Three tools to help you realize goals & find contentment

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I believe in writing big goals down and reading them each week, if not every day. I believe that if we want something bad enough,we will work to make it happen.

 

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1) LISTEN

Listen to others who are realizing their dreams and listen to folks who you might want to do the opposite of. Then, most importantly, be still so that you can listen to the small voice within who knows you completely.

This voice is always right and is so teeny tiny quiet, that we may not ever hear it’s “rightness”. Meditation, prayer, quiet time..whatever works for you. 5 to 10 to 30 minutes investing in listening can produce some really amazing things. If only we all would take the time to take it seriously enough to give it the time it deserves. My ability to set aside quiet time is improving. I’m realizing that it is a detriment to avoid it and I’m committing to do it even when I don’t feel like it (frequently at 5 am.).

Do you have 2 minutes a day you can sit in the quiet to just listen?

What if it meant the difference between a pretty good life to one filled with amazing happenings and incredible circumstance? 

I’ve been clutching this compass so hard it’s making an indentation in my hand as I bustle about my life in the name of getting things done. There’s really a better alternative…I realize that now.

2) Look straight ahead and own your story

Tap into your own brilliance, even if it doesn’t look remotely like anything you’ve seen out there.

There is so much dreaming other people’s dreams going on in blogland as well as the creative world. First off, I think a lot of folks see something happening for an artist, writer, entrepreneur, etc. and they want what they think is that person’s experience. We have NO IDEA what kind of sacrifices occurred for that person’s success. We have no clue what their day to day is in juggling a career and family life. We just don’t know.  I’ve found it best to not assume anything about anyone’s success, as well as not covet it for my own life.

It’s taken me 43 years to get this, but I believe I really only want what’s best for this vida loca of mine—what’s best for my simplicity quest right now in this moment in my life. It’s forever evolving and changing, but I am honoring the process by not wishing for what is not mine. I’m looking inside for what is yelling out for my attention. 

I know myself well enough by now to be able to release, release, release looking at others’ success for my own growth to happen.

3) Pay attention

I am guilty of getting lost in my own list of to-do’s and errands and hustle & bustle. My children have taught me how to slow down. My youngest, especially, with her “naturalist” ways outside and love of animals has helped me to stop and marvel at the little things. I’m always glad when I do. There is a ton to be seen if you widen those peepers!

This is my favorite recent story about paying attention. I think it says a lot about what’s missing in our lives.


Joshua Bell plays in subway No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition. No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

(text via Pinterest)

How ’bout you? Do you listen to your longings & pay attention to the world around you? What are they telling you?

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On my SIMPLICITY radar

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Lara, meet your local libary. Library, meet Lara.

How awesome is not paying for books?! I’m realizing I’m late to this party, but I didn’t realize how many titles are available. I used to buy so many books used on Amazon and this was not helping my clutter problem. I put the library search catalog on my phone home screen and when I come across a book I want to read, I plunk in the title. Most of them are available in our county system and I can place a hold on a book. It will be sent to my local branch to be picked up and I will get an email alerting its arrival. I love this! This process also forces me to actually finish a book in a timely manner because there’s a due date. How convenient is it for you to stake a claim in your own local library?

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Speaking of books, I had a skyscraper-ish stack next to my lawn chair when we had some downtime in the Twinkie a few weekends ago. Here are some of my current favorites:

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1) Great advice from Dave Ramsey and his daughter Rachel. We are smack in the middle of teaching our kids about budgeting and this book helped.  

2) Love Jon Acuff’s humor and love his outlook about just beginning already. Great words from someone who’s been there.

3) Tsh is a favorite blogger and now a writer I admire. Her story is exciting & amazing, but the practicality of her wise words is applicable to any life.

4) This is an oldie, but goodie. Pierce chronicles the stories of people on their simplicity quest, with lots of little tidbits helpful for the rest of us.

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If this video doesn’t make you want to jump in your portable house and just GO, I don’t know what will. Trying really hard not to covet this fellow Airstream-loving family on their adventure:

Tomorrow Somewhere New from Dark Rye on Vimeo.

