joy Archives - Stratejoy


9-Unusual-Ways-to-Practice-Gratitude-While watching Brené Brown on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday this weekend, I was reminded of the remarkable link between joy and gratitude.

In her book The Gifts of Imperfection she writes, “Without exception, every person I interviewed who described living a joyful life or who described themselves as joyful, actively practiced gratitude and attributed their joyfulness to their gratitude practice.  And both joy and gratitude were described as spiritual practices that were bound to a belief in human interconnectedness and a power  greater than us.”

As I was rereading the chapter about the connection between joy, gratitude and vulnerability, I found this quote:

 Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are. –Marianne Williamson  

This is what I believe. Absolutely.

Instead of waiting for the other shoe to drop or remaining convinced our joy will disappear the moment we acknowledge it, we need to be grateful as hell for all the wonder, victories, small moments and grace in our life.

So how do you practice gratitude, outside of the nightly gratitude journal or blessings list?  Here are some new ideas!

9 New Ways to Practice Gratitude

(click here to tweet this list)

1. Keep a Daily Calendar of Gratitude

gratitude calendar

Instead of keeping a traditional gratitude journal — create a daily calendar that you update each year with one thing for which you are grateful.  Each year adds another layer of thankfulness and allows you to savor your past.

2. Mark Anniversaries with Milestones & Predictions


On your wedding or work anniversary, your birthday or any other momentous occasion — start a new tradition.  Write a letter celebrating the highlights of your year and your predictions for the next year.  Seal the letter and open it together on your next anniversary.

My husband and I have done this since we were dating and have a stack of envelopes to reread each year. (We still don’t own a sail boat, but according to our predictions, it’s coming!)

3. Share Gratitude at the Dinner Table

sharing gratitude at dinner party

Grace is lovely as well, but if you’re gathering a mix of people with different beliefs, sharing one “gratitude” from that day or week is a beautiful way to connect before you share a meal.  I love doing this every night, not just at dinner parties or Thanksgiving.

4. Express your Thankfulness for the Hard Stuff

journaling the tough stuff

We all know life can be messy.  Instead of regretting your mistakes or remaining caught up in the ways you were wronged, take a moment to think about what the challenges have taught you.  What can you be grateful for?  What lessons have you learned?  What do you now know about yourself?  How have the hardships served you?

5. Thank the People behind the Service

Will Corby pouring hearts on his Cappuccinos

Every day there are people in the background of our life — the barista, the public groundsman, the grocer, the banker.  Take a minute to ask their name and then sincerely thank them for the ease they bring to your life. Without them, would you be able to do what you do?  I think not.

(I know I could never function without someone caffeinating me!)

Show some gratitude for the human beings who make your life run smoothly.

6. Write a Letter of Gratitude

letter writing

Have a teacher, coach, co-worker, old friend or mentor who has made a difference in your life?  When is the last time you told them?  Sit down and write a handwritten note of thanks for the difference they have made in your life.  Bonus points if you can deliver it and read it out loud to them!

7. Start Girl Time with Celebrations not Bitching

share celebrations with girlfriends

It’s such a nice feeling to trust your gal pals with your crazy boss stories or hideous date experiences… But before you dive into the complaints and snark, make a sincere effort to share the highlights of your last week.  It’s not bragging, it’s sharing the positive experiences that mattet to you so that you can celebrate together.

8. Say “Thank You” for the Mundane

he cooks breakfast

Sometimes we get so used to our partner, our mama or our kids doing the things they’ve always done — making breakfast, taking the trash out, sending us surprise packages, dressing themselves in the morning — that we forget to appreciate these small gestures.  Don’t take those tiny moments for granted! Start with a small, specific and frequent, “Thank you.”

9. Appreciate a Force Bigger than Yourself


Next time you are outside, instead of checking your iPhone or rushing to get back to your real life — enjoy the moment.  Raise your face to the sky and give thanks to the Universe that has created snowflakes, streaks of sunshine that make their way between skyscrapers, sunny beaches, forests full of pine trees, autumn leaves or gently rushing streams.  Nature is an incredible presence that we can easily overlook.

Exercise your gratitude muscle by offering a quick prayer of thanks to something greater than yourself.


What expressions of gratitude do you practice?

What other suggestions do you have?  I want to hear them!



(photo credit: rituals board on pinterest)


And now the time has come to say goodbye. I hate goodbyes – like really hate them. I’ve been known to stay friends with people or stay in relationships far too long because I have such an aversion to goodbyes.

And As my Elevate loves can tell you, I’m a goodbye crier.

I will try my best not to have a tearstained keyboard while I type this, but I’m not making any promises.

When I sat down to write this last post, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this experience. I’ve told Molly so many times how incredibly thankful I am for the opportunity, and I definitely mean it. I just can’t believe we’re at the end already.

For anyone who has been following my posts and entertaining the idea in the back of your mind – please apply when Molly opens the next season up. It really is a fantastic experience. You won’t regret it!

To my Season 7 girls – I adore you! We are all in different points in our lives, but we have these common threads that allow us to relate to one another. My life is infinitely better for having “met” all of you and shared this experience. I hope that we will stay in touch and continue to watch each other reap the benefits of taking this time for ourselves to learn and grow.

To Miss Katie – I adore you as well! You sweet, sweet woman who gives so much of herself to others even when she is unsure of where her own life is headed. You were the perfect blogger momma for us and I’m so happy to know you. And if I ever meet you in person, I will so hug you into infinity. You better learn to like hugs, lady! 😉

Lovely Molly – You know how I feel about you, but I can’t say it enough. You are an amazing person. You have changed the lives of many in the tribe for the better. You have bared your beautiful soul to us and created this space where we can be open and vulnerable and support one another. I really believe you are filled with magic. I’m beyond thankful that you’ve shared the magic with me! Thank you for this amazing opportunity.

When I think about where I am today compared with five months ago, I really am astounded. I went back to my goal post to see if I accomplished any of those goals I set for myself. Some of them I have done more than others, but what struck me was just the tone of my writing and the numerous comments I made about feeling out of touch with myself.

I still don’t have everything figured out, but I’m infinitely more in tune with my own desires and what I want out of life. At the time I wrote the goal post, I could only focus on a few small things because I wasn’t confident enough in anything to actually declare a goal.

I now have a gorgeous goal sheet that is bursting with ideas and hopes and dreams that I want to tackle this year. All of that is because I’ve been given this gift of weekly reflection and writing for all of you.

Thank you all so much for reading and commenting, supporting me during the weeks that weren’t so positive, and making me feel like a NORMAL person. 

Since I really love to write and talk about myself, I’ll be using my writing energy to blog more often on my personal blog, Nicole Loves. You can find me there or follow me on twitter to see how I use all this newfound positive energy to shape my life into the life I’ve always dreamed of.

And now I’ll leave you with a line from one of my favorite movies EVER – Pretty Woman. Ms. Kit De Luca says…

“I gotta split ’cause goodbyes me me crazy – so take care of you.”

Goodbye loves! xoxo


Image via: Flickr


A Note From Katie: I’ve been a hot mess all week. Although life is jam packed with uncertainty, I always knew I’d hear from you every single week and we’d chat it out, talk about our hate for technology. It’s that routine that became so incredible for me throughout this entire season. But YOU have been a bright, cheery addition to this Season, Miss Nicole. I can see how far you’ve come. As I went back and read everyone’s posts from all season long, I noticed too that your tone had changed. You’re still as beautiful a writer, but you’re a bit more clear on what you’re looking for. And that growth is what this experience is all about. I will absolutely be following you around like crazy, making sure you’re doing fine, staying up to date on ALL THE THINGS, and planning + plotting the moment I can tackle hug you. I’d do it for you.  <Insert obnoxious, teary karaoke version of “That’s What Friends Are For” here!> . So many X’s and so many O’s!

240731542552026114_Yb4YysjJAhhh! Interview week!

It’s totally bittersweet for me, but I think this was my most favorite week of the whole season! It was so much fun to see the questions my fellow Season 7 rockstars came up with and I had a blast answering them.

You may learn a few things about me that you didn’t want to know and for that I don’t really apologize…I’m quirky and I’m told its a pretty lovable trait. ENJOY!

Where do you see your self (or hope to be) 6 months from now? A year from now? 

In 6 months, I’m hoping to have a new job as a wellness coach {preferably working from home}. I will have the Elevate retreat, BiSC and a trip to the NC beaches under my belt and be reveling in all the magical memories I’ve made in 2013. I’ll be feeling connected to my authentic self and be fine-tuning my life to reflect that.

In a year, I hope to be feeling settled in my new career, and fresh off of another successful Holiday Council. I’m hoping that next year I’ll be feeling ready for a year filled with peace and enjoyment following all the changes I’m making in 2013. I imagine that participating in Elevate this year will push me well beyond my comfort zone and into that sacred zone of authenticity I’m seeking. So anything I do in 2014 and beyond will just be that much more awesome because it’ll be coming from a place of authenticity and fierce self-love.

What’s the best book you read this year? 

Well since I’m completely addicted to erotica – I’d have to say that Bared to You and Reflected in You by Silvia Day were my favorites. But the Fifty Shades trilogy was a close second. Try as you might, you will not get me to admit how many times I’ve read each of these books, but it’s a shameful amount! {Maybe these should be listed for the guilty pleasure question too!}

Do you feel like blogging about your life made you look at it differently?

Absolutely! I think I benefitted immensely from having to actually articulate my thoughts. While I’m not as good at it as some of my fellow bloggers, I did manage to stumble upon some realizations that I would never have made if I hadn’t been writing for an audience. Knowing that people were reading and possibly identifying with my transition made me dig a little deeper than I might otherwise have done.

