October 20th, 2014 by Katie Morton
Photo Credit: Valerie Hinojosa / Creative Commons
About a year ago, I was waking up before dark every morning. I had a set of rituals that I knew would put me on course to the life of my dreams.
The only problem was – and this was a big one – I was chasing the wrong dream. At the time, I was working at being a life coach, and I was thinking that I would write novels once I retired. I actually wrote this to a friend in an email a year ago, that I would write novels when I retire, and not long after that, my coaching business circled the drain. Although I didn’t appreciate it at the time, my prayers were being answered. The Universe always has our backs.
Cue the sound of a needle scratching a record. Is there anything you tell yourself you will do more of “when you retire”? If so, then there’s a big chance you should be making more time for it NOW – not some far off time that might never come.
There’s no final resting place during this life when you’re free to prance through a meadow. It’s imperative we make sure to have fun now, along the way, or we waste the whole shooting match on boring obligations.
Here are the 10 Easy Steps to Making Your Dreams Come True – today!
1. What’s your dream?
This is honestly the trickiest step. We complicate the heck out of it. We think, “What’s my life’s purpose?” and then we break out into a cold sweat. Start with the easy stuff. What feels good to you?
If you aren’t sure, then pick up a magazine, and without thinking too hard, tear out pictures that speak to you. Now you’ve got the start of a vision board (or box – if the thought of hanging a vision board on your wall makes you cringe, just collect photos in a box. Easy peasy.)
You don’t need to decide everything right this instant, but just start collecting ideas for your life that make you feel excited and enthusiastic about the possibilities. If you don’t feel like working with images, then write some things down. Just keep some kind of simple record of what your dream for your life is.
Without having to consult a magazine, images that come to my mind are sunny nature scenes. I also like the idea of someone wrapped in a cozy sweater and sipping coffee while they smile at a laptop. (That’s me right now.) I’m a writer, so I’m now committed to writing every day. One day I will own a beach house. That’s about it!
2. Decide and believe.
Many of us will pick a delicious dream for ourselves and then immediately start pecking furiously at the edges with a list of ways it can’t, won’t, or shouldn’t work out for us. Stop that!
If there’s a word for both deciding and believing in one fell swoop, the word would be commitment. You have to commit to your dream. Don’t just put it in a box and close the lid, never to see the light of day. You have to take it out and fondle it…every…day. Take it out, play with it, give it some air.
Decision + Belief = Commitment
Decide you want your dream to happen. For real. Believe it will and can happen. For real. This is the magic sauce that will help propel your dream into reality. If you don’t decide and believe, and therefore commit, well then…as Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.”
3. Release fear.
This next step isn’t a one-time event. It’s probably something you’re going to have to do over and over, every time you notice you’re stuck and you’ve stopped forward momentum.
We disguise fear under logistics all the time: “Oh, I don’t have time to go after that dream, I need to make money!” Sure ya do. So get up earlier.
“Well then I don’t have time!” Sure ya do. So get up earlier.
“But then I’ll be exhausted!” Here’s the thing. Last year, when I was getting up early, it was a bit of a battle. I was always feeling like it took heroics to drag my limp carcass out of bed that early.
It’s all in the attitude. This go round, I decided it was going to be easy and exciting to get up early to write every day. I decided it’s not going to be difficult. I decided to get the sleep I need, and not be so dramatic and sacrificial about getting up early.
Choose the right attitude. Release fear. Repeat.
4. Take action!
Eegads, finally, the part where we actually DO stuff. Figure out what you need to DO to make your dream happen.
Then go do it.
To sum up step four, take action daily.
5. Love yourself.
It’s really easy to lose the plot in the frenzy of daily living. Just slow down, pump the breaks, relax. Listen.
Take quiet time alone every day – again, early morning if need be – to reflect, read, write, and to hear yourself think. Give yourself the time and space to feel your feelings and organize your thoughts so that you may stay in touch with your own needs and desires for your life.
6. Use other’s success as inspiration.
When you notice someone more fortunate, practice saying to yourself, “You know what? I want that, too! I’m going to figure out how and make it happen!”
If we want good things to happen to us, we have to stop judging others negatively for the good things they bring into their lives. Judging and criticizing others is such a silly energy drain. I will go out on a limb here and say that the majority of people who judge others negatively for their success don’t realize they do it, or they don’t realize there’s anything wrong with doing it.
