Day 76: Happy New You

I don’t really want to blog just another end of year, new year story. I don’t want to talk about goals for the coming year. I don’t want to relive everything I did this past year. Sure, there was some great stuff, and there was some lousy, but why do this “out with the old, in with the new” thing every year?

Isn’t it all we’ve been talking about the past 75 days, every moment, every day that allows us to make positive steps forward? It’s connecting with others; it’s putting down the technology and really seeing the “who” around us; it’s finding our passions and exercising them; it’s loving the God who loves us, and then loving others, showing grace and compassion, because of it; it’s laughing at ourselves and allowing ourselves to be the imperfect us that we are; it’s laughing with those around us, and finding those kindreds amongst us.

Living this way is so much better than resolutions, or goals, or whatever name you put to them. Yes, we need something to reach for, but why not just reach for the next moment, and make it the best it possibly can be given the circumstances we have. If you have to have a goal, make it one of those short-termed leaps we chatted about the other day. That way, you don’t have to go on a guilt trip by the end of January about what a big failure you are. Remember? Leap a short two-week goal that you can take action on. Then, do another leap…

This Finding Kindreds way of life has become a daily journey. If I keep reaching for the next moment, it’s good enough for me, and I can’t wait to see what I’ve learned along the way by this time next year. Happy 2016!

DAY 76 HOMEWORK: Enjoy your connections tonight, and give yourself some grace! Be safe, and walk with your head high into the New Year.

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Day 75: The odds were against me

I love traveling, but I also love stay-cations, especially at the end of the year. Sleeping in, running errands, and catching up on projects are some of my favorite stay-cation activities, and allow me to renew before starting the new year. Today was a perfect example of a favorite stay-cation day.

I slept in. Then, I jumped into grungy clothes (an oversized sweatshirt and my paint jeans), and with a bad hair day, I ran errands. I crossed a few things off my to-do project list. By late afternoon, I was exhausted. I had a migraine coming on, so we stopped by a restaurant to grab a bite to eat. With no people in the restaurant, the service should have been excellent, but it was awful. I was still in my grungy clothes, hungry, waiting for the waiter, and getting grumpier by the minute. But the food did help.

When we left the restaurant, it was starting to get cold…a shock to our systems since it’s been way above normal the past few weeks, so we stopped by the house to get something warmer on before running to the grocery store. I grabbed a cap I had knitted and threw it on. It didn’t match, and I looked like a bum, but I didn’t think I would be long, so I owned the look and ran out the door. I giggled at myself all the way to the store.

We made it all the way through the grocery store, and as I was rounding the last corner headed for the cash registers, I ran into our neighbor. Ha! My first reaction was to turn around and pretend I didn’t see her. I looked at my worst, but then, I decided to connect. We laughed at our plans to be asleep by 10 pm on New Year’s Eve. The connection was short, but it was so worth it. People are so much more important than my need to look chic, and it didn’t kill me. Growth! I’ll take it.

DAY 75 HOMEWORK: So, know that any time you wear your grungiest clothes, your percentage of meeting someone you know goes up exponentially. If it happens, just own it and make the connection.

 

Day 74: and not or

On Day 61, I wrote about words we use to diminish ourselves, and I’d like to come back to this idea. It’s one that many women leaders are writing about, from Sheryl Sandberg to Tara Mohr in one of the books I’m reading, and I’ve heard it come up at conferences the past few years as well.

An idea I’ve heard several times is that of competence and/or friendliness. Many successful male leaders are viewed as competent and friendly, whereas female leaders are often seen as competent or friendly, but not as often both.

I think about this a ton. The reason? I know I’m competent, but I don’t come across as friendly. I am friendly, and good-hearted, but people might not guess that immediately. Since I’m a thinker, I often have a furrowed brow. In short, when I’m concentrating, I often look mad.

Take a look at the candid photos of me on Facebook. My daughter-in-love posted some candid Christmas pics, and we happened to be discussing what a specifically-designed piece of plastic could be for on a screwdriver set. I wasn’t in the least bit mad, but I do look it in the photos. Someone even asked me about it in church Sunday. It made me laugh.

And it’s not just in photos. Sometimes at work, as I’m in the middle of a project, people pass by my office without stopping. When I see them later, they often say, you looked intense, or upset, or any other number of words that aren’t that positive.

Knowing this furrowed brow makes me look mad, I’m working to adjust it, but it’s not easy. Seeing yourself as others see you (whether by recording, or looking at photos, or asking for feedback) can help you to make improvements that can making finding kindreds easier.

Why do I say that? The books are telling us that the competence perception is something built over time, while the friendliness factor is a judgment in an instant. “It takes only one or two behaviors that we perceive as cold or selfish in order for us to change our opinion,” Mohr writes.