Which current living celebrity do you think you’d be best friends with in real life?

I mean, I’m pretty amazing so I think they would all love me. But I have a thing for adorable southern girls. I’m just so fascinated by them and completely enthralled. So I think a spunky southern girl like Miranda Lambert, Kellie Pickler or Jennifer Nettles from Sugarland would be my ideal celeb bestie.

Did anything happen during the season that surprised you? 

Several people that I know in real life contacted me mid-season to say they had been following my posts and really identified with them. I hadn’t expected that! At all.  If I’m being honest, I was surprised when you lovely internet friends commented or tweeted me because I half expected most people to not relate to my self-perceived problems. So surprises all around!

What quote best summarizes what you’ve learned during the season?

“Your journey has molded you for your greater good, and it was exactly what it needed to be. Don’t think you lost time. It took each and every situation you have encountered to bring you to the now. And now is right on time.” – Asha Tyson

What is your guilty pleasure? What is it that totally lights you up that you’re afraid to admit to? 

Well I’m not sure some of you can handle anymore guilty pleasure admissions from me…BUT since you asked – I have a thing for really juvenile romantic comedies. Movies like A Cinderella Story, Freaky Friday, What a Girl Wants, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants {1 & 2!}, 13 Going on 30, The Prince & Me, The Princess Diaries, Son in Law, Uptown Girls – all in my DVD library. I’m not sure whether this or my smut addiction should be more shameful. But you can bet I’m not losing any sleep trying to decide!

What is the biggest change you’ve noticed in yourself since we started blogging for Stratejoy?

I’m happier. I’ve relaxed my expectations of myself a bit and tried like hell to lose the guilt. I’m enjoying what I have in the present and not pinning all of my happiness on some future date or accomplishment. It’s fabulously liberating!

How did you fit blogging into your life? – Did you have a routine? Did it add joy or stress? Did you think about it over the week or just sit down and write? Etc.

I have a really random writing process to begin with and I knew it would be a bit of a challenge going into this adventure. I found that some weeks I was really inspired to write and others I was letting all the shit in my head get in my way. All those voices that say I’m not a great writer, no one will identify, my problems aren’t big enough for anyone else to care – they can all overwhelm me and leave me with the worst writer’s block. Add in the health problems I had in the fall and the plague that my little one and I both had twice and you can see why some weeks were more of a challenge. Thankfully, the completely adorable and wonderful Katie is a loving blogger momma and she put up with my incessant tardiness. {Love you sweet Katie!}.

I’d say overall the experience added joy to my life though. While I did struggle at times, the need to write something that seemed worthy of sharing was a great motivator to look more closely at myself and inspired some awesome discoveries! I am forever grateful to Molly for allowing me to be a part of Season 7! For the small amount of stress it caused – it added 10 times that much joy. So I’m pretty sure that’s what winning looks like.

How did people you know react? – did you share it openly, were family and friends supportive, did you censor yourself, etc.

I’m the kind of person who worries what other people think about me and I wasn’t sure how anyone would react – so I didn’t tell everyone I know in real life. As the season progressed, I found myself sharing with more people than I originally did. I didn’t have a single person judge me negatively – everyone had a positive reaction. I was honestly amazed that so many people could relate to my issues – which seems ridiculous to write because the whole premise of Stratejoy is that we all have these things that we struggle with and it brings us together to love and support each other and then realize we are all NORMAL. Why I didn’t think this same premise applied to the people I know in real life seems a little silly now.

Did you dig as deep as you could and open up as much as you could?

The simple answer is no. There just isn’t enough space for me to share all the chaos in my head when I’m limited to 500-1000 words per week. But I shared openly and honestly about the transition I’m going through. I share even more about myself on my personal blog so feel free to visit if you just can’t get enough of me!

When you’re curled up on the couch reading with a mug of something warm, what’s the book and what’s in the mug?

I drink a ridiculous amount of coffee {though I’m strictly drinking decaf now} so I’m sure I’d have coffee in my mug. I’m either reading some of the smut I mentioned in a previous question or some story about a group of girls that travels and has fabulous experiences. Because apparently my life is fueled by coffee, sex and wanderlust! Win!

What’s on your bedside table?

A hair tie, one earring, an iphone dock, a picture of me and the little person when she was a baby and a water bottle. Clearly I need some lessons in styling!

What were you like in high school?  What parts of you have remained the same?

Hmmm…high school. This is a tough one. I feel like high school was a bit of a blur. I went to a really, really small school {like 40 people in my class small} and we were all obsessed with having long-term boyfriends. Mine was older so I spent the vast majority of my time from sophomore year on with people who had already graduated. I didn’t partake in all the fun high school things. I rode a Harley with my boyfriend and watched his band play gigs in bars and whatnot. I was waaay too cool for high school. Of course, looking back I can see I was just a lost girl looking for somewhere to belong.

I didn’t really share my innermost thoughts with my peers. I was nice and had plenty of friends – I was even voted Miss Senior and was on the prom court junior and senior years. But I was more concerned about graduating so I could get married and have babies. I’ll go ahead and insert all the lyrics of “Unanswered Prayers” by Garth Brooks here because THANK GOD those prayers were not answered! I’m not sure I can say that I’m anything like my high school self, but then I’m an old lady. 2013 marks 15 years since I graduated. Wowza, where has the time gone?!?!

Who are the top 5 people on your “list”?  (You know, the list…  Those 5 people you could sleep with if you magically met them and your partner would have to be okay with it, because damn! You just slept with Johnny Depp!) 

Oooh, such a naughty question! I love it. And maybe I’m just boy crazy, but I hardly think 5 covers it!  So…

Sam Seaborn – {West Wing-ers tell me you agree!} He’s pretty much my ideal man. Be still my heart!

Chace Crawford – I don’t even care that he smokes pot. He’s beautiful.

Channing Tatum – Hi, did you see Magic Mike? Gah!

Bradley Cooper – Back off ladies! I get him first!

Ian Somerhalder – Those eyes, that jaw, the smile, OH MY!

And honorable mentions for Patrick Dempsey, Josh Lucas and Gerard Butler. I mean, I’m not going to turn them down or anything.

If you could give yourself 5 months ago one piece of advice, what would it be? How about you 5 months from now?

Worry less. Don’t lose sleep or sanity about things you can’t change. And stop caring what other people think. Make yourself happy and let the rest go.

In the movie of your life, which actress/celeb would play you? 

If I get to choose, then I totally pick Blake Lively. I mean, could she BE any more gorgeous? And that hair. We’ll pretend like the slight resemblances we have {i.e. long blondish hair and blue eyes} make her the perfect choice. Great, it’s settled. Nice to have you on board!

There you have it. If you have a great answer to one of the questions, I totally want to hear it in the comments below!

Guilty pleasures or “list” candidates anyone???


Image via: Pinterest!


p.s.  The 3rd Stratejoy Essay Contest is open for entries!  Ready to win the $500?  Be featured here at Stratejoy?  Yes!  The theme: “How has a transition revealed a more authentic you?”

p.p.s.  The next Book Club/Tribe Chat Fest is going to be about marriage and partners.  Juicy, juicy. We’re reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed: A Love Story and will be jamming about it on February 13.


Well I’ve mostly recovered from being sick, and the Elevate retreat is inching closer {ohhellyes!!}. I’ve started working on some of my goals I set for the year and I’ve continued working on my 26 Acts project.

It really is amazing how good it can make you feel to do something nice for someone else – even if you don’t get any credit or even know the person you’ve helped.

So while I’ve been feeling incredibly happy and peaceful about everything I have planned for 2013, I have this other side of me that isn’t even close to happy and peaceful.

It is the strangest feeling to have these conflicting emotions running through me. 

This week my little one started back to school after her winter break. She was home most of the week before break with the plague that we’ve been fighting off so I was pretty used to her being here again.

She’s only been going to 3/4 day kindergarten up til this point because she just wasn’t ready for the full day. We chose Christmas as the deadline and have been psyching her up for starting full days after winter break.

I knew it would be hard on both of us, but I want her to be ready for first grade next year.

I wrote before about how the events in Connecticut affected me, and I’m definitely still feeling the effects. To add insult to injury, our school district has had two situations now where ammunition found in the school or on the property has caused the schools to lockdown for all or part of the day.

If you have never experienced this with your child, let me tell you it is pure hell.

You are not allowed to pick up your child until the “all clear” is given so you sit helpless and worried that something terrible is happening or that your baby is scared and confused and wants her mommy.

Either way it consumes your time and thoughts until you can see that sweet face at the end of the day.

After the Sandy Hook event, I gave some serious consideration to homeschooling, but I’m just not sure if I’m cut out for homeschooling all on my own. I have spent five years at home with my daughter and I feel like she needs to have time away from me to experience the world through the eyes of her friends and teachers.

She needs to develop the ability to problem solve without me there to fix things, she needs to make friends and frenemies and play schoolyard games. She would miss out on so many experiences if I chose homeschool her.

But is that choice at the cost of her safety? I can’t answer that with any certainty.

There are no guarantees in life.

There are always risks.

But it seems that more and more places we once believed carried an acceptable level of risk are now outright danger zones. Of course, this is concerning for every person who frequents public places, but it is magnified times a million when you are a parent.

If someone had warned me that having a child was so anxiety-provoking, I may have chosen to be a crazy cat lady. Seriously.

Of course, I would never take it back now because I absolutely adore my little person. But it’s one of the reasons I’ve chosen not to have any more children.

Some of you who read this may think I’m off my rocker {and trust me, I wonder that sometimes too!} but this is an honest struggle for me. I’m scared and confused and worried that I’ll make the wrong decision.