I saw a Facebook comment the other day that basically said all rich people are thieving, greedy liars and that all poor people are generous and would give you the shirt off their backs. Nonsense. NONSENSE. That’s a waste of breath right there. Bill Gates has donated $26 BILLION to philanthropic causes. I would rather imagine all the good Bill’s money is doing out there in the world than to take one second to consider accepting the smelly shirt off some guy’s back.
Instead of being Judge-y McJudge Pants, use others as inspiration: see what you want, and figure out how to make it happen. When you paint everyone who is rich with one brush (bad) you are going to repel money like it’s your job. Money isn’t imbued with magical good or evil qualities. It’s just money. It helps you live comfortably. Accept it without making bizarre value judgments.
7. View mistakes as lessons, not an excuse to give up.
This happened to me last year when my coaching business took a nosedive: I panicked, and then I gave up. Which was fine, because I realized that coaching wasn’t my dream after all. When things didn’t go well, I didn’t think, “Just a bump in the road, let me fix this.” Instead I thought about all the hours and days I’d spent on the administrative junk: the web pages I developed, the excruciating task of writing sales copy, and the PDFs I’d created, and I realized that this wasn’t my dream. I hated that stuff.
I just like writing.
I didn’t learn that lesson right away. Instead I spent lots of time saying, “Woe is me,” and panicking about money, and panicking about finding work, and just generally spending all of my time panicking. In case that’s not clear: I panicked.
It took me a really long time to simply view my mistakes as lessons. Instead, I did all the stuff I coached other people not to do. Like when you make a mistake, it’s not a reflection on your character. It’s just data about what you should do next.
Finally, after close to a year of panic followed by wallowing, I’m back!
8. Value tiny decisions.
The decision to get up early every morning is a momentous one. The tiny decisions happen every single day, when I look at the clock. Do I get up, or do I stay in bed? Every little decision, everything single thing we do, matters. Because what you do determines who you become. And who you become means either your success at achieving your dream or your failure. Choose wisely.
9. Don’t let bad habits win.
It’s so easy to blame our small lives, our tiny, chronic failures on our bad habits. We get sucked into the couch for TV marathons. We get sucked into pizza boxes and chip bags and some of us (ehem) even get into the habit (and then out of the habit and into the habit) of using beer or wine “to relax” when the going gets tough.
Then we spend all our precious energy on CRAP like trying to lose weight or break these bad habits. What you think about is what you get. If you spend all your time obsessing about your bad habits, your whole life is going to be a Sisyphean task of rolling the boulder up the hill while you resist, followed by getting steamrolled when you get tired and give in.
And yes, I’m speaking from experience. I say this with the utmost kindness and respect to both myself and to you: GET A LIFE. It’s only when our habits stand in the way of the life of our dreams that we will be compelled to chuck the now-annoying habits to the curb. Dream big, take action, worry about your habits some other day, like when they prevent you from getting up early.
Oh, and see step 3: release fear. Usually our bad habits are nothing more than a tepid attempt at escaping fear, but then we’ve really gone down the rabbit hole INTO fear when we do things that are self-destructive as an escape. Release fear, don’t try to numb it; it doesn’t work that way.
10. Believe the Universe is friendly.
Here are two quotes for you:
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.”
– William Hutchison Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
– Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
I could really boil this post down to 3 steps:
1. Dream big.
2. Act consistently.
3. Be amazed as the Universe conspires to help you achieve your dream.
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July 6th, 2014 by Katie Morton
Photo by: Leland Francisco / Creative Commons
I haven’t written a blog post in two months, and if you responded to my last one and I didn’t email you back, my sincerest apologies! Your notes have moved me and I’ve composed responses in my head, but that’s not enough. I have a pet peeve: people who write newsletters and invite contact with readers, and then leave them hanging. So yeah, yuck. I really am sorry and I hope that you will forgive me.
So where have I been then? We sold our home, bought a new one, and moved and honestly…moving is akin to giving birth because if you remembered the pain – I mean the realness of it and all the gory details – I’m convinced we humans would neither move nor give birth more than once in a lifetime.
Are we settled in? No. We don’t have a couch. But today I’m drinking my first cup of coffee in my new home, and having my coffee pot with me feels like a major victory.
What I want to talk to you about today is the concept of seasons in our lives. I’m riffing on a concept that I think was shared by author MJ Ryan in her book about patience, however, the book is lost amongst the moving boxes. Sigh. Of course it is.
During the last two months of instability, each and every one of my healthy habits – such as early bedtimes, home-cooked meals and daily exercise – all flew out of the belfry like a swarm of bats at dusk. We’ve been eating restaurant meals and takeout and fast food nonstop and I can’t tell you the last time I lifted anything heavier than a paperclip, save for moving our belongings from one location to another. I feel disgusting, frankly.