As I reflect on that, my past 7 years in HR leadership under a policy-focused leader has left me in many situations where the perceptions about me were rightful perceived as policy-driven (i.e., law over grace). Now that I’m back in a creative leadership role under a more people-focused leader, the perception of my friendliness is not returning as quickly as I would wish. That perception is formed. It can be changed, over time, but for some people, it may never change. I know that, and have to let that warm person inside me come out to play more than the thinker.

DAY 74 HOMEWORK: Are you competent and friendly? If you need work on one of these, take some time to look at yourself as others see you. Ask for feedback. Look at candid photos. Record yourself. Then you’ll have some basis on where you can start to become and not or.

Day 73: Connections are not just human

At any one time, I’m reading a host of books at the same time. I get through them, eventually, but I enjoy ideas and love seeing the variety of ideas from different people and how they meld in my brain. It fosters my creativity.

I’m reading a book on handwriting fonts, a book about women finding their voice, a book about de-cluttering, a book about loving the home I’m in. There are a couple of writing books on the side, but they are secondary right now.

An example of how this all comes together in my brain is that I see that I don’t need a “dream house” to be happy. I can spend minimal money by decluttering my space and fixing up the areas that need attention. I can design a font that coordinates with my new design and decorate the space with my own art, and all of that together helps me to be more confident. When I am more confident, I have more courage to reach outside of myself and create opportunities for connections.

There is method to my madness, and it makes me happy.  It may drive someone else crazy, but not me. I’ve learned to function quite creatively in this way. Even if you’re not built this way, maybe you can learn from my melting pot of ideas.

DAY 73 HOMEWORK: If you’re reading more that one book right now, pay attention to what synergies are happening in your head this week. How are the ideas crossing over? If you’re a “one at a time” person, then start looking at the other things you take in…a movie, a tv show, your friend’s idea, your mother’s phone call…you might be surprised to find connections that actually make sense.

 

Day 72: Free answers

Sometimes, a day may feel a little stale. Maybe it becomes routine, and you need something different. One of the best and simplest (and free) answers to a stale day is a walk. There’s something about getting outside, raising your heart beat, and getting some fresh air. It doesn’t need to be a long walk, but if you can go for at least 30 minutes, it will help, even if it’s cold outside.

We have a greenway close to work. On those days that I take the time to walk, I get much more accomplished in the second half of the day. When I don’t walk, I still get stuff done, but there’s something about a silent walk, communing with nature, that clears my mind and allows me to refocus when I return. It’s almost like cloning myself.

It works at home, too. Let’s say everyone is sleepy. Suggest a walk and see what happens. Let’s say everyone is lost in technology. Suggest a walk and see what happens. See what happens, that is, if everyone gets up and goes walking. It’s invigorating. Talking happens, and maybe even laughter. When you’re finished, you may have sweat out the impurities! Altogether, it’s a win-win.

DAY 72 HOMEWORK: Walking will breathe life into a stale day, and mix up your routine. Try it out, and invite someone along.

Day 71: Be intentional

Community only happens when you’re intentional. I read that today, and agree with it wholeheartedly. Many things don’t happen unless you’re intentional, but for sure, community cannot happen without putting yourself into it with your whole being. It requires time; it requires setting aside some of your “me time”; it requires putting down your phone; it requires putting yourself out there. There might be disappointment; there might be frustration; there might be rejection. But, you could find a kindred; you could help someone, and someone could help you.

Let’s make an effort in this coming week to be intentional in building community. Join a new group. Take a neighbor a baked good, or lend them a ladder. Invite some new acquaintances over for snacks. Even if it’s just once a month, building community is worthwhile. It reminds you that you’re not alone. The journey is better with others alongside.

DAY 71 HOMEWORK: Write down 3 ways that you can be intentional during the month of January to build community. Then, let’s focus on trying out one of those ideas in the days ahead.

 

Day 70: All is calm

This Christmas day was very quiet. We relaxed all day and simply spent the time with each other, watching movies, eating treats, and putting a puzzle together. It’s rare to have these quiet days, mostly away from social networks, mostly to ourselves, but with ourselves. It was OK to be quiet; it was actually glorious for my spirit. The festivities are fun, but there’s something to be said for “All is calm.”

As I considered that hymn, it’s quite curious that all could be calm for Mary and Joseph. Would it be possible? Could Mary be calm through birthing the Son of God, and as her first child, not even knowing what to expect of labor? Could Joseph be calm through not being able to provide a suitable place for his wife? Could the baby Jesus be calm amongst the animals and the hay? Surely, he felt the overwhelming fears of his parents.

As I put myself in their places, I’m not sure I would be “calm.” I’m not sure I could be silent. I’m not sure I wouldn’t be throwing up! Of course, we don’t really know exactly what each of them was feeling that night, but the songs we sing this time of year give us much to think about if we truly consider the words we sing.

Whatever it is that you’re facing tonight, try to rest in those words: All is Calm. Rest, knowing that a loving God has you in the palm of His hand.

DAY 70 HOMEWORK: Be calm and sleep in heavenly peace!