Since I’ve been sitting down and writing about my life on a weekly basis, I’ve learned so much about myself.

I’ve seen little bits of my authentic self shining out amidst the guilt and confusion.

I really am proud of my journey to this point. I feel like I’ve come so far.

But that other side of me feels like I’m still stuck in the same place. I’m still a mom who feels like she has to choose between pursuing her own dreams and being the best mom she can.

I don’t really know how to reconcile these two sides of me.

Maybe I need to go to therapy.

Maybe Molly and my wonderful Elevate girls {who I also adore!!} can help me find better balance in my life.

I guess we’ll see as the year unfolds.

For now I’m taking it one day at a time and hoping I have more days where I feel happy and peaceful than days where I feel fearful and guilty.


Image via: Flickr

The last few weeks I’ve experienced quite a range of emotions – from soul-aching sadness to heart-melting happiness. It has been quite a ride, but I’ve never felt more alive than I do right now.

I would imagine some of you watched Danielle LaPorte’s Goals with Soul video this week {if you haven’t, please DO IT!}. I couldn’t watch live, but I watched the recording the next day.

I cried through much of it. It spoke to my soul. It moved me. It inspired me.

This video she plays of women from all over the world sharing how they want to feel is powerful. Pure, raw emotion. So many beautiful, strong women who just want to feel good. Whatever their version of “good” is. And so many of us aren’t feeling these things that we crave on the most basic level.

I’m so incredibly grateful that we have such beautiful souls in Danielle LaPorte and Molly Mahar to share this gift they have with the world – I honestly believe they are changing the world, one woman at a time. I know my life is forever changed because of them and I’m willing to bet many of you reading can say the same.

Last week I was listening to Molly’s first Holiday Council call and she was talking about releasing the bad things from 2012. We did a visualization where we let the list of bad things go. I had tears streaming down my face. I was so overcome by the pain and sadness I felt in that moment.

But also, I could almost taste the freedom as I was watching the tiny pieces of paper soar down over the edge of the cliff in my mind.

I cried the next day too – some because the pain and hurt from this year were still lingering with me. And some because thinking about my year brought up those raw feelings from losing my sweet puppy, Emma. I laid in my bed and sobbed and sobbed until I had no tears left. I honestly lost track of time.

Instead of feeling weak or silly for crying, I let myself off the hook. I felt my feelings and they made my soul ache.

Since that day I’ve been feeling happy. Unshakably happy. I can’t explain why exactly, but I just feel more confident, more secure in the knowledge that I’m going to get there. Wherever I’m meant to be.

Of course, this was Molly’s intent in having us do such a visualization – we released the bad to make space for the good. I just didn’t expect it to affect me this much.

I was still feeling that happiness and sense of peace as I sat down to watch Danielle’s recording. Then my world was rocked in a major way.

After I finished watching, I jumped in the shower, my mind definitely still reeling. I put Boyce Avenue’s version of Just the Way You Are on repeat because it has been inspiring me this week – I thought it was because I’m a hopeless romantic and it speaks to that kind of overwhelming love I‘m enamored with.

But as I was standing in the shower thinking about my life, my desires, how I’ve gotten to this point in my life –  I began to weep {again!}. I had tears streaming down my face in this deep soul-cleansing crying. I vaguely remember hearing Alejandro Manzano’s voice  amping up – saying:

“Girl you’re amazing. Just the way you are. The way you are. The way you are. ‘Cause girl you’re amazing. Just the way you are.”

In that moment it came to me – I finally believed it. I am amazing. Not because someone loves me so much. Not because I’m beautiful and my hair is perfect. Not because my laugh is sexy, but because I’m me.

I’m amazing. Just the way I am. 

This is one of those life-changing revelations. I’ve been hearing Molly say this for months – on the Fierce Love recordings, the Holiday Council recordings and several other videos I’ve watched. She always says some version of “You aren’t broken. Nothing is wrong with you. You are enough.”

Each time it moves me {usually to tears}. It’s like she’s speaking right to my soul. I’ve tried like hell to believe it. I’ve hoped and prayed that it would sink in. It just hadn’t yet.

But today it did. I stood there in the shower, crying and smiling and dreaming about all the ways I could make this amazing light I have inside of me shine out into the world.

Much like the women in Danielle’s video, I have these cravings for my life.  When I imagine my ideal life or my ideal self – I want to be self-assured. Comfortable in my own skin.

I want to feel beautiful and feminine and sexy no matter what my pant size is or whether I straightened my hair or put on mascara.

I want to delight in the little things. I want to be present in the moments of my life. Connect deeply with my friends and family and truly enjoy the few precious moments we all have on this earth.

I want to feel vibrant and alive and like a life force that can’t be extinguished.

I want to feel powerful. Competent. Courageous. Like I can do anything I want to do.

I want to be spiritual – and not the way I grew up. I need fresh spirituality. A kind that fits into my life and the person that I am now.

I want to take adventures. Stand at the foot of mountains and marvel at the beauty and the massive size of them. I want to experience things that are bigger than myself.

I want to visit places, partake in experiences, engage in spiritual practices that make me realize I’m but a small part of the greater world around me. I want to appreciate the beauty and complexity of the world.

I want to be inspired and then inspire others.

I want to be a force for good. For health. For balance. 

I want to help my daughter grow into a confident, passionate woman who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go after it. The best chance she has at living that life is if I model it for her.

So that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

Image via: derekskey

I have some great news. Like life-changing news. I’m kind of surprised and giddy – and definitely ecstatic as I’m writing this.

You know how we’ve all been searching for purpose – spending our time journaling, blogging, reading and thinking about these big transitions in our lives?

Some of us have put it into words and others have just implied it, but we’re all searching for an “ah-ha” moment – the kind where we see a light shining through the fog of uncertainty. Where choirs of angels sing hallelujah and we suddenly have a whole life plan planted in our brains by some divine intervention.

Well that may be a tad dramatic, but hey if you didn’t already know this about me – I kind of have a flair for the dramatic. {Don’t judge me!}

Anywho, I’ve very recently had one of those coveted “ah-ha” moments. And now that I’m past it, I can’t even believe I didn’t see this sooner.

I’m not sure I would have gotten here if it weren’t for doing all the wrong things leading up to it. So now I can celebrate those things instead of regretting mistakes and missteps in my path thus far. I can’t tell you what that does for my sanity.

I feel lighter. I feel happier. I feel a little less lost in the big world with no idea where to go.

I’d been feeling like I was on the verge of this since I’d started blogging here at Stratejoy – I even told Molly so when we were discussing Elevate. It was so close I could almost taste it, but then it simultaneously seemed like I was never going to get there.

And then I did. And no choirs sang or lights shone. No secret life plan magically appeared. But with this clarity came peace.

Leading up to this, I’d spent a ton of time thinking about things that make me light up. The things I really enjoy doing that I could possibly turn into a career. It ended up being a decent sized list, but many of them aren’t things I actually want to pursue for one reason or another.

Next I made a list of the things I want out of life – I know I want to travel, have flexible work hours, possibly work for myself at some point, and I want to feel like I’m helping others. I want to empower someone else to improve their own life, especially women and young girls.

I feel really strongly about this particular demographic because I grew up with low self-esteem. I know what it feels like to feel bad about yourself, how hard it is to change when you don’t have a positive female role model who you really relate to.

Even into adulthood I’ve struggled with knowing who I am, what I want and how to love myself even when I don’t know the answers to these things.

I’ve longed to be a woman who felt she belonged in the world and had some positive contribution to the world. I want to change lives – and not because I want some glory or admiration for myself. This isn’t about me.

I want to show young girls and other women that their lives matter. That being comfortable in their own skin and taking good care of themselves is far better than chasing the latest trend and trying to be someone else.

I want to be a model of a woman who loves herself, who finds joy in ordinary places, who celebrates her individuality – and I want to pay it forward.

So what exactly was this “ah-ha” moment, you ask? Because I know I’ve been leading you on a little bit. And that is somewhat intentional and somewhat not. I’m not holding back for dramatic effect, but rather I’m indulging my natural tendency for storytelling.

I never realized this about myself until I was writing on a fairly regular basis. I’m not usually someone who can write informally and just pour out my thoughts. I’m a storyteller. I can see it when I look back over my posts thus far on Stratejoy, and on my personal blog. So this post will be no different.

I remember being in nursing school and absolutely hating it. I am completely enthralled with the human body and all that it is capable of. I could read for hours about the intricacies of each system and how they are all so interconnected. The problem, for me, arises when the focus turns to treating disease in the human body.

After I finished my bachelor’s in nursing, I thought that public health would be a good fit for me. It was less focused on the patient lying in the bed and more on the population as a whole. Public health focuses on preventing disease or restoring health after disease, but again it is on a broad scale – focusing on improving the health of the population.

This was better than nursing for me, but it still didn’t feel quite right.

After all this soul searching, talking to close friends, sharing with all of you and journaling my little rear end off – it clicked.

I’m passionate about wellness. I want to help individuals prevent diseases caused by poor diet, lack of exercise and high stress levels. I want to help young girls make health a priority and develop habits that will carry into adulthood.

I’m never more impassioned that when I’m discussing my latest workout regimen, sharing how to eat a cleaner diet, or thinking up ways to alleviate stress.

I haven’t settled on a specific job yet, but I have a ton of ideas.

Maybe I’ll work in corporate wellness – designing programs to encourage wellness behaviors and working with individual employees to achieve them. Maybe I’ll open my own gym or wellness center in the future. Maybe I’ll start a running group in my city. Maybe I’ll found a non-profit that focuses on the health of younger girls and gets them moving.

Who knows. But I’m excited to explore all these options, set some goals and get started.

Cue the angels, please!

