On blowing up your life, changing gears and blooming late

Better to be a late bloomer than to stay stuck and never meet your potential.

Better to be a late bloomer than to stay stuck and never meet your potential.

Maybe it’s the economy. Maybe it’s something in the water. Whatever the cause, I’ve noticed a lot of people these days who are going through experiences of “blowing up” their lives, getting laid off unexpectedly, suffering major financial or personal loss, and/or closing the door on major parts of their lives.

To add insult to injury, the older one gets, the more loaded these “setbacks” are with emotion and expectations. We have timetables in which we’re supposed to have “settled down,” reached a certain level of financial comfort and made our mark on society. So when things aren’t going as planned, we begin to believe we’ve failed or lost our only opportunities. Then we start talking to ourselves in a way that gets us stuck and keeps us there. Here are some comments I’ve heard recently:

“I’m too old for that.” “If I don’t have that by now, I never will.” “This is as good as it gets.” “It’s too late for that for me.”

The problem is, these comments aren’t coming from my retired parents, my 100-year-old grandfather in the nursing home, or other senior citizens nearing the ends of their lifespans. The comments were by people in their 40s and early 50s — people who are giving up on having (let alone reaching) dreams with 40, 50 or even 60 years left on their lifelines.

I get it (I’m the Getting Unstuck girl, after all). It’s easy to feel discouraged. Our society exalts those who succeed at relatively early ages — the young internet billionaires, the hot young stars in Hollywood, the fast-climbing executives, the married-for-lifers who met their soul mates in high school, the gifted athletes so idolized. We’re made to believe that if we haven’t reached our dreams, met our own expectations, or discovered our passions by a relatively young age, then it’s too late.

This post is aimed at giving us all a little encouragement about the gift we have when our lives change dramatically. We get the opportunity to shift gears, pursue passions in a different way and be a “late bloomer.” Our life experience brings with it invaluable insight, knowledge of self, creativity and skills that give us an advantage. It is absolutely possible for us to make the next stage better than the last, no matter one’s age. Here are some examples of people who took their time in creating their greatest successes:

  • Mary Baker Eddy founded the Christian Science Monitor at age 85.
  • Best-selling author Sydney Sheldon began writing his first novel at 53.
  • At age 60, Frieda Birnbaum became the oldest woman in the U.S. to give birth to twins.
  • Julia Child didn’t publish her first cookbook until she was nearly 50.
  • Colonel Sanders began his famous Kentucky Fried Chicken chain in his 60s.
  • An everyday grandma became an internet dancing sensation this week at age 90. (Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LW-ADgjRdCU)

These success stories, and countless others, are testament to the fact that it’s never to late to find a new path in life. Take a step. Stumble on something. As George Eliot said, “It is never too late to be what you might have been.”

Capacity to Change, Chronological Blog, Shifting Your Perspective

From what black wells of possibility…

by A.R. Ammons

I look for the way
things will turn
out spiraling from a center,
the shape
things will take to come forth in

so that the birch tree white
touched black at branches
will stand out
totally its apparent self:

I look for the forms
things want to come as

from what black wells of possibility,
how a thing will

not the shape on paper — though
that, too — but the
uninterfering means on paper:

not so much looking for the shape
as being available
to any shape that may be
summoning itself
through me
from the self not mine but ours.

Chronological Blog, Miscellaneous, Shifting Your Perspective , ,

Post Feast Feat of the Feet: Weekly Challenge No. 16

Feast Feat of the Feet

Feeling as stuffed as a turkey? Challenge yourself to work it off this weekend.

Well, you did it. You survived Thanksgiving. If you’re like me these days, that means you survived the grocery-store-cart derby, ate way more than you really needed, endured the backhanded compliments from family, and didn’t die from the baggage that goes along with being single during a holiday that caters to families, or, conversely, you didn’t die from the baggage that goes along with being attached.

Now, I know the obvious weekly challenge to go along with Thanksgiving would be to put behind the negative aspects I mentioned and focus on giving thanks, as the name of the holiday suggests. However, I decided a better weekly challenge for myself right now would be to work off all of the Thanksgiving calories. Here’s why: For me, part of getting unstuck means putting more balance in my life, including making time for more regular fitness and physical health than I had been in my previous life of sporadic recreation.

