my goals because I'm afraid of what will happen if I don't reach them. But then I realize that's just fear talking. And I remember that if I really want the encouragement and support I need to reach my goals, I have to tell other people. I can't do it alone. And I don't have to!

 

And if you want to get a kickstart on crushing your goals and gain clarity in your purpose, discover what your gifts are, find what meaningful work looks like, and learn to live a fulfilling, purposeful, and THRIVING life every day, join my FREE 7-day From Surviving to Thriving Challenge!

Start Right Where You Are

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Many of us think we'll start doing things when we get older, wiser, get a better job, a bigger house, a more permanent community, or reach some other milestone. But where better to start than where we are right now?

If we keep putting off action, we might never act at all.

We don't have to wait for more money to be in our banking accounts or more open time on our calendars. We can start right here, right now.

No matter what we have, we have something to give.

The place between your two feet at any given time is your mission field. - Danielle Allen

 

START SMALL

Do you have an hour this week that you could give toward a coffee date with someone who just needs a listening ear? Do you have twenty minutes to shovel a neighbor's sidewalk or driveway? Do you have five minutes to get to know your coworker better and make them feel loved? Do you have five or ten dollars you can give to a charity you believe in? Do you have food or clothing you can donate to those who desperately need them?

Even if you think the only thing you can do is small in comparison to what you want to be doing or compared to what others are doing, that doesn't mean it isn't important. Every act of kindness, compassion, love, and service is important. There's no shame in starting small.

 

ON BEING ENOUGH

It can be easy to think that we're not enough. We're not old enough, not wise enough, not important enough, not connected enough, you name it. But let me tell you, we are enough. You and I, right here, right now-- we are enough.

We don't have to wait until we're older, smarter, richer, or more influential to start loving, helping, and acting. We have so much more than we acknowledge. We all have skills, resources, and voices. We have the capacity to love and care for those around us, no matter what else we do or don't have. We are enough.

 

DO SOMETHING

We've all been given gifts and talents that we're meant to share with the world around us. And we don't have to wait until we cross some arbitrary starting line to begin using them. Maybe we can't do everything we want right now for some really valid reasons, but just because we can't do everything doesn't mean we shouldn't do something.

So, start small. Start today. Pick one thing to do for someone else-- not because they have something to offer in return or because you'll be acknowledged for your kindness, but just because you have something to offer and because you can offer it. And then do it again tomorrow. And the day after that, and the day after that. Make whatever difference you can. Talk to others around you about coming together to do good things in the world. You may not be able to change everything, but you can change something.

 

And if you want to start changing your life, to make it more fulfilling and meaningful, I'd love to have you join my FREE 7-day challenge: From Surviving to Thriving!

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Live a life you love!

Join my FREE 7-day challenge to get the kickstart you need to start living the life you were created to live!

 

Further reading:

Small Steps to Living Life On Mission by Danielle Allen, One Foot Coaching

Going for the Goal, Part 3: You-Sized Goals

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Are your goals the right size for you?

Do you remember the story of Goldilocks? In case you don't, let me offer you a little summary: Goldilocks goes into the house of three bears, who are small, medium, and large, respectively. She tries a variety of things (chairs, beds, porridge), to see which things work best for her. Spoiler alert: not everything goes smoothly. Some things don't fit her because they aren't her size.

Some goals will not work for you because they aren't your size.

 

This is the third post in a new series about setting and working toward your goals in a methodical way that increases your ability to achieve them. Stay tuned for the rest of the series and subscribe so you can make sure you don't miss out! (And if you missed the first post in the series, you can catch up here!)

 

MAKING GOALS FIT YOU

If you truly want to succeed with your goals, you need to make them fit you. But how exactly do you go about doing that?

You have to take into consideration where you're currently at. If you're already running ragged, adding an overwhelming goal to your plate probably isn't a good idea. If you're strapped for cash, trying to pay off all your debt in the next few weeks might not be feasible.

If you're not at all a morning person, you might not want to try to get up at 5 am to fit in a workout. It would probably work better for you to fit it in during the evening, when you're naturally more inclined to do things (even if you're changing what you're doing, you're only changing one thing at a time).

Your goal or goals should challenge you but also feel realistic. If they're too lofty, you'll be more likely to get discouraged or not even know where to begin.

 

BREAKING GOALS DOWN

To make it easier to start working toward your goals, break them down into smaller, bite-size pieces.

If you're trying to get healthier, you could focus on walking more this week. And once you have that under your belt, you could start eating more vegetables. After that, perhaps you could reduce your consumption of processed foods.

If you were to try to tackle them all at once, it would feel overwhelming because it's such a big change and so many things to keep track of. But by breaking it down, you give yourself a better chance to focus on one thing at a time and gain confidence in your ability to succeed as you have small wins along the way.

 

UTILIZING A TIMELINE

To stick to your goals, I highly recommend using some sort of a timeline. If your goals have an indefinite timeframe, they might get moved to the back burner. But if you're trying to declutter and reorganize your house by Thanksgiving, you have a concrete due date, and as the date draws nearer, the motivation to make it happen grows.

Procrastination can set in if you don't have to have anything completed by a specific time. I know I tend to put things off when they don't feel immediate, saying, "Eh, I can do that tomorrow. It doesn't really matter." But if I know I have to clean my house before I have company over, I don't make excuses. I know I have to do it. 

You can keep track of your goals and timeline however you would like-- on Post-It notes, in a bullet journal, in a notebook, on your computer, on your phone... I just encourage you to write them down, make sure they're the right size to both challenge and motivate you, break them down into bite-size pieces, and put a due date on them.

 

And if you want to get a kickstart on crushing your goals and gain clarity in your purpose, discover what your gifts are, find what meaningful work looks like, and learn to live a fulfilling, purposeful, and THRIVING life every day, join my FREE 7-day From Surviving to Thriving Challenge!

September 2017 Favorites

I thought it would be fun if I took a moment each month to let you know what things are currently striking my fancy, so here goes the September installment! [This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase items through my link, I will receive a small commission.]

Current favorites:

Books:

This month, I readThe Secret Journals of Adolf Hitler - Volume 1 - The Anointed by A.G. Mogan, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky, and Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys. The last one was my favorite by far! I listened to the audiobook version while painting, and I finished it so fast! I got wrapped up in the story very quickly and couldn't stop listening until I finished. I especially loved the afterword where the author talked about her own experiences and outlook on life.

Quote:

"Don't be afraid to give up the good and go for the great." - Steve Prefontaine. The hardest decisions I've ever had to make were between good and best, and boy, those shades of grey make life so difficult. But I'm learning to be willing to let go of some good things in favor of better things. And I'm trusting that even if I make the wrong choice, I'm not going to completely mess things up because God ultimately has the best plan for me.

TV Show: 

I watched all of Hawaii Five-0 on Netflix while painting practically all the walls in my house in September. It made for a great distraction! And I started watching the new season of Call the Midwife (I'm convinced I would have loved living in another decade, perhaps the 60's?). So good!

Song: 

"I'll Name the Dogs" by Blake Shelton is my new favorite. It's so sweet and adorable (especially the music video)! I'd love for my life to be like that someday.

Food: 

I've been eating a lot of apples, and just made this gingerbread apple crumble in the crock pot last night, which I'm so excited about! I made this cucumber salad, too, and a friend told me she's never (as in, EVER) liked cucumbers in anything before, but she loved it! I call that a win!

Podcast:

Emily P. Freeman started her podcast The Next Right Thing recently, and I'm loving it! Her words are so encouraging, and the podcast episodes are a wonderfully short length so I can easily find time to listen to them!

Memories from September:

I painted so many walls in my house! It wasn't the most fun thing ever, but it was a huge accomplishment!

I also went to an apple orchard with my cousins and their kiddos, and that was a blast! We went the day after I finished all the painting, and it was a much-needed change of pace and break from hard, sweat-inducing work indoors.