Image via: Flickr

It was one of those Saturday mornings. My brain was soaked in vodka, I felt the dull headache of my hangover and I was nauseous to the point where I knew that any food I consumed would probably be revisited.

It was also one of those mornings where, in the split second between waking and actually opening my eyes, I didn’t quite remember where I was, what day it was, or what kind of plans I might have had ahead of me. I certainly didn’t remember the fact that my night ended with the ultimate test of my waterproof mascara, tears streaming down my face as I wallowed in my most recent bout of self-pity. Until, of course, I did remember. Hmph.

Once I was coherent enough to be able to focus my eyes, I ambled over to my laptop, still in my pajamas, and sat in the dark because I was too hungover to open my curtains. I had writing to do. Specifically, I needed to finish last week’s post about my alcohol consumption. So there I was, head still pounding, emotionally drained from crying for 40 New York City blocks the night before, typing away about how I use alcohol to escape from all my problems. It wasn’t exactly my best moment.

Outside my apartment was, presumably, a gorgeous spring day. I could tell from the noise that one of my roommates had opened our living room window, and I could hear the occasional car driving by or person yelling or whatever else it is that you hear living in Brooklyn.

Out of nowhere, Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now started blasting at full volume. So catchy.

Under my desk, I started tapping my toes. Then bopping my head. Finally I pushed my chair back, stood up, and threw myself a full-fledged dance party. I shook my hair and made stupid faces at myself in the mirror. I threw my hands in the air and waved them like I didn’t fucking care.

The song ended.

I opened up my iTunes (because duh, everyone owns Queen’s Greatest Hits album and if you don’t then WHO ARE YOU STOP READING RIGHT NOW), clicked on the song and played it again. And again. And then a third time.

I kept dancing. I stopped caring about the bullshit I had been crying about the night before (and, full disclosure, that morning). I just ran around my room feeling silly. I laughed. A lot.

Eventually, I threw on some sneakers and headed to the gym, wanting to keep my adrenaline up. I listened to the song both on the way there and while I was on the treadmill. I came home, showered, and left to head to a friend’s birthday party. I got to my subway stop and saw that it was inexplicably closed. I had no choice but to walk an additional 10 blocks to the next stop.

As I walked the extra distance to the subway, instead of stewing about how I got screwed over by the transit system, I listened to the song yet again. I thought about how a bit over 12 hours earlier, I had been walking the streets of New York, sobbing and feeling like I was never going to be happy. Now, I was walking down the street, basking in the beautiful evening, smiling for no reason.

In the days since then, I’ve started blasting this song whenever I needed to be centered. Frustrated with the job search? Unhappy with my lack of direction? Feeling generally down? Blast that song, baby. 3 and a half minutes of instant and unbridled joy. Every time.

This whole thing is cheesy, I know. My life isn’t a movie and there’s no motivational montage of my journey from zero to hero, no condensed progression of how I went from from an out of shape girl with no job, no love life and no self-esteem to this confident, svelte businesswoman with a seriously sexy boyfriend. But I feel like the universe was giving me a message, somehow. It went something like:

“Girlfriend, dry your eyes and calm yourself down. Life might be a little craptastic right now, but think about all the good stuff. So don’t worry, be happy, and go get ‘em, tiger.”

Yes, the universe speaks to me as a combo of sassy friend/Bobby McFerrin/encouraging little-league-coach father figure.

Don’t Stop Me Now didn’t change my life. It didn’t help anything or make any of my problems go away. But whoever decided to randomly blast it outside my window on a Saturday afternoon was unknowingly reminding me that, no matter what, there is always joy. I might not have a boyfriend or a job (or an internship, for those following along, because that totally fell through by no fault of my own) or a sick ass body but I do not, by any means, have NOTHING. I have my friends and my family and my health. I have a city of endless possibilities, gorgeous spring days and the ability to dance like an idiot in my room whenever I feel like it. My life is far from over.

For anyone else who might need a little bit of a mood boost, I’m sharing with you my official “Shut Up and Be Happy” playlist of the moment. I’ve narrowed it down to 15 songs that demonstrate all too well my terrible/awesome/terribly-awesome taste in music.

1. Beyonce – Run the World (Girls)
2. Bruno Mars – The Lazy Song
3. Carly Rae Jepson – Call Me Maybe
4. Flo Rida – Club Can’t Handle Me
5. Fun. – We Are Young
6. Kanye West – All of the Lights
7. Kenny Loggins – Footloose
8. The Knack – My Sharona
9. Lady Gaga – Teeth
10. LMFAO – Sexy and I Know It
11. Queen – Don’t Stop Me Now
12. Rihanna – We Found Love
13. Sister Hazel – All For You
14. The Wanted – Glad You Came
15. Weezer – The Good Life


(Photo credit: AstridWestvang)

While I’ve never thought of myself as a lazy person, when I think critically about my life and why certain aspects of it leave something to be desired, I find a common theme.

I love the path of least resistance.

Who doesn’t? It protects you from getting hurt and lets you watch countless episodes of 30 Rock instead of doing…anything.

It’s also boring and unfulfilling, and I refuse to continue on this way. So here I am in the Frost-ian yellow wood, and I’m choosing my own personal road less traveled.

In order to keep myself focused and away from the road that will drain me of all ambition, here are some goals that I’d like to stick to for the coming months.

Get a job that I don’t hate.

While I sincerely hope to find a job I absolutely love, I would be willing to settle for something that doesn’t make me miserable.

No job is perfect, and I realize there’s a give and take between the different aspects of any position. I’d accept a lower salary to work at a really awesome company. I’ll commute further for an amazing boss. But I refuse to settle across the board.

Develop healthier habits

I’m purposely keeping this vague because I want it to be both realistic and permanent. When I tell myself that eating a cupcake means I may as well just starve myself until the following day because THERE GO ALL MY ALLOTTED CALORIES, I’m wasting my time.

The fact of the matter is, I’m a big drinker with a major sweet tooth and a passion for finding the best burger in New York. I’m not saying any of those are particularly great habits to have, but I also know that it’s unrealistic to try and suppress them completely.

Instead, I just want to come out of this feeling like I’m making more responsible decisions. You know, like choosing to eat yogurt instead of cookies for breakfast. Baby steps.

Attend one adult gymnastics class

I was a competitive gymnast until the age of 14, and I’m dying to feel that springy floor beneath my bare feet again.

Initially, I put “gymnastics class” down as the ultimate weight loss reward to work towards. After losing 10 pounds, I would get a massage. 20 pounds, I’d buy a new watch. When I had lost enough weight to be perfectly happy with how I looked, I would finally allow myself to go to gymnastics.

I fooled myself with this line of thinking for a long time.

Eventually I realized that I wasn’t putting off gymnastics because I wanted to earn it. What kind of bogus, ascetic life am I leading here? Here’s a thing that would make me happy, and I mean soul-satisfying happy, not just new-episode-of-America’s-Next-Top-Model happy. All I need to do to is show up and pay $28. And I won’t do this…why?

Because I’m scared of what people will think, that’s why. Putting this class as the light at the end of the weight loss tunnel was a convenient way of ensuring that I would never have to go until I was thin, and then, woohoo, no one could judge me.

That’s some bullshit. Gymnastics makes me happy.

I’m going.

Learn the Single Ladies dance

This is so not even remotely a joke.

In the spring of my sophomore year of college, I discovered TDC (Tufts Dance Collective), an on-campus dance group that accepted anyone who wanted to join, no auditions necessary. I was a devoted member through graduation, and it was through TDC that I found my real enthusiasm, if not always talent, for dance.

So now I’m going to bust out my black leotard and weird robotic hand, grab 2 friends for backup dancers, and have a total Beyonce moment.

Volunteer twice a month

I attended orientation awhile ago for New York Cares, a group that can put you in touch with about a billion different volunteer opportunities in any given week. Yet I have volunteered all of zero times. Boo.

Be more proactive about men/dating/trying to not be single for the rest of my life

If you were under the impression that, as a single New York woman, my life is a whirlwind of dinner dates with handsome investment bankers and groggy Sunday mornings trying to remember the name of the guy next to me in bed, I’m sorry to disappoint. I’ll let you in a little secret:

I have no game.

None. At all. I cannot flirt my way into or out of any situation. It’s pathetic.

That being said, I could still try a little harder.

I recently went on a St. Patty’s-themed pub crawl. I ended up talking to a guy, similarly decked out in green, who was cute, smart and nice. He mentioned that his friends wanted to hit up a different bar. I mentioned that I wanted to hit up the 45-minute bathroom line. Since he would be long gone by the time I returned, I said:

“Why don’t you take my number? Maybe we can meet up later.”

If you aren’t in total shock at how I could possibly say something like this, clearly you don’t suffer from the same fear of men that I do.

Telling a guy to take my number was an exception, but I want things like this to become more of the rule.

So there you have it. A few goals, ranging from the necessary to the ridiculous. I hope that in 5 months I will have made at least marginal progress on all of these.

The path of least resistance can eat my dust.












Photo credit: theilr

Sitting in a bright red Ikea chair at a local coffee shop, it hit me. The deadline smacked me across the face like the icy wind on the walk to the shop, and I knew, I was screwed.

It was the day I was supposed to unleash my brilliant, value-packed, fabulous new email opt-in on the world – and my manifesto wasn’t done. At least not totally. After weeks of hashing it out, scrapping sections, and letting my heart pour on to the page, it still. wasn’t. done.

Balls. Suck to the 10th power. FML. I had worked and worked and put in the hours and my best, and I had failed to meet my own stupid deadline.

