The Juggling Act

I am constantly working on multiple different aspects of the business. It’s not about multitasking or single-tasking but simply the amount and diversity of work that needs to be done. From the time I start my computer or walk in the front door of the building until the time that I finally shut everything down for the night I am pulled in a plethora of different directions. I spend time building up the team and developing their skills, managing project work, facilitating the management of other’s project work, answering questions and problem solving, balancing coaching and empowering, responding to emails, answering phone calls, and a whole host of other tasks. While some of those words might not be words you’d use to describe your day (heck a couple of them you may not even be 100% sure what they mean), I assure you much of what you and I are doing are very similar. At least that is what I always think while I’m working. This is not specific to me, everyone has to balance this, we’re all in this together, and I am not being singled out with all of this work there is just much to be done and I’m fortunate to be able to contribute to it.

Recently someone pointed out all of the things I’m juggling and how I never seem to drop a ball. My first instinct was to insist that that is absolutely untrue I do drop balls, more than I’d like to admit. We moved on the in the conversation but my brain could not let go of that image. Am I truly juggling more than others and doing it better? That just doesn’t seem likely to me, there is nothing special about me and what I do that would set me apart so there must be some other explanation. Still the image of the juggler hadn’t left my mind. It made me think back to a friend I had in high school who was something of a renaissance man. He had talent in literally everything he touched and juggling was no different. He could juggle a whole bunch of different objects and throw one or two behind his back and catch them again. He could incorporate new things as people tossed them in and toss or kick some of them to people watching. And he did it all with a smile that could keep 16 year old kids who would typically rather be testing out their new driving freedom or texting, engaged while watching juggling.

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I started to think of my own juggling act the same way. I’m doing the same thing as he was just with different balls. Some of mine are crystal, some are clay, and some are rubber. Obviously I need to keep the balls of crystal in the air. If one of those drops I, and anyone in the vicinity of me, are in big trouble because there will be shrapnel and there is just no putting it back in rotation. The clay balls might fall to the ground. Not ideal because they will surely be misshapen when they are picked up but they can also be smoothed out and put back together in the same, or nearly the same, shape they were in when we began. The rubber balls are the fun ones. Those are the balls that can drop to the ground and pop right back up into rotation. They might even bounce higher adding to the effect and engagement of those around you. Also important to think about here, these aren’t all my balls. Sure people might be throwing some in from the sides and sometimes I need to catch those and other times I’ll just smile and let them fly on past. Other times I need to toss a ball out, let it bounce to someone else, or let one of those clay buggers lay on the ground until someone else decides to pick it up and reshape it.

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Something about thinking back to watching him juggle made me realize that I was right all along. There wasn’t anything particularly special about me just as their wasn’t anything particularly special about him. We both took something that we had the basic skills for, had a strategy, prioritized, and considered the consequences. You’re doing the same thing. Your balls of crystal might be critical work functions, feeding your kids a healthy meal, or drinking your water. It is whatever you deem to be the top priority and something to be treated as a non-negotiable part of life. Your rubber balls might be group project at work, the laundry, or reading books with the kids at night. These things can take a beat (or a bounce) before you jump back in or maybe they even bounce over to someone else’s plate. Your clay balls could be a passion project at work, spring cleaning your kitchen, upgrading your workout equipment. The clay is something that can fall and just sit, but only for a time, before you (or someone else) pick them back up, dust them off, and reprioritize them into the flow of the act.

At the end of the day, you have to have a good technique and skilled hands. You have to know how high to throw the balls and when to take your eye off one. You have to know which ones are yours to juggle and which ones to pass off. How to catch one being thrown in from the side and when to allow it to just pass you right by. The skill comes in prioritizing them and treating them with the care each requires that allows you to have the best act. Will there be times that a crystal ball drops, yes. It will be messy and troublesome and we’ll all survive and keep moving forward. Will there be a time that you forget the rubber ball is in fact rubber and treat it as though life itself would end should it fall, sure. You’ll learn from it to help you improve your prioritization next time. The magic comes not in a person being so special they’re able to juggle but in putting in the time, the willingness to drop a few, and the continued practice for a great performance.

The Beauty of Rest

My entire life I’ve heard messages of go, go, go. Get this thing done and start that. Maybe even while you’re finishing that one up get a jump start on the next. I remember even as a kid being taught to clean bathrooms in a certain order that would allow maximum efficiency and no wasted time. I was in high school when I was told to listen to book recordings while I slept because my mind didn’t know the difference and I could learn all night. As an adult I have found so many ways to hack this. I listen to parenting podcasts while doing the dishes. I get up early to start laundry, coffee, and time for myself so when the kids get up I can multi task different things, things that they can be part of like racing to see who can dress first and who can finish breakfast and get to the bathroom to pick out the toothpaste first. At work is the worst of it. We try to squeeze every ounce of time and productivity out of our people and ourselves. We track hours and sometimes even minutes of the day with more precision and rigor than we track actual output and productivity.

I have seen companies create elaborate tracking systems that account for every minute of every day. Forcing employees tally tasks and time themselves with an online stop watch. It might be an accurate way to determine what people are spending their time on but imagine the message it sends? People feel distrusted, like they are being called lazy, they feel that you’re adding things (clicking the timer and tallying the task) to an already overly busy schedule. If you’re a leader (at work or in any other capacity) and thinking, well I would never do that to my people, think of the more subtle ways you’re pushing the go, go, go agenda? Do you expect your people to be “on” consistently before and after their shifts? Do you structure every minute of time for your kids with sports, clubs, or even educational play? Do you come to your spouse daily with what the agenda will look like for the family that night?

Coffee, notepad, laptop, phone calculator, I had it all going and still couldn’t seem to get more done. I think I even had laundry to be folded somewhere in the background.

Maybe you’re reading this feeling smug thinking, That isn’t me. Oh I know Suzie Q is soooo like this. I should share this with Suzie Q, but that isn’t me. I don’t push people like that. OK. So maybe it isn’t that pronounced. Are you the one preaching to everyone that they should take time to unwind, meanwhile you’re sending them emails at 8-9 o’clock at night? Are you encouraging your kids to play while you feverishly wash the dishes and pick up the toys left in their wake? Are you sitting on the couch, chatting with a friend, catching up with a colleague only to loudly announce that you have to get something done now, as if every moment leading up to the proclamation was wasted time?

