Considering our stuff: what to buy, what to give and throw away, and the concept of death cleaning.

It is quite amazing how much STUFF we can accumulate, at least those of us fortunate to be reasonably well off and live in the United States or another first-world economy.

I recently served as a middle-man to take baby-items from one recent mother to a soon-to-be mother; two friends who don’t know eachother. I was amazed by the number of items that have been invented as an attempt to make parenting in those first few months a little easier. Quite the niche market for the business world! Among other items, I picked up a baby bed that looks like a pillow but has a slightly ridged side to nestle baby in, and an electric chair that is designed to move to soothe baby with settings such as a car ride or a kangaroo (hopefully a little more gentle than a live kangaroo!) While I know I would get all I could find to make things easier if I were to be a mother, I couldn’t help but chuckle at how in the heck mother’s managed without the kangaroo chair 100 years ago. These items may be helpful – but the are not necessary.

The thing with baby items is that, unless you are going to have another child, you know when you are done with your STUFF. Not only that, it’s easy to pass along to another expecting mom who will be grateful for stuff that might make her coming life easier. You accumulate, and then you gift or sell to move things out of your home.

But how do we decide when to part with our other stuff? When do we realize that we don’t wear those shirts enough to keep, or that we will never fit into that pair of jeans again? How do we decide when all the stuff for an activity that we no longer engage in should be removed from the house because we are unlikely to engage in that activity again? For example, I have some really nice hockey equipment sitting in my attic. I haven’t played hockey in nearly a decade. But what if I play again? It would be a real hassle and expense to get the equipment again! Furthermore, if I wanted to get rid of it, there is a cost (time and hassle and stress) attached to finding someone, or many people, who would enjoy these items and might even be willing to pay a little for them.

Which brings up another point. Trash.

Some of that hockey equipment is not something that anyone is going to want from me. It belongs in the trash. But to throw away something is to face my own wasteful practices. We want to believe that we can help someone by donating our old, arcane, dirty, outdated, used, items, rather than acknowledge that we created more trash that will sit in our landfills.

So what to do?

Each of us must find our own comfort level with obtaining new stuff. We must first decide carefully what we want to bring into our homes.

And we must find our comfort level with having things around us. We all have differing capacities for clutter, often different even between spouses, and we must find that balance. At some point space and order is more important than holding onto our stuff. This of course requires a lot of steps, the time spent, deciding what to let go of, and the logistics of getting it out of your house.

The Marie Kondo’s Kon Mari Method has received a lot of press recently, and become a tv show. This is a great resource.

Another resource I am really enjoying is the book: The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnussun. This is a lovely read, and I am considering gifting it to some of my estate planning clients. The idea behind death cleaning is to go through your lifetime accumulation of stuff and to get rid of it in your retired years – so that your family doesn’t have to do it for you. However, the same concepts apply to any of us, regardless of age, who find an overabundance of stuff surrounding us. The book is written in a simple light and playful, slightly humorous way,  making it accessible and a joy to read.

Of course, if you bring a new book into your home, perhaps a current book should be gifted (or thrown away) at the same time!

Happy clutter clearing and good luck!

30 Weeks to Awesome: The story of writing my first book. Part 2.

In this recent post, I wrote about how 30 Weeks to Awesome came to be. The motivation and nudge to get it done (a course with a contest that would reimburse tuition for said course) and the re-purposing of a course I created previously. In this post I will share why I believe in 30 Weeks to Awesome, as well as some lessons learned attempting to share the book with others. 

Why 30 Weeks to Awesome?

I think life is a journey and that we should always be continually trying to improve our lives, search for happiness, and to be better people. Some people think that trying to be better means they have to be unhappy with who they are now. I disagree. I think we can have love and compassion for our current selves, while simultaneously striving to be a better version of ourselves. It is an evolution that I hope will take a lifetime, because otherwise I would feel stalled. We are not perfect and we never will be. To think that we are somehow who we are meant to be sounds to me like a horrible way to live one’s life.

