night snow

Why Having Less Goals is Working for Me

I think many of us mean well when we start a new year.

Whether you’re into that whole goal/resolution/intention setting thing or not, when we turn our calendars and write the wrong damn year on everything for at least a month, we know that it’s a different time. And that in itself can move us to change.

I’ve written some sort of beginning of the year declaration on this blog the past few years, but for 2017 I didn’t. I typically set a sankalpa, or positive intention, for the year…

2014 – To Love More

2015 – To Simply Enjoy

2016 – To Live Consciously

cafe in the snow

Before you dive too deep into my ulterior motive for not writing anything, I actually wasn’t in the “let’s move on from 2016” camp. It was one of my most trying years of adulting, which included being laid off and almost losing my dad.

No matter what happens that is in our control our outside of it, I’m a firm believer in accepting life’s curve balls with a bit of grace. I say “a bit,” because I do my best but it’s not always graceful.

I really loved this blog from my girl Zen, who wrote in Defense of 2016

“Every day in 2016, someone got married, had their first kiss, gave birth, overcame cancer, reunited with their best friend, landed a new job, explored the world, stepped down from the brink of suicide, celebrated a birthday or an anniversary, saved a life, won the lottery, laughed till they cried, wrote a book, graduated… for every bad thing that happened, something equally good happened. In the midst of all the chaos, why not celebrate our small victories?” 

Pep Talks with the Voices in Your Head

I did set an intention for 2017 though. It was this…To Have Less Goals

So, that’s why I didn’t write this post at a more relevant time, like closer to the turn of the year. I’m writing this on a Wednesday, January 18, at the butt crack of dawn. Because that was when I was able to get to it without forcing anything.

And that might seem like no big deal to some of you. But it’s downright poignant for me, because I let go for once.

I gave myself a pep talk and said: Don’t sweat it. Just now, while writing this post and starting to feel anxious about starting my work day, I said: You’re doing so good.

We all have voices in our heads, don’t we? Funny, how they can be a missed opportunity when all we need is a pep talk.

books in the snow

Meaningful Goals vs. Lots of Goals

I shared this Harvard Business Review article, Don’t Set Too Many Goals for Yourself, at the end of the year. It spoke to me, because well…I’m too goal-oriented.

It’s the reason I didn’t sign up for the Goodreads reading challenge this year. The challenge did what I needed it to do initially, which was read more and track my progress.

Years later it morphed into this strange, unforeseen form of competition in an already competitive world. A competition with myself, with reading—something that usually brings me more peace than anything.

Oooh, dang. So close, Britt! But, you didn’t reach your annual reading goal…AGAIN.

goodreads reading

I mean…come on!

Anyway, while goals are really great for a lot of people, for me I tread the choppy waters of doing too much and not enjoying life enough. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set goals, because you should. But those goals should be meaningful.

“In order to accomplish our most meaningful goals, we need to fight back against two dangerous impulses: hewing too closely to a fixed plan and attempting to do too much at once.” – Dorie Clark

The HBR article warned of the dangers of busyness, of the unimportant victories we claim when crossing off tasks on our to-do lists. Instead the recommendation was to focus on bigger goals, no more than two for each 6-month period.

Maybe you’re trying to finish a book—maybe it’s your fourth or your first. That can be one of your big six-month goals, because let’s face it…finishing a novel ain’t easy. And like me, you are probably working on this book in your precious free time.

So then, you can ask yourself: Does this other thing I’m spending time on help me finish my book? Or, does it keep me from finishing it?

You might have one of those “well, I’ll be damned” moments. Because you investigated and found something, an oversight you’d missed before.

Making Tough Choices to Stay Focused

Asking yourself if something you’re doing voluntarily is keeping you from your big goal isn’t always a fun question to answer. A lot of times, you won’t even want to ask it.

With the book example, I’ve had to investigate my blogging and social media efforts. While there is a correlation—because it’s marketing and branding, which do matter when publishing a novel—until I finish my book during this 6-month period, I’m easing off the gas pedal.

night snow

I had to set some parameters (not goals) to stay focused, one of which is only blogging once each month. And, that’s the max.