What are we chasing? Is there some illusive finish line I’m not aware of where there is a busiest award? Is someone planning to include that in a eulogy at some point? I hope and pray no one stands at the celebration of my life and says, “What can I say about Kelly? She kept everyone on task and always pushed so hard to check things off the list.” Gross. There is no prize on this one guys. There is no trophy for creating the longest list and checking all or most of them off. Likewise, there isn’t a punishment for having a shorter list either. Do you need to be productive and contribute to the team raising the bar and exceeding expectations? Whole heartedly and unequivocally yes. But does that mean mean you need to have your foot on the gas in every aspect of life all the time? Not even close.

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I believe strongly that there is a time or a season for everything in life. I like to think of this in terms of music (Also I think in terms of farming, but I do a lot of rural life references so we’ll go with an orchestra this time.) If you imagine an orchestra with all of the different instruments and the conductor at the head, they never play an entire piece with everyone playing as loudly as they can. That would be too much. Too much for the members of the orchestra and too much for the audience. There is no beauty in that. There is no room for anything else. Not to mention the forte of a tuba and the forte of a violin are very different so the heavy quarter notes will overpower the playfulness of the strings every time. So they don’t all go hard all of the time. The conductor gently quiets and intensifies different sections as appropriate. There are times where that tuba is going to give it all he’s got. There are times when a saxophone will take the lead with some jazzy little interlude. There are times that violins will go back and forth with a playful melody and counter melody. It doesn’t all happen at the same time and it doesn’t happen for the duration. There are times when the bass just plays low slow quarter notes to keep time. There are times when the flouts will all just be set down because they have a 10 bar rest. Rest. They all will, at some point, and with varying lengths, rest.

No one calls the tuba player lazy because he isn’t playing louder. No one rolls their eyes at the flutist for resting a beat. We focus our eyes and our ears on another area of the orchestra. It gives us a chance to miss the high pitch staccato notes to hear the solo of another instrument. We understand that that is what makes the piece dynamic and interesting and fun to listen to. We enjoy it more for the ebbs and flows of intensity and rest. Why can’t we recognize that in life? Why can’t we enjoy our lives for the ebbs and flows of intensity and rest? There are times for us to be at forte or to be playing our solos. There are times to harmonize in the background. There are whole seasons where we just set our instruments in our laps because, its our time to rest.

Work, home, family, kids, finances, hobbies, faith, love, this is the orchestra of life. The balance of it all is understanding which of our instruments to play, at what volume, at what tempo, and whether we are melody or harmony. There is a time for you, and for all of those around you, to belt out that solo, there is a time to support the other players, and a time to set down the instrument and simply immerse yourself in the beauty of the music around you.

Serene Routine, Chaos Without

Picture it, the Hirn household after 5 days of winter break, painful. One child is jumping off of a couch asking for candy. Another is screaming in a timeout because he threw his brother’s new toy and when sternly told to go get it and give it back he responded with a, “Why don’t you get it?!” Another is begging for playdough while you can see the stream of toys strewn behind him that he essentially just pulled out only to move on to another thing. I can truly stand in the middle of all of that and think to myself, I did this, this is my fault.

Every year I tell them to live it up on break. Watch all the movies, sleep in and stay up late, play outside for 10 minutes then come in only to go back out for another 10. We eat a big breakfast or a late lunch or something else that throws off meal time so I let them have granola bars and string cheese for dinner, go nuts! Then literally, they go nuts. They don’t know why they can’t control themselves a week in. They just know that all of a sudden Mom is angry more often and they feel tired and wired at the same time.

Put the snow suit on, take the snow suit off, put the snow suit on, take the snow suit off…

Their habits are important. Kids need those structures and rituals, basic as they may be, to support them. It is easier for them to do what they are supposed to, like politely ask for a small piece of candy, play together with their siblings, speak respectfully to other people, and pick up a toy or two before asking for another. They can do those things, I’ve seen them with my own eyes. It isn’t just a fluke or a stroke of good fortune that does it though. It comes from knowing what to expect, it comes from full bellies, and sleep my goodness does it come from sleep. They are different animals when their sleep patterns are off. Most people with kids already know this right. I mean, we all fail at it to certain degrees, see above, where we think this will be good, lets have some freedom, then it all unravels in front of your eyes and you do the movie quality slow motion ohhhh nooooo as they start taking off their clothes at Grandma’s house.

Do you ever consider the power of your habits though? I mean sure, you probably know not to jump on the couch and keep your shirt on at family gatherings but maybe when your habits are falling by the way side you lose your shirt in other ways. I, for example, go to bed at the same time every day and wake up at the same time every morning. I do the same routine Monday through Friday with a ever so slight variation on the weekend. I feel accomplished and centered and focused on my key priorities when I do that. Then during break week I stay up later to pick up the house and do a load of laundry. It is harder for me to get up on time. I don’t get everything done in the morning to the same quality that I normally would. When that happens even one day, just one, I can feel that I am off. I am a little shorter with my temper and a little more distracted during the day as I try to multitask what I didn’t get done.

This was more of the break routine. “Mommy you snuggle me?” You bet.

As I write this, just yesterday my little dude had to say “Mommy will you play with me?” at least 5 times while I said in just a minute because I was trying to make up for lost time. On the last time (when it finally got through and I stopped messing with the vacuum) he said, “Mommy? Will you pweeese play with me, now?” How heart breaking does that sound? I promise you it is worse in person. Thankfully the drawn out please with the missing L did shake me out of my multitasking state. But sure enough I fell right into my other side effect of lack of habits as soon as the big guys came in from outside for dinner. They were all excited to tell me about their day and marched in with their snow gear still on. On a normal day I would have said something like, boots off first then I’d love to hear! but not yesterday. Nope, I greeted them by shouting that they get their stuff off and wash up for dinner.

So in my defense they had been fishing all day and really were pretty dirty.

Without the support of our routines and our positive habits we’re on unsteady ground. We use those very basic blocks as corner stones to keep our day on grounded. It could be as elaborate as reviewing your daily calendar, working out, getting in the Word, and setting an intention for the day or it might be that you brush your teeth at a certain time each morning. However simple or intense, it sets you up for success. This is why in It’s the Most Craziest Time of the Year, I make a big point of saying to stick to them. Now, clearly I know that it isn’t possible 100% of the time. In those instances, I would just encourage you to reflect and understand how missing them is impacting you, and those around you. When I yelled at my kids for coming in with their dirty, wet snow clothes on it would have been easy for me to entirely blame them for the situation but they aren’t responsible for my reaction. Having the routines, knowing they were jacked, and understanding how that effects me enabled me to redirect the course (including an apology) rather quickly.