From this standpoint, I believe that healthy habits are the building blocks to living our best lives. We have limited decision-making capacity each day. By removing the necessity to make a decision to do something, we take care of our base (the building blocks) without having to work at it and use some of our daily decision-making capacity. From there we can do what’s next in our day.

These healthy habit building blocks are going to change overtime. You can look at any number of amazingly successful people who root their day with healthy habits, and realize that those blocks change overtime. One month you may focus on meditation. That could become an integral practice for the rest of your life, or it might drift away for a few months before you bring it back, possibly in the same form, possibly in a different form. When you are trying to start the habit, it takes conscious effort before it becomes part of who you are. This could be in terms of routine (I meditate every morning for 15-20 minutes). Or it could be simply how you make decisions (I home cook most of my meals, which means I had leftovers to bring to work to lunch today and therefore I do not need to go out to buy lunch like I used to).

I believe that for many people, building healthy habits slowly over time is the best way to achieve lasting change.

Surely, there are times where someone will get so fed up with their way of life that they will take massive action and actually have it stick for the long term. What do I mean by this? A program such as Whole 30 is right for some people at some times. Depending on your previous way of eating, this can be a massive undertaking. You remove a whole lot of foods, then slowly add in, but ultimately completely overhaul your way of eating. Some people will do this, feel great, and stick with it. Others will do it, feel great, but then slowly return to their previous way of eating. This person could go even further and adopt worse ways of eating than before the massive changes because they rebel against the restrictions that they were only able to maintain for a few months. More people than not are going to rebel against really massive, strict changes. This can be referred to as yo-yo dieting, and we know that considerably more than 50% of people who lose weight on a diet gain all or even more back within 2-5 years.

Thus, with 30 Weeks to Awesome, my hope is that readers will be able to manage a small task each week that builds over time. If you slowly add more vegetables, other foods will subside at a sustainable pace. The book also focuses on a variety of healthy habits from choosing healthy fats to eating out to getting outside.

Another of my core beliefs that influences me as a coach and attorney, is that each of us is unique. I do not believe that there are enough resources in our environment that encourage us to discover and listen to what we need in any given moment. Thus, in 30 Weeks to Awesome, most weeks I encourage the reader to pick a goal that is right for them. This is in the same way that I might work with a client in a coaching session and ask them what their next step is. Usually we know better than anyone else what the next right step is, but sometimes we need a nudge to realize it and to listen to our own intuition.

While the book is simple and short, I believe that this is one of its values. There is no lack of health information in the world, but there is a lack of action and follow-through.

What I have learned from marketing?

Self-publishing is easy. Educating people that the book exists and why they might want to read it, that is a whole different process. Interestingly, should you be worried about this part, know that even authors who have publishers have to do most of their own marketing. The publisher will work on getting it into stores (which I have had to do on my own) but the author must get the readers. This is why publishers focus heavily on an author’s “following” or ability to let people know about the book when deciding what books to publish.

We have an amazing opportunity right now in which we do not have to wait to be picked by others to publish a book to share our ideas with others (Seth Godin’s words). I believe this has intrinsic value, and is an opportunity we should all consider taking advantage of. However, just because you put something out in the world does not mean that the work will magically get noticed by those who want what you have on offer.

I learned that most bookstores work with distributors to get books and they do not want to work with self-published authors.

I discovered one distributor that I could work with. However, while the prospect of getting my book out to more people was exciting, if I signed with them I would not be able to sell it anywhere else. I didn’t want to lose control to take my book to local stores and others.

Selling has pushed me outside my comfort zone in many great ways. I think it is really important to do things that are not comfortable, and marketing my book has been a clear way to make me do this. I have gone into a number of stores cold and asked if they would carry 30 Weeks to Awesome. Most of the time I was rejected, but sometimes I succeeded. Four locations in my hometown carry it, one in a town in California that I visit often, and my biggest win – the Fireworks Galleries in Seattle now carry it!! This is (probably) the most popular store in the Seattle airport.