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SimpleREV is happening October 3-4 for “simple living enthusiasts and advocates”. ‘Wish I could go. Next best thing, though, is reading the blog and listening to Dan and Joel on their SimpleRev podcast. They’re just so darn likable.

 

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This thing is rocking my smoothie-loving world. I simplified my diet by eating mostly raw foods–some of which are blended each day. I am in LOVE with this thing. I didn’t realize how much I was missing with my blender. Ahhh…the bliss of completely pulverized spinach (no chunks!).

I’ve also been stocking what I call the Food Pharmacy Drawer in my kitchen. These foods are tasty and have helped my tummy and energy level. I”m a believer in being healed with good food.

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This is a great site for green smoothie info. Good new recipes too!

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Also enjoying having these bars for my emergency paleo snacks when I’m out and about. A little spendy, so I hoard them for special occasions–but nice to have at the ready nonetheless.

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I hope you’re having a lovely spring, friends. The sun has arrived in the Northwest and I am one happy camper!

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How I overcame obstacles on the road to simplicity

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When you go to the optometrist for a checkup, you are told to look through lenses at the eye chart (This one…or this one?). At the beginning you will see double, everything a bit fuzzy. Then she tweaks something magical and the image comes into crystal clear focus as one image.

This is the perfect metaphor for what has happened to my life in the past three years.

There were obstacles in the road on this quest to simplify. I didn’t see them before, but now with a new pair of eyes, I hit myself in the head cartoon style and laugh that I didn’t see them before. Looking at this list, it’s no wonder a simpler life eluded me for so long.

1) Time wasting and mindless habits

With each minute I wasted trolling social media or needlessly checking email there was a completely missed opportunity to do the things I love. Read, write, walk, dream, read, converse, de-clutter…did I mention read? That’s the thing about habit (especially the digital kind)—they won’t change unless you mindfully remove the distraction. This is where digital sabbaticals and the release of Facebook came into play for me.

I also noticed that I have a tendency to do things the way I’ve always done them simply because I haven’t taken the time to look at what it blocks from my life. I do not need to spend an entire Saturday running errands and cleaning the house. It’s become a day for family fun, reading, hammock time (weather permitting) and slow cooking.

2) Excessive focus on what others think

It’s a beautiful thing to fully let go of the opinion and approval of others. We’ve always done things a little differently with our family, but I finally realized (wonders of all wonders) that this same principle applies to me. Out of this way of thinking has come a simplified wardrobe, changing my job back to working for someone else, taking note that my interior design style has completely changed and that I don’t want to drive the typical over-scheduled mom taxi. There has been a tremendous amount of freedom that’s come from being brave to just be me, however much I’ve changed over the years.

3) To-do lists that become cement blocks attached to my ankles

There will always be 101 things to do. I never get through the list and for awhile this used to send me into a hand-wringing state of tizzy-fitting. No more. I see now that more than half of the stuff just doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Do I really need to wash the bead board in the powder bathroom today? No one dies if things don’t get purchased, cleaned or organized. Phew. As a teacher there is the list for the day, but I love doing that list. It means wonderful things for little people who depend on me. But even with my constant state of flux in my colorful classroom, I know the difference between right now and in a few weeks.

4) Anxiety about What-ifs and JustInCases

I used to have an ability to turn borrowing trouble into an Olympic event. The good news is that constantly fretting about potential inconveniences and catastrophes really doesn’t change the outcome. If they appear, they appear and as adaptive humans, we learn to deal. I’ve had my share of dealing, believe me. Yet, the fussing and anxiety? ‘Tis best to let go of that rope. Now, for the JustInCases (I love this post!), those are a bit more challenging to release. I’m getting better, but I practice it monthly. This week there is a massive garage sale transpiring at the abode. I’m hoping it will spring forth much needed momentum!