A Year In Review

This week is magical, the week between Christmas and New Year’s. You’re fresh off the high of seeing the wonder, the twinkle, the joy, and the appreciation of Christmas on the faces of everyone you come in contact with. Whether it is face-to-face, over a family Zoom call, or, best of all, on the faces of little children. You can’t help but feel a little lighter and a little warmer during Christmas and just after. I have come to find there are two camps of people during this week. The first camp takes this week as an extension of the holidays. They lounge, watch movies, play with, or otherwise enjoy, the gifts they had gotten and use the time to recharge. Some people do this at work too. They don’t take vacation days but they do treat it as a little work vacation where they spend more time socializing than completing actual work. There is an entirely separate camp who uses this week as a jump start, a launch pad for all of their resolutions. They make all the lists and set the intentions and search out a new and exciting goal setting method that they’ll try out on January 1st.

I will admit I have been in both camps. I have spent days at work sharing coffee breaks with teammates that lasted an hour or more. I’ve sat in meetings where the actual topic took 10 of the scheduled 90 minutes. I have also gotten so much done during this week. I have researched healthy meal plans, organized closets and kitchens, and completed whole projects at work when there were no distractions. I enjoyed both options and never regretted either, and yet, I would suggest there is a third choice that combines the two in a healthy way, allowing you to recharge and accomplish something worthy while also leaving margin enough to fit some of your preferred style.

So, before we race toward the new year, the celebrations and the goal setting, I implore you to reflect. Take some time to intentionally consider the year behind you and ready yourself for what is to come in the year ahead. The way I am going to recommend you do this is through a process I use on a weekly basis at work, but with one added step for the year. We call this OLSA.

Where were you this time last year? Right off the bat you get the extra step. Obviously if you’re doing this exercise regularly you don’t need to remind yourself where you were last Monday, but at the close of a year, I think we need a reminder. Where were you, physically and mentally? It helps to start with physically and if you can’t really remember, try using your camera roll as a prompt. Did you have an addition to the family? Were you gleefully making plans for what the year would bring? Were you frustrated with a stage in your marriage? Was work in a slump and you were looking for a way out? Or maybe you were killing it at the office. You could have been wedding planning for months at that point. Were you hoping to have a baby of your very own? What activities were you doing and how were you reacting to it?

Once you have that clearly in your mind, we’ll walk through the full year. We won’t walk through it chronologically but by using OLSA as our guide. What is OLSA you may ask (besides a very fun word to call out with a Spanish flare) it stands for obstacles, lessons, suggestions, and achievements.

What obstacles did you encounter? Now, I know this question seems obvious, especially this year. What obstacles didn’t we encounter? Truly think about it though, be specific. What challenges did you face? Was there illness for you or your family? Job loss? Loss of loved ones? Did you face obstacles in your relationships? With your mental health? What were they? What caused them?

Yes building is an amazing opportunity but its an obstacle too. It takes time, money, and energy away from us both and is stressful on the little men.

What lessons did you learn? Sometimes these are concrete areas where you received education, I obtained my associates degree, but much more often they are tied to the obstacles. For example, maybe you learned not to take time with your grandparents for granted after losing one that was so special to you. Maybe you learned that you can save a lot of money by never getting your hair cut and dyed or that you’re a stress snacker which this year caused significant weight gain (This section isn’t called fixed it mind you, just recognition of the lesson learned). What sort of things did you learn about yourself, those around you, your house, your work, your team, anything?

What suggestions would you give yourself? Now that you’ve thought through all that you’ve faced and everything you’ve learned, would you give yourself any advice? Maybe you would go back and tell yourself that lunch with a friend matters so say yes more often and don’t squander it. Maybe you would suggest some grace and remind yourself that you’re doing well and your priorities are solid so be gentle, you will weather any storm. Maybe you’d tell last years’ January version of you that those last 15lbs don’t matter, buy the bathing suit and take the trip now, enjoy.

What did you accomplish? This is always the one to end with. It reminds you you are strong and you’re running your race passing mile markers all along the way. Maybe you taught your children, something you would have previously said you weren’t capable of. Maybe your marriage is stronger than ever or maybe you were finally shown just how toxic it was and made a decision to turn a new page. Maybe you’ve grown in your work and persevered through all of the obstacles. Maybe you made other’s feel loved and that they mattered. Maybe you just continued living, and in the face of everything, that is pretty dang good.

I accomplished so much but one of my favorites on the list was learning how to be a better mom to teach and lead these crazies.

My recommendation in this is to take each of these one day at a time. Reflection is best done slowly and with margin. If you rush it you’re likely not getting the full benefit. Leaving your mind open all day long to the page allows for so many more opportunities to add to it. Now, I am a big proponent of you doing you and it’s not nice to should on people so I won’t. If you want take an hour a day and journal it all out, amazing, do that. If you want to muse about all 5 on your 20 minute commute, great, do that. Some reflection is better than no reflection. Even if you are really on board and want to take every evening to consider, journal, meditate on, pray about, and discuss in a small group setting, there is still margin of the other two days in the week to find your meal plans, organize your closet, watch your movies, and eat all the left over Christmas cookies. So enjoy, add your own flare, and consider how far you’ve come!

It’s the Most Craziest Time of the Year

I may have shared before how much I hate Fridays. People always seem to need things by the end of the week and if that comes up on Monday cool beans, but when it comes up on Friday that’s just a gentler way of saying, make my need your top priority and get it done now. I am very conscious of owning my schedule and making sure it has the margin and organization I need so I can typically account for these demands but it frustrates me. There is a much bigger version of this that happens at year end. We (individually and collectively) cast a vision for where the year will take us, create numerous goals that support that vision, spend months working toward it with many other priorities being cast on us along the way, and then around November and December everyone consults their goal list again and starts firing off demands and plans to accomplish a mountain of work by year end. Again, all of the important things seem to get done but seriously, frustrating.

This is already one of the busiest times of the year on a personal level with holiday traditions, time spent with family and friends, and all of the preparations that come along with it. For some reason it is also made to be the busiest time of year with work. Why companies don’t offset their calendars for things like annual trainings, performance reviews, goal setting for the year to come, and more, I will never know. (I don’t see why that ‘year’ couldn’t run from April to March every year but I guess no one really asked me.) Couple that with your personally professional goals, the aforementioned goals and plans of other people, and you have a solid two – three months of running yourself completely ragged, oh and don’t forget to be merry and bright. Give your kids a magical season and make sure that they are interested and well behaved for the family Zoom call with Aunt Betty.

I didn’t count how many times I said it but seconds before this shot I got to Mom Volume 10 with, “JUST PUT THE ORNAMENT ON THE TREE NICELY SO I CAN TAKE A PICTURE!”