So, once the sleepy highs of the turkey tryptophan wear off, let’s embark on a Post Feast Feat of the Feet and exercise off all those holiday calories during this long weekend.

Estimates are that the average person consumes about 2,000-4,000 calories in a typical Thanksgiving dinner extravaganza, so we have our work cut out for us. If you want to calculate a more specific caloric goal, with a specific estimate of how much walking or exercise you need to do, check out the Thanksgiving Calorie Calculator at about.com.

My calculation told me I need to walk about 24 miles this weekend. At a pace of about 3 miles an hour, that’s about 8 hours of walking (or fewer with higher calorie-burning aerobic running, dancing or classes). I guess I better get started! I hope you’ll join me.

Chronological Blog, Weekly Challenges ,

Weekly Challenge No. 15: Worthy for A Day

When the subject of worth and worthiness comes up, my mind first goes to a mental image of Saturday Night Live characters Wayne and Garth bowing down to some ’80s rock god, saying, “We’re not worthy; we suck.”

Then my mind pops to yet another Saturday Night Live character, Stuart Smalley, affirming into a mirror, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”

The subject of self worth is one of those subjects that gets so touchy-feely and so cliche, it can be hard to discuss with a straight face, and even harder to discuss in a way that resonates with individuals in need of considering their self-worth issues. No wonder Saturday Night Live has created such popular comedy routines on the subject.

Yet, it’s impossible to ignore the subject if you are feeling stuck and looking for a happier future. Our competitive and reward-driven society tends to make us continually earn our worth rather than recognizing the worth we inherently have, according to Bob Edelstein, a licensed marriage and family therapist who writes a blog for Psychology Today. And, as the Getting Unstuck in 365 Days post on self worth impacting your finances describes, self worth clearly impacts our careers and financial future, if not every aspect of our lives.

This Weekly Challenge borrows from an exercise published recently in Bob Edelstein’s recent column on self-worth on the Psychology Today website. Edelstein makes the case that we all have an inherent self-worth, and we can lead a more authentic life by unconditionally accepting ourselves, just as we are. If this subject interests you, read his full column “We are all worthy: We exist, therefore we are all worthy” for more explanation of his philosophical and psychological arguments. He recommends the following experiment:

“For one day, go through the day with the assumption that you are enough and worthy just as you are. During the day, be aware of how this assumption may move you into a sense of well-being, a sense of rebellion, or anything in between. And no matter what comes up for you, treat yourself … with a sense of unconditional, positive regard for yourself and with a sense of awe for your existence.”

Edelstein writes,”When we come from an unconditional acceptance of ourselves, instead of operating from an anxious striving place, we will discover a relaxed and grounded sense of being within ourselves. Knowing we are worthy, we can authentically engage with our life, through all its joys and challenges.”

Let me know how it goes.

Chronological Blog, Positive Psychology, Weekly Challenges

Know your worth – and you just might get it

Self worth impacts financesHow well do you know your worth?

Do you ever assume that you will never be able to make more income than you currently make? Have you ever agreed to a job, only to discover later that you seriously under-negotiated your starting salary?

If you are a freelancer or consultant, do you find yourself struggling with negotiating your contract? Do you feel as if you shouldn’t charge for all the hours you really spend working on the project? If you are unemployed, have you watched your own self-esteem dive, making it even more difficult to find a job that pays what you deserve?

On the flip side, have you ever been so confident of your worth and your value (or your product’s value), that you held out for too much and ended up with nothing? Or you believe in yourself but somehow keep shooting yourself in the foot?

How we value ourselves can directly impact our financial circumstancesContinue reading

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Weekly Challenge No. 14: Create a Daily Relaxation Routine

Weekly Challenge No. 14 encourages you to spend the next several days building a practice of relaxation and stress relief into your daily life.

First, so that you have some form of measurement to gauge results, rate how stressed you feel in your life right now on a scale of 1 to 10. One being least stressed, 10 being most stressed.