With that said, I could and should continue to research and try for different places to carry it. Fortunately, the clock has not ended, I still have an opportunity to learn and move my book into different areas.

Is it resonating?

I have received some excellent feedback from some readers. I hear that the book is helping them to focus on healthy habits (as intended). However, I am leading a group of readers through the book and many have dropped off. They get busy and want to pick up where they left off instead of moving on. They tell me they will return. Thus, it is possible that 30 weeks is too long, but I am not sure of the solution. I could encourage readers to go through more quickly to gather momentum. Or, it may be the type of resource that someone returns to for weeks at a time over years. Because of its length I believe that I need to wait more time to gauge its true resonance, but I am encouraged by the positive comments received so far.

What happened with the contest as part of the course I was in through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition? 30 Weeks to Awesome was selected as one of the Top 10 books coming out of the course! I am very grateful for their support and recognition of this project!

You can purchase the book directly from me here, AND I will donate all proceeds to the 2020 Community Assistance Fund – COVID-19 for Southeast Alaska, or you can purchase it (Ebook or paperback) here

Bringing intention to changing seasons and our entry into 2020.

People often find it easier to establish new habits when there is a big change in their lives such as a move or a new job. Habits are often correlated with our environment for better or for worse. This is why many men in the military could use opiates when serving in Vietnam, and then return to the United States and easily quit their use of the addictive drug (read more on this here).

But I think we can also use a more subtle marker to change habits such as New Years. This is not just because it starts a new year, but there is something about the end of the holiday season that can have us ready for change. The time between Halloween and New Year’s Day is often filled with celebration, indulgence, extra spending, and often some vacation time. Most people, speaking at least for the United States, get out of their typical routine during this holiday season. The conclusion of the season, therefore, marks a time when most people are ready to ‘get back’ to a more normal routine. The fact that it is a new year helps to fuel this feeling as we often have an easier time reflecting on a calendar year vs. other yearly markers (or at least it may be as good a marker as any, though dates such as between birthdays, a fiscal year, or thinking seasonally such as summer to summer may also work).

We can capitalize on this feeling at the end of the holiday season to change and tweak our old habits in ways we desire.

Here are some different tools you might use, but most importantly, consider what works for you right now and in this moment?

Is this a good time for you to reflect on the decade as we turn the corner to a new one? Is it worthwhile to look back through this past year to figure out what you don’t want to schedule in 2020, and what you want more of? Or should you pick a theme for the coming year?

Personally, I am thinking a lot about tracking for the coming year. I want to make sure I am tracking metrics worth following in my two businesses so that I will be able to look back over 2020 (and each month) to gain valuable insight. I would love to know how many books I read this year – but do not want to take the effort to really think through it. Thus, I am planning to track books read in 2020 to provide an easier review at the end of the year. I am exploring other ways to keep track of lessons and tools in productive ways that are easy to implement and stay consistent on.

What are you excited to leave behind and do more of in 2020?

And, I would be remiss if I did not also mention that if you are looking for a health boost in 2020, my book and the corresponding Facebook Group for support may be a great goal for you. This is for people who want to make healthy changes that are simple to make, but that add up over time. And for those who want to start looking at health broadly. It’s not just calories in, calories out. It’s your whole life – fulfillment, joy, relationships, movement, career, and also food.

Find out more, including how to purchase the book and join a group of like-minded individuals who will start going through it together on January 6, 2020, HERE.

How to be successful without confidence.

What comes to mind when you think about confidence in yourself and others?

Is it positive? Do you view confidence as a good character trait? Do you wish you had more of it?

Or do you associate confidence negatively? Do you equate confidence with Ego? Do you shy away from it, believing that confidence is unbecoming?

Most people say that you need confidence to be successful. I agree…but only if we are very careful in how we view confidence. I don’t think that confidence is synonymous with self-importance nor thinking that you are good at what you set out to accomplish. You don’t need to think you are great at or will excel at what you aim to accomplish in order to succeed.