There is just too much. I cannot hold it all. It is almost like this time of year is a hundred pound Jell-O mold on your Great Grandmother’s crystal serving platter that you promised to bring to your Mom’s, a friend’s, the office party, and your own family. Bring Jell-O sounded easy enough when you committed but now you’re trying to lug around this giant gelatinous glob on a priceless heirloom, without making a mess of yourself, and smile into the party. Oh and even if you manage to make it work the first time you have two more entirely different groups to impress with your strength, balance skills, and charm, so get ready. My arms are tired, my back hurts, I hate Jell-O, and all I can think is, please don’t trip! I don’t know that I’ve entirely dropped it yet but I can tell you that, many years (this one likely included) I’ve gotten to the second or third party with more lime on my shirt than on the plate.

I want to do well. I want to achieve more, raise the bar, provide a fun and challenging environment for my team, co-workers, and family quite honestly. I can’t do it all right now. Below are some things I remind myself of in times like this, hoping they’ll be a help to you too.

Take some perspective

The stress and demands of the season may feel big, and like you cannot handle them but I promise you, you’ve been here before. Last year had it’s own challenges and you handled them, relatively unscathed. You were still crushing it at work. Your kids lookback on it fondly. If you happened to drop the dang Jell-O everyone has either forgotten or knows they’ve totally dropped it a few years before too. You got this. Take a deep breath, remember that you don’t have to control everything because its already under control, and lets go.

Keep your routine

This doesn’t say create a routine. This is not an add. This is, if you normally go to bed at 10, don’t start staying up until mid-night. If you typically drink a 1/2 pot of coffee in the morning, don’t suddenly increase to a full pot or, conversely, decide that you’re doing away with all stimulants and you now only drink herbal tea. If you work out daily and drink all the water, don’t skip it to make Jell-O while downing Mt Dew to make you more productive. Now is neither the time to throw your body out of whack or throw your good habits out the window. In times of stress you need stability and normalcy, keep what you got. You could drink and extra glass of water now and then or think of a few things you’re grateful for but don’t get crazy, stick to what you know for now. If you have some cool new plan to raise the bar, awesome, let’s revisit in a month or two.

Prioritize

You cannot do everything well so the first step is to decide what is important. If there are 50 things on your work list and another 50 on your home list, somethings likely aren’t getting done and others are going to be checked off the list. Accept that it is going to happen (reread take some perspective) and identify what items in both lists you can’t risk phoning it in on. Maybe your asks from other people are piling up. Organize and categorize them to find what is most critical. It might be the requests from your boss, the first to have come in, the smallest effort ones so you can cross the most off. Maybe you and your kids have had a crazy whirlwind of a last few months (ahem it’s 2020 who is this not true for?) and you need some down time without phones, iPads, or yelling at each other back and forth about what homework needs to be done. Identify what is important, what will have the greatest impact for you and those around you, and focus your time, effort, and intentions there.

Set boundaries

You are responsible for you, not you and everyone you come in contact with. If there are things that are falling onto your plate inappropriately, push. them. off. Respectfully and professionally of course. You have your own 15 or 50 or 100 things to do today and you can’t take on the next gals list of 50 too. If it is sucking your time (and the life out of you) to work on a low priority project with someone, tell them you don’t have any more time to devote to it until after the holidays. If this person happens to be your boss or relative or some other non negotiable person, you can still do this, just a little more diplomatically, ‘I have ABCDEFG to complete in the next week, XYZ (which conveniently doesn’t include their topic) are critical, I think we should continue this work (conversation, time etc) after the holidays when there is more capacity.’ If they disagree they can help come up with ideas on how to reprioritize.

Share the burden

Most of the people around you that are demanding every ounce of everything you have, are good people with good intentions and don’t realize what they are asking of you. They are willing to help if they know what you need and here is a key, they don’t have to help with the things on your list. For example, if you are overwhelmed at home needing to plan a menu, go shopping, wrap the presents, buy a few more presents and then wrap those, you might be thinking no one else can do that. You know what they can do, clear dinner and do the dishes every night this week so that you can focus on what’s on the list. Or perhaps its at work that you need to lead the training, write the performance reviews, write your own self review, and review next year’s strategy. You certainly can’t give those things to the team but you can encourage them to ask questions of each other, let your boss know where your focus is so she won’t bombard you with more asks (and if she does she’ll know why you’re not responding), and decline a meeting or two where there are plenty of smart people around that don’t need your direction. This is called empowering those around you and creating leaders, you’re strengthening the whole of the group even in this crazy season, ata girl.

Make sure there is margin for the important things. Like impromptu snow angels on a frozen pond.

This is not the sort of list you can skip to the bottom on. You need gain perspective before you can appreciate your routine. You need to understand your routine to know how what time you’ll have available to devote to your priorities. You won’t know where to set boundaries or how to share the burden if you don’t have your list prioritized. I know this time of year is a lot. I know this year in particular is a lot. Through all of this though you are not alone, now and always I would encourage you to share your burden with the one who is strong but their burden is light.

Under Construction

If you ever have the opportunity to build your own home I highly encourage it. I am currently in the process of building our third, and final, home (fourth actually if you include that my parents built ours when I was kid). It is an amazing process to start from nothing but a plot of ground and in a few months (we’ll use that loosely) time you could be moving into a fully erected home that is completely designed and wholly loved by you. In case you have never had the opportunity, let me describe it for you from my uniquely experienced perspective.

The blank slate that would become our home.

When you decide to build a house there is this, almost honeymoon phase where you are just dreaming of what it could be. You often don’t start with real specifics but more so what you want to do or feel when you’re in it. For example, I want to be able to see my kids playing when I do the dishes. I want to watch the snow fall while I read a book. I want my bedroom window to face the north so I don’t see the traffic first thing when I wake up in the morning. I want light switches I can reach from my bed so I don’t have to get back out to turn them off at night. I want everything I need on the main floor so I can stay in this home as long as possible. I would even suggest you take it to the individual room. When I’m in the bathroom I want to feel relaxed and like I’m entering a mini spa at home. Or, I want tons of light to do meticulous make-up. Or, I need enough room to get all the kids’ teeth brushed and have a big enough sink to set a tiny butt up there when I need to wash out a skinned knee. While none of these actually dictate the budget, they do point you in the direction of your priorities. Once you understand what the key areas are you can start designing the house around them. There are a million designs online you can use for inspiration, draw out your ideas yourself, or work with a professional to meld the dream with reality.