I felt so much relief when I made this decision, because blogging has a way of haunting you as a writer if you’re not careful. What should I write about next? Hell, when am I going to write it? The cycle can be pretty vicious, as many of you know.

So, setting those meaningful goals can be a truly grounding experience. And the effort is pretty minimal for the reward.

“In art and dream may you proceed with abandon. In life may you proceed with balance and stealth.” – Patti Smith

It’s true that as we get older, time appears like it’s moving faster. I remember the occasional adult saying things like “enjoy it now” and “it’s all downhill from here” with a sing-song voice that always made me cringe a little as a kid. At the time, I didn’t understand why they said those things that way.

But I know now. And while it’s easy to fall into that crotchety reasoning that time magically moves faster as we age, it’s really just us that keeps moving faster.

So, don’t sweat it. You’re doing so good.

Slow down, hug it out with your hopes, dreams, and wishes, and aim for the life you want to live.

What are your thoughts on goal-setting? Like it, don’t like…somewhere in between?

dad-and-me

For the Love of Family

I’m not sure why we build these walls around ourselves, especially to keep out the people closest to us…our families. As we get older, more independent or whatever, these walls become longer or deeper or taller—layers and layers that stick together on their own somehow.

There are a lot of things we should protect ourselves from in this world. Family probably shouldn’t be one of them, right?

Then, something happens. Like a trip to the hospital. And we scramble over these walls—hell, we’ll do anything to get past them—because we’re not sure if we’ll ever see the person we love on the other side again.

holding baby

Right before Thanksgiving I found out my dad had a heart attack. Because there’s no need to build suspense in a blog post, I’ll tell you now that it was a close call but he’s okay.

I felt pretty much the same way I fid when I found out my mom had breast cancer again a few years ago. Helpless. Stuck behind a wall. On the other side of the earth even though I was only a handful of states away.

And, on a deeper level. I felt like a part of me was fading away. When you come from a pair of humans, you can’t help but think that.

carousel

Both of these times I tore down a chunk of that damn wall with the most menacing imaginary object within reach. Otherwise known as…I bought a $300 plane ticket, because I was hell-bent on hugging them in person and never letting them go.

The crazy stupid thing is this…it wasn’t all that hard. And each time with both of my parents, I wondered: Why the fuck does it take something so scary to get me here?

And, like the last time I saw my family, I realized just how insanely lovely they all are. All of them. Those I talk to regularly, and those I don’t.

I think it takes a while to arrive here…for everyone. Because we have all built these walls.

mom in a hat

Some walls were built out of disappointment, some out of loneliness—others were built during the years of forgetting the unique laughter of those we love. It’s like our very own fortress of stuck energy.

When I first saw my dad, I can’t even tell you how that felt. In my mind I kept replaying the first words he said to me on the phone at the hospital: “Hi, baby.”

Hi—how simple and beautiful that two-lettered greeting was. How my heart broke when his voice cracked as he called me “baby,” like I was still his little girl instead of a grown woman.

out with dad

I didn’t care anymore about coming to terms with that whole “death is a part of life” bullshit. I wanted my dad to stay with me—to live forever, to live past me even. I would have traded my life for his if it was an option. No contest.

I’m still suffocated by my own emotions just thinking about a moment that almost didn’t happen. When my dad said “Hi.”

He’s my hero…my dad, ya know?

And, it was surreal and bittersweet to see so many poignant things tie together during that one trip to Texas a few weeks ago.

estate-sale

We went to an estate sale and I did this silly pose with a cardboard cutout of Indiana Jones. As a kid I was obsessed with Indy. I loved his clumsy, heroic nature—how he saved the day with intelligence and strength he didn’t know he had.

Strangely, before I got on the plane to come home, my mom gave me a pile of never before seen pictures. One was this old picture of Dad, dressed up like Indiana Jones for Halloween.

indiana jones costume

So, I guess what I’m getting at—especially with the holidays upon us—is a request. To break down some of the walls you’ve built. Right now.