And, of course, I launched my course Discovering and Living Your Purpose! It started with my FREE 7-day From Surviving to Thriving Challenge (which you can still get in on!), and I'm so proud of it! I know it's going to be such a great way for people to get unstuck and start living and loving their purposeful lives.

Looking forward to in October:

I have a baby shower for some friends in a few weeks, and I'm pretty pumped about that. Also, the fall weather is my favorite! September's weather was alternately hot and cool, and I'm looking forward to some more straightforward fall weather.

What were some of your favorite things this month? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Going for the Goal, Part 2: Define Your Dream

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Is it possible to move forward when you don't know what you're moving toward?

 

This is the second post in a new series about setting and working toward your goals in a methodical way that increases your ability to achieve them. Stay tuned for the rest of the series and subscribe so you can make sure you don't miss out! (And if you missed the first post in the series, you can catch up here!)

 

I don't know about you, but I find it very difficult to make progress in any area of my life if I don't have a defined end goal.

For instance, I can save some money just by remembering that it's a good practice to employ, but if I don't have something specific that I'm saving for, I'm far less likely to put much money into my savings account. On the other hand, if I'm working to pay off my student loans or save for a new car or a trip, then I'm more compelled to skip impulse buys at the store and resist the urge to add more things to my Amazon shopping cart.

Knowing what I'm working toward makes a big difference!

 

SEEING THE BIGGER PICTURE

The same thing goes for bigger-picture goals and dreams. I want to know what they are so I can properly plan a way to achieve them. If I don't design a plan to follow (regardless of whether or not I'm able to follow through perfectly or if things change), I feel stuck, like I don't know how to begin because the way forward looks so unclear.

I want to live purposefully, making time for the things that mean the most to me. But that's pretty vague, isn't it? It's hard to live that out because it's not clear what it means. In order to put it into practice, I have to define my dream.

 

KNOWING OUR WHY

Without a clear vision, it's all too easy to give up on our dreams. When our dreams are vague, we're less committed to them and less disappointed when they slip from our grasp.

Trying to move without proper, clear motivation is hard to maintain. Most of us need good reasons to do things. We aren't children anymore; "because I said so" isn't enough.

We want to feel like there's a good reason to do the things that we choose to do, especially hard things and things that we said "yes" to in exchange for a "no" to something else.

If we take the time to clarify what we're working toward, we can better set our sights on our goals and diligently work toward them because we can see them, feel them, and taste them. We feel that much closer to reaching our goals, and that knowledge keeps us moving toward achieving them.

 

GETTING MORE SPECIFIC

In order to put wheels on my ideas and dreams, I have to pin down exactly what I mean, precisely what I'm aiming for. And that practice has been the single most important thing in propelling me forward.

Knowing exactly what I want to achieve gives me a much clearer idea of the steps I'll need to take to get there (but more on that in next week's post).

So what's your dream? Have you defined it down to the most detailed terms? Do you know where you're headed, or do you still have to give it some thought? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

 

 

 

And if you want to get a kickstart on crushing your goals and gain clarity in your purpose, discover what your gifts are, find what meaningful work looks like, and learn to live a fulfilling, purposeful, and THRIVING life every day, join my FREE 7-day From Surviving to Thriving Challenge!

How Do We Want to Live?

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How do you want to live your life? Can you even answer that question without immediately thinking of a particular vocation? Our minds often revert to simple work-based thinking when we consider how to live our lives. But we are so much more than just our work!

What if, instead of merely thinking of what we want to do with our lives, we began to consider how we want to live our lives?

Do you know the difference?

 

A Mindset Shift

Thinking only about what we want to do is often focused on us, centering around our work or what we spend the majority of our time doing. Of course, there's nothing wrong with taking pride in our work and contributing to worthwhile things. But there's more to our lives than just the titles we acquire or the shoes we fill.

I was reading an article about how we, as privileged Americans, often think we can solve all the world's problems through our heroic actions-- going on mission trips, serving others, and (although not mentioned in the article) throwing money at them. While helping others and contributing to worthy causes are fantastic things, those aren't the only ways we can impact our world.

They aren't the easiest, and they might not even be the most impactful. If we truly want to make a difference and live meaningful lives that make the world a better place, it comes down to more than just what we do with our lives. It starts with how we live them.

Do we rush through our days, counting down the minutes until we can camp out on the couch with a big bowl of popcorn and our favorite show queued up?

Do we resent any and all interruptions in our days and schedules because we're so intent on checking off all the things on our to-do lists?

Are we approachable or closed-off? Do we come across as open, loving, compassionate, and considerate? Or are we known more for our rushing, close-mindedness, selfishness, savior complex, and judgment?

What if we let our lives do the talking?

At Experience Mission, we often challenge mission trip team members to slow down as they enter a new community and culture and ask the question, “How am I going to live?” This question shifts the focus from going and doing and documenting and leaving, and instead challenges us to press pause—to slow down and enjoy everyday moments with the people we meet. When we set our to-do list aside, we start to love people better.

 

What That Looks Like

Now, I've talked a little bit about missional living, in which you live your whole life on mission for God-- meaning that you live every day to love and serve others in order to point them toward a relationship with God and glorify Him. It's not a to-do list. It's not a one-and-done conversation with a stranger.

It's coming alongside people, living life with them, meeting them wherever they're at, and being their friend. It's not our job to fix people. It's our job to love them. No matter what our jobs and titles might be, that's how we're called to live our lives.

So how do you want to live your life? I'd love to hear from you in the comments! And if you're interested in living a meaningful life that has the power to make the world a better place, join my FREE 7-day From Surviving to Thriving Challenge!

 

Further reading:

The Surprising Way You Can Actually Change the World by Heather Reynolds, Relevant Magazine

Going for the Goal, Part 1: Mindset Matters

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Goal-setting. Blech. I've never liked it much. It always seems so dull, and it carries with it a certain sense of shame and fear because (as we all know) many, many goals go unmet in the end (especially if we're factoring in New Year's resolutions). But it doesn't have to be that way! Goal setting can be a much more pleasant experience when done right.

If we strive to reach goals because we truly believe we will be better for having achieved them, we're much more likely to reach them. On the flip side, if we set goals merely because we think we should (like getting up earlier because we think we should be a morning person or exercising more because we think we're supposed to exercise, but we have no internal desire to adopt these habits), we're setting ourselves up for failure.

 

This is the first post in a new series about setting and working toward your goals in a methodical way that increases your ability to achieve them. Stay tuned for the rest of the series and subscribe so you can make sure you don't miss out!

[This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through my link, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks for supporting Notes from Jessie!]

Self-Doubt

Our ability to achieve our goals starts with our ability to believe in ourselves. We can't be too afraid to fail that we hold ourselves back from ever trying anything. We certainly won't succeed if we don't try!

I often catch myself making tasks much harder because I don't believe in my ability to accomplish them. Whether that looks like not thinking I can get them done at all, within a specific time frame, or done well, I question whether or not I am up to the task, and that very questioning makes accomplishing the work at hand that much more difficult.

When I choose to believe that I can do something, I approach it with more confidence and determination to make it work. I'm less likely to get quickly discouraged by little obstacles and more likely to persevere when challenges arise.

 

Self-Talk

There's a reason why the Little Engine That Could had a mantra of "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can." He needed to remind himself that he could achieve his goal of climbing up the hill in order to be able to do it.

We all too often get caught up in negative self-fulfilling prophecies. We think we can't do something, so we don't really try. We tell ourselves something's too hard or we're not good enough, and we let go without putting in much effort first.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to live like that. I don't want to give up when things get hard, at least not without giving it a good fight first.

 

Why Mindset Matters

The way we talk to ourselves reflects what we think about ourselves and the world. If we think we don't deserve something, we won't work very hard for it, sometimes even sabotaging our own efforts.

The same goes for thinking that we aren't good enough to achieve our goals, going into a situation already defeated. For instance, if we're trying to adopt healthier eating habits but don't believe we can really change, we're not going to try very hard to eat more vegetables, drink more water, or resist that third bowl of ice cream. We have the ability to do those things, but we're not very compelled to do them when we believe that we can't.