Then you come fully into reality. You work with a builder and maybe even directly with a couple of subcontractors who let you know what will and won’t work from the perspectives of time, money, and functionality (you can’t have both all the cabinets and all the windows, you have to pick). Finally the home starts to take shape, on paper of course. In the midst of figuring out financing and signing contracts you start to add in the details, big and small. Do we want oak cabinets or hickory? Or maybe painted with glass doors? What style of faucets should we have in the bathrooms? And the kitchen? And the mud room? Do we get window coverings? Blinds or curtains? What color should this wall be? Should that room be a different color or the same? Should this room have carpeting or wood? Laminate or tile? Door hardware? Cabinet hardware? This is where I think so many people get into trouble building. There are so many decisions and you have to make all of them off of blueprints, tiny samples, and memory of what you already chose. They have a huge impact on the comfort, style, and cost of the home. This is where you need to use all of your organization and research tactics, rely on your experts, and use your original dream for how this home would feel, and your budget, as your guides. If you have no idea what sort of tile to put in your bathroom, remember what you wanted to feel while there, consult your flooring budget, take a look at Pinterest or HGTV for some inspiration, and work with those who know it best to make a final decision.

At the top of the stairs with the view of where the Christmas tree will be.

While the house is physically taking shape you can go often to experience the progress and see what you were dreaming about come to life. I literally stand in my bedroom with stud walls up only thinking, this is where I’ll wake up every morning. I stand in the kitchen where the stove will be imagining my kids running through the dining room and into the living room while I’m making dinner. I stand where the couch will sit imagining being all curled up with my husband and a hot cup of tea watching the lights on the Christmas tree next year. As much as I’m able, I experience the feelings I want the home to give me (and encourage all my dudes to do the same) all through the process. I want this place to feel like ours from the moment we carry the first box in. Each house that we’ve built has felt like home and like my heart is connected to each and every stud and electrical box and piece of drywall in the place. There have been a variety of budgets and differences in the intricacies of the homes but I can tell you that I was as invested in and loved the least expensive and simplest of them every bit as much as the more expensive and and intricate.

This is likely where some of you who have built are rolling your eyes at me. Yes there are mistakes, stray lights that you never asked for, gaps in the tile where the amount of grout looks weird, and wall colors that come out nothing like you planned. There are fights too (with all of the choices how could there not be) there are disagreements about all of the details where you fight nearly to the death about the shade of counter top and then the really bad ones where you never talked about it at all, assuming you were on the same page, and the foundation is poured with the house facing a different direction than you intended. You have to see past all of that. You have to see the end result and what you’re working toward. Those specifics are important but they’re really just part of building that feeling. Regardless of all of the rough spots, it is one of the most rewarding experiences because I’m using the detail to support the ideals.

Same view as the first picture. We’re getting there.

This is the same way I feel about building anything in life, but for this example, my career.

Start with the dream

I don’t limit myself to the next step or where I see myself next year. I start with the dream of where I want to be, supported by how I want to feel when I’m there. What is the lifestyle I want to lead? Do I want more time with my family? A bigger paycheck? What is the impact I want to have? Can I picture myself sitting in that office? Do I want to be running the floor with those people? Am I happy and fulfilled? Am I supporting the happiness and fulfillment of others around me? Then as the end goal starts to take shape I’m able to ask the more concrete questions.

Use your resources

What does this ideal picture look like functionally and logistically? When your dream is big and abstract (whether its a home or a career or anything else) it can be difficult to bring it back down into a manageable arena. This is where I’ll say again, you need to use all of your organization and research tactics, rely on your experts, and use your original dream for how you would feel, and your budget, as your guides. Search the web, not for openings, but for positions that sound like what you’re looking for. This can be totally out of your comfort zone because remember, its the end goal, not your next move. The budget sounds silly in this example but still rings true. I don’t know how often I’ve heard people say I want limited hours and a job I can leave at work so it doesn’t interfere with the family but they are living on an executive budget. (Low stress, limited hours jobs that pay six figures are hard to come by my friend.) The research will not only help you determine what but how to get there as well. If you’ve done the research and aren’t sure of the next step, consult an expert. Talk to a mentor, hire a coach, or come at it from a different angle like asking someone who seems to be living the life you’re after what they do and how they got there (aka finding a mentor).

Experience it while its under construction

Do everything you can to experience the end goal, the feelings you wanted to feel, while you’re working toward it. You wanted to travel more? Let yourself feel that excitement and anticipation while you’re taking a trip now, even if it’s just camping 30 minutes away. You wanted to have a greater impact on more people, add that value while you’re working with your small sphere now. Do everything you can do to lean into and enjoy all of the reasons you started this journey in the first place.

Keep your eye on the prize

Things will come up that will derail you. It could be not moving through your journey as fast as you’d like. It could be needing to take a sidestep or a step back to focus on family or to prepare yourself for the next role. It could be even bigger, those decisions that were never considered and outside of your control. Keep that end goal in mind and you’ll find that you’re truly living the dream while you work toward it regardless of where you are.

Practice How You’ll Play

I played a lot of sports in high school “Lettering” all four years and starting in many of them. That sounds good right; should I stop there? I’ll be honest, I was pretty awful. The reason I played all of the sports and on paper sound like Amy Athletic is because our school was so small. There were years that ours girl’s basketball team didn’t have enough people to play offense and defense at practice. We could only practice in drills or with the offense at an advantage because defense was in a box zone with no “and 1” to cover the 5th girl. I tried really hard to make up for that. I was scrappy and quick and I could make it pretty difficult to get down the court or take a shot. That is where my dull amount of athletic talent really shined, just as brightly as it could, defense on the basketball court. I played defense so dang hard. Offense though, touching the ball, no thanks.

I remember early on in my basketball career, which spanned from the time I was 11 to 18, the coach telling me to practice harder. Why would I do that? I was conserving my energy I told him. In my infinite preteen wisdom, I thought I should think through the drills, practice at half speed, and then I would do it perfectly come game time. Anyone who’s practiced any sport, played an instrument, or developed any sort of new skill knows, there is a time to go slow and think it through and there is a time to go hard and practice like you’ll play or perform when the stakes are raised.

This is a shirt my sister made to ‘support’ me in a playoff game my senior year.
Even my family knew my skills were… less than impressive.

The point of practicing how you play is to be in the same zone you’ll be in at game time. You want to be practicing so hard and intentionally that you are developing the right habits in high intensity situations. It also, allows you more opportunities to reflect on where your instincts went wrong. For example, you instinctively hesitate when someone sets up to defend your layup. If you do it during practice there is a better chance its noticed and you and your coach will have more opportunities to work through it. Or in my case, if you instinctively throw your arms over your face the moment a ball is passed to you with any speed, recognizing it before game time would be significantly less embarrassing.