5) A firm grasp on a career I wasn’t loving

If you had told me two years ago that I would be back teaching 3rd grade at this point in the game, I would’ve had a good belly laugh. My photography studio and book were front and center and I was hustling on that marketing Disco floor like nobody’s business. It is so great to let that piece go. It wasn’t me, but I was forcing it because of all the work I had done up to that point. So, so much time and effort went into building a successful business. The news flash was: Just because it’s successful financially, doesn’t mean I have to love it and stay with it. It took some letting go of pride and ego squelching to walk away and return to an old profession. The big surprise was that I didn’t even know how much I missed working with kids. To me, it’s the most important job there is. I go to bed every night knowing that I made a difference (even on my worst day). Invested time and money do not require a person to stay the course.

My friend Cecilia met a man in Texas who let go of his dentistry practice to become a craftsman of saddles. He told her he was not a happy dentist and was brave enough to make the change. His saddles were works of art and he lived more simply in order to something he loved every day. It completely overhauled his happiness. I love stories like that!

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Removing simplicity obstacles is not a go-to-a-workshop-have-a-good-cry-and-reinvent-my-life territory. This has been a incredibly long baby-stepping journey where each obstacle was noted and conquered gradually. A control craving person does not have an epiphany over coffee. She documents the need for it and then intentionally releases it with each (almost) fearless step toward the Land of Letting Go and Changing Circumstance.

I’m also clear on the fact that this boulder removing process isn’t even close to being done. I will forever be sitting in the optometrist’s chair with adjustable lenses…and that’s a good thing.

How ’bout you? What obstacles have you uncovered in your quest for a simpler life?

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7 Things I would tell my 10-year-old self

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When you’re on a quest for a different way to live (ahem..What shall we unclutter next?!) ) it’s so easy to point out where you went wrong through the years. I was having a day. You know the kind…where you start with toothpaste slopping on your black shirt and end with dog poop at the foot of your side of the bed. Well, I decided to end the day on a hopeful note and compose a letter to the girl in the picture (Oh, how I loved those skates!):

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Dear ten-year-old girl,

Enjoy every minute of your front walk rollerskating days. This is the time to play outside and frolic and be worry-free. I bet you feel pretty fearless at this moment. It’s such a great age to believe that one day you will be doing exactly what you were meant to do. I want to provide you with a list of what to hold in your heart as you grow out of those skates and into your grown-up life.

1) Hold onto to those big dreams of what you want to be when you grow up. Remember the talents that come naturally to you and don’t be afraid to use them even if others tell you that you can’t make a living doing them.

2) Know that you are worthy of love at all times and never, ever let anyone make you feel small. Simply walk away in confidence when you sense that someone doesn’t know the value of your love. Hold your head high when you make mistakes (admit them too–out loud) and know that there will be many…but it’s okay…because that’s how we learn.

3) Marvel at how well your body serves you as you grow into it. There will be so many changes, but through it all remember to be grateful for your health at all times. Part of being grateful is taking care of it by not getting too much sun and eating lots of live foods. You know, like the pounds of cherries and apples you ate in hot summer months. They’re still important when you’re forty…you’ll see. Also, know that there is future invention called Photoshop and retouching that will make magazine models look perfect. Remember that it’s hocus pocus…better yet, avoid looking at them altogether. You’re lovely just the way you are.

4) It’s your responsibility to keep that chin up when you’re frustrated, even though positive attitudes might not be in the people around you. Language yourself in a way that others know you have self-respect and hope for the future, even when things don’t go your way.

5) Ask for help and give help when you can. Be sure to include those who seem to be pushed aside…the clique thing changes a bit as you get older, but not much. Value what everyone can bring to the table. You’ll see that one day the eccentric young people are the folks who achieve amazing things in this world. Look to them now for insight and inspiration. They will teach you a lot.

6) Trust your gut instincts with ruthless conviction and don’t lose yourself in others…especially when it comes to BOYS. They take up way too much time when you should be focusing on your own dreams. Mr. Right will show up eventually. Ironically, yours will because he’s drawn to your independence.

7) Forgive, forgive, forgive….and know that your parents did the best they could with what they have and they adored and loved you. Look at them with loving eyes always in return.

