You Do You Like a Boss (or a T-Rex)

The Tyrannosaurus Rex was the pimp of the dinosaur world.

He took names, he called the shots, he ruled the show. Which dinosaur got to be the logo for Jurassic Park? Which dinosaur do most kids want to see first at the science museum? Which dinosaur’s name (rex) actually means “king” in Latin?

That’s right: the mother-effing-T-Rex.

Because he is the incarnation of awesome killer monster dinosaur power.

But you know what? If a T-Rex existed today, he’d be lying on a couch in a psychiatrist’s office talking about his feelings of inadequacy despite of all the fame and glory he gets. Why?

Because T-Rexes Have Tiny Little Arms

For all their razor-toothed, huge-headed terrifyingness, the T-Rex has one genealogical (and rather hilarious) flaw: He has stumpy, useless little flaily arms that The Powers That Be had to have included solely for the purposes of amusing irony.

This means that, in addition to being the target of mean playground ridicule, these kings of the dinosaur world have all sorts of things they CAN’T do.

They can’t do pushups:

They can’t give each other high fives:

T-Rex high fives tshirt

 They can’t adorably express how much they love their significant other:

It’s enough to give any dino a complex.

But you don’t read about these things in the history books. Because—aside from the fact that pushups, high fives and relationships did not exist in the dinosaur era—T-Rexes did the one thing they were designed for very well: they killed things, and they killed them dead. They were predators, and they preyed like nobody’s business.

Brontosauruses, on the other hand, were physically stunning dinos—massively large, tall as fuck, and with all four legs perfectly proportioned. They were walking, symmetrical mountains. And they got killed. They got killed dead—by T-Rexes. Because the gimpy little arms didn’t matter, anymore than the Brontos’ impressive heft did.  Brontosauruses were made to eat leafy things.  T-Rexes were made to eat things that eat leafy things.

What’s the Lesson Here, Cordelia?

The lesson is this:

a) I want any and all of the t-shirts above, and will gladly accept them as early Christmas presents; and

b) We are all designed with certain talents, and certain shortcomings.

You can’t compare your skills against someone else’s, because they’re different. All that matters is that you do what you were designed to do—and you do the everloving shit out of it. (Tweet!)

You may hate your social awkwardness, but you can write one mean piece of copy that magically makes total strangers leap to do your bidding. That’s amazing. A million aspiring writers would kill for that talent.

You may not be the prettiest belle at the ball, but you’ve got the snarkiest, sharpest sense of humor of anyone you know—which is exactly what your future prince charming is looking for in his princess.

You may not know how to run a marathon, or juggle, or have any idea what the latest trending meme is on Twitter. But you do what you do like a boss.

And that is all that matters.

 

Image: Flickr

You’re Worth More Than That. Seriously. Stop It.

If you ever start to feel P.O.’ed at the self-obsessed nature of our society (how many pics of other people’s dinners must I be subjected to, Facebook?), you can get a healthy counter-dose of sadness by taking a look at examples of some people’s horrible lack of self-worth.

How? Just peruse some of the big freelance job boards.

It’s not pretty, man. I’ve seen things.

People clambering over each other to snag a gig that pays $5 for a 500-word article, SEO optimized.

Jobs that pay the equivalent of 5 cents an hour and have 46 bids on them.

But the worst — oh, the worst! — are the projects with open bidding, because then you really get to see what people think their skills are worth. From what I’ve gathered, 99% of the freelancers using these sites must owe society a sizeable debt of some kind, because they’re basically giving away their work, with a desperately eager smile.

I know the big free-for-alls like Elance and oDesk seem like the best way for an unproven freelancer to score a gig or two with little experience. But they’re really just an exercise in how low you’re willing to value yourself.  Even the newbiest of newbs has to know that offering to line-edit a 100-page ebook for $20 is doing themselves a disservice.

I’ve unsubscribed from all of the job boards I used to follow, largely because none of the offers I got were worth my time but also because seeing the bids people were putting in depressed the hell out of me. I wanted to send each low bidder a message that said, “Dude, why are you doing this to yourself? I’ll pay you $20 to stop bidding on this crap. I implore you. Think of the children!”

(I don’t know who exactly “the children” are in this case or how they come into this, but I’m sure it doesn’t benefit them, at any rate.)

 

Why We Lowball Ourselves

This is, of course, about more than freelance editing rates. It’s about all of us.

We sell ourselves short regularly, downplaying our skills and accomplishments and eagerly kowtowing to whatever crapportunity is tossed our way, regardless of whether it’s something we really want or something that’s even worthy of us.

We settle, in other words. Sometimes very low.

We take the shitty corporate job that drains our soul because it’s a paycheck and the title looks impressive on our business cards. We figure no one likes their job, so we’re doing pretty well in the grand scheme of things.

We settle for relationships with people who put us down, hold us back or just plain don’t “fit” us right, simply because we want to be in a relationship. We feel more validated being part of a couple, even a miserable one.

We brush aside our dreams, dismiss them as silly hobbies and refuse to imagine they might actually be possible, because we don’t think we’re smart enough/special enough/talented enough to make them happen.  Growing up in “The Real World” has taught us that schlepping and plodding are what people do. It’s only celebs with that uncapturable “it” factor who deserve to live fantastic lives. You know, like Kim Kardashian. Or Snookie.

We volunteer to be unremarkable before we or the world even have a chance to determine what our true worth is.

Why aren’t we more willing to stand up for ourselves?

 

You’re a Glittering, Ass-Kicking Star, Baby

(And If You Tell Yourself Otherwise, I Will Throttle You)*

*For the sake of the effectiveness of this threat, I am a 6′ weightlifting Amazon, not a 5’2” little girl with what my husband affectionately calls “Grover arms.”

I don’t care if you’ve never published anything beyond a poem in your high school anthology. If you’ve got a book in you, fucking write the hell out of it. And don’t write the version of the book you think will “sell,” or I will materialize at your writing desk and smack you roundly upside the head. (Even Grover arms can deliver a good, quality smack. Don’t test me.)

Write the story that wants to be told.  Write the story only you can tell.

I don’t care if you’ve only ever baked things for your nieces’ and nephews’ birthday parties. If your “no big deal” cakes are actually elaborate SpongeBob SquarePants ocean scenes complete with graham cracker sand and a fondant Squidward, then get your ass learning what it takes to open a small business. Because you’ve got real talent.

Timmy isn’t saying you make the coolest cakes ever because he’s a toddler and they think anything is cool. He’s saying it because you’ve got mad skills, and he recognizes.

I don’t care if you have no freelance “experience” and you don’t think anyone will hire you. The kind of experience you need is not a portfolio of shit jobs that demonstrates you have a remarkable capacity to accept insulting pay grades for doing complex, skilled work.