So this is fun right, getting your basketball coaching notes from a person who is clearly inept in the sport? If you’ve followed me for long I bet you’re already coming up with all the ways this applies to office life. Maybe you’re thinking of preparing for, and participating in, meetings that aren’t a big deal as if they are, having easy conversations with your team with the same intentionality as if they were difficult ones, or treating a social gathering with someone higher on the ladder than you as a casual interview even though there is no job offer out there (yet). Those are all true and I could talk for hours on those strategies, but where “practice how you’ll play” really stands out for me is in my marriage.

Practice how you’ll play in action: I delayed my race start time so he could come home early from hunting and see me finish

Early in our relationship I fell into the same trap I did in junior high basketball. I’ll just think about the things that need to be worked on, instead of having true conversations. I’ll go half way by sprinkling in some hints about why I’ve been irritated, and if the intensity increases I can fall back on old instincts and just cry until he says it was all his fault. Sounds ridiculous right, but maybe a little familiar too? It was because I wasn’t treating those “small” things like the practice they were. I wasn’t using them as the training ground to hone my skills, and frankly, neither was he. If you don’t practice clear, honest, objective communication you won’t have the skills when you need it. We all need to use those little things like, “You’ve been home late the last 3 nights and I feel like I am doing everything” and “Why can’t the clean laundry ever just be put away because I can’t find anything” as the drills and the scrimmage. If you’re not practicing the positive skills you’re reinforcing the negative ones. That is just how it works, you can’t be neutral.

My lack of practicing the positive habits, and reinforcing the negative, meant that I was practicing how I would play, which was not the way I wanted the game to go. I used to say that I would be in a fight with my husband for 45 minutes before I even invited him in. This meant that I had already escalated to full on anger, planned my perfect responses to any points he could make, and often my thoughts had spiraled to the point that we were not on speaking terms (in my mind) before I even told him what was wrong. I wasn’t practicing how to work through anything I was just practicing getting really mad at my husband and winning the argument.

A date night before deer season was a direct result of us improving our plays and communication.

Now, though I would never pretend we practice our drills perfectly, we are practicing the right skills and practicing them the way we’d want to play. Our discussions center around a single set of values, shared goals, objective truths, and expressing how we’re feeling. We try very hard not to talk for the other person unless it is to build them up. When things start going down the wrong path we are each quick to call a time out and reevaluate how we got there. These are the plays I want in the game and with another 20-30 years of practice, I hope our execution is near flawless.

Things I’m reminding myself of

This is never going to be perfect. There was an instance just the other day where I started spiraling. I had to literally tell myself out loud ‘Stop!’ Once you are intentional about what is and is not in the playbook, getting back to it is easier. Also, my husband was not escalated when we started the discussion so I wasn’t tempted to meet him at some higher level. The great thing about practicing with a partner who is all in with you, is they can fill in your gaps. If you both fall short at the same time, you can typically both recognize and move forward next time.

There are a million skills in this world that you can become an expert in. The skills of fighting with someone you love and respect I would argue are some of the most critical. You need to be able to listen and articulate thoughts and feelings. You need to be able to influence and compromise. You have to be able to admit you’re wrong and fix it or just apologize. There are few instances where your emotions will be stronger and your opinions will be held tighter than when it applies to your spouse. If you can be objective and clear headed in the face of that, there is no telling what you can do in the board room.

Make them Thirsty

A lot of what I do centers around continuous improvement. I lead groups of people who are singularly focused on their own niche way of making things better. Whether that be an improvement to a form that allows them to be compliant with a regulation, identifying areas of improvement in quality handling of a situation, developing training to build on skills, or fill gaps, or identifying avenues to improve our financial results. My team and I are always driving changes that will improve something. I love this about my work. We are ever evolving creatures and I think its critical to be looking for ways to do things faster, make things easier, cross the Ts and dot the Is but do it better than we did yesterday. My teams are good at it too. They are like detectives searching out clues to improvement and then collaborating themselves and with everyone else who would be involved in the end gains to make them come to life. For me, and the people in my groups, it is invigorating to do this work and see it come to fruition.

Do you know what it looks like to someone who is on the receiving side of all that continuous improvement? Great new ideas that they logically agree with but get tired of rolling out. The thing about continuous improvement is that is keeps going, continuously. Not that we’re always changing the same thing but we’re always “up to something”. Every time someone is invited to a meeting with myself or a member of my team they know there will be either gaps identified that we’re suggesting ways to fill or we’re presenting a new way to approach something or we’re sharing news from an outside entity that is requiring us to make a change. It is no wonder then that some people look tired the minute I walk into a room.

One of my continuous improvement recipients who says,
“Mom I hear you, I just don’t want to.”

This is true at home too except that I don’t so much have a team in involved in discovering and implementing changes. I do have tired little faces looking back at me when I announce we’re going to plan the meals, start a chore chart, turn our own socks right side out, feed the dogs, and put our shoes away in pairs rather than a kicked off couldn’t-find-your-match-if-you-searched-for-an-hour pile. I check all the boxes from explaining the why, to creating the plan, and providing reinforcement and yet, sometimes these little buggers don’t hop on board the family improvement plan with gusto, or even at all. I mean they are good plans and the boys agree logically. In the words of my seven year old, “Mom, I hear you, I just don’t want to.”

You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink.

For the longest time that proverb meant to me, I led you here, now it’s up to you. Which can be true I guess but my goodness that seems like a short road from here is this great idea and this is how we can implement it to, well, your loss! Sorry you didn’t want to follow the new process I suggested, now you’re out of compliance with the state. Sorry you didn’t want to use the coaching tools I provided, now I guess your teams won’t get the benefit. Sorry you didn’t want to put your shoes away boys, now we’ll all just yell and cry before heading to school with mismatched cowboy boots in January because we can’t find anything. To top all of that off, I’m sure you can see how short of a jump (tiny shuffle really) it is from “your loss” to “told you so.” Which is a pretty useless place to be if you’re looking to have influence and drive change.

You can hardly tell they’re mismatched if you pull your jeans over the top.

Now it seems to me that there is another aspect to that old proverb that may have been missed in our more recent use of it. That is, how do we get them thirsty enough to take a drink? How do we make them want what we’re leading them to? Then, how do we stay patient at that watering hole long enough for them to decide to drink? I don’t pretend to have all the answers to all of that because everyone and every situation is different but I do have a few thoughts to consider in figuring it out for yourself.