Next, read the previous post, “How to Relax in 10 Minutes or Less: 10 Easy Methods,” pick one (or two or three, if you like variety), or choose your own method. Attempt at least 10 minutes of relaxation every day for a week. At the end of the week, rate your stress level again. Then try it again for another week, and watch your stress levels creep down.

It’s important to acknowledge that stress breaks won’t take away your reasons for being stressed — divorces, bad bosses, rebellious teenagers, job searches, etc., won’t magically disappear. However, giving your mind a daily respite can temporarily short-circuit the negative downward spiral of emotions, which can strengthen one’s ability to cope with what’s to come.

Chronological Blog, Miscellaneous, Weekly Challenges ,

How to Relax in 10 Minutes or Less: 10 Easy Methods

10 Easy Ways to Relax in 10 Minutes a DayThe fine art of relaxation becomes lost to many of us, particularly when we are so busy we don’t even feel we have the time to relax properly.

However, we can’t wait for annual vacations to let go of stress and unwind. Many experts say that to keep our minds, bodies and lives functioning best, we should find ways to relieve stress every week or even every day.

The following list is aimed at two goals: 1) Blasting away the excuse that we don’t have time to de-stress properly (most of us can find just 10 minutes a day), and 2) Offering some easy ideas to build 10-minute stress breaks into each and every one of our days.

Try it for improved productivity, a happier demeanor, more patience and a healthier body.

10 ways to Relax and De-Stress in 10 minutes or less

1)  Turn off the news. In these days of stock market turmoil, international unrest, threats of terrorism, and inflammatory commentators, a little news can create a lot of stress. Turn it off, tune it out, and spend that time doing something more relaxing. You’ll notice a quick difference.

2)  Walk around the block. A little fresh air, a few smiles to neighbors, and a leg stretch can do wonders at the end of a stressful day (assuming you’re in a safe neighborhood – otherwise, try 10 minutes of stretching or yoga).

3) Be a kid. Dance like crazy to your favorite track, air guitar, sing a show tune, jump in your fall leaf piles, get into a tickle or pillow fight with your spouse, or play kick-the-can with your kids.

4)  Try a full-body-relaxation technique. Lay down on your back. Close your eyes and — as you take deep breaths — tense and relax each part of your body. Start with your toes – scrunch them up, then let out your breath and feel your toes relaxing. Next, tense and relax your feet, then your calves, then your thighs, and don’t stop until you’ve moved up through your full body, arms and head. Not only does this technique physically relax you, it also requires you to temporarily take your mind off of the stressors in your life.

5) Practice gratitude. Try 10 minutes of being thankful for everything you can list. Even if it has been a crappy day, most of us can still find little reasons to be grateful.

6) Adopt a pet. It’s been proven that pets enhance lives and cut down on stress. If you already have a furry critter in your home, make 10 minutes to give it your undivided attention.

7)  Take a hot bath. The beauty of a soak in the bathtub is that it requires you to shut out distractions, such as the t.v.,  phone and doorbell. Grab a beer or a glass of wine, light a candle, bring in a good book, and the perfect mini-vacation has begun.

8)  Listen to a comedy download. When was the last time you heard yourself laughing out loud? Remember how good that felt? Take the time to watch that funny YouTube forward your friend sent. If you don’t have any good contenders, there are plenty of other options to find a good laugh online. Try downloading a free standup routine from iTunes, do an internet search for your favorite comedian, or look up Saturday Night Live’s skits for free at http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/.

9) De-Clutter. This one sounds like a Catch-22 — we think we’re too busy and stressed to de-clutter our homes, cars and offices, but then the clutter adds to our stress. A 10-minute de-clutter break may sound like it is just adding work, but try it a few times and see how much more relaxed you feel when you can find your keys and that lost paperwork, and when you aren’t tripping over your laundry on the floor.

10)  Focus on your dreams. Spend some time each day writing down and concentrating on your most positive vision for your life goals. Keeping our eyes on the prize helps us get past the day-to-day dilemmas and can lead to a more positive overall outlook.

Training yourself how to relax with these quick, easy methods will help you let go of stress and feel healthier immediately.

Related post.

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The Lost Art of Relaxation

I’m two months into my sabbatical, and it’s safe to say the reactions I’m getting are still mixed. People are amazed. Worried. Supportively jealous. Looking for small-town gossip regarding why I quit my job. Judgmental. Encouraging.