We deserve no less than our very best. Yes, we will make mistakes. We won't always succeed the first time we try something, and some things may remain difficult despite our best efforts. That doesn't make us failures.

Even the situations in which we struggle have something to teach us. And just because we don't always come out with a first-place ribbon doesn't mean we haven't gained strength, fortitude, and perseverance-- all things which will make our future efforts to overcome challenges and achieve our goals. Even if it's two steps forward and one step back, we're still moving forward in the end.

So believe in yourself, friend, and I will, too! I believe in myself, and I believe in you. We were created for a purpose greater than just going with the flow and following the crowd, and while that means doing hard things, it also means doing great things and enjoying an abundant life. And that's the kind of life I want to live! How about you?!

 

And if you want to get a kickstart on crushing your goals and gain clarity in your purpose, discover what your gifts are, find what meaningful work looks like, and learn to live a fulfilling, purposeful, and THRIVING life every day, join my FREE 7-day From Surviving to Thriving Challenge!

 

Further reading:

Here's How to Make Time to Pursue Your Dream Job by Brandon W. Peach, Relevant Magazine

If You Are Looking for Reasons to Be Happy, You’ll Probably Find Them by Joshua Becker, Becoming Minimalist

How Can YOU Live a More Fulfilling Life?

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Everyone's looking to live a fulfilling life, right? To find some little secret that makes it the best it can possibly be? I know I was! And it's still what I want.

So, how do you have a more fulfilling life? You find and follow your purpose!

 

How do you find your purpose?

You discover what your gifts and talents are, lean into your God-given personality, prioritize your values, and seek out opportunities to put all of these to use for you in a work setting or outside of work.

Does that sound overwhelming or too easy?

I promise you it's not. Just take it one step at a time.

 

Discovering Your Gifts and Talents

In order to find fulfilling work, you first have to know what you're good at and what you enjoy, right? So take a moment to think about that.

What are you good at? What things come naturally to you? Are you really good at solving problems, taking initiative, or resolving conflicts? Do you love brainstorming or following through on plans to the very end?

Are you skilled in technology, or do you prefer to work with your hands? What do you know how to do? Are there things that come easily to you that aren't as easy for others-- things you could take advantage of by turning them into a job or something you could help others with?

Personally, I've always loved to write, and I've been told that I have the gift of encouragement. So I put them together and created this blog. Then I wrote my book. And now I'm using my skills to build a coaching business to continue encouraging people with my words.

 

Leaning Into Your God-Given Personality

The way you're wired is special (not in a likes-to-eat-paste way, but in a one-of-a-kind-treasure kind of way). Whether you're introverted or extroverted, left-brained or right-brained, a natural leader or a consistent supporter, you can use the way you were made to your advantage.

People are more productive, content, and invested when they find work that fits them, challenges them, and inspires them. There are so many different types of work environments and positions and companies, and they're all suited for specific types of people. That's not to say that you can't make a position work even if it's not perfectly suited to the way you're wired; it just means that another position might work better.

I'm more introverted and independent. While I like working on a team, I truly prefer to work independently most of the time, and I thrive in quiet environments with minimal distractions. Knowing that, I can try to craft my work space and habits accordingly.

 

Putting it All Together

How can you use what you're good at, what you love, and how you're wired to create a fulfilling life? The sweet spot is found where your gifts and the needs you see in the world around you meet. You can't meet every need, but your gifts and resources are well-designed to serve a purpose, whether it appears to be big or small on the surface.

Perhaps you can create a product or service that is missing in the world, filling a gap you see. Or maybe you could join an organization that's doing work you care about instead of creating something brand new. Maybe it's only a matter of choosing to view your life through a lens of purpose instead of changing your circumstances in any big way.

Your whole life can be purposeful. Everything you do can make a difference, even if it seems like it's a small one. The way we interact with our neighbors matters. How we treat our coworkers matters. The way we treat our family members matters. How we react when we're calling our Internet provider over a bill and sit on hold for half an hour and get passed to three different service people matters (trust me, they really appreciate kindness!). May we all choose to think about how we interact with the world around us and intentionally be a positive influence!

 

If you want a more detailed path to follow, join my FREE 7-day From Surviving to Thriving Challenge! And stay tuned for more information about something I have in the works for you!

My Story, Part Three: Here and Now

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This is the third and final post in a series in which I'm going to share my story with you guys. Because it's so long, I'm breaking it up into more manageable pieces (if you missed the first or second ones, you can catch the first here and the second here). My hope is that you can relate to some part of it, find hope in it, and walk away thinking about your story and how you want it to continue from where you're at right now.

[This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase anything through my link, I will receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting Notes from Jessie!]

 

Life After College

After graduating from college, I worked for a little while as a temp at my mom's office, followed by a period of unemployment during which I helped start up the church I still go to. After that, I nannied part-time and worked part-time at a tea shop. Almost a year after graduating, I thought I got my big break, getting a call out of the blue from a temp agency I had talked to months before, asking me if I was still interested in a full-time job. Of course I was! And the position was offered to me at the interview.

Spoiler alert: it wasn't everything it was made out to be in my head. It truly has been a blessing; I believe that without a doubt. And I'm grateful that I wasn't offered my dream job on a silver platter so soon out of school. It wouldn't have taught me to dream bigger, work harder, or think outside the box.

 

Lessons Learned

It was while working that job that I got the idea for Notes from Jessie (after writing at Live Like Love for a while first), and where I developed the entirety of my budding business. While I don't love that job (because yes, I am still there currently), it has taught me so much and been the much-needed motivation to work to create other opportunities to work in ways that are more meaningful for me.

Even though my day job wasn't exactly dreamlike, it gave me the opportunity to do other things I otherwise wouldn't have been able to do. It financially provided for me so I could pay off my student loans, buy groceries, and buy a house last year with my sister. It gave me the freedom to invest in my church and take weekend trips to visit friends because I no longer had an unpredictable schedule to have to work around. And it gave me the chance to hone skills and build friendships with the people I met through my job. I wouldn't trade those things for the world.

 

The Path That Got Me Here

I've always loved writing (as evidenced by my Communication Studies major in college and this blog), but I felt burdened by a message last winter, and I just couldn't shake the feeling that it was too big, too important for the blog. It needed to take on a different form. I follow many entrepreneurs, writers, and influencers, and one of them recommended a self-publishing program, and I initially hemmed and hawed for a while (like I typically do).

But in the end, I followed the little voice inside of me (which I fully believe was the Holy Spirit's way of prompting me) telling me this kind of a strong feeling was undeniably greater than my own selfish desires, that it was something bigger than me, and that this message needed to be shared. I felt a great deal of fear over this new venture, but I jumped anyway. And boy, am I glad that I did!

Writing that book was one of the most challenging things I've ever done, but it was also incredibly rewarding! And it was the springboard that started my deep-dive into the world of entrepreneurship. It was what fueled a fire in me to help other women live and love their one-of-a-kind purposeful lives, and for that, I'm so incredibly thankful!

 

Embracing the Unknown

Living life requires embracing ambiguity, and the journey isn't always smooth sailing, much to my dismay. There are a lot of unknowns in this life, but I know things will come together in the end, even if I can't see how when I'm standing in the messy middle of the story.

I've learned that life won't unfold just the way I want; it's not my story to plot out. But God's plan is even better and more beautiful than mine, and I'd much rather have that, anyway. When I focus too much on what I alone am capable of, I put God and what He can do inside a box of my own limitations.

I am working toward a life in which I expect great things, but don't tell God how or when to do them. I know that I can make a difference, but I need to leave margin for the when and the how. I want to explore my passions, giving God room to work with them and fashion them into a meaningful way to spend my time and invest my life.

 

What I'm Working Toward

Today, as I'm building my business, I'm working to live every day with purpose and intention. I'm prioritizing the things that mean the most to me (which right now looks like relationships, my business, my health, and making my life and home look, feel, and run the way I want them to).

