January 17th, 2015 by Katie Morton
Photo Credit: Raneko / Creative Commons
I’m a planner. A dreamer. I love the idea that you can come up with a blissful vision for your life and then live into it, like you’re sliding into a well-worn pair of pants, which of course is a wonderful idea in theory that never works out that way. And so I feel like my biggest struggle in life is to BE HERE NOW, in the messy reality of my life, not how I wish it was.
Today I went to a class about self-publishing fiction. The whole first class was dedicated to pursuing a traditional publishing deal.
WHY did I just sit through a class that’s supposed to be about self-publishing that was about the EXACT OPPOSITE: how to get an agent and get a publishing company to notice you?
Because, as James Altucher would say, we’re all just waiting to be discovered. There are so many of us out there who are waiting for our big, life-defining moment. To lose 40 pounds and to be crowned the proverbial prom queen, to win MVP, to have our moment in the spotlight. To get told—by somebody else, by somebody “important”—for one minute that we’re good enough. That we’re doing it right.
And we’re raising a generation of kids who are told at every turn that they are perfect, that they are more than enough, that they are our everything. And that’s fine. Life will teach them whatever it is that they need to learn.
But about us.
You are doing it right. You are enough. Except you, me, we all need to stop waiting for validation. We need to stop waiting for our lives to come together and feel right. This is it. Today is all we’ve got.
Stop waiting to get picked, and take a good hard look at the life that you’ve built for yourself and see that it’s good…no, that it’s amazing, that it’s better than we could have imagined at some small, stunted, scary part of our lives when we were hard on our luck.
When I look back at all the jobs I’ve had. All the piddly summer jobs that I thought didn’t matter, that in retrospect were the best jobs of my life. Lifeguarding? Are you kidding me? BEST. JOB. EVER. I got a suntan for a living. Yes, saving lives = big responsibility and all that jazz, and it all boils down to AWESOME. Incredibly, because I was a stupid teenager, I didn’t know at the time that this was the best job in the world, that every day was a paid 8-hour meditation session.
Then there were the corporate ladder climbing jobs in my 20s and 30s…in DC when I was so poor it was preposterous, and in NYC when I gradually went from bleeding cash to making more money than I knew what to do with (the answer was that I stuck it all in a retirement account because thank God I am a nerd, and I never knew a time would come when I’d be unable to contribute to that fund).
But still, I didn’t appreciate those jobs to the levels they should have been appreciated any more than I had the good sense to appreciate being a lifeguard. I thought there would be a ticker tape money parade until the end of time. Ha ha. And duh.
These days I’m kept up at night by commercials about contributing to my child’s college fund. And so I’ve learned to be incredibly grateful for now, and the small, quiet jobs that I’m enchanted by, that I might be tempted to take for granted, but by now I know better. That I get paid to sit at home in front of a computer is nothing short of sorcery.
But even still, it’s tempting to take this for granted, these moments, these days. To think instead ahead to when my daughter will be older and more independent, and to when perhaps I will have some success in my fiction career.
But to think that way means to think it will be better when my daughter doesn’t care for me as much, because that’s what happens when a child moves from thinking her mother is her world to realizing that her mother is the same level of delusional batshit annoying as any sitcom mother, but probably worse, because she’s here, live, in the flesh, trying to harsh my buzz and tell me what to do, man.
I was watching author Barbara Brown Taylor talking to Oprah Winfrey, and they were scoffing at how so many people feel the pull, the call for a bigger life. They were discussing with a slight hint of disdain that not everyone is supposed to live a big life, that there is magnificence in the small, ordinary moments of our lives. Easy for them to say as they sit comfortably on their oversized flawless white cushy TV chairs.
But of course they’re right. Taylor said the most important thing people can do in their lives is to look at the big red X beneath their feet and to really be there, to live out of their current circumstances rather than trying to live into a fantasy. I had a huge A-HA moment at hearing that advice, because it’s rare to hear someone say that—unless it’s someone trying to dash your dream or protect you from failure, two sides of the same coin.
Because of course, we’re all familiar with the warning that there’s risk in standing still on that big red X. There’s great risk in doing the same thing over and over again and freezing in place. We rot. We all know that living an inspired and meaningful life means to have big goals.
To keep moving ahead.
When it comes to living your life out of a vision, vs. living your life out of your current circumstances, it’s my firm belief that you must do both every day. It’s important to dabble equally in hope for the future, and in the glory of now. Have a vision for a fabulous life, and hold it in your heart. But then keep your eye on the prize, which, ironically, is your life exactly as it is right now.