Several times over the months, I’ve begun to mentally kick myself in the shins. “How could you keep gaining weight? You’re going to wear a bathing suit this summer looking like that?” You get the idea: mean, pointless thoughts that deserve to be flushed down the crapper.
What Season Are You In?
Sometimes when we just can’t seem to get our habits where we want them, when we keep breaking our promises to ourselves, we need to step back and see if we are in a winter. And I don’t mean the actual season of winter as we know it, but a period of our life that’s not going well or according to “plan” for whatever reason.
Our lives and our habits are cyclical and seasonal in nature, and again, I’m not talking about normal seasons, but periods of life characterized by the following scenarios:
You’re a mess. You can’t see your way out of the fog. You feel like you should give up a habit or begin healthy habits, but it seems hopeless. You struggle and fail. Your thoughts are disorganized, repetitive, and negative.
Danger: You think it’s always going to be this way. You can’t relax into it or accept your circumstances because you’ve painted a bleak mental picture. You’re miserable.
Resolution: Journal daily to help organize your thoughts and purge your head of negative and repetitive worries and annoyances.
There’s hope. You can see a change underfoot that’s going to sweep you along with the tide. Perhaps you can see more time in your schedule. Maybe you finally have just enough money, love, or creativity brewing. Your life is beginning to bloom.
Danger: You want to rush forward. You can taste freedom, and you don’t like being stuck. You can’t appreciate the beauty of your current situation, as the blooms remain tightly closed for now.
Resolution: Journal daily to shape your dreams of the future. Don’t forget to express gratitude for the present and to express feelings of hope and faith that everything will turn out right.
Everything is clicking into place. You feel like you’re doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing when you’re supposed to do it. Your life is closer to perfection than you’ve ever experienced. You’re reaping the rewards of hard work you did in the past.
Danger: You cling to it; you desperately wish that this will never, ever end. Or you take it for granted and you think things will always be this way.
Resolution: Journal daily with gratitude for your current circumstances. Acknowledge the bitter-sweetness that change is inevitable and be open to the duality of the awesomeness and its eventual loss in order to more fully savor this time and be fully present to each gift.
(In fact, savoring each season gently is recommended, because no matter how “bad” things get, there are always blessings attached when we look carefully.)
We fear the downward slope to winter. Summer is ending. A loved one is gravely ill. You sense you are going to be laid off. You anticipate the end of something good, or you have the feeling that something bad is going to happen. Or you are disenchanted with the path you chose. The blooms begin to wilt.
Danger: Worrying incessantly. You can’t stay in the moment and enjoy what is right in front of you.
Resolution: Journal daily about all the blessings you still have, and the new doors that will surely open for you as old doors close.
The Struggle of Winter
I don’t know about you, but when the going gets tough, I have a host of bad habits that get me through, like surfing the internet, staying up late to read, and eating lots of comfort foods. Then I get fixated on these habits and I try to browbeat myself into stopping these behaviors that soothe me.
When you’re trapped in a habit, like a bug in a spider web, our instinct is to struggle and push and pull against our cravings and urges. We then get caught tighter and tighter in the web when we struggle against a pattern.
Stop struggling. There’s a seeming paradox here: are we submitting to our whims? No. The intention remains to stop destructive patterns. To stop struggling with our habits means to stop guilting and browbeating ourselves for our imperfectness. When we stop shaming ourselves, then we can stop lying to ourselves to protect ourselves from our own shame.
Instead, eyes wide open, observe the truth. What do we get out of our habits? What do our habits cost us? See clearly, without judgment, without labeling right or wrong, good or bad. Just feel what it’s like to be alive.
Moving was my winter, but now that I’m here in my new home, I can feel springtime coming. It will be a slow climb. I will have to work to meet new people in my neighborhood and to adjust to a new environment and schedule.
I’m scared, but it’s also an exciting time. I have plans to complete my novel in July. When I look at the seasonality of my habits and know that change is underfoot, I can stop being cruel with myself and be gentle instead. Is it possible for you to be gentler with yourself as well?
There are blooms on the trees and this proverbial winter is lifting. All this to say, I’ve missed you. If you’re new to my web site, then welcome. And if you’ve been visiting it for a while, then thanks for being patient with me. Sign up for my newsletter below for updates.