I'm working to understand what it looks like to live every day by faith, giving it everything I've got, respecting my limits while pushing myself outside of my comfort zone, and trusting God with the rest. I know He's at work even when I can't see Him-- in my life, in the lives of those around me, and all over the world.

 

How I'm Choosing to Live

I'm endeavoring to live every day with purpose and intention because I know that my purpose extends beyond the confines of a job. It's my passion to help other women live and love their purposeful lives, and that starts with me. I need to live purposefully and create a life I love.

The way I do that is by reminding myself to slow down, focus on what's really important, and make more time for the things and people I love. I'm reminding myself that my identity lies in Christ, and nothing I do or don't do can ever change that. I am His beloved.

There are many things I can do to live life to the fullest, and I'm endeavoring to pursue them while also managing the balancing act of carving out time and energy for self-care. It's a challenging tightrope walk, and I have a tendency to lean to one side or the other, but I'm learning every day, and that's all I can really ask of myself.

 

 

For more of my story, check out the video I made a few years ago for CRU's My Story campaign or some of these other posts that give a bit of insight into my heart:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KY4qD70_Uig

Learning to Let Go

Safe & Secure

Perfection-schism

Manifesto

What's your story? I'd love to hear it sometime!

Living in Shades of Grey

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"Ambiguity sucks, doesn't it?!?" That's a direct quote from a friend that I was chatting with just a couple days ago. We were talking about growing up, navigating adult life, and trying to figure out how to live in uncertain seasons.

It can be really hard.

I crave certainty and clarity (I even go to a church called Clarity Church). I like absolutes. I thrive on clear directions and explanations. I like to know the whole story, to see the big picture and all the little details. My organized little Type-A brain thrives on clear communication, understandable boundaries, known categories, and having a place for everything.

 

In the Messy Middle

But not everything fits into a neat little box. Not everything has a defined beginning, middle, or end. Sometimes you find yourself smack-dab in the middle without knowing quite how you got there or where you're headed. You're just in it, trying to find solid ground so you can keep moving forward.

Maybe you feel hopelessly stuck in the in-between; you're a few steps ahead of where you used to be, but so far removed from where you want to be. Progress is slow, and you wonder if you're really moving forward at all, frustrated with the lack of mobility and accomplishment.

Perhaps you're hoping for a beautiful ending, where love wins out, victory is yours, and all the ends are tied together in a pretty little bow, but the middle is so darn messy that you have no idea how that could ever be possible.

Or maybe your middle is when you have one foot in the past and one foot in the future, and you're not sure which one seems better because they're equally terrifying and challenging and you feel unable to choose between them.

 

Shades of Grey

Maybe you're finding yourself in a grey season or situation. Like when you desperately just want clarity-- you want to know if something is an open door or a closed one, but can't for the life of you tell which it is because it appears to be half-opened and half-shut. It's unnerving, isn't it?

Or how about when you're so tempted to answer your burning questions yourself just so you have an answer, but you know that's probably not the right solution; patience is, but yours is in danger of running out completely?

Or when what you thought you knew about yourself and the world is no longer as clear and crisp as it once was; when things are more fluid, vague, and in-between than you ever thought possible?

How about when you have an idea for something that is so undefined and unspecific that you don't know what to do with it, how to begin, or even how to talk about it because you can't find the words to describe something so ethereal, boundless, and mercurial?

Those are the grey moments, my friend. They will stretch you, make you uncomfortable, challenge you in ways you never expected, and leave you changed.

The good news is those moments offer opportunities along with the challenges they bring.

 

Finding the Silver Lining

Sometimes I find myself living in shades of grey instead of black and white, and I'm not all that fond of it. But my dislike for it isn't going to make it go away, so I'm learning to live with it and make the best of it.

I'm prayerfully embracing the uncertainty that comes with walking through seasons and situations that are full of change, transitions, and ambiguity. I'm choosing to see the lack of concrete answers as an opportunity to choose from a plethora of options, knowing that I'm not looking at options that are either good or bad, but all good and viable options. Living in shades of grey gives me the freedom to make decisions and learn from my mistakes.

It's also teaching me patience while I wait for things that are outside of my control to play out. Living in the midst of uncertainty reminds me that I'm not God and that He is in control at the end of the day. He knows what's best, and I have to trust that He's crafting a beautiful story here.

 

Have you found any tips or tricks to navigating life in shades of grey? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

 

Further Reading:

8 Ways to Start A Project (Even If You Feel Clueless) by Emily P. Freeman

My Story, Part Two: The College Years

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This is the second post in a series in which I'm going to share my story with you guys, this time focusing on my college years. Because my story is so long, I'm breaking it up into more manageable pieces (if you missed the first one, you can catch up here). My hope is that you can relate to some part of it, find hope in it, and walk away thinking about your story and how you want it to continue from where you're at right now.  

Transitioning to College

From the beginning, life in college wasn’t all that different from what it had been in high school. I worked hard in my classes, went to church or CRU (a non-denominational Christian student organization) gatherings several days a week, and got a job. I struggled, though, to find a place where I felt I belonged. It seemed like I didn’t quite fit into the world of La Crosse or the world back home in Maple Grove, but that I was somehow stuck in between, neither place really feeling like home.

I started questioning whether I made the right decision about where to go to college. I knew I was only going to be in La Crosse for a few years, so I struggled with wondering whether it was worth my time to begin new friendships that would be short- lived. I figured I had friends back home that I planned to stay close to, but it slowly dawned on me that my plan was flawed. Those friendships were dwindling faster than I planned, and I was feeling lost.

I eventually learned that vulnerability is a good thing; deep relationships have a place even in short-lived situations. I couldn't hold back just because I know seasons of life can be temporary. My entire life is temporary!

I wanted (and still want) to live fully every day, as if it were my last. I wanted to cherish the friendships that come my way, for some of them will prove to stand the test of time and distance. It was in that realization that I had the opportunity to think about who I wanted to be and the chance to build relationships based on authenticity; I got the opportunity to break down the walls that had confined me to my “good girl” image that made me so preoccupied with perfection.

 

Learning to Let Go

I realized worrying, whether about what others thought of me and my “good girl” image, or whether I was involved in enough or performing well enough in college, wasn’t going to benefit me at all (Matthew 6:31-34). Although I accepted Christ as my Savior at a young age, and had been steadily growing in my faith up through high school, I had not fully entrusted all of my heart and life to Him, truly trusting Him as Lord, believing that He was working to bring about good in my life through the challenges I was facing. Instead, I had fought to have my own way, which left me frustrated because inevitably, things didn’t always go according to my plan. I can only do my part and leave the rest to God, letting go of my fear of failure and desire for control.

Acknowledging Jesus as Lord meant surrendering all of my life to Him, driving me to see His plan as superior to mine. And I knew I was going to continue making mistakes, so trying to find worth in perfection was useless. Instead, I found rest in God’s grace, mercy, and peace. I learned that I need to rely on God and His plan instead of trying to do it all on my own, letting Him orchestrate the things in my life, choosing to praise Him no matter what happens.

I still worried about things sometimes, but I was able to let more things roll off my back, and when things still made me anxious, deep down, I knew God had it all under control, and He had a good plan for my life. Jeremiah 29:11 says “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future’.”

God taught me in that season of life that homework and work will always be there; opportunities to build your friendships and create memories may not. Life ought to be about investing more in people than in things, and I wanted to be able to look back in a few years and see that I gained more from my college years than a diploma and a paycheck, but that I was able to accomplish far more in the way of life experiences.

 

Preparing for Post-Graduate Life

As I prepared just a couple years later to graduate from college, I agonized over the fact that I didn’t have a job lined up for after graduation. It tortured me, keeping me up at night as my mind spun long into the night, trying to devise a new plan of attack to provide my own safety net in what felt like a free-fall with no view of the ground.

I worked myself into the ground applying for jobs, stressing out at the apparent lack of options, wondering why it was taking me so long to find something, asking myself where my plan had gone wrong. But the moment I let go of my will was the very moment that the pieces started to fall together without my interference.