When you’re in the present and allow yourself to feel the joy inherent in it, you get to feel how great your life is, the ordinariness of it, right now.
We’ve heard all of this before. Have gratitude. But it bears repeating, because this is all going to end, whether we like it or not, so we might as well enjoy it.
These are the days. The good old days. Happy days. Cherish them. Hug your family and friends tight.
Give your heart a break, every day, and be here now. Let your heart rest on the life you’ve built, for everything you have right under your nose. Not all the plans and the mile-long to-do lists, but whatever is happening all around you.
This morning when I brought my daughter into her preschool class, she was greeted by her best friend, who promptly invited my daughter to her house. These four-year-olds then set about planning how this playdate was going to happen. My daughter recited our address for her friend, who then said, “But I can’t drive.” My daughter offered to drive, as if this is something she does every day. The other four-year-old then lamented that she would have to bring her car seat, and she can’t carry it by herself. My daughter admitted she doesn’t have two car seats.
This is often how we operate in life. We have our vision for how we want our life to go. We want a playdate with fate. Then we set about planning how this is all going to unfurl, but we’re not equipped to get ourselves from point A to point B. At some point we need to make our request and then trust that it will either unfold for us or it won’t, but either way, there’s good stuff right here for the taking.
These two friends have all day to play with each other at preschool. They could stop planning their playdate and just start playing, any minute now.
This reminds me of the time I stepped out of my apartment at some ungodly hour of the morning while the sky was pitch black and the moon was shining. There was a little frog sitting on my doorstep, far away from the nearest source of water. I knew if I left him there, that as the moon sank and the sun rose, he would dry out, shrivel and die.
So I would rescue him. But man, that frog made it way harder than it had to be. First, in order to escape me, he jumped and jumped, slamming himself repeatedly into a brick wall. Then when I finally held him cupped in my hands, I could feel his fear. Where was I taking him? What would become of him? And when I neared a source of water, instead of waiting patiently to be set down, when he heard the roar of the stream swollen by the rain rushing ten feet down beneath the bridge under my feet, he threw himself out of my hands and down into the water.
This is how we act in the hands of the Universe / God / the Force / The Field of Possibility: thrashing blindly, struggling every day against what is, arguing against our realities, not wanting to trust, being unable to gratefully accept that no matter what happens, we’re all going to be okay.
Let your heart rest. Even when you suspect you’re in the hands of a giant who wants to eat you, it will be okay.
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December 31st, 2014 by Katie Morton
Photo credit: Miquel Angel Pintanel Bassets / Creative Commons
Happy New Year! This year I’ve got a super-charged way of creating motivating resolutions, and a method that helps you stick to your plans every day. There are 8 Steps:
Step 1: List 25 Lifetime Goals
Go ahead and be audacious. You don’t need to share these with anybody, but you do need to go ahead and write down the 25 things you’d most like to see happen in your life.
Step 2: Boil Down Your Lifetime Goals to 5
Take a look at your big list and prioritize the five that are within closer reach in terms of timing, and that most reflect your values and what’s important to you in life.
Step 3: List 25 Goals for This Year
Write down 25 things you could resolve to do this year that could bring you closer to these 5 lifetime goals.
Step 4: Boil Down Your Goals for This Year to 5
I know it seems crazy to make these long lists and then cut them down, but your goals and lists are far more inspiring when you need to reach for more—and then hone your focus to your priorities. It reminds you that you have options and that you’re free to choose how to spend your time; and it reminds you of what actually matters to you.
Step 5: Create a Daily Routine
Based on your 5 goals for this year, create a daily routine that incorporates small daily habits that will move you towards your goals.
Personally, I love my daily walks in the woods for both stress relief and fitness, so that’s staying in my routine.
Step 6: Create a Daily Worksheet
Based on your anticipated daily routine, you’re going to create a worksheet that you can look at every day so that you can be reminded of what you need to do to reach your goals.
My daily worksheet includes a series of charts and checklists that cover the different times of day and different goals I have, like:
- An early morning routine so that I get my meditation, journaling, and novel writing done.
- An exercise chart so that I know what physical activities I have planned for which days.
- A dinner section so that I know what to shop for and prepare each day of the week.
- My work schedule so that I can fill in my to-do list for each day.
- A chart to remind me to spend 10 minutes tidying each floor of our home every day.