April 28th, 2014 by Katie Morton
Photo credit: Cali4Beach / Creative Commons
I got a hostile unsubscribe notice after my last newsletter, wherein I announced my next year-long wine challenge (which is mostly about how I’ll have a glass at home on days that I feel like it.)
First of all, I got many kind and supportive emails from others who wish to join me while they do their own challenges. So that’s great. And it’s never too late to jump in, should you decide you’re up for a challenge of your own. You can focus on whatever kind of behavior or habit you decide you want to change, and then just email me.
But back to this person, who is what the kids would call a “hater drinkin’ the haterade.” Her reason given for unsubscribing was, and this is a direct quote:
“Because as someone who is sober, it’s really boring to read stuff from a lush with no self control.”
Let’s discuss, shall we? Here are a few life lessons I can share from this kind of weird outburst.
1. It’s boring to read about things you aren’t interested in. (Insults not required.)
During my dry year, I occasionally checked out the List-Serv for Moderation Management. I was really glad at the time to not feel so conflicted about alcohol. I remember thinking, “That will never be me. I don’t want to wrestle over it.”
And then the year ended as it did, and that’s when I decided it was time for my new, different challenge. And I’m still not interested in reading some of the conflicted feelings and stories on that List-Serv. It helps lots of people and I’m so glad it’s available for people as a resource, but it’s just not for me. No big whoop, and not a reason to get all superior and insulting about it.
It’s important that we all gravitate towards people that support our particular mission.
Here is what I am interested in: long, slow changes towards the amazing life I’m meant to live.
We all get so many years on the planet. And it hit me between the eyes a few years ago that I could spend my whole life yo-yo dieting, going through phases of keeping the house clean and letting it get messy, just generally swinging back and forth on the chandelier of life, running on my rat wheel, trying to improve and succeeding for a little while, and then letting entropy take over and watching everything go to crap. Then I’d wallow for a little bit until I worked up the gumption to pick up a shovel and a bucket and start all over again.
Now, once I realized this is how I operate (and it’s how many people operate), I figured, why not improve on this system? Why not find a way to break these Sisyphean cycles?
And I’m doing it, slowly but surely! Hooray! And I want to help other people do it too, but only if they are interested in what I have to share.
So how are the first two weeks of my new wine challenge? It’s just what I’m doing. It’s not even a challenge. Great.
So what does it take in order to make your own challenge not-such-a-challenge?
I wouldn’t have gotten here if I hadn’t – most importantly – done the inner work to make peace with myself, my past, my future, and the world around me. I also started out slowly, with doing tiny challenges, then working up to my year without any wine at all, and now moving towards the Middle Way, and oh my gosh by golly, it’s working.
But the journey began a few years ago. I chipped away. And I’m changing. My brain is changing. My willpower is stronger than ever before. I just came off a period of time where my willpower took a big dip in the graph, but now the upward trajectory has resumed. I’m no longer running in circles.
Yay for patience.
Anyway, back to our little hater friend.
2. Whenever you piss someone off, look at the situation objectively.
When faced with an insult like “LUSH WITH NO SELF CONTROL” it’s really easy to have the knee-jerk reaction of thinking, “WHAT A BUTTFACE!” and then seething about what a jerk-meanie that loser is for saying something to make us feel bad.
But rather than reacting in a way that makes us feel hurt or angry, it just plain feels better to step back and look at the situation objectively. Maybe, just maybe we did or said something insensitive, or maybe that person has some issues going on under the surface and we pushed a button.
So what might I have written that got this woman’s underpants in a bunch? In my last newsletter, I stated:
I’ve long been interested in the Buddhist concept of The Middle Way. Neither characterized by over-indulgence nor ascetic restraint, The Middle Way is a happy, balanced approach. It takes tremendous effort and self-knowledge to control impulses and ignore cravings – not to the point of abstemious gloom – but in a way that still allows for earthly pleasures.
Now let’s say you are a sober person. And you read things like “ascetic restraint” and “abstemious gloom” to describe essentially what is your chosen path in life. Might you be pissed off?
Maybe, maybe not. I’m only writing about my own experience, and it might conflict with your experience. When I had my year without wine, it didn’t feel like restraint or gloom to me – maybe during little pity party blips, but not the whole of it certainly! So no, it wouldn’t piss me off. I would just think that everyone has different opinions and experiences from each other and even at different times in their own life.