Leaving those close friends behind was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, especially since I didn't have a concrete plan for my future in terms of a job or solid support system. To say that it wasn't a smooth transition is a serious understatement.

 

Where it Began to Turn Around

Shortly after moving home after college, I was approached by Phil, a member of the church I had attended up until I left for college, and offered the opportunity to help launch Clarity, a new church plant in the area. Quickly seeing the similarities between everything I loved about CRU’s philosophy and the heart of Clarity, I jumped on board, knowing the timing was from God, as I was about at the end of my rope without having a solid community here.

Helping with Clarity and having a couple friends around is what got me through the first six months of life back in the Cities. I took a part-time job when I felt I had hit rock bottom, just to make some money until I could find something better.

Because I was so burned out from months of job searching, I decided I would take a break and temporarily be content with my part-time job to recover emotionally. Shortly after that, I got a call out of the blue which quickly led to me getting a full-time job-- the very thing I hadn't been able to get on my own, despite my best efforts.

I have a tendency to work really hard to try to get things to work out in a certain way, praying that the Lord's will would be done, but all the while basically just asking Him to bless my will instead of submitting to His. I came to see that I need to be willing to let go of my plans and remain open to the idea that He might have something far better in store for me than even my wildest dreams.

God has already done and is going to do far greater things than what I can even imagine. There have been a lot of painful goodbyes involved, but there have also been times of joyous celebration as I’ve seen how He will graciously provide for all of my needs. Looking back, I can see how He was working all the while, putting the pieces together to create something beautiful.

 

Stay tuned for the next installment, where I'll tell you about where I am now!

7 Ways to Keep Going When Things Get Tough

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How do you keep going when it feels like you've hit a brick wall and you're all out of strength to keep going against its opposition? I think we've all been there-- we've worked our tails off trying to accomplish something, only to encounter a problem or a setback we weren't expecting, and it knocks us down so swiftly it takes the breath right out of us.

How do you keep going from there? Do you just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep trudging along, hoping that the rest of the way is smooth sailing? Do you walk gingerly forward from here on out, anticipating chaos and crises at every turn?

I don't personally feel that either of those options are very realistic. Sure, obstacles and problems come up and take us by surprise. But we don't have to live in fear or denial of them.

I don't personally feel that either of those options are very realistic. Sure, obstacles and problems come up and take us by surprise. But we don't have to live in fear or denial of them. Instead, I've come up with seven ways to keep going when things get tough.

 

Adopt a Mantra

You can choose whatever you like, but I have found it to be really helpful to have a short, repeatable phrase that I can call to the front of my mind or even say out loud to keep myself going when I feel my motivation begin to wane.

Whether I'm pushing through a hard run, working on a dull work project, or trying to understand a confusing element of technology, it can be helpful to breathe and whisper a miniature pep talk to myself.

Some of my favorites are "just keep swimming," (thank you, Dory!), "you can do this," and "it's just a little bit longer."

 

Push Yourself Just One More Step

You can do just about anything for a minute, right? You can run for a minute, sit still for a minute, focus on a project for a minute, sit in gridlock traffic for a minute. What if, in the middle of thinking you can't do something, you were to flip the switch and tell yourself that you can do it, even for just one more minute?

And then when that minute is up, you challenge yourself to continue for one more minute. Take things one step at a time. If you quit, then at least you made it longer than you initially thought you could, and you have an opportunity to push yourself an extra step or extra minute next time around.

 

Ask for Help

We often think asking for help is a sign of weakness as adults. But we don't think that about kids. If a child asked for help tying their shoes because they don't know how to do it themselves yet, we wouldn't berate them for their lack of knowledge or ability. We would bend down to help them out, showing them how to do it so they can learn to do it for themselves.

We should be willing to do the same for ourselves on the receiving end of the helping hand. We all could use a little boost from time to time! Don't be ashamed to ask for help when you need it, whether it's in the form of a face-to-face interaction, online discussion forum, support email, or just asking someone to hold the door for you when your hands are full.

 

Take a Break and Then Jump Back In

If you've really hit a wall and feel like you just can't keep going, give yourself permission to stop for a moment. Then take a breath, rest for a moment, gather yourself, and then jump back in.

Once you've given yourself a break and some time to rest, you can get back to your work with renewed energy and motivation. Slow and steady wins the race, my friend! There's no shame in taking a breather when you need one.

 

Visualize Your Goal

When you're running out of motivation, imagine what it would feel like to reach your goal. Truly picture yourself getting there. Visualize yourself finishing your run, crossing the finish line, turning in your project, hitting "submit" on your application, or checking the box on your to-do list.

Doesn't that feel good? Doesn't it make you want to push just a little harder to get there? Doesn't it make you believe that you really can make it there? Now that you've seen it, you can achieve it!

 

Remember Your "Why"

When I get stuck feeling a lack of motivation, I remind myself why I'm pursuing my goals. I like to draw my attention back to the beginning of my journey, when I was fresh and excited about the road ahead. By dialing it back and reminding myself of why I started in the first place, I can get another boost of energy and motivation to see me through my slump.

 

Remind Yourself How Far You've Come

Sometimes it seems like the road ahead of me goes on forever, like I'll never reach my end goals. But if I look back at how far I've come, I'm aware that I have been making progress, even if it's been slow going. It reminds me that I can do whatever it is that I'm trying to do.

In a similar way, celebrating small wins reinforces our behavior, highlights our successes, and gives us the momentum we need to keep going through the rough patches. I love celebrating small victories for that very reason-- it gives me something positive to focus on, taking my attention away from any frustration or disappointment I might have about any mistakes or lack of progress, and it gives me the reassurance I need to know I can continue going and making progress.

 

Those are my tips for pushing through tough times and situations. Do you have any tips? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

My Story, Part One: Growing Up

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This is the first post in a series in which I'm going to share my story with you guys. Because it's so long, I'm breaking it up into more manageable pieces. My hope is that you can relate to some part of it, find hope in it, and walk away thinking about your story and how you want it to continue from where you're at right now. [This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase anything through my link, I will receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting Notes from Jessie!]

 

The Beginning (Where it All Began)

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a Christian household, with two loving parents. I grew up going to church with my family, and I can pretty clearly recall learning that Jesus had died on the cross for my sins and that I could have eternal life by entrusting my life to God. I accepted Christ as my personal Lord and Savior when I was five years old.

I loved school, reading, writing, and drawing. Most of my time was spent playing with my mom's daycare kids, going to school, and burying my nose in a good book. We moved to a nearby suburb when I was 11, smack-dab in the middle of the summer, so my only friends were my cousins (who lived in our neighborhood). I began to make friends through my soccer team and in my class once school started, but I mostly threw myself into my school work once again-- because I knew how to do that (unlike making friends again as an 11-year-old introvert).

 

How I Grew Up (Good Little Church Girl)

You could easily say (and people did say) that I was the “good little church girl” growing up. I went to church, Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, and AWANA. I attended youth group in junior and senior high, taught Sunday school, and went on retreats and mission trips, and I was baptized when I was sixteen. I rarely got in trouble, and was known for practically living at church. From the outside, it looked like my life was perfect—like I was perfect. But that wasn’t really the case.

As the oldest child, and one with a clear Type-A personality and OCD streak, I have been prone to perfectionism my entire life. I felt a burden of responsibility to do well in every area of life, largely because I put myself in the position of being a good example to those around me.

I was worried about virtually everything and felt really insecure about the areas in which I wasn’t measuring up to my unbelievably high expectations. Of course, I knew that people couldn’t be perfect, but I aimed for something pretty darn close to it, and I was continually falling short.

 

Who I Was (A Control Freak)

I reached a point where I had pretty serious anxiety, desperately desiring constancy in a constantly-changing world, wanting to reach a point where it seemed like everything was predictable and safe. For that reason as well as others, I tried to control everything in my life—I wanted things to go a certain way, in a certain order.