As your future favorite poet, Rainier, said,

“Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Know that the answers may be disguised as disappointments–but don’t give up on them.

You. Can. Do. Hard. Things.

Love, Me

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What would you say to your 10-year-old self?

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4 life-saving steps when dealing with Big Change

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image via SheMadeCrafts

Years ago my bed linens became a window into my own psyche.

‘Tis a strange statement from someone who rarely makes her bed. I tried for years to take the Martha Stewart High Road (even google-ing how to fold a fitted sheet. Life is waaaay to short for that, btw) and it just didn’t take.So I just closed the ‘ole bedroom door and prayed that none of my guests wanted to take an upstairs tour.

I digress…

Back to deep thoughts about pillow cases and dust ruffles. It began the day the hub came home and asked me if I still had a spirit of adventure. Such a loaded question! It was more like spirit of relaxation in that moment because we had only been in our house a year and 1/2 after a very long building process (our DREAM home that my spouse built with his own 2 hands). I was only two days past unpacking the last box, ready to take a breather.

“Adventure? What kind of adventure?”

Heavy sigh from me.

Wide-eyed wonder from the hub.

He’d been offered a promotion in his company and it required a New York address. He launched into the our-kids-are-young-and-flexible-it-would-be-fun-to-do-something-rash speech and all I could do was look around at the plates and pans that finally found their final resting cabinet place.

Luckily, my spouse was clued in to my wanderlust nature when we first got together. He was counting on me thinking about the positives (Manhattan fun, snow storms, road trips to new places, learning to say Cwa-fee and dwag), yet all I can do was bite my nails and ask a million questions about what his other options were.

After two look-see visits, a lot of freaking out about how little you get for your money anywhere near the city, and one very teary-eyed talk with our extended family, we did it: Packed up two toddlers (one that had been potty-trained 4 days prior), 16,000 lbs of stuff (I know, what on earth was in that moving truck?) and drove 8 days to start our new life.

This confessional writing is not about our move, our NY experience or even how we decided to return to the Northwest. It’s about the weeks in between when we really weren’t sure if we were going to do it.

The agonizing feeling of letting go and letting the answer unfold on its own.

Enter the bed linens….

I started doing something really weird. Like, strange Who am I?  weird.

I started ironing my pillowcases and the top sheet and made my bed every day. At first I tried to ignore this behavior and pretend to myself that it was perfectly normal. But, really? An iron and board set up in my bedroom for weeks?

As we got closer to saying the final yes and set out to make an appointment with our selling realtor, I broke it down for myself in a journal. First, I was beginning to see a metaphor—ironing out the wrinkles and making something perfect was very therapeutic when my life was about to be turned upside down. I also came to some interesting conclusions:

I do not like to feel like things are out of my control.

My first inclination with change is to be fearful.

I elicit control in strange ways when I feel helpless.

And here’s an even funnier element of this little tale—I continued to iron away even when I figured out the psychology behind it! Cracked myself up. Of course, NY turned out to be fantastic and I look on that move as a total positive because it really has added to our lives as a family. The moment we pulled out of the driveway, I released the sheets, the iron, the need to know what comes next. The whole experience taught me trust. Trust that it’s really out of my hands. After this experience I made a list for dealing with Big Life Changes in the future (and I’m counting this whole simplicity thing because it hasn’t been easy):

 

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1) Welcome adventure and new learning experiences

You just never know what kinds of wonderful are waiting around the corner from new opportunities. New York seemed bigger than life to me, but it did so much for our family bonding experience, not to mention broaden our view of this great country. Some of our closest friends were made there. I still check the ridiculous winter temps in Warwick, NY on my phone.

2) Be positive and expect great things

When we’re fearful and apprehensive, it shows to the world and can cut us off from people who can make transitions easier. Show your best self—believe that this change could be amazing for you and/or your family and wait for the angels to show up. They sure did for us.