Better understand what they are thirsting for.

Maybe what you’re offering does fill a need but its not a primary need of theirs right now. Ask the questions, then listen, and find out what they do want. If you’re able, set your cool new idea on the back burner and work on fixing the their primary need. They are thirsty yes, but also sun burnt. Until you can alleviate the sun burn they aren’t coming out from under the shade tree for a drink.

Maybe they do need and want what you’re offering but your pitch is off. You’re trying to explain all of the why’s associated with the change you want to implement and they are getting whiplash from all the reasons. Understanding why they need the water and simplifying to just meet that specific need will improve your likelihood that they’ll follow. Explaining that the lake is spring fed and pure, untouched by human hands, its been shown to make you look younger, live longer, and jump higher might leave them wondering if it actually quenches thirst.

Wait patiently for them to take a drink.

Maybe they don’t quite notice they are thirsty yet. They understand everything you’re saying but they just don’t see the need. With our limited time and resources (at work or in the play day) we all want to take a strategic approach and only push on things that truly are broken. Show them, through clear examples and preferably from another person’s perspective (and voice), all of the ways they are parched and how this stream you’ve guided them to can help.

Maybe they aren’t resisting at all they are just taking a beat. Sometimes when we need to think through something to better understand and invest in it ourselves; we need a moment to consider. When someone jumps in with a, “you get what I’m saying right?” we are all but forced into choosing a side when we’re not ready. Allow them the time to take those last couple steps toward the water and drink on their own terms.

Make a Bigger Circle

How frequently do you all play farm? No, just me? Ok well then allow me to let you in on this riveting game that is played in my house at least once a day every single day of the week. Playing farm is when you drag out every single truck, trailer, tractor, combine, grain bin, silo, cow, horse, pig, fence post, you get the picture. You set everything up across the living room while creating an elaborate backstory for your family that includes 10 kids, older brothers who race dirt bikes and show animals at the fair, and own multiple pieces of property designated for specific purposes. Then the really fun part, you spend the rest of the time (often to your parents horror) acting out all of the goings on of adult life as you see it through your little eyes. I have had the opportunity to play farm in which we were traveling to a new property we had just purchased when I was sharply told to “sit down, close your mouth, and buckle your seatbelt or we’re not going anywhere.” Well, that was an eye opener. There have also been countless times where we head from the farm to the local supper club and my toddler belly’s up to the coffee table and says “I’ll take some chicken nuggets and a Mommy beer please.” Cool, I mean at least he has good taste.

I have had some proud moments playing farm as well. Recently we were getting everything set up and I was in charge of livestock. There wasn’t much for animals out for this session so I decided we’d have a dairy farm and set all of the cows out to pasture. I started setting all the cows to face each other (difficult when you’re trying to get tiny animals to stand in shag carpeting) when my son announced that cows don’t stand like that, “What are they even doing?” Without really thinking I just said, “They’re having a meeting.” I wanted there to be a reason so I wouldn’t have to move the perfectly balanced cows. He considered it and came back with, “Well, if there is a meeting on the farm don’t you think the sheep and the donkey should be there?” “Sure,” I told him, “the circle is pretty full though. They can stand in the back.” “No mom,” he looked at me a little confused, “we can just make a bigger circle.”

Two of my little farmers. It wouldn’t be proper farming if you didn’t look the part.

It is both exciting and terrifying how much these little sponges pick up. Not only that but the context they understand it in. They don’t understand that I said, “Ok can we all get buckled?” three times before I lose my cool start making threats, because as every parent knows whatever came out of your mouth on the fourth try doesn’t count. They remember that we typically do get to threat stage and the things that made them feel something. They remember that they were scared when we yelled in the truck and that they were happy and excited as we started ordering food and drinks. They remember when we made them feel included and made a “bigger circle” for them. They understand consistency and remember how they felt; then they apply it to their games and their lives. The application doesn’t come because of intentionally striving for growth. Most of it comes from them remembering life as they understand it and assuming it is right and normal. Every day they are being taught these things as we go through life. So what does that mean for us adults? What should we be gleaning from this? Two things, consistency influences and follow the emotion.

Consistency Influences

The kids are being taught through everyday life, and so are we. We like to think we learn and develop from intentional things, we attend a course, we research a topic, we seek out an expert. It might be ok to recognize that kids learn through what they are surrounded by, they are young and impressionable after all, but we don’t want to think of ourselves that way. I am an independent thinking, critically discerning, person we tell ourselves. I seek out the truth and am not swayed (we stand a little taller and puff out our chest a bit). Hate to break it to you, but it’s time to step down off that soap box and admit it, you are influenced by what you’re surrounded by every single day, so is your team. That is why you can’t do a one-and-done training and expect people to change a behavior, you have to model and drive the change. “Make a bigger circle” didn’t just coincidently fall out of my son’s mouth, inclusion is a value we model every day. Are you modeling the behaviors you want to see in those around you? Or are you telling people they should attend Diversity and Inclusion training and then going about your normal day without living it out? What other values are you hoping those in your sphere of influence will adopt? Ask yourself honestly, are you living them consistently?

Follow the emotion

Adults are not that advanced from kids. I know we’d all like to assume we’re smarter than these children, and in some ways we are. We can usually make the link between how our actions, choosing not to listen the first three times our boss explained how they wanted the work done, contributed to the end result, them being irritated that the standard wasn’t met. I say usually because who among us hasn’t been personally offended when we get pulled over forgetting that it was in fact us who chose to drive 80 mph on the highway. We have a bit more understanding around how we got somewhere but how we feel in a situation still drives our understanding. If we leave late and then follow a car doing the speed limit, we understand that we’re still late because we left late but we aim our frustration at the person in front of us because our emotion is saying that they are now the problem. If we are experiencing some pain at work that we then only voice to our buddies over drinks, we understand (usually) that the problem cannot be corrected because we’re not sharing it with the right people but we typically expand our anger to include the problem and those who aren’t fixing it. Keep that in mind when you’re working with people, connect the message and lesson you’re trying to convey with an emotion. You can do this a few ways, by creating an emotion with the message itself (this takes skill in understanding how to create the message), showing vulnerability in the emotion the topic makes you feel (share honestly from your heart), or capitalizing on an emotion the person or the group is having (help them direct why they feel that way and what a solution would be linked to a value you want to impress).

Your teammates aren’t children but they are still driven by consistency and emotion. Telling them to do something like “Put the customer first,” “Act ethically,” “Strive for continuous improvement,” and any other typical company value won’t have an impact unless you model it, draw the connection of others modeling it, and attach an emotional component. That is why it is so important to practice the lessons you want them to take away and make them feel it.