This could have been the part where I gave up. But, the thing was, I had already done so much. After diving into painful memories from my past and listening intently to the stories of other women who , my philosophy has risen. Through all of the hurt and anguish and labels and expectations I saw so many women going through, I found where my truth had been hiding in plain sight. Who knew my universal truth would be found in my story – and more importantly, be reflected in the stories of others?

The manifesto I wanted to write wasn’t done – but there was a lot that was. So I edited everything into a short 14-page PDF, and I called it the Undefinable You Manifesto. Designed in Word and put together in about a half an hour, it was perfect. It wasn’t I had planned, and somehow, that made it even better.

It’s really hard to describe how I felt in that moment – vulnerable, but in my power zone. Crazy, but totally in my element.

Well, duh. How could I feel anything else? This manifesto was everything I wanted for the world. And of course I’d release it like this! It was so me. And I guess that was really the point, wasn’t it?

I’ve never really felt like I had a life’s mission before I hit the publish button on this thing. Not one that was huge and big enough for my tribe to get behind – but yet, here were these people reading what I had to say, ready to believe in me if I could just rise to the occasion. And when the time was right, it dawned on me – I wanted to build my business up so I could give it all away.

The ever-fleeting life mission? I want to give a million dollars or better a year to women’s empowerment causes. And not just money. I want to work side by side with an organization to help get women the skills they need to succeed and being self empowered. Because once they become empowered, they can self-actualize.

And then? They can unleash their dreams on the world. Beautiful. Legendary. Audacious. Because that’s what’s it all about for me. My message is to never settle – and my mission is an extension of that. If ever I’ve felt joy, this is it.

My big holiday wish for all of you is for you to find the same peace out of fear, joy in the hard moments, and love so deep for yourself that you can miss a deadline and be okay. Happy holidays everybody!

“What we really want to do is what we are really meant to do. When we do what we are meant to do, money comes to us, doors open for us, we feel useful, and the work we do feels like play to us.” – Julia Cameron

Money hasn’t been an easy subject for me for a long time. When I was a kid, I was a saver. But my mom would “borrow” my money, so I learned to spend it when I had it.

Now, I owe $30,000 in student loan debt, due to start being paid back in June. And a baby due February 29th. As you can imagine, “I got my mind on the money, and the money on my mind.”

I even had this (stupid, stupid) idea that would have allowed me to spend the year justifying making a limited amount of income. If that isn’t self-sabotage, I don’t know what is.

Earlier this year, I was talking to a couple of friends who had already broken the 6-figure boundary the year before. It was crazy to thin they were doing things not so different than what I was doing – they were just doing them on a bigger, more frequent scale. They were pursuing their dreams – but they knew their dreams had dollar amounts attached to them. But it all seemed so far out of reach. I couldn’t imagine $30K a year, let alone adding an extra zero.

As a would-be entrepreneur, I knew I had to do better if I wanted to make a living doing what I loved. But how? Where the heck do you even start when your perception of money is so warped? A friend said it best – “Your people like you. They want to see you succeed.”

Talking with Molly cemented it. She recommended Overcoming Underearning and I Will Teach You To Be Rich – and I pass that recommendation on to you! Ramit’s tips are solid gold. (Heh.) And Barbara’s are great, too – especially if your problems with money stems from a fear of failure (or success).

My financial goals for next year are ambitious and exciting. Now, I know I deserve to earn more than minimum wage. I’ve got skills! Even more than that, I have the confidence to know I’m worth more.

Danielle LaPorte talks about your money shoes – you can only earn what you’re comfortable with. And $50,000 is a very comfortable starting point for me these days. My goal for my business next year: Breaking the big $100K.

One hundred thousand dollars. $100,000. A hundred G’s.

When I imagine my life, I think about how exciting it will be to pay off my student loans. Zero debt. Automating my bills and savings. Having savings. Starting a retirement fund. Donating to causes I believe in! Visiting France. Ooh la la!

When I close my eyes, I can picture myself doing each one of these things with elegance and joy.

This past year, my business made more than I’ve ever made in a year before. And I’ve only been in business – really – since June. That feels sooo good. To know that I can do what I love, make an amount of money I’m comfortable with, and not be afraid of wealth anymore – those are some pretty sexy money shoes.

What about you? How is your perception of money treating you?

I’ve been grappling with writing this stupid manifesto for months now. I’ve known it’s needed written since May. I’m really excited to write it and share it with the world! But somehow, it keeps getting pushed to the backburner. Why?

Well, honestly, a couple of reasons.

I don’t have a solid grasp on what it needs to say. I want this short piece to form the foundation of everything else I do from this point on. The holy grail of my blog. The big idea – the mission – that inspires everyone else to get onboard and go with me wherever this crazy train goes.

That’s pressure. Self-applied pressure, granted, but still. What if I decide to change course midstream? Will my people still be behind me? Will they still be interested in sharing a mission and taking it to new heights on different levels? Will they even like the idea I start with?

For any of you familiar with the StrengthsFinder test, my chief strength is input. That means I absorb information like a sponge. I’m great at synthesizing ideas, but I have issues standing behind an idea or way of thinking for long because I’m constantly analyzing and adding new information.

Okay, confession time.

I’m afraid of commitment. Not like I can’t hold down a relationship type of commitment. It’s more like I’m terrified of committing to an idea or belief system. And it’s starting to hold me back.

That’s why I’ve been holding off on writing this thing. It’s a statement of what I believe and what I’m looking for. And being in the midst of a QLC, these are the major things I’ve been struggling with. Most of August, I felt like I was stuck and had no idea which direction to go next.

That’s when I started the Joy Equation. Now, being a writer in the lifestyle design niche, I’ve seen a LOT of personal development guides like it. I’ve even started a few of them.

But, as I started to go through the exercises, I found that I wasn’t just engaged – I was smiling the entire time I was going through the guide. Even with the tough topics, I was so happy just to have it written and out of my system! What a relief. I did think something – something I could stand behind without any doubt.

Like my values! I thought I had them pretty well refined, but it turned out I had been operating under limiting beliefs of sorts. I’d never given myself room to explore what my values looked like in a larger context. The definitions helped, too. Defining something makes it easier to understand and implement.

Here’s what I came up with:

This was such a massive discovery for me. I knew freedom, adventure, and community were important to me, but romance was like finding a missing link.

It was everything I could never find the words to describe before. I knew I was passionate, but finding such a perfect word was empowering and revitalizing. It was like, “Holy crap! I can finally explain to my partner why little things are so important to me!” It was a revolution for my heart.

So here I am now. This is me presenting what I believe without question. The first words in my manifesto are…

“I believe you are beautiful, brilliant, and unique beyond any doubt. There is nothing you can’t do, and there is no situation you can’t overcome.”

Because it’s my truth. And I can commit to truth.

The universe is trying to tell me something. I’m convinced.

After a summer of stressing over getting someone to rent to me, I applied to a random Craigslist housing ad. I found a nice two bedroom within my budget. It was a little further out than I wanted, but there was no application fee – which *fingers crossed* meant no credit/rental check.

It’s like the universe wrapped its arms around me and gave me a hug. She rented based on character, not background. And she was one of the nicest ladies I’ve ever met! You just don’t meet people like that anymore.

Then came the cherry on top – the best writing gig EVER lands in my inbox. Cue me dancing a jig! I can’t give details yet, but it’s with a company I would sell my left boob to work with long term.

A place to live and steady income. Did I just achieve some stability? Why, yes, I think I did. Count this as me exiting fight or flight mode. Unless I’m crazy, that should mean I make better decisions for a while.

At the end of this five months, I’ll be ready to pop. As in, the brand new baby boy will be making his arrival like a soda can exploding in the freezer. I’m so excited for him, but I’m afraid for me. My doctor said I have a high likelihood of getting extreme PPD again.

Last time, it destroyed my life. This time, I have a much better support network. I have a wonderful doula, and I’m not in a relationship with someone I can’t stand – progress, right? (In fact, he makes me quite happy. And makes trips out when I get cravings. Yep – he’s a keeper.)

The next several months are going to be jam-packed full of goodness. But, it’s also just jam-packed – you know, crappy airline style where the seats are too close together kind of packed. I’m not crazy enough to hope for balance, but I am dreaming of joy. Even when things go bonkers, I want to feel the deep joy of knowing I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be doing what I’m meant to be doing. To commit to joy, I’m making three goals for my time here at Stratejoy.

My three goals for the next five months are:

To prepare as much as I can for the new baby. Mentally, this means making sure I have a network of wonderful women to connect with. I think Stratejoy is going to help with that a TON. Physically, it means yoga and setting up the nursery. (Because you KNOW it’s fun.)

To write my manifesto. Because I can’t write it until I understand all of the in’s and out’s of what I think. This is me committing to self exploration in away I haven’t before.

To open as many doorways as I can for my writing career. This means getting coaching, applying to grad school, working with amazing clients, and doing whatever I can to propel my writing to the next level.

It’s a good thing I like challenges, because this one is going to be one tough mother.


This week — two weeks ago, really — I was sitting in the lab, waiting on blood work, and reading Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project”. It had arrived that morning in the mail, thanks to Barnes & Noble (seriously, I don’t care if it takes four weeks to get to my house if I can pay using PayPal). As I dove headfirst into Gretchen’s artful prose, I stumbled across an incredibly pertinent quote by poet, W.H. Auden:

“Between the ages of twenty and forty we are engaged in the process of discovering who we are, which involves learning the difference between accidental limitations which it is our duty to outgrow and the necessary limitations of our nature beyond which we cannot trespass without impunity.”

Sometime in the twelfth grade, I decided I knew exactly who I was going to be when I grew up: a software developer, creating bad-ass programs for some indie company that actually wanted to make a difference in the world. From there, I’d start my own software company, make amazing software that was actually useful and beautiful, and turn a serious profit. I’d be married by twenty-five and have babies by thirty. I’d travel to Europe and maybe live in Rome for a few years.

