“I am just a _______ (fill in your role)” Change your perspective, change your life.

All too often I hear the phrase, “I am just a _______”, followed by an audible sigh.

The blank section might be just a spouse, a mom, a marketing representative, a teacher, an analyst, a volunteer, a whatever-job-or-role-you-choose. This simple phrase implies that you aren’t living up to your personal expectations, you don’t have much control in your job (e.g. I am just this, not that), you could be doing something different but aren’t, and/or your opinion isn’t valued.

When you say the above phrase, do you ever take action afterwards? Or, do you go back to your job feeling dejected?

Perhaps you need to start by changing your perspective.

Let’s give you a new job title! The only rule is that the new job title has to be something you admire and is somewhat related to the position.

As an example, you are no longer:

  • Just a spouse. You are now your husband or wife’s best friend! Doesn’t that sound better? Best friends are awesome!
  • Just a mom. No way! You are a now a Mentor or Advocate for your child or children.
  • Just a marketing representative. Absolutely not! You are now a Business Catalyst.
  • Just a teacher. How about viewing yourself as a Sculptor of Minds?
  • Just an analyst. No way! You are now a Writer!
  • Just a volunteer. Promote yourself to Fundraiser, Advocate, Consultant, etc.

By changing a job title, you can begin to transform yourself into someone extraordinary.

Start with how you view yourself and watch your life begin to change.

What does the word “great” mean to you?

Today is the first day of my All Things Great Project.

Since the age of eight, I have been obsessed with pursuing “great things” but never defined what great was. Over thirty years later, I still don’t feel like I have reached my true potential. In an attempt to better define my childhood dream of “doing great things”, I started a project focused on All Things Great. I intend to share my progress to better understand my childhood goal, and help anyone else wondering the same thing.

Starting with the definition seemed like the most logical place to start my project. I learned that the word great can be used as an adjective, noun, or adverb. You will also see the word as an interjection (e.g. Great! I just missed the last bus of the day) and in idioms (e.g. great with child).

For the purposes of my research, I chose to list only the adjectives and nouns as they relate to what a person does or is. As you will see, there isn’t just one definition. Below are a few of my results:

  • Merriam-Webster (adjective): Eminent or distinguished (e.g. a great poet); chief or imminent over others (often used in titles); markedly superior in character or quality; noble; remarkably skilled (e.g. great at tennis); marked by enthusiasm. As a noun: an outstandingly superior or skillful person (e.g. a tribute to the greats of baseball)
  • Oxford Dictionary (adjective): Of an extent, amount, or intensity considerably above average; Of ability, quality, or eminence considerably above average; informal (of a person) very skilled in a particular area. As a noun: An important or distinguished person.
  • Cambridge Dictionaryimportantpowerful, or famous; very good or very effectiveexcellent. As a noun: a famous person in a particular area of activity. 

I found several other online dictionaries that define the word great with similar definitions to the above meanings. They range from an action slightly above average which could refer to practically anything to an outstandingly superior person to a person of noble heritage.

I should have known that I would find numerous definitions. I clearly have my work cut out for me! Figuring out what great means to me is going to be a long process!

What is your definition of great?

Be Willing to End One Journey so You Can Start Another

On 12 December 1998, fueled by bananas and Mountain Dew, I won the Arcata to Willow Creek 40-mile ultra-marathon in 5 hours and 58 minutes. It was the only race in my life that I have won. The race was the culmination of eleven years of training—one solid year of training in 1998 which included a half marathon and marathon, six years of training with the Arcata, CA Six Rivers Running Club, four years of high school cross country and two years of track and field (I was never a big fan of running in circles).

When I crossed the Arcata to Willow Creek finish line, I was emotionally and physically spent. Tears of exhaustion, amazement and joy flowed down my cheeks. Years of effort had gone into that one race. After I recovered from an agonizing week of soreness, I wondered what my next running adventure would be.

What else could I strive for? At the time, I didn’t have access to the internet. I used a word processor so I couldn’t access the internet to research races or other grandiose possibilities. I didn’t know about Ironman triathlons, 100 milers, or 365-day running streaks. Even if I had known about these events, I was a penniless Humboldt State University graduate with no money for race fees.

In the years that followed, I competed in a few smaller races, and ran while in the Army, but I did not pursue any wild goals. Without anyone to say or encourage me to do otherwise, I concluded that I had reached the pinnacle of my running career. The Arcata to Willow Creek race was my Mt. Everest. Picture Forrest Gump after three years of running. One day, he stops, turns around and says that he is going home. That was me! The journey was over.

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Twenty Year Comeback?

Prior to New Year’s Eve of 2016, I considered making a come back. Why don’t I run that same race in 2018 twenty years later? Surely, my forty-year-old-something-self can outrun my twenty-year-old-self. I had a bad habit of comparing my older self to my younger, more adventurous self. Never fear… Mind over matter!! I could do this! I will do this!

