Expectations

Hello! I’m happy to report that I have survived the busiest months ever! Somehow, the end of June into beginning of August was when All The Things™ happened, and big part of making sure I survived was prioritizing the small amount of free time I had to take care of myself. This meant not feeling bad about falling behind on an arbitrary blog schedule I created for myself. I definitely stand by the fact that even though I’ve had all these ideas of stuff to write, I decided to get some sleep instead.

So what have I been up to these last two months? Well, after wrapping up a successful pride month, there were birthdays to celebrate, concerts to dance at, a four day work conference to prepare for and attend, and I moved out for the very first time.

Like I said. ALL. THE. THINGS.

But for real, being busy is my favorite, so being busy with all these incredible events in my life made for such an exciting way to spend my summer. And the fact that my yearly family vacation on the beach fell exactly at the end of my busy months didn’t hurt, either. It made the reward that much sweeter.

It’s sort of been a little too perfect. Spending time and energy on projects I was excited about, practicing self care to handle my busy schedule, and then getting to relax and refresh on the beach for a week. It’s left me feeling completely recharged and motivated. Sort of like New Year’s. Plus, when I realized that I moved into a new apartment at the very middle of the year – the beginning of July – it was a perfect opportunity to hit a reset button. On my resolutions, intentions, and general plans for working toward my goals.

So what now?

As an overly enthusiastic and creative person, it’s tough to navigate all of the ideas and aspirations I have for myself. I get so amped about a project I want to start, and then I have 10 other projects I want to work on, and then I get so overwhelmed that I don’t choose anything and instead just watch Netflix.

I see so much stuff online discussing what to do when you’re lacking motivation and want to get started on something. Or how to keep the momentum going once you’ve found it. But what about when you have the drive but aren’t sure where to direct it?

As I will tell anyone who will listen, Leslie Knope and I are undeniably the same person. There’s a particular quote that comes to mind when I think about our similar levels of enthusiasm, motivation, and stamina:

“I’m going to work until I’m 100, then cut back to four days a week. I’m already bored thinking about that fifth day. Oh, well, maybe I’ll go to law school!”

Right, so that’s how I feel most of the time. When I have a day off, if I’m not crossing something off my to-do list, I feel unproductive. Sure, I’ll take some time at the end of a busy work day to hang out with friends or watch YouTube videos and eat some ice cream. But there’s always this lingering judgement in back of my mind that is trying to convince me to step it up. When was the last time I wrote something? Should I be focusing more on a side hustle? Why didn’t I go for a run before dinner? I always want to be working, improving, and feeling as fulfilled as possible. But there’s certainly a difference between being fulfilled and being completely stuffed.

There’s another quote from Parks and Rec that I’ve been considering lately that I think will serve me better than my usual Leslie Knope energy levels.

Never half ass two things. Whole ass one thing.”

Much like the goal I had set for myself to write a new blog post every month, my motivation often comes from my own personal expectations. While there is certainly a benefit of purpose that comes along with setting a goal, it’s important to remember to keep a balance. Once you start setting too many goals without the proper resources to complete them, you’ll likely end up more frustrated than satisfied. It’s absolutely important to work hard to achieve what you want, but not at the price of compromising your true and full potential.

So maybe right now, instead of using my newly renewed energy and motivation to figure out how many projects I can work on, I can pick the one I’m most excited about and see where that takes me. Maybe after a few weeks I’ll want to shift my focus onto a different project for a while. Or maybe I’ll find time to take smaller and more meaningful steps forward in the areas I can handle. While it may take more effort and discipline, I think I can stand to be a little more flexible. I can whole ass one project at a time and move on when it feels right. That way, I can feel productive and creative while still having time to watch Parks and Rec. Again.

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Do The Work

Of course I’m writing a “get ready for 2018” post. For those of you who didn’t already guess this was going to happen…hi, my name is Jessica, and thank you for reading my stuff for the very first time.

This past year, my main mantra was “be present”. I’m approaching the two year mark of when I first started practicing meditation, and focusing on the present is one of the main skills you are encouraged to work on in your practice. And during a year that was so unpredictable, I found it much more rewarding to devote my attention to the present moment and take things one day at a time rather than try to guess what would be happening in the future.

The first step in starting this new practice was recognizing the difference between a goal and an intention. While a goal is more likely to be something you can cross off your list, an intention is the manner in which you get these things done. Someone once described an intention to me as the compass you use on your way toward your goal. This doesn’t necessarily mean there are foolproof methods to getting where you want to be, but intentions can be reminders of how we want to show up in every moment that gets us closer to our goal, or even more simply, whenever we need some guidance.

So I made small changes over the past year to allow myself to place my mind in the present more regularly. I tried not to live through the screen of my phone to capture every moment so I could share in on my Instagram story. (Although, I often have really great Instagram stories. Do you follow me on Instagram? You should follow me on Instagram.) I didn’t completely shut out social media, but I made a conscious effort to remove any expectations from my mind and rather look at the moments of my life for what they truly were, and finding enjoyment in that. It was, and still is, a super difficult task. It’s something I’m going to be working on my entire life.

For 2018, I’m still very focused on the importance of pausing to recenter myself and experience the truth of the moment. But after the year we’ve all just endured, it’s safe to say we might not always want to accept the truth of the moment, because it’s likely to be some sort of garbage. And while you don’t necessarily need to equate being present with being happy, it sure would be great for those two things to line up, right?

So I’m shifting my focus a bit for the upcoming year. In the meditation class I took on New Year’s Eve, we took some time to contemplate the intention of discipline. This has been one of my go-to intentions when I’m frustrated about not getting something accomplished, but it has also been difficult to digest because of the harsh connotation that comes with the word discipline. There’s an association with punishment and being hard on yourself, which definitely isn’t something any of us want to do voluntarily. I’ve often tried to soften the idea of this intention by reframing it as “gentle discipline”, but more often than not, that just leads to an easier way out when facing potentially uncomfortable limits.

In class that day, our meditation instructor made an important distinction about the intention of discipline that struck me, and I had one of those great moments when things all came together like pieces of a puzzle that I didn’t even know I needed to assemble.

Discipline doesn’t necessarily have to be something that is met with discomfort. It doesn’t have to mean that you’re doing something wrong that needs to be fixed. Instead, we can consider discipline as a means to getting closer to your goal, or closer to something that makes you happy, that makes you both satisfied and accomplished. For example, not all of us may enjoy going to the gym, but when we finally get there and finish a workout, we’re likely to delight in our ability to have done the thing, despite the struggle. So rather than saying “I need to go to the gym or else I will fail at completing this goal I set for myself,” you can shift that thinking to say “I need to go to the gym because I want to feel the satisfaction of following through with my plan and come out on the other side successful. Plus, endorphins make you happy and hell yeah, I want to be happy.” It’s easier said than done, but it’s a practice. It’s an intention. It might not always work the way you want it to, but making the effort is half the battle. Some might even argue making the effort is the entire battle. I’ll leave that up to you.

Last year I saw the show Prince of Broadway, a revue that showcased the work of Broadway producer Hal Prince. (This is relevant, I promise). After sharing highlights from Prince’s career and all he has accomplished, there was a final song called “Do The Work” about reminding yourself that while there is definitely a great deal of luck associated with success, in order to get to that point, you have to – you guessed it – do the work. I still think about that song when I want to be inspired, and when presented with this new perspective on the intention of discipline, everything seemed to click together. Now if they would just release that cast recording…

So without further ado, let’s gear up for another year that is bound to be difficult and unpredictable at times. But if we do the work, perhaps we can make it something worth celebrating. I’m rooting for you.