I had a great life-- a loving family, caring friends, a safe and comfortable home, a good school, good grades, a church community, and my whole life ahead of me. But it didn't feel like I was doing well enough. I always wanted to be doing better.

I loathed and feared change; I wanted things to stay the same in both big and small ways. I remember one time having a meltdown when I found out my parents had gotten rid of my old dresser (mind you, it had been stored in the shed for a while and I hadn't even been using it).

I strove for perfection in my performance, finding my self-worth in my accomplishments and my reputation. I felt like I had to act like I “had it all together” because the reputation I had was that of a cheerful person who always had a smile on her face (after all, what else was to be expected from the good little church girl?).

While in high school, I had been heavily involved in church, on top of going to school at both my local high school and community college and working at a coffee shop, which, needless to say, created a really busy lifestyle. I was overcommitted and quickly wearing myself down, but I didn't know what to do about it, so I just pushed through. Those were all things I was supposed to do.

I enjoyed each part individually, and I wanted so badly to be a part of everything, to say "yes" to everything, to not turn anybody or anything down for fear of disappointing them or missing out. I wanted to do it all. And I did, to a certain extent. I pushed and stretched and somehow, by the grace of God, I pulled through with my GPA, job, and body intact. But my soul had been seriously strained and overworked to the point of exhaustion. I couldn't keep going at that pace, and I knew it.

Something had to change.

 

 

Stay tuned for the next installment, where I'll tell you about how college changed me (don't worry, the story gets happier)!

 

August 2017 Favorites

I thought it would be fun if I took a moment each month to let you know what things are currently striking my fancy, so here goes the August installment!

[This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase items through my link, I will receive a small commission.]

Current favorites:

Books:

I finally read The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (I know, I'm behind the times, but that's what happens when your to-read list is hundreds of titles long and you rely mainly on the library to supply your book addiction), and I got sucked right into it! I finished Shauna Niequist's Present Over Perfect that I was reading last month, and it was so good! So contemplative, introspective, and honest. I also read Anna Kendrick's Scrappy Little Nobody, which I thought was poignant and laugh-out-loud funny at times (although also uncomfortably open and honest about some personal details at times).

Quote:

"If we're going to bring forth creative work into the world, we have to be able to discern the difference between sacred waiting and scared waiting." - Emily P. Freeman. Whoa. How often do we wait because we're just scared? (You don't have to answer that; I know I don't want to admit it.) Food for thought, for sure!

TV Show:

While working on house projects, I started re-watching Kimmy Schmidt in preparation for watching the third season I hadn't watched yet. It made for perfect pump-up music to keep me going when I started losing steam painting cabinets.

Song: 

"What Ifs" by Kane Brown (featuring Lauren Alaina). This song is just so catchy! I also like how it makes me think about how often I ask all the negative "what if" questions in life, but not necessarily the positive ones. It's a good reminder that things can just as easily go well as they can not, so why not hope for the best?!

Food:

Aldi had Halo Top ice cream!!!! Two of my favorite things-- Aldi and Halo Top-- met! My life is complete. Okay, that's maybe a bit overdramatic, but it made me really happy. I immediately texted my sister to tell her because I was so excited.

I also made some delicious garlic basil shrimp farrotto (the leftovers of which I finished this week, which made me sad because it's gone). But I think my favorite dish this month was a pizza I made based on this recipe for summer squash pizza. I burned my mouth on it because I couldn't wait to devour it, but it was completely worth it! And a friend and I made a delicious cheese ravioli dish with ALL THE VEGETABLES (think zucchini, bell peppers, onion, tomato (I know, technically a fruit), and more). So good!

Podcast:

I've been binge-listening (is that a thing? If not, I just made it one!) to Annie F. Downs's podcast That Sounds Fun, and it's so great! I actually have been laughing out loud or trying to stifle a laugh at my desk as I listen to it because she and her guests are just so hilarious!

Program:

My friend Alessandra created a program called Deserve to Thrive, and I am so honored to have been included in providing some content for the course! The entire program is fantastic, and I support it with my whole heart (which you guys know; otherwise, I wouldn't be promoting it!). Check it out!

Memories from August:

In August, I painted my kitchen cabinets, which desperately needed to be painted, and they look so much better! I'm so proud of them. The final straw was inviting over some family members who had never seen the house before, and knowing that I would be so much prouder of it if I could fit in that one additional project.

I also got to spend the better part of a weekend visiting one of my college roommates, and it was so good to get to catch up with her! We painted pottery, went for a long walk with her golden retriever, made delicious food, watched a quintessential rom-com, and talked all about our lives.

Looking forward to in September:

I'm launching my course Discovering and Living Your Purpose next month)! I'm so, so, SO excited about it, you guys! It's all about figuring out who you are, what you're good at, and how to live a one-of-a-kind life that matters! Watch my video for more information.

What were some of your favorite things this month? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Take Back Your Time, Part 4: Doing Just What's Important

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There are important things, and then there are unimportant things. Can you tell the difference?

 

This is the fourth and final post in a new series about ways to take back your time by figuring out when your ideal working hours are, making the most of your down time, making time for rest and fun, and prioritizing and eliminating. Stay in touch to make sure you don't miss the rest of the series! And if you missed the first, second, or third posts, you can catch them here, here, and here.

 

Urgent vs. Important

All too often, we get caught up in addressing urgent things instead of important things. Sometimes things will fall into both of these categories, but sometimes they don't.

For instance, I get notifications on my phone when someone likes my business's Facebook page, and checking the stats feels urgent. But it's not really all that important. I can do that later. It's not really going to change anything.

It's important for me to stay on top of my budget and my expenses, but because I use my debit card for just about everything and have my bills on autopay, I tend to forget to check my account balance and keep myself in check. While it's important, it doesn't feel urgent.

 

Flipping the Switch

How do we go about focusing on the right things? There are only so many things we can do on any given day, so how do we decide which things warrant our attention and which can wait?

For me, it comes down to asking one simple question: on a scale of one to ten, how crucial is it that I do this task right now?

If something falls on the low end of the scale (1-3), I give myself the permission to put it on the back burner or throw it out the window altogether. I certainly don't have to do it that day; I might not have to do it at all.

If the task at hand falls in the middle range (4-6), I consider if there would be a better time to do it later. If I can put it off for a day or two or longer and still get it done, I plan to do so. I change the due date on the to-do list app on my phone so I won't completely forget about it, and then I let it go. It's off my plate for today.

And if something lands on the higher end of the scale (7-10), I prioritize it on my list for that day. Even toward the top of the list, some things take precedence over others. I try to make sure I get the most important things done first so that I know they are taken care of.

 

Discerning the Real Need

What makes something important? That's something you'll likely have to define for yourself, but there are some things to take into consideration.

I will often consider the task I have in front of me, and ask myself these questions:

  1. Is this something only I can do? (In other words, could I delegate or outsource it instead?)
  2. Is this something that brings me joy? (It's a good idea to weave regular bursts of fun into our lives.)
  3. Is this something that can wait until tomorrow, the weekend, or next week without anything or anyone suffering a great deal? (Many times, things can wait and be just fine!)
  4. Do I really need to do this at all? (Sometimes we place unnecessary expectations on ourselves to do too many things, when, really, some of them can be eliminated entirely.)

 

Moving Forward

How does this change how we live? Hopefully, it helps us prioritize the right things.

My hope is that you will be able to discern the difference between urgent and important. I know that even with that knowledge, I still mistake one for the other every now and again, but it has helped me tremendously.

Understanding that not all urgent things are important, and trusting that there are things that don't fall into either category, has given me greater power to eliminate things from my to-do list because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there are better things to be doing with my time.

It takes away the guilt because I know I'm making the most important things a priority (or at the very least, trying to), so when I don't get to the things at the bottom of the list (or, as I'm learning to do, leaving them off entirely and letting them go), it's not a big deal!