It may take a little longer, but hold out for the good stuff. You have a valuable service to offer, one that takes time and effort to perform, and quality clients will be willing to pay for that.

You have to believe you’re worth it first, or no one else will. (Tweet, tweet!)

Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t introduce yourself to the world as an amateur or a wannabe. Whatever your dream, whatever your talent, go out there and freakin’ own it like you’ve already made it.

People will take note. I guarantee it.

 

Image: Flickr

It All Comes Down to You (Some Stories About Adversity)

This post is from way back in 2011 (remember those days?). I’m re-airing it because I very much need to hear it as I overcome my own challenges this month — namely, kicking my sorry tail into shape.

I have a feeling you could stand to read it, too, whatever challenges you’re currently facing.

So, sit back and listen up, kiddies. I’d like to tell you some stories about some people and the things they have done…

 

Helen Keller Was Deaf and Blind

She not only learned sign language, but earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, wrote 12 books and numerous articles, was a fundraiser for the blind, and campaigned for many liberal causes including women’s suffrage and workers’ rights. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

No one would have faulted her for living a quiet life of solitude, given her seemingly insurmountable disability. But she didn’t.

 

Beethoven Began to Lose His Hearing at the Height of His Career and Eventually Became Completely Deaf

He sawed the legs off his piano so he could set it on the floor and feel the vibrations as he played. His Symphony No. 9, of which he never heard a single note, is one of the best-known works of classical music.

He could have given in to the suicidal thoughts that overtook him at first and become just another poetic tragedy. But he didn’t.

 

Elie Weisel and Viktor Frankl Experienced the Unspeakable Horrors of the Nazi Concentration Camps

Weisel went on to spread a message of hope, atonement and peace, drawing from his own struggles to come to terms with the presence of evil in the world. He wrote over 40 books, including the acclaimed memoir Night, and is a political activist for human justice, tolerance and freedom the world over. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his crusades for human dignity.

He could have become disillusioned, bitter and withdrawn from the world. Few of us would have faulted him for that. But he didn’t.

From his own attempts to find a reason to keep living in the midst of meaningless suffering, Frankl developed a philosophy that even in the cruelest and most hopeless of situations, man has the ability to find internal meaning and purpose. He went on to teach that even when we are helpless to change our circumstances, we have within us the power to summon the will to live. He pioneered existential and humanist psychiatric systems and wrote more than 32 books, including his hallmark Man’s Search for Meaning.

He could have been broken and defeated by the horrors he experienced. Most of us probably would have, in his situation. But he didn’t.

 

Nelson Mandela Spent 27 Years as a Political Prisoner

He became a leader among his fellow inmates, fighting for better treatment, better food and study privileges, earning his B.A. while imprisoned through a correspondence course. He also became a symbol of hope and anti-apartheid resistance for his entire country. While behind bars, he continued to build his reputation as a political leader, refusing to compromise his beliefs to gain freedom, and upon his release, he led negotiations that resulted in the democracy he had always fought for.

He was elected president of South Africa and received more than 250 awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize. His funeral was a global event.

He could have decided to lie low, give in, and let those 27 years sap his motivation and his influence. It would have been easy enough. But he didn’t.

 

Albert Einstein, Alexander Graham Bell, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Walt Disney and Winston Churchill Are All Said to Have Displayed Signs of Learning Disabilities Like Dyslexia

They did poorly in school. They were told they were stupid, talentless, unteachable, and that they would never amount to anything beyond “mediocre.” I think you know they all went on to do some fairly impressive things.

They could have believed the negative voices and been the smallest versions of themselves. But they didn’t.

 

Speaking of Thomas Edison…

In addition to failing about 10,000 times before landing on a successful design for the light bulb (“I have not failed; I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”), his factory burnt to the ground when he was 67, destroying countless lab records and millions of dollars of equipment. When he surveyed his losses, he remarked, “There is great value in disaster.  All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew.”

He could have thrown in the towel at any one of these setbacks. It certainly seemed like “fate” was trying to tell him to do so. But he didn’t.

 

J.K. Rowling Was a Divorced Single Mom Living on Welfare When She Had the Idea for the Harry Potter Books

She walked her baby in its stroller until it fell asleep, then rushed to the nearest café to get out as many pages as she could before the baby woke up. She is now the revered master creator of a beloved global franchise and one of the richest women in the world.

She could have dismissed her idea as silly or focused on something more “viable.” But she didn’t.

 

James Earl Jones Still Struggles With a Speech Impediment

When he was young, his stutter was so debilitating that at one point, he actually gave up speaking.

He could have stayed silent. But he didn’t.

 

Jackie Joyner-Kersee Was Diagnosed With Asthma When She Was 18

She is now a six-time Olympic medalist in track and field, is ranked among the all-time greatest athletes in the women’s heptathlon, and was named by Sports Illustrated for Women as the Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th Century.

She could have seen herself as defective or weak and given up on her dreams. But she didn’t.

 

Jean-Dominique Bauby Suffered a Massive Stroke That Resulted in “Locked-In Syndrome”

The well-known French journalist, author and editor was left paralyzed and speechless, his only thing method of communication being the ability to blink his left eyelid. He went on to write the book The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, letter by letter, with this one good eyelid. A transcriber recited a modified alphabet to Bauby until he blinked his eye to indicate the letter he wanted.

An average word took around 2 minutes to “write” this way. The book was written in about 200,000 individual blinks, accomplished in 4-hour-a-day sessions over a span of 10 months.

If anyone ever had the right to claim “writer’s block,” it was him. But he didn’t.

 

The Moral of These Stories

Circumstances mean nothing.

Limitations mean nothing.

Obstacles mean nothing.

It all comes down to you. (Tweet, tweet!)

YOU decide how you react to circumstances. You decide who you are in those circumstances and what you can do in spite of them (or because of them).

YOU decide what you do with your limitations. You can see them as a challenge, a minor setback or a message from the universe that you’re just not “meant” to do something.

YOU decide to let obstacles stop you or keep blazing ahead.

You know what the above people did. What’s your choice?

 

Image:  Flickr

The Ripcord Excuse

You’ve done it before. We all have.

You resolved to do something, and you’ve been doing pretty good overall. Then you have one of those moments.

Maybe you forgot your resolution for a second; maybe you were tired and grumpy and just decided you didn’t feel like keeping it up. Either way, you have a momentary backslide.

You choose a goopy, greasy donut instead of a bowl of granola. You skip the gym in favor of an Orange is the New Black marathon. You snap at a coworker you’ve been trying to be show more patience.

And you feel awful.

In this moment, you have two choices: Hit “reset” and move on, or let it tank your whole day.

Which do you choose?