None of the presents matter, the money you’ve spent to make this seemingly perfect experience with the plastic decorations you painstakingly hung to celebrate glittering togetherness. Your family is the gift. None of that other shit matters.

Love your family now as much as you can. Not when it’s too late and they don’t know how much you love them. Pick up the phone. Buy a plane ticket. Break down a chunk of the wall.

And love them.

laura plumb

The Life Enthusiast Chronicles with Laura

There are some people who truly shine, don’t they? There’s a radiance about them we can’t quite put our finger on, and we turn to them, captivated by their spirit when we need guidance and positivity.

Laura Plumb is one of those radiant people, and I have wanted to invite her to be a Life Enthusiast for the wonderful years I have connected with her.

Between her incredible Ayurveda food blog, Food: A Love Story, her wellness courses and trainings, festival appearances, Ayurveda TV, and jet-setting to India, I wasn’t sure if Laura would have the time to join my wonderful band of enthusiasts on The Life Enthusiast Chronicles. In typical Laura fashion, she smiled warmly and made it happen.

I’ll let you check out her website to fully understand the way she inspires people to live more balanced, healthy lives.

She truly goes beyond what we often see in the yoga and Ayurveda world with her ability to embrace spirituality and make it accessible to others. That beautiful quality shines through in her Life Enthusiast words below.

Get ready to shine with Laura…

Connect with Laura on Facebook and Twitter!


teaching yoga

Isn’t Britt wonderful to create a series that invites all of us, readers and writers alike, to consider what makes us enthusiastic about life? It’s like asking us, what do you love? Which feels to me like being asked…how can we unite around all that there is to love about life?

That is exactly what makes me enthusiastic about life. I love, love, love human creativity and inspired connections.

You know those times in your life when you were doing something random, everyday, ordinary, and suddenly you find yourself in a conversation with a complete stranger who opens your eyes to wonder—or speaks of enlightening truths, or hints at the hidden depths of your heart?

Or how about those times when you are simply walking along, minding your own business, and in a flash, on turning a corner, you come across a thing of such striking beauty you can’t but gasp in awe?

spices in hand

Nature is life and we as humans are part of that eternal pulse of nature, that dynamic circle of life. When we pay attention, we find beauty everywhere. Life replicating life everywhere. Creativity and inspiration everywhere. Love, simple and infinite, everywhere.

So i am enthusiastic about seeing. Seeing love. Seeing beauty. Seeing miracles. Seeing what makes a person special.

I want to be that person who makes a person feel seen, really truly deeply seen. I want to show the world to itself, to help all people see that the world rises up to meet and support you in every moment.

india

You are not alone. We belong to this world, this life, this one family of humanity. Everywhere at all times there is a power, a radiance, a beauty that wants to help us become more and more alive.

“To see with the heart” as Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote, and to feel fully seen for who you are in the heart, is one of life’s greatest gifts. To see the power and the light of life within all is en theos, the root of the word enthusiasm—to be with god.

bhakti fest

I hope to always be enthusiastic, a Life Enthusiast, and forever will be grateful to Britt for this celebration of our humanity and our grace.

how we start and end each day

How We Start and End Each Day

Sometimes our lives feel crowded, don’t they? The funny (or not so funny) thing is that we make our lives this way. We’re crowding ourselves.

We can play the technology card—absolutely. We’re always on, plugged in, and this is becoming the norm rather than the exception.

writing portfolio

For most of us, this is an occupational hazard. But if you’re a writer like yours truly, the screen time is that much worse. And when we’re glued to screens during our free time? By that point, screens have pretty much taken over our lives.

“We never really choose to live reactively. Instead, it just kind of happens. A little bit, every day. Until, one day, we wake up and realize, “my life is not my own.” Think about it. Did you choose, I will begin checking my email first thing before I get out of bed, and then respond to what everyone else says is important today?” – Jonathan Fields

Over the past two years, I started receiving strange compliments about my posture. Thanks to ballet and yoga, I tend to sit without resting my back against chairs so I’m straight as board.