 

How do you prioritize and eliminate things to be sure you focus on the most important things and spend your time doing what matters to you without losing your mind? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

 

Do Something Your Seven-Year-Old Self Would Thank You For

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How often do we fill our days and years with things that are purely practical and responsible? We pay the bills, do the chores, and go to work. We fulfill our various obligations, running from one to another frantically, trying to just hold it all together. But do we ever do things that are fun just because they're fun?  

Prioritizing Productivity

I think that when many of us became adults, we felt the need to squash that little part of ourselves that just wants to have fun.

In the chaos and busyness of our adult lives, we let grocery shopping, paying bills, and mowing the lawn get in the way of doing anything that feeds our souls. We focus so much on the immediate that we neglect the important.

Is that how we really want to spend our lives? Living just to cross things off our never-ending to-do lists, running ourselves ragged, focusing on accomplishing the next thing, and then the next thing, and the thing after that?

I want my life to be more than just a series of productive activities. And I suspect that you do, too.

 

Dreaming About a Better Way

But what would happen if we didn't take ourselves-- or our lives-- quite so seriously?

What would happen if we gave ourselves permission to act like kids once in a while? What if we just set aside our to-do lists for a couple of hours, put our phones away, and did something that just makes us happy?

I think our lives would be far more joyful. And who doesn't want that? I know I could use some more joy and levity in my life.

 

Do something your 7-year-old-self would thank you for.

Go for a bike ride. Jump in a puddle. Sing at the top of your lungs. Blow on a dandelion…yes, even at the risk of getting those awful weeds in your yard. -Megan, No Small Life

 

What Would Seven-Year-Old You Do?

Have you lost touch with your inner child? I know I have at times gone quite a while without indulging in anything that's just purely fun because it doesn't fulfill any of the "adult" requirements of productivity, achievement, or responsibility. I have let responsibility and productivity overshadow and take priority over living a joyful life.

But I want to change that. I want to purposefully incorporate more fun into my life to counteract the tendency I have to take things too seriously. It's hard to be stressed and overwhelmed when you're swinging high on the swingset, drawing with chalk on the driveway, or making a friendship bracelet.

Today I encourage you to do something your inner child would thank you for. Play hide-and-seek. Jump rope. Play hop scotch. Go on a scavenger hunt. Find shapes in the clouds.

 

What child-like activities do you like to do just because they're fun? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

 

Further Reading:

16 Simple Ways to Celebrate Life This Week by Megan, No Small Life

Lessons from a Three Year Old by Jennifer Ueckert, (in)courage

Take Back Your Time, Part 3: Fitting in Fun

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What sounds fun to you? Going for a walk?

Coloring?

Reading a good book?

Going out to dinner?

Having a movie night with friends?

Meeting a friend for coffee?

Reading this blog? Why, thank you!

 

This is the third post in a new series about ways to take back your time by figuring out when your ideal working hours are, making the most of your down time, making time for rest and fun, and prioritizing and eliminating. Stay in touch to make sure you don't miss the rest of the series! And if you missed the first or second posts, you can catch them here and here.

 

When was the last time you did something just for fun?

If you're anything like me, you get caught up in doing "responsible" things most of the time. You have to go to work, clean your house, make dinner, pay the bills, get the mail, get groceries, and some how fit in a little time to sleep. Who has time for fun?!

(Now, of course, there are plenty of people who do not struggle with making time for fun in their lives. If you fall into that group, hats off to you. I'm applauding you and your more relaxed approach to life right now. I could learn a thing or two from you! But I suspect that you might benefit from reading this post or this one. You're welcome.)

 

Understand what's fun for you

People react to things differently; you might think playing video games or napping are fun activities, but I personally don't find them to be fun. There's certainly nothing inherently wrong with them; I just don't enjoy them. However, you might not like reading or running, and I love to do those things.

A crucial part to infusing more fun into your life is knowing what's fun for you.

Do you like solitary activities like reading, writing, solo running, cooking, gardening, or kayaking? Or do you like group activities like group hiking, getting coffee with friends, seeing a movie with your family, or bowling. Considering the degree of difficulty I encountered while trying to come up with a list of group activities, I'm clearly more of a solo person.

There's also the consideration of indoor or outdoor activity. I can swing from one to the other depending on my mood and the weather, but I like to have options for both. Board games, reading, watching movies, doing something crafty; gardening, walking, running, visiting a new town with a friend.

 

Find a fun buddy

One thing that helps me make more time for fun is surrounding myself with fun people. My best friend is far more relaxed, spontaneous, and sociable than I am, and she makes me want to go on more adventures and try new things than I would ever want to do on my own. I'm so grateful to have her fun-loving influence in my life!

I also have a large community of people who do things together regularly, and I love knowing that I have a group of people to do things with. It takes some of the pressure off my shoulders because I know I'm not solely responsible for figuring out how to incorporate more fun and social activity (which is fun, but not always the most natural thing for me) into my life. It's the best of both worlds-- getting to do more fun things without always having to be the one to come up with all the ideas for said fun things.

 

Schedule out your fun if necessary

Making time for fun can be challenging in the midst of busy, chaotic lives filled with other good things that just don't always feel fun. It's easy for our desire for pure honest-to-goodness fun to get crowded out by other things.

Sometimes it helps me to plan out my fun just like I plan out everything else. I make plans with friends for weeks (every once in a while even months) in advance because I'm both a planner and I like spending time with friends. I also make regular plans with myself to do fun things like spending a couple solid hours reading or watching a movie and giving myself a mani-pedi.

If I don't plan it, I'm convinced it won't happen. And if plans come up last-minute, I can't always make it work. If I'm left with open time in my schedule, I might do something fun with it. But the possibility that I spend it working on home or business projects is equally plausible. So I plan out my fun, which might not sound fun, but it works for me!

 

What sounds like fun to you? How do you make it a priority? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Let's Get Outside!

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There's just something special about being outside in nature. Am I right? When things get crazy, hectic, or just downright claustrophobic inside, getting some fresh air is always the answer.

So, for those of us who have a little bit of summer left to savor, let's make the most of it!

 

Making the most of the longer days

Before we know it, the days will start getting shorter again. Even though it can be really hot, there is more time right now to enjoy the outdoors than there will be at almost any other time of the year.

I LOVE the longer days that summer brings. It's so much fun to kick around a soccer ball with friends after dinner or go for an evening walk, knowing that you have plenty of time before it gets dark.

I enjoy other solitary, indoor things, too, like reading, cooking, and writing. But I remind myself that I can do all of those things year-round. Summer is short, and it brings opportunities to do things that I can't do as easily during other seasons, and I don't want to miss out on those chances.

 

Trying new things

Sometimes I can get burned out if I do the exact same thing all the time. I like mixing up the routines I take on my runs, but just that little bit of variety doesn't always cut it. I really enjoy working in other activities to mix it up-- things like walking, gardening, or even reading a book on my patio.

But even the best things can get a little dull after a while. That's no reason to give up or become complacent, but a reason to change things up!

This is your chance to learn something you've always wanted to do! Learn to run, mountain bike, roller skate, skateboard, or canoe. Ask a friend to teach you, take a class, or watch a YouTube video to figure something out.

There are places you can rent equipment if you don't want to commit to something new just yet-- it can be a great way to try something out and see if you like it! You just might find your new favorite hobby, and you might even make new friends in the process.

 

Just do something

It doesn't matter so much what you do, just that you get outside. You could go for a walk, a run, a bike ride, or a roller skating excursion. You could explore the area around your home or go somewhere you've never been and make it an adventure.

You could go for a walk, a run, a bike ride, or a roller skating excursion. You could explore the area around your home or go somewhere you've never been and make it an adventure.

Even on the days when I don't feel particularly motivated to do anything really active or when I don't feel like committing to spending an extended period of time outside (say, when it's over 85 degrees and 70% humidity), I tell myself I can just go for a little walk and call it good. As soon as I step out the door, I relax, and I'm reminded of the fact that even the smallest breath of fresh air and the shortest stretch of my stiff muscles is worth it.

 

Get others to join you

Make it a group effort. Everything's better with friends, right? (Okay, well, for this introvert, that's not always true, but humor me here.)