 

And Cordelia Replies…

I’ll be honest and tell you that this past week, I’ve been choosing the tank-your-day option. My much-needed decision to quit treating my body like poo (again) has not only been thoroughly neglected; it’s been deviously undermined at all steps. By me.

I’d miss my morning Zumba routine because I was buried with work, then figure the rest of the day was shot, so I might as well eat like crap for dinner.

Eating like crap for dinner gave me sub-par sleep that night, so the next morning, I had twice as much coffee and snacked too much to shake myself out of my grogginess. By Thursday, I’d clearly shot the whole week to hell, so I figured there was no point trying to right the ship on Friday. Might as well enjoy a weekend of gluttony and sloth and start over again on Monday…

But here’s the thing: Our habits don’t form because we perform them flawlessly, every day without fail. They form because we keep plugging away at them, on a regular basis, even when we mess up. (Especially when we mess up.)

But when the habit you’re trying to form is something that’s especially hard for you? When you’ve been struggling with it on and off for a while and feel especially terrible about that? It’s all too easy to turn a minor setback into a total snowball of negative decisions.

 

The Ripcord Excuse

I’ve come to think of this as the Ripcord Excuse.

Ripcords have a useful purpose. When your mission’s gone bust and the plane is going down in flames, it’s time to head for the escape hatch, pull the ripcord and abandon station. Sometimes, cutting your losses is the smartest thing you can do.

But if you keep your hand permanently on the ripcord, ready to pull it at the slightest sign of trouble or discomfort, it becomes the wrong kind of escape mechanism. It becomes any easy out for any time you make a mistake (or decide you don’t feel like trying anymore).

Believe me, I know. I hate physical Quits. There’s a reason this month’s Quit is a reboot and I still haven’t successfully given up the snooze button, three whole years after deciding I needed to. I have zero willpower when it comes to physical challenges.

If I’ve got an emotional or logical challenge in front of me, like quitting my day job even after we lost half our income unexpectedly, setbacks and obstacles don’t faze me. They actually make me perversely more determined. But if I’m trying to move my body more when it’s used to being sedentary, or get my lazy ass out of bed when I feel like sleeping in, I will happily call it quits on my Quit the instant I have the tiniest excuse to do so.

Bailing when things get tough just reinforces the belief that you never can, and never will, be able to accomplish these things. (Tweet, tweet!) I never even give myself a chance to prove myself wrong, because the instant I fail, I chuck the whole Quit into the garbage and give up.

 

Failure Is Inevitable. It’s How You Handle It That Matters.

So, this week, I am going into things knowing full well that I will fail.

I will punk out on my workout because I’m busy/I woke up late/I just plain don’t want to.

I will choose the healthier meal option, then gorge myself on that option because hey, the ingredients are better.

I will do all sorts of weak and dumb and shady things to avoid treating my body more kindly — then I will pick myself, shake myself off and face my next choice with fresh determination.

And I will continue doing this, each choice new again, until a better trend starts to develop.

No more hand on the ripcord. No more easy ways out.

What circumstances make you run for the ripcord? How can you learn to stay put and keep trying?

 

Image:  Flickr

The Inspirational Power of Prosaic Badassity

(This is a kickass guest post by Shanna Mann.)

 

I was really excited by the message of the now-defunct “Impossible League” (brainchild of Joel Runyon). Kicking the ass of the so-called impossible? Right on! Finally, a group of people who will really celebrate the hard stuff and what it means to overcome. That was until I realized that they had an unbelievably narrow view of what it meant to tackle the impossible.

To me, impossible isn’t just when you intentionally push your limits. However difficult that situation is, it’s fully in your control.

To me, the real impossible stuff comes when you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, or when you can’t succeed in the typical manner, whether that’s because of a disability, a disease, being neurodiverse, or just having a really complicated personal situation — that’s what I see as “impossible.”

This collective embracing of feats of physical fitness and stoic challenges represents an actual cultural bias in favor of the fit and healthy. As understandable as that bias is, it shouldn’t make people who don’t reach that standard feel like failures. If anything, it should be the opposite.

That’s why I’m such a fan of making your own job. You can mitigate your issues far better that way.

You see, the way the world is now, it expects certain things from people. A commute. Set hours (or perhaps shift work, which is worse). It requires ridiculous “workdays” that no human being could possibly be productive across the whole span of. It prevents and really kind of pooh-poohs the idea that you should be able to have good hot food, naps or breaks when you need them (not only when they are legally required).

It insists that you should have to save anything and everything personal until after hours, even things that would be more efficient to prod along with throughout the day, like laundry or exercise or walking the dog.

Basically, the modern job requires an automaton, and some of us can’t even fake it. Rather than do all that and fail, we choose to put ourselves into circumstances where it is possible to succeed. Whether it’s a chronic illness, lack of childcare, or some other reason, there’s no reason to play with a stacked deck if you can invent a new game that plays to your strengths.

 

Not “Hacking It” Is a GOOD Thing

I’ve always said that coping mechanisms hurt as often as they help, and this is why: Not being able to hold down a “real” job helps us.

It makes us find another way to keep a roof over our heads, even if we’re suffering from debilitating pain 6 days a week, even when our elderly mother needs full-time care.

Oh, it sucks shitballs, because you have to make things up as you go, but at least it forces you to take your life by the reins. The people who can squeeze themselves into the role their workplace and the economy demands of them are afraid to move for fear of losing the “security” they have. Those who have nothing to lose can afford to be bold.

 

Test Whether the Default Settings Work for You

There are loads of articles about how beneficial it is to be your own boss or to work from home. People rhapsodize about how cool it is to get paid while you’re in your pajamas. That’s fine and all, but that’s really the lowest common denominator when it comes to how being freed from the shackles of societal default settings.

Not many people talk about how you can really take unconventional actions to solve your problems. You can move to Florida to mitigate your SAD, to Ireland to reduce your allergies. You can cope with a rare sleep disorder because when you run your own business, it doesn’t matter if you gain two hours every day. You can earn a living without having to afford daycare. You can take your mother to all her doctor’s appointments — hell, you can go to your own.

I’m on the other side of that issue. One by one, I’ve adjusted the defaults until I’ve settled into a lifestyle that’s so supportive, all my various health problems are nearly asymptomatic.

Why? Because I can wake naturally without an alarm, nap whenever I feel the warning signs, take the day off if I feel ill, eat every 4 hours without fail, and exercise daily to keep my body from seizing up.

When I worked a traditional job, I would wake with a start multiple times in the middle of the night, worried I had slept through my alarm. I would rise in the middle of a sleep cycle and feel nauseated because of it. I would force myself to eat something anyway because I could never be sure when I would get a chance to eat again. I would drive 45 minutes to work, where I would stay pepped up on coffee, B vitamins and Red Bull, and I would take Advil, Robaxacet, and a glass of rum every night so I could unwind and get to sleep without my body aching too much. I coped, but barely. I was still in the stage of trying to prove I could hack it.