Sometime in 2008, it fell down around me in great gobs of loose threads and shattered dreams. It turned out that programming was still a game for good ol’ boys; a place where sexism (and ageism) was rampant. It wasn’t a place for a creative-nerd hybrid that longed to make a real difference. I watched my male counterparts being afforded very different opportunities, in spite of of my experience and expertise. By the time my employers had knocked me out on my ass, I was so bitter that I didn’t want any part of software anymore.

Not to work in. Not to create for. Not even to write for.

I was sent spiraling into this new, awkward direction of “Oh shit, I have no idea what to do now.”

The necessary limitation of my nature — an intrinsic need to create and distill meaning — meant that I was naturally unsuited to take orders and accept it unquestioningly. Over the years, I’ve accidentally limited myself to those positions because it was easier to take orders than to make them. If I simply went with what I was told to do, the onus would be on someone else.

Starting up (and growing into) an ittybiz, getting pregnant, and stretching my wings far beyond the accidental limitations I had placed on myself was a lot of pressure. And yeah, I cracked a few times. If you look closely, you’ll see the fine lines that are becoming cracks all over again. I’m having to (re)discover who I am. I’ve consumed vast quantities of information on the subjects of happiness, joy (like the Joy Equation), creative entrepreneurship, and (un)marketing.

I’ve spent large chunks of time trying to distill meaning from it all. Because, really, how does it all add up to a happy, meaningful life? I feel like I’m back in eleventh grade mathematics, observing an asymptote: the closer I get to an answer, the farther I get from the meaning.

It’s an interesting notion to think that our rite of passage — our quarter-life crises — is something that’s been expected of us all along. Auden’s insistence that self discovery really happens for the entirety of our middle years (for twenty years!) takes a lot of pressure off. If I’m still figuring out what an accidental limitation is as opposed to a natural limitation is well into my thirties, I know that I’ve only come partway through my arduous journey of self discovery and “finding myself”.

I can live with that.

Photo via The Notebook Doodles.

Girls… I, uh ….met a boy.
Oh, the difference a week makes.

Last week was The Loneliness… this week it is butterflies and boldness.  A whirlwind story lifted out of some sort of movie; the kind of movie that makes people roll their eyes from the sappy-romantic-mess.

It feels like a story that’s been told before: boy and girl meet and months go by until one night something clicks.  Sparks that light a would-be-normal-night on fire.  Cue the montage of flowers, kisses, cuddles, and declarations of “intense feelings”.

Suddenly, I find myself 48 hours into this; dizzy and out of breath.  It’s too early to tell you much, but in the spirit of Stratejoy and sharing my story with you all–

I am going to tell you that I am smitten.  Hardcore smitten.

I used to think that falling for someone required an abandonment of self to make the jump.  I’ve been known to jump too soon into things, recklessly leaping without making sure the other person is with me.  The result is times when I am IN IT,  looking up at the person I just jumped for, as they fumble around at the top refusing to jump for me.  Not ideal.

This feels entirely different.  This weekend is teaching me what bold is supposed to feel like in the beginning of a relationship that  has the potential to be life changing.  Bold doesn’t mean reckless.  Instead, I’m figuring out that boldness is taking intentional steps toward something that is simultaneously exhilarating and frightening.

I am fighting the urge to spend every minute of my day with him AND fighting the urge to run hard and fast in the other direction.  I am NOT running though.  Boldness is letting someone new enter your world, but slowly and thoughtfully.  Letting them in when it’s right not because I am forcing intimacy.

Everyone carries stories and baggage with them and feeling like I want him to know all of it, when the time is right, FEELS braver than I’ve ever felt.

So, that’s where I am.  Smitten, unable to think of anything else.  Baby-stepping into something feels HUGE and SCARY but also ELECTRIC and EASY. Things can change in an instant.  Wow.

Books to read.  Blog posts to write.  Clients to please.  Calls to make.  Calls to take.  Relationships to maintain.  Love to give.  Love to receive.  Family.  Friends.  Business.  Work.  Yoga.  Physical health.  Spiritual health.  Mental health.  Emotional health.  Happy hours.  Brunch.  Potluck Sunday.  A night to myself.  A night out with friends.  Dinner.  Text messages.  Emails.  To-do lists.  Blog business.  New ideas.  New year.  New projects.  New.  Everything.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed, right?  To buckle under the weight of it all, whatever it all is for you.  How did I get to this place where there is SO MUCH TO DO? People to please, deadlines to meet, expectations to live up to.  I frequently say, “I’d rather be busy than bored,” and while that’s true – how true is it also that just once, just right this second, just for a day… we’d like to remember what bored feels like.

We are living the abundance we demanded

Chelsea and I have discussed these crushing moments more than once.  20-Something Women who juggle life, work, dreams, love, emotions, the QLC, wine, cheese, and living – just like so many others.  And in one of those moments, she said something that I’ve never forgotten:

Isn’t it funny?  How we’re exactly where we wanted to be, exactly where we asked the Universe to put us, and yet we’re frustrated and tired and overwhelmed?  We’re living the abundance we desired, the abundance we demanded — and yet, where is our gratitude?

How true is that?  I asked for this. I asked for clients that were interesting and whose work I believed in.  I have them.  I asked for deep relationships and friends that are like family – in cities across the country and scattered around the world.  I have them. I asked for a lover and a best friend who shared the same dreams and direction as I did.  I have him.  I asked for creative opportunities, and here I am.

Life is abundant. Opportunities are abundant, and when I can remember that I’m exactly where I wanted to be and instead of sighing in exasperation, I cry out in gratitude – suddenly I can handle it.  Suddenly, the unmanageable is manageable.  The hurdles are jumped.  The edge is pushed and changed.

For this, I am grateful.

As I write this, it’s Saturday night.  I have a glass of wine next to me, and BoyfriendMan works on his laptop at the kitchen table next to me.  For that, I am grateful.  For a relationship that supports my creative bursts at 10pm on a Saturday night, I am grateful.  I have a to-do list a mile long, but for that, I am grateful.  I have steady income and work for clients who challenge me creatively and whose mission I support with every ounce of my being.  For that, I am grateful. Tomorrow is Sunday, and I’ll attend a yoga teacher training class, have some time to spend at home packing for my upcoming move, and will spend tomorrow evening with friends-like-family at our weekly potluck.  For the chance to further study yoga and the opportunity to soon teach, I am grateful.  For a lifestyle that allows me the freedom to pack up and move across the country in the name of exploration and adventure, I am grateful.  For friends-like-family and a social calendar full of rich and loving relationships, I am grateful.

I could see that above paragraph as one big to-do list.  Write this blog post, pack for the move, show up to Potluck, get your work done, cross this off, maintain this, be attentive to that.  I could.  But that would make things like creativity and relationships a task – and they’re not.  They’re evidence of abundance in my life, and for that – I am grateful.

And if I’ve learned anything about gratitude this year, it’s that the expression of it – for the immense and for the mundane, – almost always guarantees MORE of the goodness.  More abundance, more love, more living.

Even when I struggle, I find those things that I’m grateful for and I focus in hard on those things.  The stressors start to melt, and calm sets in.  Gratitude is powerful.

No matter where you are, there is at least one thing in your life your are most immensely grateful for.  What is it?

{Photo credit}

Any of you who know me, or have gotten to know me outside of Stratejoy, know that gratitude plays a big part in my life.   My personal blog is called The Grateful Sparrow and (almost) everyday I tweet a gratitude list.  It reminds me of how much in my life is good, great, wonderful – even (especially) on days when everything seems to be going wrong.  But I have not always been this way.

Two years ago, I was full to the brim of negative self-talk. No one who knows me would’ve ever suspected it; I was just my cheery, optimistic self on the outside, but in my mind, I was absolutely horrendous.  My default setting, the reason anything went wrong, was “I’m a mess.”  I said it all the time.  I said it laughingly to friends when I forgot something, “Ha, what a mess I am!”  I said it angrily to myself when I made a mistake, “Why am I such a mess??!”  I resigned myself to it and it became my truth.

I was working a 9-5 office job that, while it gave me wonderful security, was stressful, unchallenging, and not even on the same planet as any job I’d remotely want as a career.  Every day I would zombie-drive the same route in the same traffic, zoned out and dreading the day, often sending up a little prayer to quell my anxiety and try to control the uncertainties facing me that I really couldn’t control.  I would pass the first few hours of my day with a sinking feeling in my stomach and self-blame in my head, sucking all other thoughts & feelings down like quicksand.  Every.  Day.

Around the same time, frustrated with and trying to improve my acting career, I joined an artist’s co-operative.  We kept each other accountable to our goals and supported and encouraged each other; the group aimed to bring us all out of our comfort zones and out of our unhealthy mental patterns that might be holding us back.  Obviously (well, it’s obvious now), I had a lot of those.

One of the guys in the group suggested that we email each other with 5 things we’re grateful for every day, just as an exercise to get us into a more positive headspace.  It was really hard at first.  I remember driving in to work, dread and apathy vying for domination in the pit of my stomach, and sitting in front of my computer, staring at it blankly.  What am I grateful for?  The only time I’d ever thought about expressing gratitude outside of saying an obligatory “thank you” was on Thanksgiving, and that was usually muddled by a mouthful of turkey. Now I have to write it down?  And send it to people?