Harness Your Passion

When was the last time you were passionate about something, anything really? Maybe you’re living your passion right now and that would be amazing but lets be honest, most of us have to look back a few years to find a time that we had a true passion project, if we can find one at all. This is absolutely not true of kids, there is passion in every single thing they do. Their intensity for anything from trucks, to babies, to make believe games of lava on the floor, and empty paper towel rolls runs the fine line of inspiring and annoying. You could literally have a 6 month old Tootsie Roll and a two year old would have a want and a why big enough to drive them from a sweet “pwees Mommy” to the ends of their problem solving (and chair pushing, cupboard climbing) skills and straight into despair (pictured as a tantrum on the floor) for not having said Tootsie Roll. And they don’t even really like Tootsie Rolls! The reason they are still there 6 months later is because all of the good candy was eaten first. I am quite certain there is not a single goal that I have that I care as much about as my kids care about Tootsie Rolls; the old, hard, subpar, stick in your teeth candy that they don’t even like.

Earning his Tootsie Rolls, while still in “despair” mode.

What would happen if we did though? What if we cared about the great passions of our life like they care about, literally everything. What if we cared about the mundane boring parts of life, that we left for last as we devoured the parts we actually liked, like they do? I am in no way suggesting that we all lay down the law by screaming and kicking our feet when we don’t get the promotion we feel we deserve or no one emptied the dishwasher. I am saying, what if we manufactured enough drive to escalate ourselves through all of our bag of tricks and problem solving skills to work toward something? Did you know you can do that? You can manufacture drive? (I know, it was news to me too.) You can make yourself want to refill the paper in the printer, or complete the report, or answer the email, or schedule the oil change, or fold the laundry, or whatever your version of the old, hard, subpar, stick in your teeth candy is. You just need to do two things too. One is psychological, knowing your why, and the other is physiological, getting yourself hyped about the why and the thing.

Knowing your why

Why are you doing the thing in the first place? For me, finding your why is at least 50% of the battle because it is a reminder that I am choosing to do the thing. We choose every single action we take. Let’s take for example laundry. I don’t need to do that. Most of the time my family could care less if their clothes are clean let alone neatly folded and put in their drawers. So why am I doing that? I want the mornings to be smooth with as little stress as possible. Without the frazzled family searching for (and giving a sniff test to) different options. I don’t want them, or others, distracted by the state of their attire once they get where they are going. It culminates into a why of, making them comfortable and confident as they leave the house. I want to do the laundry because it is a means of accomplishing that why.

Let’s try a professional example, answering email. Anyone that I have ever met who works in an office, no matter the position or status, has complained about getting too many emails. You’re choosing to open, read, respond, and complete work based on the emails you’re getting. Based on the original comment you’re doing much more of it than you want to too. I am right there with you too! Why are we doing this? It is the best way to communicate one message to many people especially when the people aren’t in close proximity to each other. I want to get everyone on the same page and allow for thoughtful (because there isn’t the dreaded 3 seconds of dead air that there would be in a meeting) collaboration from all parties. So why am I responding and acting on them? I want to be part of the solution. I want to have my voice heard in decision making. I want to be an active participant in the direction we’re moving in. I’m not handling email because I have to answer email. I want to do it because I want to advance the team and the company in our mission.

Hyping yourself up (make sure you’re alone for this part, it can get a little intense)

You might think that those lofty ‘why’s’ were hyped enough but consider that those were just a head space change. A change in framing and mindset. Hyping yourself up is the feeling you get in your chest listening as a crowd cheers for an encore and you hear the opening bars of your favorite song. You may not feel it quite so strongly in respect to emptying the dishwasher but you can make yourself feel it, here’s how. Read out loud your list of why’s and read it with intention. Imagine yourself listing them off to a locker room of football players before they go out for the second half. Move your body as you say them with more intensity as you get to the biggest of the culmination of why. Then, bigger yet, throw a fist in the air, start jumping back and forth, as you start talking about what the ‘why’ might do for you, or the people you’re doing it for. To take it back to my laundry example, if my kids are comfortable and confident they’re going to have better grades, make more friends, be empowered to try new things, be more resilient when they get knocked down!

Can you feel it yet? Your heart is racing or mind is focused or excitement level is through the roof, all over, laundry. That, is hyping yourself up. You are classically conditioning your body to react this way to the thought of something that is incredibly mundane. Like a dog salivating when a bell signals a treat is on the way, you’re training your body to have a physiological response. It takes time though. Keep up the practice though and those things you’ve been pushing off your list will not only get done but with vigor and intentionality.

Sometimes the goal needs to just get a little creative.

This is one of those simple but not easy things. It is not a difficult concept and is certainly something that everyone can do but it isn’t as if you try it one day and it “just works.” The question could then be, why bother? Why do I need to be passionate about laundry and email; isn’t it enough that it just gets done eventually? Yeah, that would work and is honestly how most people are doing it. It isn’t really about the one thing you’re trying to improve. You’re not putting in the work exclusively to make mundane things fun. You’re putting in the work to get excited about advancing your why, in any form that takes. Some times it’s easy to see the relationship of the little things to the greater mission but most of the time the connection is muddled. Clarifying what your why is allows clarity and getting excited about even the smallest impactors to it will help you advance that ball.

Things I’m reminding myself of

I will not come at everything with the intensity of a two year old. (This is both a reminder of grace and a mantra to pull myself back.) I have neither the energy nor the desire to do that. It again comes down, as most things do, to intentional priorities. I have a specific career why that manufacturing drive to get up at 4 am will propel me forward in. Awesome, I’ll focus there. If I have a specific health why that manufacturing drive to make consistently adventurous, cancer fighting, plant focused meals will move me toward. Cool, I’ll add that. I plan to still allow my dishes air dry, my mail to go unopened, and my office to go undecorated for years. Maybe those will make the top 5 list another day.

Once you figure out how to do this, and it does take time, it is easier and easier to apply it to things in the short term. For example, maybe you’ve chosen answering emails quickly, thoroughly, and concisely as your priority. You’ve determined your why of supporting your team and boss and you’ve successfully been able to get yourself excited to do it. Now there is a request that you complete a report for your boss. This clearly falls into the why, and is dare I say a step toward a bigger why based on the success you’ve had in your email writing, but I digress. You can employ the same tools in the short term to hype yourself up to write the report and it will very likely come much more easily as a) you already know how to do it and b) you can connect it to a why you already have.