3) Recognize that change can also bring necessary sacrifice

There were many things we missed when living in the East. There were days we just yearned to take a walk in February without six layers of clothing. Yet, the snow was incredibly fun. My kids still talk about the winter where we couldn’t see our front steps for a week. Big Change can also help you to be grateful for what you had and also for what can be in a new situation. It’s all about perspective and being open to what good can come out of transitions.

4) Understand that Big Change is a process and patience is required

Whether it’s a cross country move, a change in lifestyle, a new career or even a nest being emptied, it all takes time. Thank goodness for that because overnight change just isn’t a a fun, stable place to dwell. I dealt with our move by journaling, talking incessantly with my spouse, going online to look at places we would be able to visit, and of course, ironing. The process of moving back home was also a major adjustment and being the predictable creature that I am, the iron made another appearance and I just went with it. 🙂

What about you? What’s your ironed sheet when you face the unknown? What big changes brought all kinds of unexpected greatness into your life?

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5 Ways to engage your inner hobbyist (without the stuff that goes with it)

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~My creations~

Charm soldering

Fine Art photography

Darkroom printing

Mixed media art

Sewing

Headband-making

Plaster sculpture

Encaustic wax

Diorama model making

Jewelry making

Lamp design (say, what?)

Purse design

Skirt design

Card-making

Book binding

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This, my sweet friends, is a list compiled of my interests within the last six years alone.

Good grief, it’s frightening to look at it as a long list. Each and every one of these little forays into artsy-land brings a plethora of GEAR stocked and ready in my studio…and my home…and the attic…and the garage…

I’m feeling an epiphany welling up from my hobby-obsessed heart:

In the past I decided to dabble in a creative interest and proceeded to troll Amazon for every book known to man on the subject (used, so it’s ok, right?). I also managed to purchase all the fixins’ to get it going long before the drive to actually do the hobby showed up.

Madness.

In my bouts of purging and donating this past year, I began to stumble across little tombs of hobby supplies in all areas of my life. I expected to hear a voice ask me if I’d like to lie down on the couch for some inner excavation. It’s one thing to chalk it up to being creative and having a ton of interests, but quite another to realize that very few hobbies on this list lasted more than a few rounds. I think I actually believed that if the stuff was acquired for the hobby, I would actually do the hobby on a frequent basis.

That would be wrong.

Lest you fall into this same trap (or..sigh..you see this pattern in your own creative home), this is for you:

 

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1) Attend a class that supplies you with everything for a nominal fee. You pay your fee, make a craft, have some fun, and evaluate whether you’d like to do it again. No fuss, no muss (and no vats of plaster loitering in your studio closet either…true story. Yikes.)

2) Watch someone do the hobby and do a mini interview about why they like it. Observe, ponder, shelve it. If you are dreaming about it 2 months later, it might be time to take a class (see #1).

3) Find a buddy who’d like to share in the cost of the needed items for a specific hobby (a soldering gun is not cheap, friends. It’s especially distressing when you make 10 charms, badly burn your index finger and call it good).

4) Commit to a hobby that doesn’t require gear and see if you actually follow through for at least three months…mmmm..say, blogging...or writing. Minimal start-up costs, lots of rewards (funny how my favorite hobby ended up being the one without physical stuff! Epiphany, indeed).

5) Go on a spending moratorium for a specified number of months and see if you had any grand withdrawals over not being able to ______________ (fill in the hobby blank).

I’ve already admitted that I have an Amazon Issue…a sickness, really. My art/craft library is ready for its close-up—and rather than hang my head in shame, I’m committing to one hobby-dabble a month for the next year. If it doesn’t stick, the gear (and the books) must be given to someone who actually will DO THE HOBBY.

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Being the prideful creative that I am, this post was hard to write. I had to admit some disturbing (and expensive) consumer-induced mistakes. Yet, I can honestly say I feel better now. Ready to fix the issue and press on in this simplifying journey. This blog is definitely helping me be brave and that makes me happy.

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4 steps to overcome life’s obstacles & live your dream

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image via Mystery Wallpaper

Many of us have a hard time giving ourselves the gift of realizing big dreams.

Life gets in the way.