If you're running out of steam trying to make the most of the warmer summer weather before winter sets in (it'll be here before we know it, unfortunately), enlist other people to help!

Brainstorm ideas for outdoor activities! Two heads are definitely better than one here.

There are all sorts of groups and clubs dedicated to spending time doing various outdoor activities. Check with your city or look on Facebook to see who's doing things around you that sound like something you'd enjoy!

 

What kinds of things do you like to do in the summer? If you have kids, how do you get them outside and away from screens? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Take Back Your Time, Part 2: Leveraging Down Time

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What do you do with your down time? Do you even have down time? Do you believe it exists? There have been seasons in my life in which I haven't believed down time was necessary because I was just trying to keep my head down and get everything done.

But that's not a sustainable way to live for very long, so here I am, talking to you about the importance of making the most of your down time.

 

This is the second post in a new series about ways to take back your time by figuring out when your ideal working hours are, making the most of your down time, making time for rest and fun, and prioritizing and eliminating. Stay in touch to make sure you don't miss the rest of the series! And if you missed the first post, you can catch it here.

 

What Down Time Is and Isn't

Down time is the little bits and pieces of time hidden between activities and tasks throughout the day. It's the five minutes you spend waiting in line to order your lunch, the fifteen-minute wait at the doctor's office, and the first twenty minutes after you get home from work.

It can also be the time you have while your dinner cooks, your children sleep, or your car gets repaired. If you're meeting a friend for coffee, and you get there early or your friend arrives a little late, you've been awarded some precious down time to use as you please!

Down time isn't twenty extra minutes that you should really be spending sleeping or taking an extra half hour to do something and causing yourself to run late to your next appointment.

It's finding and making the most of the little pockets of otherwise open space in your schedule, not stealing little bits and pieces from other commitments.

 

How to Find More Down Time

You certainly could find more down time by cutting other things out of your life, but I don't advocate that right off the bat. The place I suggest starting is paying attention to how you spend your time currently.

It's the concept behind tracking your money in order to create a reasonable budget for yourself. Before you can decide how you want to spend your time, it helps to know how you're already spending it so you can set reasonable expectations for yourself.

There are apps you can use to track your time (which I admittedly haven't used myself, but I've heard that they're great!). If that's not your style, I've created a printable time tracker you can use!

Once you know how you're spending your time now, evaluate where your time is going and how that compares to how you would like to be spending your time. Are you spending more time on social media or in front of the television than you would like to admit? Do you want to be spending more time walking outside, talking to your friends and family, or reading? Are you willing to trade one for the other?

Consider the return on investment of your time. If you're doing things that you don't enjoy, then maybe there's something better you could be doing. I say this with heaps of grace because I'm speaking just as much to myself as to you, dear friend. I don't want to admit to you how many episodes of shows I watched on Netflix this weekend. It's not always an easy switch to make, but I know that I feel happier, more productive, and more like the person I want to be when I spend more time reading good books (giving myself the permission to stop reading ones I don't enjoy), getting outside, making good food, and hanging out with my friends and family.

 

Making the Most of Our Down Time

Down time is easy to waste-- scrolling through social media, staring off into space, or watching television. Those things all have their places in our lives as ways to decompress and even entertain ourselves, but they can be a waste of time if we indulge in them too frequently and turn to them when we could be doing things that are either more productive or more life-giving.

One thing I like to do is to bring a book (or my Kindle) with me when I go places, so if I arrive somewhere too early or find myself standing in line somewhere, I can get a little reading in while I wait. I would otherwise struggle to fill the wait by scrolling mindlessly through Facebook or Instagram, which is great for all of three point five minutes, but it doesn't need to be my go-to time filler. I feel happier when I get more reading time in, and proud that I'm making the most of the time I spend waiting.

I also like to keep a running list of small tasks to do so that when I have a few spare minutes, I can check something off without taking away from my long stretches of productivity or leave me twiddling my thumbs while I wait. It's the best of both worlds!

 

You can get your time tracker here.

 

What do you do with your down time? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

 

 

Take Back Your Time, Part 1: Ideal Working Hours

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Do you feel like your time just slips away from you? I know that feeling! Time can be a very elusive thing, slipping through your fingers, completely running out before you even know it.

This is the first post in a new series about ways to take back your time by figuring out when your ideal working hours are, making the most of your down time, making time for rest and fun, and prioritizing and eliminating. Stay in touch to make sure you don't miss the rest of the series!

 

Know when you do your best work

Knowing whether you do your best work can be the key to getting more done during your day.

Think about it. If you try to tackle your biggest tasks when you're functioning at a subpar level, you're going to produce subpar work.

Do you work best in the morning or the evening? I'm more of a morning person. I know that if I don't do certain things in the morning, I'm not very likely to do them at all because I will procrastinate, run out of steam, or just decide they're not that important and skip them entirely.

That's why I work out and try to cross out my biggest to-do list items early in the day. Once I have a few big things under my belt, the rest of the day seems easier. If, however, I choose to sleep longer or spend my time doing things like cleaning out my email inbox, picking things up around the house, or mindlessly scrolling through social media, I'm apt to waste hours of my day doing basically nothing.

 

Know how to make your schedule work for you

If you have the ability to play around with your working hours or regular routine, try some different options! Maybe a different setup would work better for you. If nothing else, it could provide a refreshing change of pace!

In seeking to do deep thought or big tasks when you're at your best, consider getting up earlier if you're a morning person to have more time at your peak (or staying up later if you're a night owl).

Maybe you can alter your work hours if your company allows for it. Perhaps you can switch up your routine to get things done in a different, more efficient and enjoyable, order.

When I first started my job, I got the option to work 8-4:30 or 8:30-5, and because I wanted to get home earlier to get more done after work (before going to bed early like I do, because I get up early), I chose the earlier option. I also chose to have a 30-minute lunch break instead of an hour-long lunch break so I can go home earlier. And on the weekends, I still get up early so I can get in a run and some cleaning, writing, or cooking before too much of the day gets away from me.

 

Know what energizes you

Different people are energized by different things. We're all unique, and we don't respond to everything in the same way.

For instance, while I love spending time with my friends and family, being social all the time drains me of my energy and creativity. It leaves me sitting on the couch binge-watching a show on Netflix. On the other hand, getting out for a walk, reading a book, watering my garden, or curling up with a cup of tea and some stillness and quiet gives me space for my soul to breathe.

Of course, most of us can't eliminate all the things that drain us and still live healthy lives. I certainly wouldn't want to eliminate interactions with others just because too much social time leaves me tired.

It all comes down to finding the balance between energizing, fun things and practical, necessary, dull things. We have to pay our bills. We have to go to work. We sometimes have to sit in traffic. But we also get to go for walks, spend time with our people, eat good food, read books, pursue our hobbies, and do other things we enjoy.

If we make sure we get enough of the things that energize us, while trying to minimize the things that drain us, we can craft a more enjoyable, joyful life that we love. And if we leverage the energizing activities, we can power through the draining ones.

I encourage you to begin your day with something that energizes you, to get you pumped up for the rest of your day. From there, you can add energizing things to the rest of your day to break it up and keep you motivated to keep going, especially when you get to the end of your prime working hours (kind of like rewarding yourself for each task you accomplish). It will break up the monotony, remind you that life is good, and make your day more enjoyable!

I start my day with exercise and time with Jesus because not only do I need them to physically and emotionally function well as a human being, but because they give me the kickstart I need to start my day off on the right foot. And I break up my work day with a walk with my coworkers because I need to take a breath of fresh air and walk away from my computer before getting back to my to-do list. Those are the things that keep me going.

 

We can't eliminate all the things that drain us of our energy, but we can be mindful of how we spend our time-- when we choose to work, how we build our schedules, and how much we insert energizing activities into our lives. May we choose to take steps today toward building lives we love!

 

When do you do your best work? Do you have any tips or tricks for getting hard work done or crafting your schedule around your prime working hours? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!