I sat there trying not to think of all the things I’m not grateful for, and trying to remember the last time I felt super happy.  Why couldn’t I think of anything?  What was wrong with me??  Why was I such a mess??  I looked down at my hands on the keyboard.  I have 10 fingers.  I’m grateful for that.  I know how to type.  I’m grateful for “Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing,” even though I hated it growing up.  I’m grateful for the cup of coffee slowly waking me up.  And so on…

My first six months of gratitude lists were like that.  And sometimes they still are.  I’m grateful for hot showers and good music and smiling.  Some days I sat for a good 15 minutes unable to think of a single thing to be grateful for.  But I didn’t let myself go a day without writing my list. It helped to get lists from the other people in the group – so much happiness was shared every day.  Slowly, gratitude came easier; in fact, I started to feel that it was a necessary part of my morning routine.  So when the group disbanded and the emails slowly stopped their joyous flow into my inbox, I decided I needed someone else to keep me accountable to my gratitude, and I began sending my list to my family, best friend, and roommate.

During all this, other things in my life began to change.  Getting myself off of negative autopilot, even if only for the 5 minutes it took to write my gratitude list, made me realize that I was on autopilot in the first place.  I started to wake up from my zombie state, snapping myself out of it on the drive to work by focusing on a particularly beautiful blooming tree on the side of the road, instead of the creeping traffic.  I suddenly realized that maybe I felt like such a mess only because I kept telling myself I was a mess, and worked on replacing that phrase with a positive mantra.

My gratitude lists got longer, and instead of just writing out of habit, I started to really feel them; they made me happy.  I woke up thinking of what I’d write, and they were bright spots in days that were otherwise less than stellar.  I found myself not getting caught up in as much drama; when something bad happened, I would be upset about it for a little while and then, automatically, without even realizing it, I’d be thinking of the positives. I wasn’t Pollyanna, I wasn’t lying and saying things were fine when they weren’t, I truly started to feel better about everything.

I honestly believe that writing gratitude lists changed my outlook and changed my life.  It is my quick fix to happiness, because as soon as I write down what I’m grateful for, I feel just a little bit happier.  Every.  Day.

Today I am so happy and grateful for dark chocolate & green tea, all you amazing lovely ladies out there reading, and R.W. for introducing gratitude into my life two years ago.

What are you happy and grateful for?

PS – if any of you would like to commit to a month of gratitude, I’ll hold you accountable.  Tweet me your gratitude list at @gratefulsparrow every day for 30 days.  See how it changes you.

Landing in a new city’s airport and that feeling of exploration and adventure.  The way my boyfriend holds my hand.  Colorado sunrises.  Minnesota sunsets.  Dinner nights with my girlfriends.  Finding stillness in a yoga posture.  Italian espresso.  Learning a new skill.  Pen-to-paper journaling.  Drinking chocolate.  New yoga clothes.  Julie and Julia. Learning about wines from my dad.  Morning snuggles.  Road trip playlists.  Blogger meet-ups.  Happy hours.  The pop of a champagne cork.  Date night.  Great conversation.  Mashed sweet potatoes with butter and brown sugar.  The way my mom calls my sister and I both “tootsiegirl” and signs her emails and blog comments “tootsiemom.”  Fresh air.  Mountains.  Beaches.  Autumn in Minnesota.  Macaroni and cheese.  Kisses.

These are the things that bring me joy, and what pure and simple fun really feels like for me.  Curly Girl Designs (my favorite cards and stationary and paper products ever) has this quote on the front of one of their cards, and I LOVE it:

Funny thing about joy is that you only really find it when you’re having too much fun to go looking for it.

Core values

It’s easy to list out all of the things we love, all of the things that make us feel that pure, simple joy.  For me, my joy centers around a few core values and priorities.  Five in particular: love, travel, yoga, learning, and writing.  It seems that my most important choices and direction in life centers around one of these priorities, and when these are back-burnered everything gets out of balance.  I know where I find my joy, but how do I stay connected to it?

Making time for fun

The important thing, I believe, is not only knowing where your joy comes from, but committing to staying connected to it.  For me, this means making time for fun.

Pure, simple fun is a priority, a must, and a crucial part of staying balanced. My idea of fun varies from large gatherings to one-on-one time, from being out and about to quiet evenings in.  Fun, to me, is Potluck Sunday – a once-a-week gathering of new and old friends.  It’s getting the program at a baseball game and keeping the scorecard (thanks, mom and dad for teaching me how to do that when I was younger!).  Fun is creating something from scratch, be it a scarf (I just learned to crochet, and that’s all I can make right now) or a piece of writing I’m proud of.  Fun is hiking in Colorado, boating on the lakes in Minnesota, and driving open highways with the windows down.

Fun is catching up with family on backyard porch swings, and it’s spending time with friends over morning coffee or afternoon happy hour (or vice versa, let’s not judge).  It’s sharing in the creation of a meal, and the sheer volume of conversation over a shared table of food.  Fun is Sunday drives into the mountains, ridiculous conversations with my girlfriends, and getting through a stack of new magazines.  It’s starting new friendships, and reconnecting with old ones.

My deepest joy comes out of my relationships, and this includes the connection to myself and the commitment to pursuing joy through the path of fun.  It’s in the little moments that are actually really big moments because those little pieces make up the whole picture of how we define everything about our lives and our love, our joy, and our FUN.

Where does your joy come from, and what do you do for fun to stay connected to it?

{Photo credit: mine}

I completed the Joy Equation in February 2010.  As part of Week One, I was instructed to identify my eight core values. This was new territory for me.  My values?  No one has ever asked about my values. The only time I ever hear the word “values” is when the religious right shouts about “family values” which is really just a band-aid for bigotry. I had to warm up to the word. What are my values?

At first, with my Catholic background, I thought about the Beatitudes, from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.
Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’s shake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:3-10)

Peace? Yeah, okay, that sounds good. Justice? Sure. Merciful? Acceptable. Poor in spirit? Meek? Mourning? I get it, but those aren’t my values. I don’t want to lie down at the end of each day and ask myself, “Renee, were you poor in spirit today?” It doesn’t seem motivating.

I had to dig deeper. My Catholicism still clenched me in its grasp. I thought about the seven spiritual works of mercy.

1. Instruct the ignorant.
2. Counsel the doubtful.
3. Admonish sinners.
4. Bear wrongs patiently.
5. Forgive offenses willingly.
6. Comfort the afflicted.
7. Pray for the living and the dead.

Ah! Here we go. Teach. Counsel. Console. Forgiveness. Compassion. Patience. Peace. We’re getting closer. Thanks, St. Thomas of Aquinas, for teaching me about mercy.

The Joy Equation states, “Our core values are the habits of our heart.” What makes my heart cry out? What moves me to action? What would I fight to for the right to enjoy and experience?

I narrowed down a long, long list with notes in the margins reminding myself “not what I should choose, rather what resonates with me.” Finally, I came up with eight. And then I defined them.

Honesty – Being honest with myself and others, telling the truth, saying what I mean, and always having good, open communication.

Peace – Being at peace with myself, things in my life that I can’t change, and cutting back on the arguing to focus on the greater good. “Good enough is good enough.” –Jane Fonda

Love – Keeping love in my heart and showing it at all times, making everyone feel special and worth of my time. Radiate Love.

Patience – Knowing what matters enough to stress me out and what’s not worth my worries. Keeping my temper in check. Taking deep breaths and going slowly. Keep calm and carry on.

Joy/Humor – Smiling and laughing more than frowning and crying. Finding humor in unfavorable situations. Being able to laugh at myself. Enjoying the company of others. Finding my fun.

Compassion – Knowing when others need my help, a second chance, or a compromise. Putting myself in others’ shoes. Being flexible to accommodate the needs of others when they need it most.

Passion – Recognizing the drive I need to go after what I want. Taking life by the horns. Fearlessly pursuing the things I love. Making time to do things for me.

Authenticity – Knowing what’s best when I need it most. Staying true to myself. Putting my needs first. Taking time to fix #1. Not compromising my values. Doing what I need to do. Not being fake. Giving 100% all the time but knowing what 100% is.

When you wrap up my values and put a pretty bow on them, you can see the Beatitudes and spiritual works of mercy trickling through them… but you can also see my liberal arts education and my ferocious feminism. I can tell where I’m trying to reel in my Type A, Arian personality, trying to cool off my fire sign. I can tell where I’m trying to open my heart just a little more, to soften my rough edges and let a little more light in.

There’s something empowering about naming your values and doing your best to adhere to them, something very tenacious and gritty that I love.  It makes for one hell of a personal journey.

Most of you know a good chunk of what I do here at Stratejoy is coach lovely ladies like yourself.  It’s an immensely rewarding part of my business.  I am continually stretched, inspired, and in awe of the women I talk to on a weekly basis. And I’m forever learning new truths.

Which brings me to this:

Part of this authentic joy we talk so much about seems to start with truly believing and owning the fact that “I am enough.”

It wasn’t something I thought too much about at the beginning of Stratejoy.  I thought that our current situation, the current status of our life, was a base level to start with, to improve upon.

Self-love?  Self-worth?  I would get there eventually…

My seeking brain loved to remind me — of course I’m not enough! I haven’t built an empire!  I haven’t made all of my dreams come true!  I don’t eat all organic!   I should shave my legs more often!  Tell my friends I love them!  Stop watching!  Be more patient with my kids! Express more desire for my husband!

And on and on…

Well, I’m allowed to change my mind.

I am now firmly on the “I am enough” bandwagon.

(click to tweet)

Does that seem at odds with a personal development site dedicated to “helping women reinvent themselves” or “gaining clarity for meaningful forward movement?”


Before any reinventing or forward movement, we must start from a strong, loving, secure base of self-worth.  If we don’t believe we are deserving of a big bold bright existence, it will never happen.  And what I’m finding and exploring more and more is that this self-love, this ability to believe we are deserving, boils down to the ability to declare “I am enough.”