I have always been challenge-oriented and love goal-setting so I wrote out my goal cards and started cross-training (running, biking, swimming) to get back in shape knowing that it would take at least two years to get my older, mom-body back in shape.

I signed up for my first triathlon (Monticelloman), chose a triathlon plan from the Triathlete Magazine’s Essential Week-by-week Training Guide, and began training. Five months later, in May 2017, I became a triathlete. Check! Next on the list… run a half-marathon, marathon in 2017, repeat the same races in 2018, and then run the Arcata to Willow creek ultra-marathon in 2018.

As my mileage increased throughout the summer of 2017, the strangest thing happened. I had this nagging feeling that I didn’t want to run long distances anymore yet I stubbornly refused to give up. As I continued to train harder, my body told me that I was doing too much. My hips and knees began hurting and I was getting sick more often. After a particularly fast 16 mile run during which I felt amazing (I was on a runner’s high the whole time), I knew I had overdone it. I hurt. I was on the verge of a serious injury. I reluctantly stopped training for a few weeks to recover.

The full marathon I planned to run in December 2017 was out of the question, so I downgraded my race entry to the half marathon. If I couldn’t do the full marathon, surely, I could do the half marathon even if I had to walk. It was 23 degrees the day of the half marathon. It was brutally cold, my heart was not there and I was miserable. Running long distances didn’t make me happy anymore. I knew that I had to adjust my goals and pursue another journey. A few weeks later, I scratched the ultra-marathon off my bucket list and started a more manageable yet equally challenging journey. In November 2017, I began my 365-day-one-mile-per-day running challenge! I am so happy that I adjusted my goal.

Almost six months later, I am still running every day and appreciate running more than ever for what it does for me. It keeps me healthy, helps me keep stress at manageable levels, and gives me a sense of accomplishment every day.

What My Journey Taught Me

Below are some realizations from this experience:

  1. Do not compare your current, wiser self to your younger self. If you can’t run 40 miles, try something different like a 365-day-one-mile-per-day running challenge. If you aren’t a runner, consider other challenges you can undertake that will give you a sense of accomplishment.
  2. There is no shame in adjusting your goals. If you have to adjust your goal, you are not a quitter. Consider the reason you are making the adjustment, decide on a new plan as soon as you can, and don’t look back. Go for it!
  3. Do you really want to relive a previous journey? Why not focus on a new adventure?
  4. Enjoy the journey! When I was training for my triathlon, I really enjoyed my training workouts. I loved how energetic I felt. I was thrilled to loose seven pounds while training and I felt a sense of accomplishment everyday because the workouts were challenging. I got more out of the journey than I did the race.

What have your life’s journey’s taught you? I would love to know!

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. ~ Lao Tzu

Rule Your Technology Before It Rules You

On 5 June 2018, I attended FranklinCovey’s course, “The 5 Choices to Extraordinary Productivity“. It was such an exhilarating course that I began implementing the technology-related productivity tips the next day.

The basic premise of the course is that, “we all have the potential to do extraordinary things.” By implementing the “5 Choices” consistently, we can achieve extraordinary productivity in our work and personal lives.

The 5 Choices are:

  1. Act on the important
  2. Go for extraordinary
  3. Schedule the big rocks
  4. Rule your technology
  5. Fuel your fire

I focused my initial efforts on organizing my Outlook inbox; rule your technology. I spend far too much time trying to stay organized and had hundreds of unnecessary emails sitting in my inbox. I justified keeping them by saying that I might need them one day. I rarely did.

Managing Your Workflow

As FranklinCovey reveals, the key to increased productivity is to effectively manage your workflow. When you receive an email, you have three choices:

  1. Act on it (e.g. appointments or tasks)
  2. File it (e.g important notes or contacts)
  3. Delete it

During the course, I learned a new technique for taming Outlook. When you receive an email with an appointment request, task, or contact, you can drag the email (left click + drag) to the options bar which features the following: Mail | Calendar | People | Tasks.

When you drag an email to the word Calendar, Outlook will automatically display a calendar event where you can adjust the time/date of the event and, if you wish, send an invitation to others. This action will not delete the email from your inbox.

You can also drag emails to the word Task which allows you to create a task. The pop-up box will allow you to make adjustments.

Likewise, if there is a contact you wish to keep, left click and drag the email to the word People. Outlook will display a contact box and auto-populate the contact form. You can highlight a phone number in the person’s signature block and drag it over to the respective phone number section. If you do this, it will remove the phone number from the signature block.

Outlook Tamed

By following the FranklinCovey technique, I was able to quickly tame my inbox by moving, filing and deleting emails. By the time I was done, my inbox was completely empty as if it was brand new. When a new email arrived that wasn’t an appointment, task, or something important to file away for future reference, I instantly deleted it.