What woke me up was someone asking me where I saw myself in 10 years. I said, “Not working this hard.” But when I looked into the future, I couldn’t see any way how what I was doing would lead to a better life.

 

Just Being Brave and Strong Is Not Enough

There tends to be this concept that if things are tough, we should stick it out. We should persevere. But it’s not as simple as that. When we struggle, we should struggle for a purpose. I damn near killed myself trying to prove I was tough, and let me tell you, I now have pretty strict standards about what is worth struggling for.

I am sufficiently convinced that I am not a malingerer. I guess I’ve paid my badass dues. My husband has rheumatoid arthritis and never missed a day of work, even on his surgery days. He’s convinced of his own toughness.

When people talk about their badassity, about the impossible things they’ve done, they never talk about the fact that they get through life on 15 spoons a day. They never talk about how they manage their business by working only when their kids are sleeping (except for years after the fact when they’re being interviewed by Forbes.)

They don’t talk about the second job they work, or how they keep it together in front of clients when their spouse is undergoing cancer treatments. WTF? This is the stuff of heroism. Not cold showers and running triathlons. (Tweet!Those are acceptable training, but the people in my examples are already in the pros.

Fitness and training goals are easy. Not in the sense that you can just snap your fingers and they’re accomplished, but in the sense that there’s a concrete measurability to them; there are simple templates to follow, and there’s a warm camaraderie with all the rest of the crazy people out risking an ankle with you. I have loads more respect for the way that Joel Runyon built a movement around the Impossible League than I am that he ran a marathon and takes cold showers every day.

I don’t have any grand lesson to share with you. If you’re in this situation, you’re already doing everything you can. You might not be doing everything right (because who can tell what that is?), but you’re the man on the ground, and no one can gainsay that. This sparse little poem sums up my feelings on the matter precisely:

I used to admire

Men who sailed the unknown seas or climbed dangerous mountains,

Who flew planes in the Yukon or parachuted for fun,

Men who built their own house and planted with their own hands,

Giants who built shopping centers and skyscrapers 100 stories high.

I used to admire

Priests who missionaried in China and scientists who discovered cures,

Industrialists who built empires, celebrities who made a mark.

Now I’m glad I’ve lived long enough to do some of the things

I used to admire.

Lately I only admire people

Who do what they have to do.

~James Kavanaugh (1928-2009)

 

Professional Badass: 24/7

If you’re already in the pros, own that shit. Don’t treat it like you’re secretly failing because you can’t “live up” to the default. You’re not failing; you’re winning against the odds. You’re taking your own destiny in your hands, and you are fucking crushing it.

If you’ve never been able to talk about your triumphs for fear they’ll sound like whining, tell us in the comments, and we’ll cheer you for the impossibility-crusher you are.

 

Shanna MannShanna Mann is a business coach for freelancers and solopreneurs. She’s not the “$100K in 90 Days or Less” type of business coach, or the “How Can I Get Paid for My Passion?” type — she’s the “How can I pursue excellence, both personally and through my business, and how can I secure my gains so that my family doesn’t suffer the stress and uncertainty of the risks I chose?” type of business coach. If that sounds like your cri de coeur, visit shannamann.com and sign up for the free business management guide Be The Boss.

 

 Image: Atos / Flickr

Some of the Awesomest Spam Comments Ever (Vol. 2)

I still miss the days of my search term roundups, and I still envy the hell out of Abby for her fantastic collections.

Sadly, my SEO plugin continues to do its job and lead people to my site largely via applicable phrases. (*Shakes tiny fist.*) Happily, I continue to be privy to something almost as good: horrendously wonderful spam comments that try to sneak into the various blogs I manage.

On a regular basis, I monitor the backend (that’s what she said) of several large blogs, which, due to their largeness, attract a decent number of spambots trying to sneak the most nonsensical of words and phrases into the comments section. Ads for products I can at least understand. But some of the stuff spammers try to get published? I must admit, the m.o. puzzles me, but I am also secretly delighted they keep trying. Because some of this shit is fantastic.

So, I’ve continued to diligently collect my faves as I go along, and I have ready for you another installment of…

 

Some of Awesomest Spam Comments Ever (Vol. 2)

*Bear in mind that none of these, even if they appear so on their own, have anything at all to do with the context of the posts they were actually responding to.

  • “I have read not one particular article in your blog. You are a massive lad” [I resent that, on several levels]
  • “Everything Amazon has, and more”
  • “I believe this internet site has some rattling good information for everyone”
  • “You communicate with a lot opinions, so much spirit, despite the fact that I sense that you have expressly hit the nail within the head. Effectively carried out!”
  • “woo!”
  • “The brain needs a continuous supply of blood. A lovely day.”
  • “Can you put me in the picture about the World Cup Football Match? We walk on the garden path. Speak louder.”
  • “We’ve got to do something about the neighbor’s dog! Don’t cry over spilt milk. Lying and stealing are immoral. Is it okay to smoke in the office? I love this game. No wonder you can’t sleep when you eat so much. No wonder you can’t sleep when you eat so much. He has a sense of humor. I’m not sure I can do it. I really think a little exercise would do you good.”
  • “That’s kind of…abrupt.”
  • “You’d better look before you leap. I see. 15 divided by 3 equals 5. Long ago, people believed that the world was flat. You’ve got a point there.”
  •  “Take me to the airport.” [No.]
  • “To tell the truth, I don’t like disco.” [Fair enough.]
  • “Does the computer ever make a mistake. He is a smart boy. How are things going? He hired a workman to repair the fence. She’s under the weather. I doubted whether the story is true.”
  • “Merely a smiling visitant here to express the love. Audacity, more audacity and always audacity.” *Winner of best comment this round, solely because I want “audacity, more audacity and always audacity” to be my new tagline.
  • “You sound like ur not gonna lie so I’m gonna do this.”
  • “There isn’t a person around who can hack my shit.” [Is that a challenge?]
  • “I ‘m totally down easy, being gigantic will not be enough connected with an attention getter now, make him or her red by using a yellow moose!!” [I would think this might be vaguely dirty if I could make any sense of it whatsoever]
  •  “You’ve been looking in my fridge!”
  • “I’m commenting to make you be aware of what a superb discovery my wife’s princess obtained going through your web site.”
  • “Heya i’m for the primary time here.”
  • “In the case of an earthquake hitting Las Vegas, be sure to go straight to the keno lounge. Nothing ever gets hit there.” [Ba-dum-ching!]
  • “I absolutely have a passion for vehicles.”
  • “Sitting back with my legs up watching Jersey Shore and eating a big bowl of Cap’n Crunch = Winning”
  • “noodles are my favorite thing to eat, any dish you’d recommend?” [All the noodles. There is not an un-delicious noodle.]
  • “Better stockpile while we can!!! Hail Victory”
  • “Hurahhh!”
  • “This does not mean, necessarily, letting down your guard and pouring your heart out about how much you love your grandmother.”
  • “Wassup! Darn, I’ve been looking for this! This is so frakin awesome and I’m glad I found it! I was about to pull my dad gum short hairs out. You put a lot of thought into making this out. I’m thrilled you handled the research, so I don’t got to. You are doggone awesome! I am not concerned with what them other ding-a-lings thought about you! You’re the best! Shalom…”*Honorary mention.
  • “Hi there , gentlemen ! Do now know what to do? Sick and tired of cafes ? We had to offer you to travel to Croatia. You will discover there some unique kind of entertainments. Beautiful women are here and you can make sure that we are right.” [Challenge accepted!]
  • “Never ever glower, regardless of whether you can be pathetic.”
  • “A large percentage of what you state is astonishingly legitimate.”

