I’ve really enjoyed creating my own vision boards each year and highly encourage my clients to take the time to reflect on what they want out of the new year. I try to focus on what I want it to feel like, what experiences I want to have, or what do I want to change.
Over the years I’ve cut out and collected pictures, words and phrases so I spread those out and pick the ones that I’m drawn to. If you don’t have a collection like me you can pick up a couple of magazines that feel like your style and as you go through really try to focus on what you’re pulled to, what catches your eye, what makes your body react and start cutting things out.
I use a medium sized poster board or construction paper and start arranging the items to glue them down in a visually pleasing way. Then I put the board up next to my bed, a place I will see it daily, so I am reminded what I wanted to make of this year. Over the years I’ve gotten vacations to happen, focused my family’s non-profit giving, and made personal changes because of the vision boards.
One Sunday afternoon, I had come home from some errands and visiting with family, and instead of the usual opening of windows, turning electronics on, and starting to check things off of the never-ending todo list, I sat at the dinning room table and read a thought-provoking article.
I had been reading for a while, when I realized how relaxed I was to be feeling the breeze from the ceiling fan on low, hearing the neighborhood kids playing outside, reading by the evening summer sunlight, and filling my brain with useful information. It made me realize how much we as humans need that kind of time.
I’m sure you’ve been hearing about “living in the moment” just as much as I have. I probably heard at least three people talk about it in different settings just this weekend. We all know we need to do more of it, but where will we find the time, and how will we know when we’re being mindful?
I believe that being content is one of the best feelings out there, to just enjoy what you’re doing, how you’re feeling, and appreciating the environment you’re in. I hope you all get to be content in the moment today, even for just a moment.
I was doing some research for my quarter life group the other day , discussing possible quarter life struggles with a colleague and she asked a good question, “I wonder what our parents struggled with when they were quarter-lifers?”
It is so easy to think of our parents in the state that they are presently. For some, that is fairly secure. Perhaps they currently own a home (still making payments perhaps), make a decent income, and get to travel and have nice dinners every once in a while. But young adult children forget that stability is not where their parents were 20 years ago. It is easy to forget the hard work, time, and dedication they had to put in to get where they are at in their careers.
There was also the realization, that many current quarter-lifers’ parents were parents in their mid 20’s. The struggles of being new parents, little sleep, not enough money, trying to learn how to be a “good” parent, may have compounded the career struggles, not feeling appreciated, working hard with little pay off, everyday stress building up into anxiety or depression. Or maybe instead of a quarter-life group they were looking for couples’ counseling.
No matter the worries at any age, one of the keys I have discovered, is to enjoy the moments, appreciate what one has and acknowledge when happiness is present. It makes the hard work and deep thoughts worth it all.
I was lying in bed last night when my motivation post came into my mind. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I should have made the post more relatable. I felt like the post was more “teachy” than genuine. I realized that the pictures that I included really should have been the foundation of the post.
My husband and I visited Thailand earlier this year. In preparation for that trip I made the goal of being able to climb temple stairs, and let me tell you, there are a ton of temple stairs. One of the famous temples has 309 stairs! I made this goal because I didn’t want to miss out on seeing things that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to see. I didn’t want to come home from an amazing trip and say “Oh we skipped that because of all the stairs”. An important factor for me was that I set the goal on my own. No one told me that I needed to. My husband even asked me if I was sure, and I was! I had genuine interest in making it happen.
To prepare, I started to climb the stairs at the beach (sub-goal/baby step). I worked up to about 160 stairs, doing it slow and steady, focusing on my breathing, taking breaks as needed, and enjoying the view each time I reached the top (acknowledging my progress).
When we reached the base of the first large temple, my husband turned to me and asked “You want to do it?” and I hesitated at first because of how many stairs there were. After a second I said “Yes! But can we take it slow?” I was overwhelmed to see the goal right in front of me and I had to fight my brain’s initial fear of failure. My husband took my hand and we walked the stairs together, taking a break mid way and turned to look how far we’d gone, appreciating that we were doing it. As I stepped on the last stair, the Buddhist monk that was sitting on that stair gave me a big smile. It felt like an unspoken blessing. I turned and I looked at the view.It was a view that I wouldn’t have been able to see had I not pushed through the fear and achieved my goal.
I have to admit that I didn’t climb up the stairs at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep where the 309 stairs are. Part of that decision was due to who we were with at the time and part of it was the insecurity of being able to reach the top because we were already up in the mountains and the air was pretty thin. Instead we used the cable car that takes tourists up the mountain. But I think goals are allowed to evolve, so I decided that I would climb down the stairs and that would make me happy.
I set my goal, did research, completed baby steps, appreciated the process, surrounded myself with people that supported me, fought the fear, acknowledged the accomplishments, enjoyed the view, and adapted the goal to my changing needs.
