The Road to Success is Always Under Construction

We’re never done. With anything. Ever. It’s an interesting life lesson a couple of older, wiser friends were discussing last week. They said they were in their 50s before they figured that one out. Then, on my way home that day, I spotted the sign pictured here, which hit the nail on the head: “The Road to Success is Always Under Construction.”

I don’t know about you, but I hate not finishing things. I’m a list-maker by nature. I like to make my lists, check things off, feel a sense of completion and move on to the next thing. It can be a source of frustration for me when the list never seems to get shorter or when delving into one project unveils four more. Realistically, though, we’re never done — not for work goals, house repairs, self-improvement, relationships, raising kids, staying fit, helping others or myriad other parts and pieces of life. Work evolves, houses age, muscles sag, mowed lawns grow back, kids still need their parents after college, new needs arise.

I think realizing that we are never done may actually be one of the keys to success and happiness. We have to learn to be comfortable with the incompleteness of every moment and every day, and just enjoy the ride. Just like going through a construction zone; if you can’t change how long it will take to pass through, you might as well just take a deep breath and take in the sights along the way.

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Chronological Blog, Feeling Stuck, Miscellaneous

If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today?

“Remembering I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” ~ Steve Jobs

There are a few questions we can ask ourselves that quickly put life into perspective: If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today? Five years down the road, how much will this crisis/drama/event really matter? On your deathbed, what do you want to be able to reflect back upon without regrets?

Lifehacker today included a video clip of the great Steve Jobs’ advice to a university graduating class in which he discussed finding such perspective. I loved hearing what he had to say in the clip, particularly today (the first day after my “graduation” from a 12-years-plus stage of my career into the unknown). It’s worth the short 14 or so minutes of video to be inspired by Jobs’ urging of his audience to follow their hearts and intuition. “Stay hungry, stay foolish,” he says.

“You’ve got to find what you love. And that’s as true for work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to truly be satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. And don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”

Best wishes go out to Jobs for health and happiness in his newly announced retirement from Apple.

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How Am I Doing Financially? 3 Free Tools to Help You Master Your Money

“I’d like to live as a poor man with lots of money.”  ~Pablo Picasso

Money isn’t everything, but reality is that we live in a world that requires it. I’m not talking about having enough to spend lavishly or buy everything society tells us we need. I’m talking about recognizing that our relationship with money and the financial choices we can make impact our emotional health, state of being, and quality of life.

Weekly Challenge No. 13 is to stop hoping it will all be ok, and to get a good, hard look at where you are financially to determine whether that may be an aspect of your life that’s keeping you stuck. It’s never too late to begin finding financial peace of mind. Facing your financial realities are the first step toward mastering them. Here are three free resources to determine how you are doing financially:

  1. CNN/Money offers a 5-minute, easy-to-use online tool that scores you with a letter grade. http://cgi.money.cnn.com/tools/financialhealth/
  2. Suze Orman (www.suzeorman.com) offers a comprehensive quiz, which leads to appropriate step-by-step advice to improve your situation in the areas you may be lacking. Accessing the online quiz requires going to her website, clicking on “Women & Money,” and entering a code from the book. Since she gave the code away freely on a CNN broadcast in order to help as many people as possible, I doubt she’d mind my repeating it here. On her Women & Money page, enter code EIEIO.
  3. Kiplinger online has several short quizzes that let you see how you are faring compared to others in the U.S. http://www.kiplinger.com/fronts/archive/quiz/

To learn more about how your money decisions may impact more than just your financial health, see the related article, “Know Your Worth — and You Just Might Get It.”

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Maybe we all need a little more obsession in our lives

There’s a fine line between persistence and unhealthy obsession. I’m still not sure which one author Kathryn Stockett had, but if her final results are any indication, we should all go a little crazy about seeing our creations come to life.

Stockett is the author of the bestselling novel “The Help,” which is also a new major motion picture. She got turned down 60 times before finding a publisher for her book, and she even lied to her friends and family about continuing to work on the book, which they all thought had become a waste of time. Obsessed or not, it’s still a really cool story of the value of believing in your dreams and persistence. You can read the full story here at Yahoo’s Shine.

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Stop & Grow: Why feeling stuck can be a good thing

Sometimes you have to stop before you can move forward to change your life.

If you are feeling stuck, then congratulations. You’re on your way to something better. According to an expert, feeling stuck is a necessary crisis we must go through for personal and career growth.

Google this morning found no less than 6.92 million uses of the term “feeling stuck.” That number represents a lot of dissatisfaction in the world. But that apparently is not such a bad thing.

“Without it, we cannot grow, change, and — eventually — live more fully in a larger world,” wrote psychologist, psychotherapist, career development counselor and researcher Timothy Butler in his book Getting Unstuck: How Dead Ends Become New Paths.

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One Easy Step To A Better Life: Weekly Challenge No. 12

Wouldn’t it be great if there were just one easy thing you could do that would change your life, health and happiness forever? There is: One easy thing a day.

Each day do just one simple thing. If you want to drink less or stop smoking, drink one drink less or smoke one less cigarette each day. If you want to be more fit, walk one more flight of stairs or park one minute farther out in the shopping center parking lot, instead of looking for that closest space. Save one dollar a day. Eat one less cookie, read one more book, or got to bed one hour earlier for more sleep.

It doesn’t have to be the same step each day. Just make sure it’s one thing a day that is positive for you. Simple steps take just a tiny bit of motivation, but they can go a long way toward building momentum and healthier habits in your life. They have the added benefit of adding confidence; when you know how easy it can be to reach your little goals, then the bigger ones don’t seem as daunting.

