Find Your Strengths

One of the most inspiring messages I ever got from a book came from Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern. In there, she talks about how there are successful tasks that you accomplish regularly in life. You have some strengths. And she suggests that if you examine your strong points, your strengths, you can find ideas for applying those strengths to your weakness, or more properly, to the habits you’d like to strengthen. For example, if you never forget to put on deodorant but you always forget your vitamins, consider putting your vitamins in front of your deodorant. When you reach for your deodorant, your vitamins are right there so that they’re an easy habit to improve.

I use this technique all the time. I look for habits I want to build, and I try to pair them with habits I already have. I want to do more knee stretches. I have a paired habit now when I walk to my office in the morning. I walk past the same bike rack with a railing every day. Now my habit is to stop at the railing, stretch my knees and hamstrings, my calves and ankles, and even my lower back and hips. That single paired habit (walk past railing = do stretches) has become probably about 80-90% successful in my weekly trek from parking to my office.

I also adore paper planners. I love stationery and colored pens, etc. But I realized I didn’t have a regular habit of logging things in paper, nor always having the energy to lug a planner with me everywhere I go. I do however always have my phone with me. I finally weaned myself off the novelty of trying to log everything on paper and enforcing that everything should be accessible in my phone (which makes it accessible to any computer). Now I have a very detailed electronic set of habits using Google Calendar, Google Contacts, Gmail, Google Drive, Google Keep, and Evernote,

I added a new habit recently. Small tiny things I would promise to do would slip my mind. “I’ll work on that soon as I get to the office,” I might quip in Facebook Messenger to someone. Or while chatting with a friend, we’d say, “Let’s have dinner next month!” Of course I forgot these more often than not. That is, until I noticed that I *hate* to let a Phone Notification get swiped away if I hadn’t done the task in my reminder. So I started logging these quick tasks into my Google Calendar as a Reminder that would push a Notification to my phone (on a specific day and time). Now, I have to do the Task to mark it “Done,” or I have to reschedule it for when I have more time to focus my attention on the task.

I found my strength. I will obey a Notification Reminder or I will reschedule it for when I have the time to complete the task. It’s amazing how many tasks I’m getting done more frequently now, simply because I scheduled them on my Calendar. I’m starting to see this whole topic as a potential theme word for next year. Still pondering, but it’s taking some shape.

Who would think that those little icons could boss me around?

Careful What You “Wish For”

Thinking about Theme Words, my brain keeps turning over the idea that I don’t want to curse myself inadvertently. Now, it turns out that the “chinese curse” isn’t — if you check just Wikipedia alone, you’ll read,

“May you live in interesting times” is an English expression purported to be a translation of a traditional Chinese curse. …Despite being so common in English as to be known as the “Chinese curse”, the saying is apocryphal, and no actual Chinese source has ever been produced.

And further,

The nearest related Chinese expression is 寧為太平犬,莫做亂離人; nìng wéi tàipíng quǎn, mò zuò luàn lí rén; which is usually translated as “Better to be a dog in a peaceful time, than to be a human in a chaotic (warring) period.”

Since the modern world is already providing me way more chaos than I could want, I’ve been trying to make sure I’m not setting myself up for trouble, like the punchline “But I want patience NOW!”

One friend suggested “Future” for a theme word. Another friend has been considering words like “transition” or “evolve.” Another friend has embraced, “Wonderment.” I love watching the conversations about how various words are resonating with my friends.

For now, I still don’t have a final answer on *my* personal theme word for 2019. But I am amused as I try to ensure that my theme word fits my own goals for the year.

Picking the train I want to be on

As the Year Winds Down

Some of my friends have been citing me as the reason they have considered a word for the year (rather than resolutions). I dug up my list of words, to be thoughtful for my last week of the year before making some plans for 2019.

2017: GOALS: achieved by finding both TIME and SPACE
2016: HABITS
2015: MASTERY (and COLOR) + “Finish the Unfinished Objects”
2014: CREATE
2013: FOCUS
2012: DANCE

I’m not sure how much I really focused on #Practice this past year. Sometimes my theme word gets me started right and then fades away. Other times, my theme word stays close to every part of my year.