Step 7: Decide How to Use Your Daily Worksheets
When will you refer to your worksheet? Where will you keep your worksheets so that you remember to check off your goals every day?
If you prefer paper, you could keep your worksheets in a binder on your kitchen counter or desk. Or you could put one worksheet inside a clear plastic holder and write on your worksheet each day with a dry erase marker. Or create digital worksheets and keep them in a folder on your computer. Create a calendar reminder so that you remember to use your worksheets.
Whether you prefer paper or digital, keep copies of your progress so you can look back at the end of the month and evaluate how well your routine is working for you. Then make adjustments to your worksheet if necessary at the end of each month.
Step 8: Swap Perfectionism for Persistence
This is the most important step. It’s easy to make a mistake on a resolution and to use that one screw-up (or even a series of screw-ups) to toss the whole enchilada. Instead, it’s imperative to remain curious to find out where you went wrong and correct course.
For example, if you cheat on your resolution to eat healthy—because you’re human and you will—don’t beat yourself up and then quit. Instead, do a post-mortem to see how the mistake happened, and then make an adjustment, either to your attitude or to your plan. Repeat, ad nauseum.
Keep tracking via your daily worksheets, and adjust as necessary. And voila! You’ve got yourself a winning resolution.
Are you making resolutions this year? If so, sign up for Katie Morton’s newsletter to get a free copy of her ebook 10 Steps to a Blissful Life to learn how to break bad habits and live bigger.
October 21st, 2014 by Katie Morton
First of all, I unapologetically love Oprah. I know that some people don’t feel cool saying they love Oprah, or they need to qualify it somehow, but no. Not me. My love is not ironic. It flows freely. I honestly don’t understand how or why you could not love Oprah. If Oprah made a Kool-Aid, I would buy it.
I actually did sample some Oprah Chai Tea at Starbucks during the weekend and this was as close to Oprah Kool-Aid as you can get; it was so sweet, I wound up using it as sweetener in my black coffee. And it was delicious. I felt closer to Oprah for having drunk it, as if I had consumed her essence. Okay, maybe now I’m joking, but only a little bit.
Above is a photo of me (left) with my friend, Laura (right) who flew all the way from California to hang out with me for the weekend. Laura and I had been emailing each other back and forth for a couple months before she entered my little contest to join me for the Oprah weekend. I had my daughter draw names to make sure the contest was unbiased, and I was thrilled when Laura’s name was picked. As expected, we had a fantastic weekend together, and I hope we share many more adventures.
When we first met up on Friday at my brother’s apartment, my mind was spinning in circles, and I’m afraid I wasn’t being coherent. (Poor Laura.) You see, I’d been invited to participate in an interview on Huffpo Live (I appear in minute 24 of the 28-minute interview if you want a peek.) And media interviews can sometimes make me a little nervous in the moments leading up to them.
The interview was with Oprah’s trailblazer, Life Coach and Author Iyanla Vanzant who was promoting the Life You Want Weekend and her TV show. I asked Iyanla if I should blog my book for free, and she said NO – ALL YOU GUYS SHOULD PAY FOR IT. So there you go. Iyanla said y’all need to buy my book. But I did blog the first chapter before Iyanla got to me, so that’s out there for your perusal. This is the second time a best-selling author has warned me NOT to blog the book. This brings me to my first lesson of the weekend:
1. When Life Speaks, LISTEN
Oprah says that this point is largely the secret of her success. She followed the signs. She stayed connected to God. She listened.
Life is always speaking to us. It starts with a whisper. Just a simple message. Our ears perk up. Yet, if you’re anything like me, there have been countless times when you have promptly begun digging a hole so you can bury your head in the sand to ignore the message.
If we don’t listen, and we raise our rumps in the air while we keep our heads down in the sand, then life is going to pelt your tuckus with a pebble. The pebble means you’ve got a problem. You didn’t listen to the whisper that could have steered you the right way, and now you’ve got something to fix. You’ve got clearer direction, but you also have a little problem to clean up.
If you still don’t listen, you get hit by a brick. Now you’ve got a crisis on your hands. And if you still don’t listen, you’re going to run face first into a brick wall. Now you’ve got trauma and disaster. Slow clap, genius.
2. What you put out is coming back.
Call it karma, call it the law of energy, what you put out there in the world – what kind of effort you make and towards what – is going to come to you, both good and bad.
For example, if I try to be of service and write helpful blog posts, good things come back to me. If instead I stay self-absorbed and I worry about what everyone thinks of me and I judge others and I gossip, then that’s coming back to me.