 

Image:  Keith Loh / Flickr

Are You Chaining Your Elephant?

I bet you don’t know how elephants are trained.

I didn’t, until I read the method in a book recently and was floored. Here’s how it works:

A baby elephant is placed on a chain that is staked to the ground. The chain is substantial, and although baby elephants are not small by any means, they’re also not quite mammoth enough to pull a big chain from the ground.

So, every time the baby elephant tries to roam, or wander, or (more proactively) break the hell free from its restraints, it can’t. It’s stuck. And after enough times of trying and trying and getting nowhere, eventually the little trooper gives up and realizes he’s beat. That chain ain’t lettin’ him get anywhere. So he stops trying.

Fair enough. Seems like a logical conclusion.

But here’s the kicker: When that little pachyderm grows up into a big, hulking, people-crushing adult, it still thinks the chain is stronger than it is.

At this point, it could very easily take an angry running start and yank that puppy clean out of the ground, setting itself free and trampling any trainers, circus-goers or other smaller mammals that try to get in its path.

Just a yank or two. And it’s free.

But it doesn’t even try, because it’s learned that being chained means being trapped. Never mind the size of the chain. It doesn’t even try to break free, because in its (admittedly not mammoth-sized) mind, “chain = stuck.”

If it tried? It would pleasantly surprised.

But it doesn’t. And it won’t. Because elephants, as they say, never forget.

 

You Are Not an Elephant

This whole training process seems ludicrous, right? (And more than a little sad?)

I mean, this big, wild, super-strong animal is held captive by a tiny little chain simply because it’s been trained to believe the chain is stronger than it is. It’s the equivalent of you being fixed to one spot in your yard by a rope of Silly String, because someone when you were 5 once told you, “That thing will hold you in place, no matter what.”

Except, it’s not so ludicrous.

Because every day, we’re held in place by equally flimsy chains, courtesy of negative training much like our floppy-eared friends.

We don’t bother trying for that dream or that position or that gorgeous guy or girl, because we know we’re not good enough. We’ve been told so. We’ve failed before. Failure seems to be our thing, so why bother?

We’re glued to our miserable cubes for 40 hour a week because we don’t see anyone else trying to break free, so we assume it can’t be done. There must be no other options. This is just The Way Things Are. We learn to deal because that’s what good, well-adjusted grownups appear to do.

We let ourselves be bound and limited by fears, anxieties, insecurities, anger we’ve been holding onto all our lives, because they’ve become internal narratives we don’t even realize we’re telling ourselves. Like subliminal messages, they influence us without our even realizing it, and we never think to fight back because we don’t realize there’s anything to fight against.

The trainers have got us.

Whether it’s our own inner hang-ups, cultural expectations or bad things that have happened in the past, we tend to operate in the same tiny little patch of life, never imagining it’s possible to move further, let alone that we have it in us to do so.

But we do. More than we may realize.

 

 Break Free

We have in us the potential for infinite progression.

When we were little, we were wise to this. We knew we could become astronauts, or doctors, or prima ballerinas because we saw the world for what it was: a playground of possibilities just waiting for us to start experimenting with our options.

So we experimented. We tried a million different things and learned about ourselves and didn’t let grownup silliness limit us because the adults were still letting us have our fun before “reality” hit.

But as we got older, we got the chain training. We learned the parameters of what could and could not be done– what was acceptable, what was expected, how to operate within the confines of the world as it had been parceled and boundaried out for us.

We learned to fit in — to boxes, to predefined expectations, to our own biases about our faults and weaknesses, to what “the average person” did in “the real world.”

Except the real world has always been much bigger than we’ll ever be able to explore, and none of us is as small as we’re led to believe “the average person” is. We just stop seeing that after enough training to respect the chain, no questions please.

 

Well, Fuck That. Fuck It Hard

You are a mammoth, people-crushing ball of possibilities, and you have the power to roam wheresoever the hell you choose in this great adventure called life.

Are you really going to keep puttering around your same little circle, thanking life for the peanuts it throws you while you’re one good lunge away from infinite possibilities?

I don’t think you should. Because you know the secret now. You know the chain has no power except the power you give it in your mind.  (Tweet, tweet!)

And once you know that? It’s awful hard to keep respecting the chain.

What’s keeping you bound to the same tiny circles? What can you do to break free?

 

Image:  Flickr

How to Deal When Everything’s Not OK

Some people wear their smile like a disguise.

Those people who smile a lot, watch the eyes.

I know it ’cause I’m like that a lot.

You think everything’s OK, and it is —

’til it’s not.

~Ani Difranco, “Outta Me, Onto You”

 

That blast from the past (from the days when I wielded song lyrics like personal mottos) has been in my head since last week. Not because I wear my smile like a disguise anymore (these days, the optimism is annoyingly real), but because of that last, killer line:

“You think everything’s OK, and it is — ’til it’s not.”

Back in the day (when I was crazy but didn’t know it), that line comforted me in a “that’s how I feel but I didn’t know how to say it thank god someone else understands” kind of way. Because when I was on the bipolar roller coaster, that’s precisely how things were: OK (if not brilliantly freakin’ awesome), until suddenly they were very much not OK, not even close. Like a schizophrenically wired light switch, my world could flip just like that, at a moment’s notice.

These days, my emotions tend more on the normal-people side, meaning they’re affected by logical factors like how much sleep I’ve gotten or how things around me are going. And because of that, I’m usually able to keep myself on a fairly even keel, perspective-wise.

But this past week, I realized something: Just like in the gonzo days, that switch can still flip. Everything can be various levels of OK (“OK things are good” / “OK I’m holding down the fort” / “OK it’s a little shaky but fuck me I’m making this happen!”) — until suddenly, they’re not.