Side story…my fabulous posture almost cost me my driver’s license test when I was sixteen, because the DMV guy thought I was terrified. He made me pull over, then gave me a pep talk to calm me down, or else he was going to fail me—yep, for my posture.

pointe shoes and duct tape

I explained to him that I did ballet, but he didn’t believe me. So I had to slouch uncomfortably for the remainder of the test, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life. I’m not really sure how I passed my driving test like that, but I did.

Anyway, now good posture is this crazy awesome sight to people. Because sadly, we have become a hunchback society that’s missing the world around us.

eye palming yoga

I’m really no different. I do plenty of yoga, foam rolling, and massage to try and fight it, but I have the same complaints as any fellow sitting addict. Headaches, eye strain (I highly recommend eye palming!), neck and upper back knots for days.

In the end we’re certainly not being forced to live this way, but we are being encouraged to. So it’s absolutely up to us to make a commitment to ourselves. And one of the best ways to do that is fine-tuning how we start and end each day.

vrksasana

It wasn’t until about six months ago that I got pretty good at this. The twenty or so years before that when I was a stubborn night owl, I was doing it wrong—I hated mornings, slept as late as possible, and rushed into my day.

I was late and stressed until the afternoon, and then like clockwork, I felt sluggish. It was a vicious cycle, and I wasn’t living the best life I knew I could live.

As life got busier and busier, I realized there were two parts of each day that were mine and nobody else’s…morning and night. So, I stopped sleeping. (Kidding!)

But I did create a routine where I started and ended each day the same way. On my yoga mat.

half moon

Sometimes it’s only five minutes, sometimes it’s an hour. There are days I meditate or practice yoga, and others where I just lay on my yoga mat and stare at the ceiling, or do some gentle stretches to music.

If I feel especially overwhelmed or exhausted, I just take child’s pose, press my forehead to the ground, and thank myself for being alive.

cat yoga

There are the simple pleasures that get me too. I love the sound my mat makes as it rolls open and slaps the floor. I love the comforting feel of the squishy rubber beneath my tired feet. I love the way it reminds me of being a kid, when I used to pretend a towel or couch cushion was a magic carpet that whisked me away.

My yoga mat is the one place I can just be.

Because it’s early enough, my inbox doesn’t matter. And when it’s late enough, the online chatter and screen light finally die down.

evening yoga

How we start and end each day is pretty critical. If you strip it down, it’s the precious time that surrounds our sleep—morning sets the tone and night sings the lullaby.

If you’re feeling off-balance, like you need more down-time in your life, I recommend checking out how you’re starting and ending each day. It may look very different for you—maybe the magic carpet yoga mat story just didn’t do it for you. Whatever it is that grounds you, building this healthy habit can really change your outlook, like it did for me.

How do you start and end each day? Share your me-time habits, or how you want to improve them!

love more

A Wolf of Love and A Wolf of Hate

I felt like I was suffocating last Tuesday and I needed space to be able to breathe. So I rushed out to Forest Park for a long hike to one of my favorite hideouts, Pittock Mansion, a little before 4pm.

I wanted to see the world from up high to gain a little perspective. For the first time in the three years I’ve lived here, I caught Portland right at sunset on an unusually clear day.

pittock mansion sunset

I wasn’t alone. There were quite a few of us taking in Mount Hood’s fetching winter hat framed becomingly by an ethereal sky. It was freeing being up there—just what I needed.

Then, my stomach flipped and I swallowed down a knot as the pink began to fade. Suddenly my anxiety was worse than it was before the hike. Reality set with the sun.

There was a reason I hadn’t ever seen that view at sunset. Because it takes 45 minutes to get back home, and without a scrap of daylight the forest would be pitch black. We just had a time change, and I forgot that small but important detail.

I was the kid who was afraid of the dark and believed in the closet monster—not much has changed as an adult. My night-light looks a little different as a Himalayan salt lamp in my bathroom, but I can’t sleep with the closet doors open and every morning I fling them wide to set the evil spirits free.