3. You get to choose your thoughts.
Oprah says, “I am the master of my fate, the captain of my soul.” So are you. Choose your thoughts, choose your emotions, choose your actions, choose your life.
We often feel like we’re not in the driver’s seat. We wonder how we got here or what we did to deserve this. Your thoughts precede everything. Your thoughts are creative, and they create your emotions, which result in your actions. Your actions each day add up to your life.
You might think you can’t control your thoughts. Maybe you were conditioned by overly pessimistic or critical parents. We all have to train our brains, no matter our start in life.
Watch your thoughts as a dispassionate observer. My recommendation: try Headspace, an app that helps you learn how to meditate in a painless, easy, simple way. (No, I’m not an affiliate or trying to sell you something, I just really like that app. And if you don’t meditate, it’s a great way to start.)
4. You become what you believe.
I’ve seen this play out in my own life. If you want to have a certain belief – like I am strong, I am powerful, I am a success – you can look for proof, which will strengthen your beliefs and help you become more of what you want.
I won’t even get into all the negative things we tend to believe about ourselves, but it’s important you give that stuff the old “heave ho” and to create some empowering beliefs that are going to get you to where you want to go in life.
An old belief I had was that I can’t get up early in the morning to write. That was really unhelpful. I’m starting to understand that I can choose to believe that I love early mornings because they feel good and they help me get more out of life. I believe that using my early mornings productively aids in my success.
I think one of the most important beliefs we can hold for ourselves is: I am important.
Because we are! You have no idea the impact you have on people and the ripple effect this causes throughout others’ lives, for better or worse.
Sometimes I think back on old coworker who felt powerless and who used to attack her managers (myself included) precisely because she felt like a victim and like she wasn’t in control. She thought that she wasn’t the captain of her fate and so she struck out in nasty ways. That negative energy she put out still reverbs to this day. If she had put all that energy into positive actions and into understanding that she is important, and that what she says and does matters, then our time together could have been happy and fun and bright, as opposed to the frightening, psychotic, combative mess it was.
5. How to heal your relationships.
Like the last story – we feel so unimportant and this leads to our pretending our thoughts, feelings, and actions don’t matter.
You are worthy. So act like it. I don’t mean to go acting all demanding and like you need to be worshipped.
I mean when your daughter asks to sit on your lap, and you want to tell her no because you’re working on something you think is “important” – know that you are worthy of putting aside that work. And that you are so important that it matters whether you turn that child away or whether you gather that kid up into your lap.
You are worthy of that child’s love. And of your partner’s love. So act like it. Accept their love and give love back.
If you’ve got a difficult relationship with a friend or a parent and this person just sets you off in all the wrong ways, consider that maybe you are fumbling and scrabbling for a sense of worth. You want to be held with esteem in their eyes and it makes you angry that you don’t think they value you. You are coming at the equation from the wrong side; you need to see yourself that way. Hold yourself with a sense of worth. Then give love freely, regardless of their messes and neuroses and their floundering for self-worth.
6. Know what you want.
In one year, how do you want your life to transform? Tell the Universe what you want – give it clarity. If you’re confused and messy, that’s what the Universe gives you. Stand in clarity and decide what you want, because that’s what the Universe brings.
I wrote about this yesterday in my post 10 Easy Steps to Making Your Dreams Come True: “…start collecting ideas for your life that make you feel excited and enthusiastic about the possibilities…Just keep some kind of simple record of what your dream for your life is.”
Go on, make a list!
7. Do all you can, then surrender.
Oprah admits that when you cling to a dream, when you want to force it, things aren’t necessarily going to go your way. You need to put it out there – decide what you want and go for it, but then surrender. Blow a kiss on the wind.
This reminds me of a story about Jerry Seinfeld. When asked how he is so prolific and successful, he said the formula is this: he writes jokes every day, and he marks a calendar with red X’s for each day he writes. No matter the rollercoaster of success, whether some of his projects do well while others bomb, he just keeps showing up every day and collecting those red X’s, and seeing that string of red X’s is all you need to worry about.
Choose what you want to do with your time, and make sure you love it. Make sure when you look at that string of red X’s, it was worth doing. If it’s a string of red X’s that represents self-destructive behavior or if it’s something doesn’t bring you to a state of joy or flow, then rethink your thoughts and actions.
I leave you with this quote from musician Jason Mraz that sums up the weekend quite nicely: “Life doesn’t come at you. If comes from you.”
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