I notice those reactions because each of them mirror some of my own feelings about what I am doing. Not being in an office every day I have a lot of quiet time to think about these things. But it’s when I am asked to discuss them out loud that I notice my desire to justify my time off. I find myself fighting the urge to list all that I’ve done so far to prove that I’m being productive with my time.

I’ve “accomplished” some things, yes. But more often than not, I find myself feeling critical of myself for not pushing myself harder to do more. After all, each free day is a valuable gift of time I didn’t have before. Am I using it to its fullest advantage?

A chance conversation with my friend Eric J. helped me realize how difficult it is to let ourselves relax when we are used to being stressed and overly responsible.  A few years ago, Eric had been similarly burned out in his overly demanding auto shop, so he sold the business and took a year off. He told me the most difficult part initially was learning how to relax.

“We get addicted to stress,” he told me. “We create things to be stressed about, whether they are real or not. “

It took Eric a little while on his sabbatical for it to sink in that he didn’t have to be stressed day in, day out.

“The best part was waking up and knowing there was nothing I had to do, and I could do anything I wanted that day,” he said.

Eric took full advantage of his time off, and he has found new vigor and new passion for work since then.

The conversation was enlightening and helped me realize that I’m taking what should be one of the most relaxing times of my life, and I’m creating needless stress for myself.  I’m even stressing over the fact that I’m relaxing!

It got me thinking: What is this instinct I have – perhaps an American instinct — to create stress in my life, as opposed to living for the moment. Absolutely, our country and our world are in particularly stressful times. And yes, I think I do think I have reason to worry about whether I’ll be able to find gainful employment again at the end of my sabbatical. But those are worries for down the road.

So I’ve come to this new realization I’m addicted to stress… What am I going to do about it? To help myself – and possibly others reading this — I’ve come up with a compilation of the best advice I’ve heard or read for relaxing on my sabbatical and creating a more balanced and stress-free life. I’ll include my list in the next post.

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One-Minute Health Solutions

If Weekly Challenge No. 12, “One Easy Step To A Better Life,” didn’t have enough examples of simple steps you can choose each day to improve your life, then an article from Rodale.com ought to provide some inspiration. Check out “67 Ways to Be Healthier in a Minute or Less” for a wide range of practical, and even fun, ways to prolong your life. From homemade health remedies to stress relievers to diet tips, there’s something for everyone.


Books & Article Links, Chronological Blog, Miscellaneous, Weekly Challenges

Acting “As If” Brings Rewards

Can pretending to be something you’re not ever be a good thing? Contrary to popular belief, in some cases it might be. A well-intentioned bit of make-believe, known as “acting as if,” may help you achieve your goals.

“I remember learning that if we ‘act as if’ we already have something we want, ‘act as if’ something is already occurring in our lives (even if it’s not), or ‘act as if’ we know how to do something (even if we don’t) — we create the conditions for it to manifest in our life with greater easy and probability,” writes motivational speaker Mike Robbins in an article in The Huffington Post.

“Acting as if” has been very useful to me in my “Getting Unstuck in 365 Days” journey. It’s been helpful in two ways.

1) The first way is the very practical game of pretending I have already taken a particular action or made a difficult decision…. Then I watch my emotions (and even physical reactions) to the big decision to see if it feels right.

Since I tend to overanalyze everything in my head, a quick gut check of this sort can do wonders for me. If my fake decision leaves me feeling sick to my stomach, it’s probably not the right decision. If I’m left feeling relieved or have butterflies in my stomach — but butterflies of healthy anticipation of change or resolve, as opposed to the nausea-forming kind — then the decision just may be the path to take.

2) The second version is to act with the expectation that one can do something special or that something good is already happening even though it hasn’t happened yet. For example, many people have probably presented themselves in a job interview as more confident and knowledgeable about an aspect or two of the job than they really are. Then when they get the job, they find they are able to rise to the challenge.

I’m acting as if I’ll be able to find a job at the end of my sabbatical!

Books & Article Links, Chronological Blog, Goals & Intentions, Positive Psychology, Shifting Your Perspective ,