When the kids leave…when the house is paid for…when I finally unclutter my work space…when I finish school…

I do believe that there are appropriate times for going for it where big dreams are concerned, but it is always a good time to steer ourselves in the general direction of where we want to end up. A huge part of it is eliminating the obstacles that pop up like moles on the lawn of life.

 

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1) Practice “If it’s not a yes, it’s a no”.

The principle is that if you’re hemming and hawing about something…can’t make up your mind to start that painting class or enroll in book writing 101 or even make a massive career change, it might be a no. Is it possible you are picking this path because you feel you should? Or someone expects this of you? Or is it truly a passion? Or is it burning desire that keeps you up at night? The yes is there, but the plan is not. AND THAT’S OKAY. If it truly is a giant, big ‘ole pink elephant that follows you around, the plan will come if you devote some time and energy to it.

Ask yourself: “If fear was eliminated, would it be a yes?”

Take a deep breath and commit yourself to micro-movements, which are small steps to get closer to doing this thing that just might make you deliriously happy.

2) Embrace time management

168 hours. That’s what makes up your week. Laura Vanderkam literally wrote the book about this topic and came up with some interesting stats about how we spend our time. Her blog can get you started to begin the process of tracking your own. Trust me, it’s enlightening and scary at the same time. Committing to making small steps is going to cause a shift in your time management tectonic plates. If you value sleep, cuts will need to be made somewhere. I suggest starting with Facebook and Twitter and then take a look at the reality TV crap-ola time that is flushed down the ‘ole john each week. Take inventory of what you’re willing to give up to get closer to making time for your dream to happen. Write it down in your planner as an appointment with yourself.

Your goal is worth being written into your life…in pen.

3) Truly let go…for good

Toxic friendships that suck you dry…the quest to have the perfect house…the expectation to keep up with the rat race in your neighborhood…volunteering your time in places you know you’re not appreciated…doing a job you absolutely despise…

Give yourself permission to release relationships that are detrimental to your dream. I realize the whole job thing is a tough one, but I can honestly say that with the other issues, you’d be doing yourself a huge favor if you simply and directly released it from your life. Such hard things…believe me, I know. ‘Been there with at least twice and it is terribly difficult, but it was so worth it. It freed up such a huge space in my brain for things that really mattered to me.

You can do it. It will mean magic for your journey!

3) Give yourself permission to be alone to map out a plan

This is a hard one for women with kidlets hanging from their very limbs, but it is not selfish to ask for this time. I hear it so much from friends (especially women who work and are uber-moms upon walking in the door) that they feel like it takes too much time away from their family to bring a dream into the fray.

I beg you not to believe this for a second.

You must ask for this time and take it. Even if there’s risk of people (small and large) living on your planet giving you a hard time. You’re not flying to Tahiti for two weeks, for cryin’ out loud. You simply want time to test out or even (yah!) pursue a dream. Remember? That little friend who seems to be sulking in the corner while you stir the spaghetti sauce?

Yeah–her. She’s calling you.

4) Pursue Courage and Bravery with wild abandon

This involves deciding to move forward when moving forward seems completely draining and awkward. Bravery doesn’t make a list of negative what-ifs. It only brings on the mojo to do what needs to be done. Courage means stepping out and looking forward…not casting your peepers side to side to see what others in your profession are doing or making or writing. Yes, we can support friends who are realizing their dreams too, but be mindful of what’s stirring in your heart when you go about realizing yours.

Does the success of others make you anxious?

Does it make you feel like you’re not doing enough?

Does it make you feel small?

Recognize it and don’t go there for awhile. Stay right in your own space with your own lovely, beautiful, talented self and make plans. Revel in just being present with that pink elephant. Don’t let the small voice of doubt creep in.

Know thyself. And if thyself can’t handle looking at the amazing fast-track success of others, be okay with it. Abandon Facebook and Twitter for a few weeks and see if it helps.

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Give your dream the space in your brain, your home, and your life that it deserves. If you nurture it and believe that growing this beautiful thing is worth the effort, the rewards will be more than you ever could have dreamed.

I promise.

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