I turned 50 in September, and it really does feel very different to be a fledgling 50-something than it felt to be a 40-something. But I’m not entirely sure how I want that to guide me or inform me in 2019.

Also, 2018 was difficult in other ways–the political climate both domestically and abroad–and my political awareness continues to feel bombarded by the news. I’ll find myself fantasizing about studying other languages so that I can fluently survive somewhere else, not trapped in the US as an only-English-speaking American. The Boyo is in his upper-division years at college, so there’s a time somewhat soon when Sweetie and I could make any move or change we want, based on our goals, not the Boyo’s.

Balancing all these thoughts, it’s an odd week now before New Year’s.

Here, please enjoy a selection of photos of me from 2018

Ready for 2018: Word #Practice

My childhood best friend reminded me yesterday that the Word of the Year for 2017 I had selected was GOALS. I couldn’t remember that a week ago, and then my Facebook memories popped up today with the original post from last year. Kristina was right: It was GOALS. Oddly enough, I attended a workshop called, “Goal Setting for Artists” and came away from there thinking that I should focus on TIME and SPACE in order to achieve my dreams and goals. So I’m comfortable combining them all in my records for 2017.

Revisiting, these have been my theme words.

  • 2017: GOALS: achieved by finding both TIME and SPACE
  • 2016: HABITS
  • 2015: MASTERY (and COLOR) + “Finish the Unfinished Objects”
  • 2014: CREATE
  • 2013: FOCUS
  • 2012: DANCE

Today, I’ve found my theme word for 2018: PRACTICE.

Thoughts about PRACTICE

There are so many ways to interpret this. When skill-building, one needs to practice the newly acquired skills. You could ask yourself, “What are the habits I’m in the practice of repeating?” Am I practicing compassion? Do I practice patience? Have I practiced forgiveness toward myself or others? Could I practice better habits? Should I change the practice of being hard on myself? Do I practice financial responsibility? Have I practiced good community building skills? 

When I think about the various themes I’ve sought to embrace–Dance, Focus, Create, Mastery, Habits, Goals–it’s easy to see how I would then expand this into making regular practice of my pursuits. I want to practice my dance skills. I want to put focus into practice more frequently. I love practicing my various creative pursuits. Practice is the primary method for aiming for mastery. Practice must become part of my regular habits. And I can best narrow down *what* to practice if I have established my goals.

Setting my various priorities in place before me, it’s time to then practice what I preach.



Word of the Year

For several years, I spent the end of December coming up with a “Word of the Year” or a theme that could be used in place of resolutions in the New Year. I managed to find my notes in Dec 2015 for 2016 (it was the word “Habits”), but I wasn’t having any luck finding what I had selected for 2017.

Facebook doesn’t have an easy way to scroll backwards or search. And I hadn’t posted a blog about the issue. So I tried scrolling backwards on Twitter (love that Page Down button), and it stopped in January. And that’s when I realized why I probably hadn’t come up with a Word of the Year.

Because it took me a full month to get over my initial dismay of the election results. I wasn’t functioning emotionally for a month. And then we were well into December which meant supporting my Partner in the efforts of the season (as Santa) took all my brain power. Then in January I was quickly whisked off to dancing at ATS Reunion, and never noticed the lack of a word for the year.

Now I know why 2017 has been a little more scattered than some years. I did attend a workshop called “Goal Setting for Artists” in early January, where I probably set the closest thing to a word of the year as any. In my “dream big” assignment, I was able to boil down that the things needed to pursue my big dreams was “Time” and “Space.” Any of the efforts that interested me need me to prioritize how I use my time and to clear the clutter and make space for them.

I also had spent some considerable efforts in Daily Movement Prompts for most of the year, which I miss spending time on. It’s an effort that I would like to return to.

So, in retrospect, here are the theme words I’ve had over the years.

  • 2017: TIME and SPACE
  • 2016: HABITS
  • 2015: MASTERY (and COLOR) + “Finish the Unfinished Objects”
  • 2014: CREATE
  • 2013: FOCUS
  • 2012: DANCE

I’ll be thinking about what my plans are for 2018, so it’s nice to finally have some understanding of 2017.

And when you’re tired and not sure you can continue, you can do what I did in this photo here. Sit down and strike a pose. 

Strike a Pose. You’re Beautiful.