Push

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Dear 2017,

My word this year is ‘Push’.  You will hear this single word when you try to slow me down.  I will push back if you try to trip me up.  I will push to stand up if you try to knock down.  I will push a little harder if I feel I am out of fight.

I.  Will.  Push.

I’ve worked hard the last two years.  2015 was my doorway.  2016 brought me beauty.  I have put so many things in place.  2017 will be when I will push to cross off the big items from my list.  It will be the year I push the boundaries.  It will be the year I push myself to overcome challenges.  It will be my year to push.

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I am an author.

When I first found out that I was pregnant, after the hysteria passed, I got excited about all the things I would teach my child.  I would teach them everything I had learned.  I could show them what I knew of the world.  I planned on teaching them the same lessons I was grateful to have learned, and would avoid the lessons I wished I hadn’t learned.  But mostly I wanted to teach them the lessons I had learned too late; the ones that stung a bit too much to learn the hard way.  

Let me tell you, I was a way better parent before I had kids.  I was so wrong.  

When I met Halia, she let me know quite quickly that we weren’t going to be following my plan, because she had one of her own.  Halia has been my mirror since the day she was born, showing me how the world sees me, and always demanding to know the next step.  She’s kept me accountable for my actions, and forced me to be the best version of me I could be.  

And then I met Leona, who had a much different lessons for me.  

With Leona I’ve learned to stop and look around.  I’ve learned it’s okay to wander away from the crowd and dance when there’s a good beat, even if I’m the only one who can hear it.  I’ve learned the joy of being silly, and that it’s okay to wear plaid, florals and stripes in the same outfit as long as you have the attitude to go with it.  I’ve learned that everyone has a story, there’s an adventure to be found anywhere, and that there’s no limit to the number of times she can make me question my own sanity.  

So, having learned all these valuable lessons, I did what any parent would do: figure out a way to profit from their children.  

I’d like to thank everyone for coming and for those who helped make yesterday possible.  It’s been a fun ride and I’m humbled by the love and support I’ve been given.
A big thank you to Christina at Starving Artist Gallery Cafe for hosting the event and for her help throughout the planning process.  Everyone raved about the food, the art, the venue.  Everything was perfect.  And I even came home with some new art.
I can’t even express the gratitude I have for Becky, English Dave, and Del Davis.  Without their encouragement I might not have even tried.   I don’t know how I got so lucky to have such amazing friends as these three, but I am so grateful I do.
Thanks goes out to John, who still loved and supported me even when I was going (still am) a bit crazy with stress and being stretched too thing.  And of course for the flowers.
A big shout out to Chris Brown, an amazing and talented musician who played the entire event.  I received so many compliments on the music.  I’ve always been a supporter of musicians, but this guy… I’d fund every project he wanted to work on if I could.  

I was asked quite a few times yesterday if I am working on more books.  I am working on the second book in the Halia and Leona series with the working title “Mom, who’s Mackulay Culkin?”  

My kid brother is a jerk.

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My little brother, when we were young, liked to come up behind me when I was busy with other things, kick me, push me, or just plain bug me, and then skip away giggling.  It was annoying at the time, but hind sight has that thing it does…

The last two weeks were tough for me.  I was completely overwhelmed with everything.  The list of things piling up, piled higher.  Work was more stressful that it should have been.  My personal life was more stressful than it should have been.  My personal demons were clawing at my back.  I felt like I was drowning.  I felt like nothing was going right.  At one point, I stopped in the middle of doing three different things, and for the life me, I just couldn’t remember why I was trying as hard as I was.  What was I trying to accomplish again?  Why was it so important?  What’s the harm in just giving up?

That feeling stayed with me for a few days.  People told me I looked tired, and I was tired.  Tired right down into the very soul of my existence.  My uphill trek had gained me no ground.  I felt like a fraud, spouting off bullshit phrases about working hard, being positive, and progress being progress.
I almost didn’t make it, but I dragged myself to the first yearly meeting of my writing group, and had my battery recharged a bit when I received applause for the upcoming book launch and by being with those wonderful, creative people.  And then had it charged a bit more when I learned I had come in third for the poetry writing contest.
The next day I went to my publishers office, and held the proof copy of my book in hand.  I saw the pictures, the text, and my name on the cover.  It was one of those ‘Holy shit, I did it!’ kind of moments.

Progress is kind of like my little brother.  It arrives quietly without ceremony or a parade. It sneaks up on you when your busy doing other things, kicks your ass, and skips away giggling because of the trick it played on you.   Hindsight being what it is, I still think he’s a jerk.

Over the last two years, I’ve re-written my life.  I’ve bought rental property and renovated it.  I’ve started two businesses.  I’ve gotten a book published, and am working on more.  I’ve done so many new things, learned so many things, and grown in so many ways.  Sometimes we all need a kick in the ass to remind us to look behind us for a moment.

Work hard and don’t be an asshole.
Stay positive.  And if you can’t be positive, smile till you are.
Progress is progress, no matter how small.

Motivation: activation, persistence, intensity

Its come to the end of January, and my theme of resolutions is also coming to an end.