Defining confidence and success.  

“Confidence” can be defined as “a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.”

“Success” can be defined as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.”

We not only can accomplish an aim without self-assurance, at many points in our lives we must do exactly that. We cannot be sure of our own ability until we have tried a few times. Yet, I think people often look at confidence as just this first part of the definition. Let’s look at the second part – to appreciate “one’s own abilities or qualities.” That doesn’t mean you have to think you are great. It simply means that to have confidence is to feel self-assured in your ability to try to achieve something. To feel that you are worthy and brave enough to try to get better.

So how does confidence relate then to success when viewed this way? First, I think it is helpful to view success as requiring different elements, which all must be present, for you to feel a sense of success.

Do you have what it takes to be successful?

What do you need to accomplish an aim or purpose that you set for yourself? One way to look at it is that you need these following three things to be successful. They are cumulative; none of them is sufficient alone.

  • Skill. To achieve, you actually need some skill in an area. But, guess what, we aren’t generally born with the skills necessary to lead our best lives. It takes time to build skill. This is where the next to pieces come in.
  • Emotional management. In order to get the skill set that will allow achievement that will build confidence, you need to be able to manage the emotions that will arise from putting yourself out there as you learn. Since learning is a lifelong process, the importance of emotional management does not dissipate. You may face criticism from others, and particularly from yourself during the skill-building process.
  • Self-talk and internal belief system. It’s kind of a catch-22 situation, but you need a basic level of belief about yourself to be able to be successful. You can be amazing at something, but if you don’t believe it then you will never feel successful.

If confidence is assurance from appreciating your abilities, then maybe confidence doesn’t actually mean that you think you are good at something. Maybe confidence is the backbone behind all of these three aspects of success. If you know you are still learning the skill necessary to accomplish your aim, then you are aware that you are not perfect but that practice is necessary. This underlying awareness will then give you the emotional tools to deal with failures that will come on your way to success at least most of the time.

What’s more, if you begin to think about confidence as an honest assessment of your ability, you can separate it from self-importance and work to incorporate the honest view into your life.

Here are some other tips to strengthen each block towards success.

Strengthening the building blocks of success.

Are you lacking in some of these areas? What can you do to improve? Here are some ideas.

  • Skill. You have a natural ability in some areas to do better than other people with very minimal effort. If you also enjoy these things, focusing energy on them will allow you to be skillful in a short amount of time with added advantage. This can be helpful to build skill, though it isn’t necessary. If you want to do something that you are not naturally good at, practice and conscious effort to improve can allow you to exceed your expectations (of course with some practical limitations – not all of us can do everything). Adam Grant decided in high school that he wanted to be a diver. After tryouts, his coach was honest with him: he lacked some of the most important qualities of successful divers. However, his coach followed up – he would match Adam’s effort in diving, putting as much into him as a coach as Adam put into training. Adam went on to win the state championships because of the practice he put in to building his skill set.
  • Emotional management. While we all respond differently to the emotions that come with trying to achieve, here are some ideas to strengthen your ability.
    • Start looking at fear as excitement and learn to love the exhilaration. This gets easier the more you put yourself out there, and can be practiced to build the muscle of not caring so much. I recently wanted to reach out to local medical practitioners to let them know about my health coaching practice. To start the conversation, I merely brought a letter and some brochures into different offices in town. Seems simple enough, but I was terrified when I started doing it. I was worried about what I would say and what they would think of me. However, on my second day it was no big deal at all. That initial fear was gone.
    • Here is just one example of an activity to help build your ‘getting out there’ muscle (courtesy of Phil Zimbardo): take a marker that will erase fairly easily and draw a small square on your forehead. Go about your day. People will question what it is and may want you to remove it. Just tell them it’s nothing, that you are just trying something out, and resist the temptation to clean it off.
    • Just do it. Don’t hesitate and let yourself create negative images. Fake it till you make it.
    • On the opposite spectrum from just doing it, do the written exercise of fear setting.
    • Use your body to convey a ‘can do’ attitude to your mind. Stand with hands on hips and your chest out for a few moments before facing something. Or, when in a conversation, maintain an open powerful posture with shoulders back.
  • Self-talk and internal belief system.
    • Affirmations have been shown to help. You can actually convince yourself of something if you keep repeating it to yourself. Think of a negative belief that you want to change and choose what you want to believe. Say it to yourself each morning and at other relevant times. Start with just one at a time.
    • Manifesting – imagine that you are already excellent at the skill. Close your eyes and picture yourself having achieved the result that you are working towards. How do you feel? Who is there? What do they say?
    • Remember that your intrinsic worth is separate form your abilities in your career, relationships, etc. You can try and fail without effecting your intrinsic worth.