What I’ve been trying to puzzle out lately is what to do when that happens. Because it’s going to happen. There’s nothing any of us can do to avoid a sudden switch-up. There will be times, even in the most optimistic and dutifully designed lives, when things just really, really suck.

And if you’re trying to live optimistically and intentionally, it can be tough to know what to do with that.

 

A Confluence of Crap

Over the past week, a number of shit-meet-fan occurrences have happened in quick succession:

  • My husband’s initial disability claim was rejected. We knew this would happen, as this is how The Man works (or rather, doesn’t work). When we met with our attorney to begin the appeals process, we learned the next step was to wait for our hearing date — sometime around December 2014. We did not know this would happen. So, one full year of doing and hearing nothing before we can even attempt to get a second income back in the house.
  • My husband’s short-term disability benefits, which we thought we had for another month, were discontinued, resulting in a shortfall of several hundred dollars per month. (Been trying to find a stopgap client for a while; so far, no dice.)
  • One of my practically new clients dropped me due to financial issues of her own.
  • I was clobbered by a deadline pileup as several of my monthly posts were due the exact same weekend I was trying to dig out from a task backlog caused by meeting with said disability attorney, a bankruptcy hearing (did I mention the husband’s filing for bankruptcy? yeah, so there’s that), and a visit to the hospital for some tests for the husband.
  • I realized the debt I spent four years paying down (and had juuust freed myself from) is piling back up way too fast due to the loss of said second income.
  • I cursed myself for not being able to turn 15-hour workdays into all-nighters for fear of triggering the craziness and putting myself totally out of commission, at a time when in-commission is barely cutting it.
  • I had a panic attack. Interspersed with “Holy fuck, what if I have to go back to the 9-to-5?” moments, which only caused further panic attacks.
  • Realized I’m making as much now as I did in the 9-to-5, and the reason it’s not enough isn’t because I’m not hustling hard enough, but because I am only one person. (And The Man takes a hefty hunk out in self-employment taxes.) Maybe once the biz has had some time to grow, I can hope to bring in two people’s income with one person’s efforts, but for now, this is the best I can do. It still doesn’t feel like enough.
  • Realized once again that the best I can do still leaves us financially up a creek sans paddle. Attempted to crawl out from project backlog while getting less and less sleep and feeling more and more trapped.
  • Repeat panic attack. Sprinkle in creepings of despair. Insert car deciding to make awful, expensive-sounding noises and the prospect of an entire weekend working 24/7 to get myself back on track.
  • Cancel all plans. Go into catatonic state. Experience massive meltdown.

 

How to Deal When Everything’s Not OK

I am an optimistic person. Clinically so, at times. But even the most optimistic of people have days (or weeks, or months) when they can’t see the bright side of a dark situation. And that’s tough, especially when you’re used to pulling up your big girl pants, blazing ahead and refusing to be beaten by anything.

When your natural mode is conquer-the-world, feeling defeated and hopeless — even if it’s only temporary, even if the situation makes that understandable — can make you feel like everything up to that point has been a waste and a farce.

So, what do you do when your revolutionary side is immobilized by external badness, and all you want to do is curl up under a blanket and hope the world forgets you exist?

First, take a few long, deep breaths, hug the nearest huggable object, then try this:

 

1. Allow Yourself to Feel the Badness

My feelings of despair/panic/uselessness have been compounded by the fact that I felt guilty for feeling them.

I am not a complain-about-problems person; I’m a figure-out-how-to-beat-them person. I know some of the most wildly successful people have faced crap of their own, and I also know people IRL who’ve dealt with the ultimate in shitty situations and still managed to maintain an attitude that puts the rest of us to shame. So feeling defeated by our personal situation seemed horribly self-centered.

But here’s the thing: Your situation is the only one you’re living. You can’t play the “there are starving children in Africa” game with your feelings, because your reaction to a bad situation has nothing to do whatever other, worse situations are happening in the great big world around you. You can only live the life you’ve got, and when that life takes a bad turn, you’re allowed to feel bad about it.

While realizing you’ve still got it comparatively good can help you in the long run, you need to allow yourself time to grieve, kick and scream, and process your feelings before you try to move on from them. Just because “other people have it worse,” that doesn’t make your feelings any less legitimate.

And feeling bad for feeling bad certainly won’t do you any good.

Process the crap, let yourself feel how truly crappy it is, then move forward to trying to shift your perspective. Because you’ll never get past your emotions if you don’t allow yourself to go through them first. (Tweet, tweet!)

 

2. Phone a Friend

Or several. And your therapist. And your mom.

Because getting too stuck up inside your own head can give you tunnel vision that only makes a bad situation seem totally hopeless. You need some outside perspective to balance out your p.o.v., and you also need to hear from someone other than yourself, because we have a tendency to be much harder on ourselves than we’d ever be on a loved one.

The people closest to you will understand why a bad situation is hitting you hard, because they’ve followed your journey and they know what you’ve been through. They’ll be able to empathize with you (minus the “how dare you feel bad” guilt trip) and offer some words of encouragement (minus the “you don’t know what you’re talking about” critique) in a way you’ll never be able to do for yourself.

Not to mention the fact that just getting out and away from your circumstances, even if only for the time it takes to have a coffee, can do wonders for a mind that’s been stuck in crap-reaction mode.

 

3. Realize You Cannot Fix ALL THE THINGS

I fully believe that hustle + passion = results. But sometimes, you need to accept the fact that even your most passionate hustling will only go so far.

Sure, I can earn more by working more, but I can’t earn enough to replace an entire second income — at least not at this point in my game. Growth takes time, and I’m already putting in 24/7 weeks as it is. At some point, I need to realize that one person alone can’t save an entire sinking ship. I can help bail us out as we slowly go down, but I can’t let myself go down with the ship in the process. Some things are beyond your control or your ability to triage, and feeling bad for not being able to solve those things is pointless.

Similarly, an optimistic attitude can work wonders, but it can’t always fix what’s broken. Optimism can help you move through the shittier parts of life and deal when you’re in the midst of them. But it can’t necessarily make them better. Sometimes, things just suck, and all the optimism in the world won’t change that. The key is in realizing that optimism is mindset, not a magic wand.

Now that I’ve let myself kick and scream and etc., I can look at where we are and say, “Yes, this sucks, but here are the good things I can focus on.” I can begin to move on in spite of the crap, and feel some hope in the possibility of things eventually getting better.

What I still can’t do is say, “Here are the good things I can focus on,” and boop! everything’s better. I need to accept the fact that the situation we find ourselves in is less than ideal, and no matter how hard I try or how fiercely I look on the bright side, it will continue to be rough for some time.

It’s only by accepting this that optimism has any chance for a foothold. Real optimism isn’t about magically making a bad situation sunny; it’s about finding the rays of light in even the shittiest of situations, even while realizing full well how shitty they are.