I ended my work day feeling energized knowing that I had a simple system to manage my emails which would give me more time to write and focus on the tasks at hand. There is no doubt in my mind that if I maintain this system that I will achieve increased productivity at work.

My Happiness Project: Boost Energy

Earlier this week, I began listening to Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project while I was driving to work or running. I am half way through the book and have already started my own happiness project. I feel happier already!!

Rubin’s first chapter focuses on vitality and boosting energy. In her first chapter called January, she aims to (1) go to sleep earlier, (2) exercise better, (3) toss, restore, and organize, (4) tackle a nagging task, and (5) act more energetic.

For my project, I decided to focus on the third and fourth items on her list. I could certainly benefit from additional sleep; however, I love being a night owl. I am not yet ready to consistently go to bed early despite the abundance of evidence revealing its benefits. I exercise more than enough since I am doing a 365-one-mile-a-day running challenge, and I have no shortage of energy. Focusing on items three and four however could certainly improve my life.

Toss, Restore and Organize

Rubin began her toss, restore and organize effort by tackling visible clutter. She explains that, “Household disorder was a constant drain on my energy; the minute I walked through the apartment door, I felt as if I needed to start putting clothes in the hamper and gathering loose toys.” I feel the exact same way! Once her clutter-clearing challenge was complete, she spent ten minutes a day keeping her apartment tidy which saved a lot of time and improved her energy.

On Sunday, I am typically faced with a growing amount of clutter in the living room and kitchen that seems to take forever cleaning up. That doesn’t seem like a lot but when you add five loads of laundry, running, dinner, piano practice, etc. to the list, I am exhausted. I found that I was thoroughly drained by Sunday night so I knew I could benefit from this challenge.

This week, I vowed to keep the kitchen counters free of clutter, dishes out of the sink, wet dishes were washed and immediately put away, and I asked the kids to put their toys or music books in their room versus keeping them on our bar stools. Once the initial clutter was gone, I was much happier! I kept the house super clean for six days and intend to continue this new habit. I love it! I often stand in the living room admiring how nice our house looks. Doing a quick clean-up at the end of the day or as the day progressed was so much easier than a large clean-up at the end of the day or week.

Tackle Nagging Tasks

Once the visible clutter was gone, I tackled some nagging tasks. I have wanted to tackle the below projects for months.

  1. Clean out the bench in the hallway
  2. Paint the fireplace mantel
  3. Put film on the bathroom and closet windows to let more light in
  4. Touch up the bathroom door (there are a few areas where the paint is chipped. (It drives me crazy!)
  5. Paint the baseboards in the living room (the previous owners left us with two tone baseboards. The main part is all white while the smaller, curved baseboard touching the floor is not painted. It seems so unfinished to me!)
  6. Re-paint the front porch steps
  7. Paint the front porch hand rails white
  8. Clear out our closet
  9. Touch up the fish tank stand (a small piece of paint is chipped)
  10. Start blogging again!

Items one through eight could probably be done in an afternoon if I was really motivated but, if the truth be told, doing so would NOT make me happy. I vowed to do a few projects at a time so I don’t feel overwhelmed.

I was so impressed with my progress that I started a behind-the-scenes clutter-clearing project. I cleared out the bench that is in our hallway. For such a small bench, I was appalled at how much was in it. I removed four fabric bags, a couple of plastic bags, an entire bag of leashes and dog toys, a crossword puzzle book, jump rope, a couple of winter hats, gloves, some toys, and a small garbage bag of junk. It looks so much better! The bags below are going to storage and the rest is what we use on a daily basis. I still have several more nagging behind-the-scenes clutter projects to deal with but I’ll save those for another day.

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An organized bench!

I completed two additional projects on my list. My first project was to paint the fireplace mantel. It previously had grey paint that was peeling. It was not very attractive and bothered me every time I looked at it. A quick trip to Ace Hardware for a small container of Amy Howard At Home Linen paint and new brush took all of 15 minutes. After work one night, I painted the mantel in less than an hour. The joy I have gotten from seeing our new mantel has really made me happy. It is the little things in life!

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Finished fireplace mantel

My second project was to put film on our bathroom window to bring more natural light into the room. We have a small master bathroom; however, the blinds make the room very dark. Consequently, the light is always on. It took me about 40 minutes of measuring, cutting and removing wrinkles to get the film just right. The room is brighter, the light is not being turned on during the day which also saves electricity and it looks much better! A win-win!!

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Adding film brought additional light to our bathroom

After a week of doing my own happiness project, I found that I am happier already. The satisfaction I get from seeing a clean house is incredible! Since I had extra time at the end of the day, I found that I had time to start blogging again which has been a goal of mine.

If you are interested in starting your own happiness blog, purchase a copy of Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project. If you don’t have much time like me, listen to it through Audible while you drive, run or do chores around the house. You might be surprised how much happier you can become with small life changes.