And some people, like our little hater, clearly thought, “WHAT A BUTTFACE!” when she read my newsletter. So she’s got some issues lurking under the surface, and I pushed her buttons. Is she unhappy in her sobriety? Most definitely. If you’re happy with your life choices, generally speaking, you don’t feel the need to write insults to strangers on the internet. So I said a prayer that she will find peace in her sobriety. I thought about emailing her to let her know, but angry people tend to take that kind of thing as sarcasm, so I silently wished her well.
Here’s a rule of thumb: Happy people generally don’t attempt to crap all over other peoples’ parades. Remember that the next time someone dumps on your fiesta; that person is miserable.
3. When someone shames you, it’s because they are ashamed of themselves.
This pointer is courtesy of Brené Brown and her TED Talk, Listening to Shame, plus conversations that Brené has had with Oprah. She talks about how those internet trolls who say nasty things are absolutely soaking in their own shame and so they say mean things in order to puff themselves up to temporarily feel better.
Out of curiosity, I checked out my hater’s Twitter feed, which was not-so-long ago littered with plans to go drinking, alternating with hangovers and “never again” type statements. My hater is trying to shame me because this is all about her own past, her shameful memories of trying to regulate her drinking and failing. I could cry for her, really. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. But she’s obviously very ashamed of herself and in an effort to not feel that, she lashed out at me.
So remember this the next time someone tries to make you feel bad: it has absolutely nothing to do with you. Like really. It’s all their own baggage that they’re trying to shovel into your lap because they are looking for relief.
4. The world is big enough for all of us.
I can only write about my own life and my own experiences, and of course that’s not for everyone! While plenty of people can relate to what I write about, many more have no idea what I’m talking about.
Some people would – quite literally – rather run a marathon than eat a piece of cake. These are not my people. Others struggle much more deeply with addictive behaviors than I could ever comprehend, and they also can’t relate to my story.
I have a friend who has found that she is an “alcoholic” in every sense of the word. Once she started drinking, she couldn’t stop. She went on benders for days on end, and this had disastrous consequences in her life. So she chose to become sober, and how could you not support such a decision considering the misery it was causing her to drink? Now she’s healthy and vibrant, and she helps other people become sober who have suffered from severe alcohol addictions.
Once an addictions counselor (whom I’ve never met) posted on Facebook in response to my year without wine … I can’t quite recall the details … but he said something about how I must vomit on myself and wet my pants. Say WHAT? Maybe that was his experience. And so he thinks that anyone ever to over-enjoy alcohol has such out-of-control experiences. A lot of counselors are taught (wrongly, and via outdated research) that anyone and everyone who struggles are painted with this brush:
1. They are liars.
2. They are completely out of control.
3. They are addicts, meaning they are completely physically and mentally hijacked by their addiction and there’s essentially “nobody home.”
4. The only “cure” is 100% abstention.
Might this be true for a portion of the population? Of course! Does this describe every person who maybe likes their vino a little too much? Of course not! That’s ridiculous.
Sobriety is a great choice for a variety of reasons, and your traditional rock-bottom stereotype certainly doesn’t need to be a part of the picture. Gretchen Rubin of the Happiness Project doesn’t drink, because she said she tended to get belligerent and gossipy, and she was having these humiliation hangovers over how obnoxious she might have been the night before.
All of this to say, the world is a big place filled with infinite experiences and viewpoints. There’s room for everyone’s path and everyone’s choices. You only need to decide what’s right for you personally. If my story resonates with you, fantastic. Email me and let me know. Let’s connect.
But if you find yourself consistently angry with this newsletter and it’s not helping you create any a-ha moments, then maybe it’s time to find someone whose experience you relate to a little better. Or maybe dig a little deeper and figure out what’s making you angry; what aren’t you happy about in your own life that needs to be addressed?
5. Challenges are what we came here for.
Do what you want to do. If you think your life would be happier if you went in a particular direction, then GO THERE. By all means. Give yourself the chance to be the most fabulous version of the most wonderful vision you’ve ever imagined for yourself. Then challenge yourself to go there.
You’ve got time! That’s all we’ve got. We can either complain about our status quo and we can wish for immediate results, fail because we can’t get immediate results, then give up. Then start all over again and repeat ad nauseum. Or we can give ourselves epic amounts of time and space to experiment and learn and grow and change. To fail, but to learn from those failings so we can have an easier go of it next time.
We can see a challenge we want to tackle and know with every fiber of our being that we’ve got what it takes to figure it out. It will take time and effort, but you can create the outcome that will make your life amazing. We are all capable of making changes so that your inner world feels like a bicycle ride on a spring day. But only if you start pedaling.