“Acceptance” does not mean “acquiescence.” This is key.

 

4. Just Keep Swimming

Bad days and bad seasons will happen. And sometimes it will take a while for you to climb out on the other side of them. So in the meantime, be as patient and gentle with yourself as possible, try to find a little happiness where you can, and just keep moving, one step at a time.

Go to your job. Love your family. Pet a puppy. Laugh with friends. Enjoy the day-by-day (or minute-by-minute) happinesses wherever you can find them, knowing that this moment right in front of you is all you really have, anyway.

You may be surprised to find that can sometimes, that can be enough.

And when it’s not? Know that that’s OK, too.

How do you cope when things aren’t OK?

 

Image:  Flickr

How to Quit (Tips & Tactics)

This is an excerpt from my ebook, Your Guide to Calling It Quits (because there are better things to do with your life).  To read more, get your free copy here.

 

So far in this miniseries, we’ve discussed why you should quit things and how to decide which things to quit.  Now we get down to the nitty gritty details—how the frack you’re actually supposed to quit something.

Unfortunately, there’s no 12-step program for quitting of the sort we’re talking about.  Maybe one day I’ll develop one and sell it for a reasonable price, along with custom coaching sessions.  (Interest…?  Anyone…?) 🙂

Depending on what you’ve chosen to get rid of, what your life currently looks like, and your own strengths and weaknesses, it’s really up to you to decide the best way to accomplish your quit.  It’s a process of experimentation.

 

Each Quit Has Its Own Unique Challenges and Issues

But as you learn to take control of your life and happiness, the overall process of quitting will become easier and more instinctual. You’ll get used to the initial discomfort of changing something, and you’ll start to learn the tactics that work best to keep yourself on target.

Maybe you operate best on a reward system—for every $50 you put towards your savings goal, you give yourself an inexpensive treat, like a cupcake from your favorite bakery.  (Mmmm, cupcakes…)

Or maybe you’re the sort that likes lists and progress charts and inspirational Post-It notes on your bathroom mirror.  Then Post-It it up, baby!

When I quit eating like crap, I made specific guidelines for myself: smaller portions, more fresh veggies, fewer carbs (my personal kryptonite).  But when I quit being a TV addict, it was more a matter of going cold turkey and then keeping an eye on myself each day to make sure I didn’t backslide.

Each quit is different, and each person quits differently.  You’ll learn what works best for you and figure out what each specific challenge needs.

That said, it would be pretty unfair of me to say “Go ahead, start your quitting!” without giving you any idea of what to expect.  So, here are some basic things to keep in mind as you go about your quits:

 

Tips & Tactics

 

1. Have Something You’re Quitting For

This is by far the most important thing—Quitting 101.  You need a positive, motivating reason for your quit—and you’ve gotta really mean it.

Just focusing on how much you hate the thing you’re quitting creates a bad mojo that contradicts the whole purpose of quitting in the first place.  It’s to make things better, remember?  So, what are you making things better for?

Why do you want to quit spending so much money?  To save up for a dream vacation?  To build your kids’ college fund?  To pay down your debt so you can quit your office job and become a skydiving performance artist like you’ve always dreamt of being?  Keep the positive visuals at the ready.  Call them up whenever you’re facing that fantastic sale that’s just too good to pass up, even though you don’t really need any of the things being sold.

Why do you want to quit being a couch potato?  To fit into those old jeans again?  To have more time to focus on that grand novel you’ve always wanted to write?  To spend more time with your family?

Remember that you’re striving for something, not fighting against something.  Striving makes you feel energized, optimistic, and fulfilled.  Fighting makes you feel tired, resentful, and grumpy. Guess which mindset is more effective?

Keep it positive.  This is a good thing you’re doing.  You’re clearing room for all sorts of fantastic stuff to come tumbling into your life.  Hooray!  (Or “Huzzah!”, if you prefer.)

 

2. Take It Slow

Trying to change everything all at once pretty much guarantees failure.  We have finite reserves of self-discipline and energy, and multitasking your quits only makes each one harder.  Imagine quitting caffeine, sleeping in, and negative thinking all at once—you’re not setting yourself up for much success with that combo.  Try a quit or two at a time, and wait until you feel you’ve really mastered one before moving onto the next one.

 

3. Understand (and Accept) the Trade-Offs

If you want to quit your job to start a business of your own, are you prepared for the hard work and financial uncertainty that come with that decision?  If you’re planning to give up meat, are you prepared for the ribbing (I swear I did not mean that as a pun) you’ll get from your carnivorous friends, the difficulty you’ll face at family BBQs, the extra thought you’ll have to put into making sure you get the nutrition you need?

Be honest with yourself about what it will take to make your quit happen.  If you’re not clear on what you’re up against, or you don’t fully believe the tradeoffs are worth it, you may not be ready—or the quit may not be for you.

 

4. Develop a Game Plan

If you’re quitting unhealthy snacking, and you know your office always has a box of delicious, calorie-packed donuts in the break room, arm yourself by stocking your desk full of healthy but yummy alternatives like nuts and fruit.  If you want to stop racking up so much debt, take your credit cards out of your wallet, or cut them up altogether.

Set yourself up for success.  By preparing yourself mentally for the challenges you’ll be facing, developing a concrete strategy for dealing with them, and resolving to implement that strategy every time a challenge comes at you, you’ll make it much easier for yourself to stay on track.  Think ahead.  Be prepared.

 

5. Come Up with Positive Replacements

It’s easier to quit something—especially something that’s been an ingrained habit for a while—it you have a positive substitute to take its place.  If you want to quit stress eating, line up alternate coping methods you can turn to when you start to feel stressed (massage, meditation, exercise, etc.).  Having something to take the place of the thing you’re removing from your life—especially a replacement that makes you feel good—is a great way to ensure your quit sticks and you get the most happiness for your efforts.

 

6. Set Definite Limits and Guidelines

Are you quitting TV altogether, or allowing yourself a few favorite shows?  How many hours a day is o.k.? Nebulous quits are hard to pursue.  Setting specific rules for yourself (when applicable) makes it much easier to keep yourself on track and also to recognize when you’re starting to slip.

 

7. Don’t Allow Yourself Exceptions

Any smoker who’s tried quitting knows how tempting it is to think, “I’ll just have this one cigarette.  It’s been a ridiculously long day.  It’s only one.  It won’t hurt.”  But one excuse can lead to another, and suddenly a month’s worth of progress is set back to zero by one “harmless” little exception.  Make it easier by being strict with yourself.  Every time you make the right choice, it gets easier to make another right choice.

 

8. Enlist Support

Tell your spouse, your friends, your family—anyone you feel would understand and can hold you accountable—what you’re quitting and why.  (Definitely tell them if the decision directly affects them, like if you’re the family cook and you’ve decided to give up meat.)