Conclusion

Building confidence is an important part of achieving your goals, but that doesn’t mean you have to think of yourself as overly-important. Rather, you must believe that you are intrinsically valuable no matter what your current ability or quality, and you must be able to handle emotions that come with getting from here to there. The more you do it, the higher you will set those aims, and your life will get better and better as you realize what you can accomplish on the other side of your fear.

An accountability partner: do you need one?

I was first introduced to the concept of an accountability partner when I started my health coach training program in 2017. I have since had a number of accountability partners and I think it is something we may all benefit from in some form or another.

What?

An accountability partner is someone whom you form an intentional relationship with for a distinct purpose. It could be a friend or a stranger. Someone you have a much deeper relationship with outside of your accountability relationship, or not. But the foundation is that, at least as part of your relationship, you dedicate time to spend with one another where each has an opportunity to share their goals, or ask for feedback, or to bounce things off of the other one, and then you hold eachother accountable in some area of eachother’s lives. You could also have a small group. And you don’t have to meet in person.

My experience

I currently speak with someone from my health coaching class about once a month. We share where we are with our business goals, and have provided eachother with meaningful reflection. I love to have someone listen to and provide feedback on my ideas. I can ask questions about issues with a client or a business matter, and get ideas from her and vice versa. For example, recently she was struggling to find time for another course she is working on because things like laundry and other housekeeping always seemed to get in the way. I reminded her of the big rocks principle and she started to block out time for her studying first, and fit the other stuff around the edges.

Accountability partners can also be used to help review another’s work. I am going to start carving out time to focus on a book I have been wanting to write. I am taking a course that will help, but I will also be looking for an accountability partner with my intention being to get ideas from this person as well as editing. Asking someone this favor on its own would be a huge ask, but if I find a writing partner – someone also working on a similar project – we can both benefit by sharing our time and opinions with eachother.

Tips to create a strong relationship:

  • Before asking someone to be an accountability partner, decide how often you want to meet and what the purpose of the relationship will be. Try to find someone working on something similar – that could be eating better, preparing food at home, starting a side business, learning spanish, etc.
  • Talk openly in the beginning and as you go along about how each of you can best be pushed forward. Some people need hard love, specific goals, nudging along the way. Some need outer accountability in order to complete their goals, while others provide plenty of inner accountability and they may actually need more encouragement more than pushing. Some people will benefit most from just having someone to listen, reflect, and ask questions as they talk through what they are working on.
  • Meet when you say you will. If your partner keeps rescheduling or not showing up – drop the relationship. Tell them that you want to take it seriously and look for someone else.
  • Set a specific period of time for each meeting and either split in half or focus on just one of you for each meeting. This guideline is malleable when appropriate, but a good expectation to start from.

A coach can also serve as an accountability partner

If you are looking for something more or haven’t had success with an accountability partner, a health, life, or business coach may be a great solution. We provide long periods of time dedicated solely to your goals. We listen, reflect, and offer guidance and tools to figure out your own direction. We provide that outer accountability when you need it, and reassurance when that’s what you need most. The investment in time and money can pay back many times over if you are at a point where you want to level up a specific area of your life. Most successful people either have mutual accountability partners or a coach in their lives.