This week I had to find the motivation to do research on motivation. What worked to keep me going was that I wanted to provide useful information to my group members. During the process, I realized that there are a plenitude of factors that keep people working towards their goals and it doesn’t always have to be the desire to actually reach the goal.
Of course, it is beneficial if there is genuine want to accomplish the goal, but sometimes the momentum is kept up because someone does not want to look bad, or they don’t want to inconvenience other people who may be relying on them, or they are driven by monetary rewards along the way, etc. If someone knows what drives them, they can use that knowledge to set up the steps to reach a goal. People don’t have to base the goals on genuine interests. An example of this could be a young adult that is working to become a doctor because their parents want them to. The young adult wants to make their parents happy so they work very hard studying and dedicating their time to get a Ph.d. I suppose the unspoken goal for the young adult is to make their parents happy, and the goal for the parents is to have their child be a doctor.
It does help dramatically if someone has a vested interest either in the end goal or in the baby steps that keep them going. If someone has a set a goal to lose weight, but only because they feel societal pressure to look a certain way, they may be less likely to be motivated. But if they were instead driven by wanting to be more comfortable, have less health issues, or feel more confident about their looks, keeping committed to the work it takes to lose weight will be more meaningful and the person would hold on tight to that feeling of accomplishment.
Another lesson I learned was how important it is for someone to acknowledge when they are making progress. Those moments of pride help build confidence and give fuel to the fire that the goal can be reached. Making note of accomplishments also helps to keep people appreciative and living in the moment.
The most amazing part to me is how the brain fights and aides making goals. Because the brain is constantly looking for threats, sometimes new situations can be seen with fear because they are unknown and the outcome is unknown. Many people’s brains will become defensive when change is coming, thus making the motivation more about staying the same than to make change. But on the flip side when people acknowledge their hard work and are proud of themselves the brain releases dopamine, creating a feeling of pleasure in the brain, increasing the likelihood of someone staying the course.
In the end I was motivated by the response my worksheet had on the group, as well as by the additional information I learned along the way. I completed the goal of creating the handout and then created a goal to write a post about the process. Look at me go with all this motivation!
What do you find works to keep you motivated and progressing?
As the new year got started, I cashed in some gift cards to buy a ton of books. I am the daughter of a librarian so my love for books is almost a birthright. I would love to share a few of the books I really enjoyed.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Dr. Seuss
For couples, I think Hold Me Tight by Dr. Sue Johnson is a great read. Dr. Johnson wrote the book specifically for couples of all sorts to gain knowledge and resources about how to “love better” and create lasting connections; the real goal when we allow ourselves to become vulnerable with someone, right? The book is written for laymen. If she uses therapy terms, she takes time to explain what she means. I appreciated both the history lesson about how love has changed over the years and the real life examples of how couples have gone through their own troubles and come out better on the other side. If you are experiencing relationship tension or just want to strengthen that bond, pick up a copy! It never hurts to learn more.
I also purchased The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, Ph.D., LMSW and think it would be great for individuals that are desiring a more “wholehearted” way of living. She focuses on learning how to live knowing that you are enough, even with your imperfections, as well as striving to dive into your life while letting go of what you think you should be. I was only a few pages in when I had a major light bulb moment and have since recommended it to friends. Just like Johnson, Brown does a great job of discussing the research that led to her understanding about “wholehearted” living. I take pleasure in a chance to look at life with a new perspective and possibility to grow, maybe you will too.
And I can’t leave out the children. I didn’t purchase this book during the most recent round, but it’s a mainstay in my library. Have You Filled a Bucket Today by Carol McCloud is a great book to teach kids how to be nice to people and enjoy how it feels to spread happiness. It allows the child to understand an often difficult idea by imagining the filling of of a bucket with nice deeds. Sometimes even adults need a recap on this lesson.
“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”Charles William Eliot
And of course, if after reading these books you feel like you still need more help, I would be happy to meet with you, because I care!
I’m sure we all have experienced the holiday chaos. There are holiday parties, family get-togethers, shopping extravaganzas, house cleaning before and after each activity, and in the middle of all that our emotions and stress level may be getting a little out of control. But we brush that aside because we have too much to do, we can’t slow down.
Sometimes slowing down for just a few minutes to really take in where you are, what is going on around you, and how you are feeling can help slow down the volcano that was building up inside you. Doing this can help you fully appreciate the holiday season and start the new year off in a more positive place.
Let’s do it now! Take a couple deep breaths, look at your surroundings, acknowledge how you’re feeling, no judgements, and take a couple more deep breaths. There, wasn’t that nice? Now get back out there!
Everyone has their own way of getting back to their happy place. A blogger/designer, Holly Becker, I enjoy, recently wrote a post about how she gets herself out of a funk. Take a look.