This week, do just one easy thing a day. Then, when you see how easy it is, commit with me to the one-a-day simple steps lifestyle for the next 6 months. We can experiment together on how that may contribute to us being less stuck, healthier and happier at the end of the year.

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I quit my job without another

Open to what's next

I quit my job.

A zen saying tells us to “leap and the net will appear.” I lept. Only time will tell where and how the net appears for me.

This week I officially gave my resignation notice to my employer of 12 and a half years — without a clue of where, how and when I’m going to find my next job. I’ve had several people congratulate me and call me courageous, but as I told one of them, it’s really less about courage and more about just being “done.”

It’s frightening to quit a professional job with benefits in the middle of a jobless economy. On the other hand, life is too short to remain stuck in a frustrating, draining situation that was only getting worse. I considered applying for other jobs, but I realized that my next career move is probably going to also mean relocating to another city, since the job market in my small town is very limited. Having become fairly burned out in the last couple of years, I just couldn’t fathom going through the process of finding a job, taking care of several necessary home projects, getting my house rented, packing up, moving and throwing myself into a new position — all in the course of a month or two, which is about as much leeway as most new employers seem to want to give.

Instead, I decided to give myself a sabbatical of sorts. I took out a loan and will take a few months to regroup and visit friends, work on my house, work on some self-employment projects I’ve begun, and then figure my next career step after I’ve given myself a chance to re-energize.

I read on someone else’s blog (which I will link to if I can find it again) that one can guarantee success of a sabbatical by simply having the right frame of mind. To that end, for me, this isn’t about high expectations of writing the great American novel, or assuming some amazing new opportunity will come my way simply because I made a risky move; this is about a process of re-energizing, being open to opportunities, and giving myself time to be healthy and creative. With that in mind, I’ve won, even before I know exactly what adventures will come my way in the coming months. The adventure may mean living in a cardboard box, but it will be an adventure, nevertheless!

I thought I’d be more frightened, but I feel relieved, excited and at peace about it all. There’s a part of me that says I shouldn’t be abandoning my work family while there are several dramas unfolding that are destabilizing the organization I have cared about so much for so long. But this time, it’s someone else’s turn to step up and deal with it.

I’m done, and it feels great.

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Startled Into a Smile: Weekly Challenge No. 11

“Happy, happy, happy! Raise your level of happiness!” The words being shouted at me from an in-terminal airport restaurant in Minneapolis woke me from my travel stupor. “Come on, put a smile on that face; be happy. It’s a great day!”

Some days I might have snarled back at that amount of cheerfulness leveled directly at me in such an unsolicited fashion. But somehow today, despite the odds, the man got through to me. I chuckled and found myself smiling, despite the fact that I was sleepy and ruminating on how a key member of our small, close-knit work team had been laid off.

After I sat down at the restaurant, “Happy Gilmore,” as he called himself, proceeded to shake my hand and formally introduce himself, pointing at his nametag, which did indeed read “Gilmore.”

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Six Months of Getting Unstuck: 10 lessons learned

Wow. It’s already been more than a half-year since I began my process of Getting Unstuck in 365 Days. I can’t say I’m there yet, but I am happy to report I feel I’m on a forward-moving path from stuck to stupendous-ness.

Here are 10 things I’ve learned so far:

1) You never know who is reading. I therefore have had to tremendously limit what I can publish to the world in this blog. Even though I have only told a few people I know that I’m writing this blog, I learned quickly that one has to write as if all of her loved ones, neighbors, bosses and peers are reading each and every word. This has limited how much I post and what I post about.

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Fighting Fear: Weekly Challenge No. 10

Where do your fears REALLY lie?

We all feel it on occasion: Fear. Timidity. Apprehension. Insecurity. Or perhaps the “zone of doubt and uncertainty,” as it was labeled in the previous Sigmoid Curve discussion. These human emotions are hard to fight, particularly in these times of manic economics, terrorism, natural disasters and political turbulence.

This week’s challenge is about acknowledging our fears so that we can learn from them and get past them. Too often, we try to bury our fears. But we’re only fooling ourselves. The fears are still there. But rarely are they about what we think they are about on the surface. Typically, the fears that show up on the surface for us are masking deeper fears that have to do with basic human needs.

Step 1: Make a list of a handful of your fears. Are you afraid of having children? Are you afraid to take a career risk? Are you afraid of committing to a relationship? Are you afraid of your business failing? Think of your own and write ’em down.

Step 2: Get down to the root of your fears; what is it really about? For instance, if you are afraid of taking a career risk, your fear may go beyond a simple job change, you might also be afraid that if the job doesn’t work out, you will lose the respect of others, that you will be unhappy, or ultimately end up homeless and in poverty and searching for your next meal. Are you afraid of having children? It’s probably less about having children in your life than it is about other deep-seated fears. Take a peek at Maslow’s hierarchy, and explore the basic human needs to see how deep your fear really lies — as opposed to what may come to mind at first thought. Keep asking yourself: …and why do I fear that?

Step 3: Once you’ve acknowledged your deeper fears, you can better figure out what to do with them. Are they healthy fears, acting as your body’s early warning signal regarding true impending dangers? Or are they negative fears that are crippling and keeping you from living your potential?

Step 4: Start focusing on possibilities. If fear is the opposite of faith and courage, then it would probably be preferable to train our minds to live in the more positive realm. Rather than letting ourselves dwell in fear, we can make a conscious effort to put time and effort into activities and thoughts that allow us to spend more time working toward great possibilities than worst-case scenarios.

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