Try it.  Say it out loud.  I am enough.

What comes up?  Do you feel like you’re faking it?  Do you immediately start adding buts, or sometimes, or ifs?

Part of the time I still can’t say it.

I have a long laundry list of things about myself I’d like to be “better.”

I’d like to call my parents more regularly.  I’d like to conquer my fear of failure.  I’d like to practice yoga everyday.  I’d like to be on of those girls who can sport dreads, ripped jeans, a nose ring and look unbelievably hot.  I’d like to stop feeling slightly nauseous when I look at my bank account.  I’d like to volunteer more often.  I’d like to always have a clean home, sexy underwear in the drawer, and an art project underway.

So much pushing.  So many mores.

When I think of that list, it’s hard for me to get behind the “I am enough” statement.  But the days I can’t believe it?  Those are the rough days.  Those are the days when a hater email makes me break down into tears. Those are the days I can’t shake off the fog.  Those are the days I start doubting my path.

You’d think I’d have learned by now, eh?  Because the days I can say, “I am enough, just as I am, right this very moment, with all my quirks and foibles, in all my ridiculous glory?”

Those are the days that feel the best. Those are the days I find peace.

I should probably start shouting it a little louder, with more emphasis.

My name is Molly and I am enough, just as I am, right this very moment.

I shall now launch into my Enoughness Manifesto!

(I’m sharing this not to brag or dance a little narcissistic dance in the mirror, but to inspire YOU to write your own.)

I am enough.

I am full of sparkle and compassion.  I genuinely want to make the world a better place. I love hard. I practice kindness. I’m not afraid of the truth. I am loyal, adventurous, supportive, and surprising.  I am a woman. I am enough. I make mistakes, but I own them and learn from them.

Sometimes I make a bunch of mistakes.

I am enough. I am open, juicy, artistic, full blast.  I am also vain, emotional, demanding, and looking for answers. I am a woman who is open to mysteries, accepting of miracles. I am diving in, devouring, loving, protecting, peeling back the surface of petty desires to the hunger for connection, for belief, for truth.

I am less concerned with doing things correctly than I once was and more concerned with showing up and loving hard.

(click to tweet)

I accept that a sense of wonder is something to cultivate. I accept that I sometimes self-medicate with alcohol, with filling my life full of busyness, with going into self imposed isolation.  I accept that I crave financial abundance, a freedom to do what I want, when I want it.  I am still enough.

I am a lover of ripe mangoes, stars in the midnight sky, stories around the campfire, the smell of rich coffee, laughing until I can’t breathe, having someone reach for my hand, swimming naked. I am a lover, a mama, a sister, a storyteller, a daughter, a mentor, and a student.

I am enough.

And I know in my deepest heart — You are enough too.


The breaking point in my Quarterlife Crisis came this past summer, when I left an emotionally crippling job and took off on a three month backpacking trip across the country. Traveling was harder than I thought it would be, proving the cliche but oh so true saying that, “wherever you go, there you are.”

Constantly on the move, one of my biggest challenges was staying balanced and trying to maintain an emotionally grounded life while all of the physical aspects of it were constantly in limbo.

A few weeks into my trip, before I ever knew I’d wind up blogging over here at Stratejoy come 2010, I signed on to complete Molly’s happiness course, The Joy Equation: A 30 Day Guide To Living Life On Purpose. Going through this course, which includes journal prompts and audio sessions and a 40 page Joy Plan Workbook, put me in touch with myself at exactly the right time, gently challenging me to think about who I am and who I want to be, and what I have to do to bridge the ever widening gap between the two.

Throughout the 30 days, The Joy Equation inspired me without being preachy, made me think without being overwhelming, kept me interested without requiring a huge time commitment, and remained consistently fun. My favorite part about the course was that it inspired me to evaluate and reevaluate my definition of happiness and really give pause about what it means to show up for the world every single day.

During week three of the course (the part where you’re examining your big dreams), I came across one of the most thought provoking quotes in the Joy Plan Workbook, a quote that said, “Failure’s hard, but success is far more dangerous. If you’re successful at the wrong thing, the mix of praise and money and opportunity can lock you in forever.”

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, about how much easier it’s been to get over the things that haven’t worked, the things I haven’t succeeded at, than it has been to walk away from situations that I excelled at, but didn’t love. I think a lot of people experience this same feeling, actually, the feeling of being trapped by things that are just good enough to not require an immediate fix. That’s what settling is, right? Accepting something simply because it works and it’s there and we’re either too lazy or too afraid to climb one rung higher on the ladder of unknown possibilities to see what we could have instead.

With my 25th birthday only a month away, I think it’s time for another authentic happiness gut check. I’d really like to start all over again with this course and go for round two of Nicole Gets to Know Nicole, especially given how much has changed in my life since my initial foray into happiness exploration.

You should do it too. And then we can all talk about it. Over margaritas and hugs.

p.s.  Editor’s note:  Um, yes. This is some subtle foreshadowing of the “Big Announcement” on Thursday!  If you’re not on the Jolts ‘o Joy eNewsletter list, make it happen.  Upper right corner.  And then just sit tight, because some help with the “pricing” (hint, hint) of the Joy Equation Course is coming soon.  A.K.A. Thursday…

photo credit: alicepopkorn

I’ve gone from one extreme to the next.

The first couple of weeks after leaving my day job, I felt unorganized, somewhat scattered.  I had difficulty managing my time, and I wasn’t focusing on my writing projects as much as I would have liked.

With a little effort, I found a few ways to turn that around.  I started getting up early and setting specific times that I had to get work done.  I closed the door and thus closed myself off from the world.

I worked, worked, worked.

Moving from underproductive to uber productive was seriously exciting.  I got SO much done.  I stayed up late and got up early.  I had energy.  I felt exhilarated.  I re-launched my personal blog, In Search of Squid, got a lot of prewriting done on the novel, and started pumping out blog posts.

I was on fire.

But now, I’ve hit the other side of that wall.  I am in desperate need of balance.

You see, last week, I crashed.  I had been getting up early and going to bed late.  Even when taking a break for dinner or catching up with the fiancé, I had the computer on my lap, and I was responding to blog comments or working on a writing project.  General exhaustion and a lack of sleep then took over.  I couldn’t sit down to write without my eyelids drooping and feeling the need to take a nap.

Now, this has been my first experience working for myself.  I’ve never tried to do this before.  And let me tell you, striking a balance between work and all the rest is seriously harder than it looks. My work life and home life have now merged.  How does one handle this while maintaining a healthy balance of work, rest and play?

Enter, The Joy Equation.

I had been working through Molly’s Thirty Day Guide to Living Life on Purpose for the past few weeks.  Well, let me be more accurate, I’d working on it a little and thinking about working on it a lot.  Every time I picked it up, I felt guilty for taking time away from my writing projects.  I would eventually set it down with the idea that I could always do more later.

Then, the week of droopy eyelids and utter exhaustion came into play.  I realized I needed to slow down.  I needed a little perspective and some fresh ways to approach working on my own.

I spent last weekend pondering, journaling and planning.  I took a look at what really matters to me and sought new ways to maintain a sense of calm, wellness and balance in my life.

While doing this, I sat down and listened to the first audio session of The Joy Equation.  Molly walked me through a guided meditation, then a series of questions and exercises aimed at getting me to unearth my core values.  I attempted to figure out – what do I really care about; what values resonate with me; what truly matters?

In the past, I’ve tried to make time to consider my personal core values, and I’ve attempted to align my life in such a way as to be true to myself.  I can’t recommend this practice enough.  It’s powerful.  It opens doors and allows you to see your life in a whole new way.  What I love about Molly’s approach is that she really has you work it out.  You ask questions, you answer questions, you put it all in writing.

You set intentions for the week, and you find creative ways to really make it work for you.

Sometimes I just need a little nudge, something to give me permission to take time out for myself.  This was exactly the nudge I needed.  I’ve been so focused on doing the work I love, that I nearly forgot the many other things in life that matter to me too. Identifying my core values helped me to remember this.

In looking at those values, I noticed one thing that continued to show up – my love for being outside and in nature.  I really enjoy things like walking, hiking and camping.  I love fresh air and green trees and the sight of the ocean.

And then I realized something – I rarely make time to do this.

Why?  I’m not sure.  I think sometimes we get lost in ourselves, in our daily lives.  We forget to do those things that bring us joy, especially when it takes a little extra time, effort or attention.

So I’m taking a cue from my Joy Plan; I’m setting an intention for the week.  And that intention is simply to go on a hike.

According to Lao Tzu, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  My journey is to connect with my true, authentic self.  In cultivating the powerful habits that will bring me to that authentic self, I must take small steps to get there.  This is simply one of those small steps.

I’m also making a commitment to myself:  each week, I’ll re-look at my core values. Whichever jumps out at me as something I’ve been overlooking, I’ll take action, and I’ll plan something that honors that value for the week.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.  What are some things you do to maintain balance in your own life?

photo credit: janusz l

I imagine that several readers will look at the title of this post and exclaim, “Question myself?  Why would I ever do that?  I have all the answers!”  And you know what?  I agree with them!

By suggesting that you question yourself, I’m definitely not telling you to doubt yourself. (Come on- I know we’re just beginning this journey together- but doubt?  That doesn’t sound like me!  It’s not an emotion I suggest wallowing in very often.) In fact, I think doubting yourself can be highly toxic. If you make it a habit, it shadows every new thought or idea that pops into your pretty head. It poisons new paths before you even get the chance to explore them. Are we clear, friend?  I’m not suggesting doubt, just questioning…

How do I Question Myself?  And Why?