This past weekend, I had off from pretty much everything.  No work, no studio: just my kids, a To Do list and a few hours of volunteering.
And yet, besides volunteering and going ice skating, I didn’t really accomplish anything.  In fact, the slothness seemed to spill over the rest of the week, because I haven’t accomplished much other than the basics all week.  This caused me to wonder why motivation wanes and dips periodically.  My goals haven’t changed, but my motivation did this week.
The definition of motivation is the reason why we act or our desire to do things a certain way.  I wasn’t acting the way I wanted to in order to meet my goals this week, and so I’ve been thinking a lot of why that is.  There is a myriad of stressors in my life, and while they haven’t changed over the past year, they did seem to be rather intense this week, both because I’ve been making progress towards alleviating them, but also because that same progress seems to be acting like sandpaper and grating on many aspects of my life.
So, was my lack of motivation this week my brain’s way of saying ‘You’re going to blow a gasket.  Here’s a kit kat.’?
I asked others what motivates them, and I got a couple of very different answers.  One friend told me her kids motivate her.  She can’t back down because they count on her.  This is true for all parents I think.  I know that I push myself to be the best version of me for the sake of my kids more so than for my own desire.
Someone else told me he’s motivated because he feels he needs to catch up.  He led a life that took him down an undesired path, and now that he’s rejoined the rest of society, he feels he has to not just catch up, but share the lessons he’s learned and give back to the world that gave him a second chance.
I think my own motivation comes from many aspects; my children, my desire to be happy, and the need to be something creative.
About.com explains that motivation comes in three components, activation, persistence and intensity.  Activation is the decision to change or act a certain way.  persistance is the continued effort towards the goal.  Intensity is the concentration and vigor one puts forth toward the goals.  Given that, maybe it wasn’t a lack of motivation this week, but just a lack of intensity?
What motivates you?  What do you do to restore your motivation or intensity when it seems to have lost its luster?

How To Create a Great Development Plan

Continuing with yesterday’s topic development plans, I did a bit of research on how to make them a more useful and successful tool.

Lifehacker has a great article on how to write a personal development plan.  Read it here and here

Great Leaders by Dan McCarthy has an article on writing one, even if you don’t plan on moving up the ladder just yet.  Check it out here.

And if you aren’t feeling that motivated, Tiny Buddha has an article on how to get there.

What’s with these IDPs anyway?

I am not a failure.  I’ve seen my own share of success,  and don’t back down from a challenge, yet I cringe when the yearly IDP is thrown around the workplace.
Employers spend a lot of money rolling out Independent Development Plans, implementing them, not to mention the payroll to execute them.
I work hard while I’m at work.   I learn as much as I can about my current employment.  But when my manager, and it doesn’t matter which one, tells me its time for me to work on  my IDP, I feel this defensive, “Get out of my bubble” feeling, like they’ve asked me something which is way too personal.

I don’t want to share what my goals.
I don’t want to go in the direction my employer thinks I should.
I’m just not committed enough to really have a goal in mind.
I just want my pay cheque so I pursue my real passion.
Nothing will come of this, but its a nice piece of paper to have.
Its like being asked what I want to be when I grow up, but only if I work for this company.
These are all answers I received when I asked various people to tell me their thoughts on IDP’s.

In every place I’ve worked, as IDP season comes up, I fill in the blanks, and hand it back to my employer, so it can be filed and asked to be resubmitted again the next year.  In fact, I’ve resubmitted the same report a few years in a row, just to see if anyone noticed.  No one did.  It’s not the intentions of the employer to have the program fail.  It’s a lack of resources.  Staffing is trimmed in most places to the extreme, where most employees do the work meant for at least two people, and managers are no exception.  Having to do their jobs, plus manage an IDP program for their staff as well as their own…  there’s just not enough hours in the day.
Why do companies use the IDP program, and insist on their staff participating, knowing that unless that person is highly motivated (and in which case probably already has come up with their own game plan anyway) it might not make a lick of difference to move that employee forward?  To propagate motivation.
IDP season is a chance to give the employer a spotlight to show on each individual and say “Look what you can do at our company.”  To foster a sense of ownership of the employees own merits, which should stave off employee turnover for just a bit longer.  And a failed IDP program is still cheaper than training someone new.
I’d like to explore this topic more.  After all, in theory it is a program meant to help everyone succeed.  How can I use it when my goals don’t coincide with my employers?
Thoughts?  Has anyone used an Employer directed development plan and made good on their goals?  How did you this play out?

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The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

I actually finished this book last month, but it has stuck with me and inspired me till this day, that I feel I need to honour it with its own review.

I fell upon this book through the Todoist blog and borrowed it from my local library that night.

At first, I’m not going to lie, I thought it was fluff and a silly self-help book.  Gretchen is a full-time writer, has more time, resources, and it would seem money, to throw at her project than I would, but it is still none the less inspiring.  I will not be going full-scale like she did, but I did write my own 10 Commandments list, and feel this book lead to my epiphany to do what I want, and write.   The lesson she learned on earning gold stars is something I myself am working on and can see in others more now.  I will reread again to gain another dose of inspiration and happiness injection and recommend this book to those who feel like they’ve lost something, but can’t quite put their finger on it.