In other words, night hikes aren’t my thing. Especially when I’m alone.

salt lamp

I had my phone and the logical voice recommended calling an Uber to rescue me, simply drive eight minutes to the end of the trailhead where Silvie the bike was waiting for me. But there was a part of me that thought it was all too fitting, to watch the sun disappear on Election Day and to face my fears of darkness.

So, I hiked back home in the dark. And when it’s nighttime in the forest, it’s very different from any other type of darkness you will ever experience.

The few people on the trail were scary as their shadows suddenly appeared, and rather than feeling comforted by another human’s presence, I wondered if they were going to hurt me. I trusted nobody.

The human alternative was the animal one. I realized I was trespassing, now that it was nighttime. At first I tried calming myself with music, but I shoved my headphones into my bag to be completely alert after a rustling off to my left gave me a small heart attack.

Denali, a pure gray wolf

Denali, a pure gray wolf

Though a coyote would be more likely, I kept thinking there were wolves in the forest. And, I should know from my wonderful friend Kate, that wolves are lovely animals. But in the dark, I was terrified. I saw many coyotes growing up and they used to run down my street when I lived in the canyon in Azusa, California. But wolves I had never seen, so why would I think they were there with me now?

The rustling ended up being anticlimactic—a ratty, chubby squirrel stocking up for winter, more afraid of me than anything. I released my fists and my breath, and continued through the darkness.

The creek is higher this time of year. It was hard to see where the edge of the trail was. Though I wanted to run to get home faster, and even tried for a smoother stretch of the trail I knew well, I refrained so I didn’t trip and fall into the icy waters.

Tree shadows were menacing as they danced in the wind, and their long limbs seemed to be reaching for me. To think, their colorful arms had been so welcoming on the way out to the mansion.

I was surrounded by danger and my body was charged with an instinct for survival. Strange, being that it wasn’t even 5pm yet. Stranger still, I had been in my husband’s arms in this same spot weeks before and felt so safe.

fall forest park

I turned around a lot, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared. But I kept moving forward, and I focused on everything I loved to overcome the fear of the darkness, until I saw the lights of Thurman Bridge at the end of the trail.

When I got home, I was shaking from the waning adrenaline and the cold. I had gone on an unexpected personal journey I wasn’t prepared for in my already emotional state. I ignored social media and the coverage on TV most of the evening, until it was finally time to face the results.

After that I retreated to the safety of my yoga mat and put on my headphones to shut out the world, the glorious pink one I had been admiring hours earlier. How whimsical and innocent it had seemed then.

You know, I tried to do everything I could to protect myself from this day, avoiding online content and social media like the plague. Still the depression and anxiety permeated my mind.

positivity during election

Earlier in the year I tried to make a positive stand. Because I knew this year was going to be unlike the previous years—there would be protests and rioting, even in peaceful Portland a young man would be shot on a bridge. I would get a text from a friend of mine, asking if we were okay.

The next day I made the mistake of getting on social media and was back in the dark forest again—my heart racing, my breath uneven. I didn’t feel safe, and I wanted to run even though I couldn’t see anything.

I felt the need to say something, but I certainly didn’t want to fuel the fire. So I posted something from a book I had read last month, exquisite words I had forgotten to post after I finished reading it…or, so I thought.

Now I see that it was meant to be posted the day after the election.

“In my heart, there are two wolves: a wolf of love and a wolf of hate. It all depends on which one I feed each day.” – From Buddha’s Brain

wolf of love

It doesn’t matter what your political beliefs are, who you voted for or who you voted against. What matters now is how we all move on and continue to live. What matters now is which wolf we are feeding each day.

The wolf lives inside all of us. The wolf of love is the beautiful creature that is respected for its power and grace. That’s the one I want to feed in my heart, and the one I hope the world will too.

love trumps hate

Love does trump hate, but we have to love from a place of strength and light to win fear and darkness. For now I’ll just remember dancing in the sunshine the week before…