I can’t say enough for accountability; part of the reason I started a blog was so other people would know what I was up to and I’d feel more compelled to stick with it.  And the like-minded people I’ve met as a result have made my quits stronger and my life better in more ways than I can say.  They encourage me. They make me feel like I’m not alone.  When I do slip up, they help cheerlead me back on track again.

If you don’t have anyone you feel comfortable sharing your quit with, shoot me an e-mail at kelly@cordeliacallsitquits.com.  I’d love to be on your support team!

 

9. Envision the Results

Picture yourself having already quit.  How will things be better?  How will you feel?  How freakin’ awesome will it be?  Hold onto that image as you pursue your quit.  It’s the reason it’s all worth it—even if you feel discouraged today, even if you’ve had a long week, even if you’ve been really good so far and think you deserve a break.

You can also try the reverse tack and picture what life was like before you decided to quit—then picture yourself going back to that.  You decided to give this up for a reason. Recalling how unhappy it made you can also help motivate you to keep going.

 

10. Go Gradually

 Sometimes you need to ease into change.  It’s a lot easier to quit smoking if at first you only give up smoking in your car on the way to work…then on your coffee break…then you try to go the whole morning without a cigarette…compared to trying to give it all up in one fell swoop.

There’s nothing wrong with taking baby steps, especially if it means you’re more likely to succeed.  Build up your discipline victory by victory, then up the stakes when you think you’re ready for it.

 

11. Take It Day by Day (or Minute by Minute, If Necessary)

Let’s say you’re trying to quit being so negative all the time.  If you think about having to be Susie Sunshine 24/7—in spite of all the traffic jams, annoying coworkers, and last-minute deadlines you know you’ll face in an average day—you will psyche yourself out.

Any change can seem impossible (or at least hella intimidating) when you picture sustaining it indefinitely.  Instead, take it one traffic jam or deadline crisis at a time.  Change is built in increments, and it takes time.  Do what you can, as you’re required to do it, and the momentum will start to build.  Don’t waste your energy on future worry or stress. Just deal with what’s in front of you.

Remember what I said about people having finite reserves of self-discipline and energy?  The upside to that is that those reserves are renewed each day.  So just focus on getting through today.  Then get through tomorrow.  That’s all you can do, anyway.

 

12. Go Easy on Yourself

Whether you’re quitting something big or small, there’s a fairly decent chance (being human and all) that you’ll mess up at some point.  You’ll have a moment of weakness, you’ll make one of those exceptions you weren’t supposed to make, and you’ll feel pretty darn awful about it.

But here’s the important bit: Failing once (or even a dozen times) doesn’t have to be a step backwards or a sign that it’s over.  Get back up, dust yourself off, and keep pressing on.  It happens.  You’re not a horrible person, and you’re not hopeless because you screwed up.  What matters isn’t that you made a mistake; it’s what you do afterwards.

 

13. Ignore the Haters

The world, unfortunately, likes people who go with the flow and don’t try to be all striving and noble.  This is mainly because people who do that make the rest of the non-striving people look bad.  But whatever anyone else thinks of you is irrelevant.  They’re not living your life; you are.

It takes real insight, dedication, and guts to be a quitter—to take responsibility for your own life and happiness and dare to make things better.  Don’t let anyone’s jealousy or small-mindedness belittle that goal.  You’re rocking your life.  They only wish they were.

So, whaddya say?  Who’s ready to start doing some quitting?

 

Image:  Josh Puetz / Flickr

When You Should Quit Something

This is an excerpt from my ebook, Your Guide to Calling It Quits (because there are better things to do with your life).  To read more, get your free copy here.

 

So, you’re all jazzed up to quit something. (Hopefully—did you read last week’s post?)  🙂

But where do you start?  How do you know which things really ought to be quit, and which you’re tempted to give up on for the wrong reasons?

This is where the whole “living intentionally” thing really starts rolling.  Because you can’t recognize what needs to go unless you have a good grip on who you are, what makes you happy, and where you want your life to be heading.

You don’t have to “have it all figured out.”  In fact, if you already do, you don’t really need to be reading this.  What you should do instead is send me an e-mail with your secret formula for success, because I’d love to know it.  (Maybe we can go halfsies on an inspirational lecture tour?)

All you really need is simply to listen to yourself.  Secretly, way down deep in places you may not have examined for a while, you already know the answers to these questions.  You know when you’re not happy (even if you’re doing something you think you’re “supposed” to be doing).  You know what really matters to you (even if other people think it’s silly or a waste of time).  You know what you’d really like to be doing with your life (even if it’s not “lucrative” or “impressive” or the same thing the Joneses are up to).

You know what will make you happy.  You’ve just gotten off track.

The simple answer, in other words, is that you’ll know in your gut when something needs to be quit.  Chances are, as you’ve been reading this, you’ve already thought up half a dozen things you’d like to take an ax to.

But, to make it a little easier for you, here’s a quick list of…

 

Some Major, Red Flag Signs It Might Be Time to Quit Something

  • When you’re not getting anything from it.
  • When you’re getting negative things from it.
  • When you’re doing it only because you think you’re supposed to.
  • When you’re doing it only because everyone else is doing it.
  • When you’re doing it to make someone like you.
  • When you’re doing it to avoid someone disliking you.
  • When you’re not sure why you’re doing it.
  • When you always dread doing it.
  • When it used to be important to you, but it no longer is.
  • When you don’t like who you are when you’re doing it.
  • When it doesn’t feel “right.”
  • When you’ve secretly wished you could quit it for a while now.
  • When it’s wasting precious time/energy/money you’d be better off spending elsewhere.

Those aren’t all the indications, but they’re some of the big ones.  As you went down that list, did any ideas start prodding at the back of your mind?

Sometimes the things that need to be quit are screamingly obvious.  Sometimes you’ve been wanting to pitch them for a while.  And sometimes they just hit you, in a head-smacking moment of “What the hell have I been doing?”  But we all have something—plenty of somethings, actually—that we’d be better off without.

The first step is to identify them.

 

Bear In Mind…

…there are no “silly” quits, and there are no “impossible” quits.  Nothing is too little, too big, too simple, or too ambitious.  This is your life, and you’re deciding how you want to live it.  It’s your call what stays and what goes.

If it’s important to you, then it’s worthwhile.

I myself have quit everything from compulsive e-mail checking to resenting circumstances I can’t change.  I like a nice mix of simple, everyday habits (“mini” quits) and larger goals and attitudes (“mega” quits).  (You can check out the ever-growing list of things I (and my readers) have quit here.)

But it’s totally up to you.  Like I said, it’s your life, and only you know what you need and don’t need in it.

Got an idea in mind?  Then click on over here to see what you can do about it.

 

Image:  Kate Haskell / Flickr