So last year I did a little experiment, and it worked so well I’m not only doing it again, but I decided to share it with all of you.
Over the last few years, I’ve been trying to get better connected with the goals that will actually make me happy. One of the happiness practices that I’ve picked up over the years of studying happiness has been the tried and true “gratitude journal”.
A gratitude journal is simply a small book you carry around with you, and every day or whenever you like you make a list of everything you’re thankful for. Simple, easy, and will lift you up out of a funk pretty quickly.
But in 2011, I started to do something new with my gratitude journal. I have heard from several sources that it’s good to track how you’re feeling in the moment… so I started adding two more lists on the back of each page full of gratitude on the other side. These two lists were simply titled:
- I would like more of…
- I would like less of…
At the end of 2011 I sat down as usual to start my list of things I would like to “resolve” in my life for the next year, but this time I had something new in my arsenal. A quick list of every day I checked in, telling myself in the future exactly what I would like more of.
So I took stock of what I had written in my little gratitude journal, counting exactly how many times over the course of the last year I would ask for a particular feeling or need.
12 Words for 2012
Then I made a list of the top 12, calling them the “12 Words for 2012″.
These would be the concepts I would focus on in the coming year. For each concept, I would come up with ways I could implement in the coming year. So what made the list in 2012?
- Send reminders to people you love.
- Date people who interest you.
- Review relationships, spend time with people you love, actively spend less time with people you don’t like as much.
- Positive forward outlook.
- What is wanted can be had.
- Allow for time to recharge.
- Have fun, don’t be so serious.
- Find the fun in work.
- Within my body.
- Connectedness to spirit.
- Knowing sense you are taken care of.
- Find someone to connect with and be close to.
- Let go of the inner critic.
- Create pretty things for your nest.
- Creation, building with intention and flair.
- Try to notice when this occurs.
- Full involvement, energized focus, rewarding success in progress.
- Free Time
- Establish boundries for work.
- Make personal time just as important.
- Express gratitude for good fortune.
- Yoga, exercise, dancing.
- Moving forward with things that interest me.
I also kept keeping track of my more of/less of lists in my gratitude journal for 2012, to look back as if I wanted to make another list in 2013.
So what were my results?
Each week as I did my planning of what to do, I would actively pull my 12 Words sheet out (the same one pictured above) and I would actively plan tasks, activities and meetings that had to do with my 12 Words. So each week I would start with this list first, baking in all these good things I wanted more of in my life. I would plan activities into my quarters, months and weeks that supported these 12 Words, things like:
- take a yoga class (action + flow + peace + relaxation)
- go to a pub crawl with friends (love + play + joy)
- take time out to create custom hand-made thank you gifts for clients (craft + love + intimacy)
- write my first book (action + craft + hope)
This worked out really, really well and it was based in fact and EXACTLY what I wanted from last year – which shifted the dynamic from “eh I’ll get to it someday” to “I want this in my life because I asked for it all last year, this comes first”. I started actively focusing on what I really wanted out of life rather than measuring my happiness against someone else’s ruler of “what happiness contains”. I started finding ways to bake in or see these things in many of my daily activities. This active attention let me know these things got the attention they deserved instead of “dreaming” about doing something to bring in more of these great things into my life.
12 Words for 2013
So what are my 12 Words for this coming year? Here they are…
- Forgive and let go – anger does not serve you.
- Allow love to guide your thoughts and actions.
- Compliment 5 people every week.
- Take care of the things you have.
- Appreciate where you are now.
- Washington, DC
- Save for Amsterdam
- Gerome? Grand Canyon? Pacific Northwest?
- Cherish desires with anticipation.
- Always believe that something wonderful is about to happen.
- Start with yourself and be compassionate outwards.
- Deep awareness of suffering and a wish to relieve it.
- Time with Friends
- Face to face, 1 on 1
- Listening, caring
- Who’s in my Posse? Love them!
- Give yourself time to play, relax, and have fun.
- Take time to ponder and do things simply because they interest you.
- Take the time, it’s worth it.
- Make it fun and enjoyable.
- Move! Move the energy, stay aware of your body.
- Being of Service
- Joyfully giving according to my ability and willingness to give from the heart.
- Be mindful when tasks become unenjoyable and not from the heart.
- Track finances each day (5-10 min)
- Bake fun stuff into the budget.
- Check in bi-weekly on budget.
- Feeling of great pleasure and happiness.
- Focus on celebrations and the next fun thing.
- Smile at yourself in the mirror for a minute every time you look into a mirror.
- Moving forward with things that interest me, sharing.
- Building with intention and flair.
- Play, finding the fun and flow in work.
Some words are still coming up from last year, some words have changed out for more specific orientation, but I’m really looking forward to putting more of all of them in my life in 2013.
So what do you think would show up on your list if you would have asked your last-year-self what your next-year-self wants more of in the coming year? Feel free to share your lists in the comments below.
I recently attended HugNation where Halcyon discusses the most recent NASA Mars landing. Discussing the small cost associated with space exploration (the recent Mars mission is to have said to cost $7/per American tax payer) and its worthiness of an investment. Citing what space exploration does for changing the viewpoint of humanity. This discussion has actually shifted my viewpoint of space exploration or reasons for us to invest in such.
I, myself, thought the notion of space exploration was of little consequence to man and more of a sideways step at trying to protect what we do have. My past mode of thinking was that space and the exploration of, was a testament to “ultimate manifest destiny” or a “we’re going to trash this one, so lets start the next one” escape plan. But Halcyon makes some great points and cites an amazing body of work to back up and inspire change of opinion and view via Carl Sagan’s, Pale Blue Dot.
The Pale Blue Dot really speaks to me, because of Carl Sagan’s poignance of current and past world situations, that all of this greatness and ego sits on a tiny speck in the vastness of the universe. With this thought a sense of awe comes forth, everything we know is but a speck in the mass of chaos. Some would progress into, “well than why does it matter?” Shifting the perspective to a notion of how amazing all that we have is. The Earth is extremely unique, and it would be a shame for us to spoil this magnificent space. Taking care of each other, commrades in a little spaceship floating in the universe, persay. I thought it was worth sharing, hope you enjoy it.
“It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
― Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space
I watch this video sometimes when I’m getting ready to make some heart-guided changes in my life, particularly with work stuff. Thought I would share it with you.
I find Steve Jobs and his life work inspiring. It’s really great to have these wonderful words of advice from someone like him to lead by example.
On leading with your heart
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road, will give you the confidence to lead with your heart, and that will make all the difference.”
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
On doing work you love
“You’ve got to find what you love. That is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”
A beautiful, vulnerable documentary from the people at PostSecret.
Before you dedicate your life
to a person, a marriage, a family;
to a corporation, a political party,
a peace campaign;
to a religion, a revolution, a
make one other dedication first.
First dedicate yourself to LOVE.
Decide to let Love be your
intention, your purpose and
And then let Love inspire you,
support you, and guide you
in every other dedication
you make thereafter.
- Dr. Robert Holden, director of the Happiness Project
Dad is in town visiting… He’s been threatening to build a gate for me to keep Annie and Eddie out of the front yard – keeping them away from children and mailmen they seem to think are so much fun to bark at.
I mention it today (I’ve been mentioning it every time the dogs vocally patrol the front yard since he’s threatened this gate-making of his), and this morning he says -
I fail to see the priority of this situation – since none of us are really being threatened life and limb – you, me, the dogs OR the mailman.
Alright, so I’m going to be journaling some new entries regarding self-transformation and the way I goal seek and follow through to make my life just THAT much better. There’s a couple reasons for this:
- I’ve been looking for more direction, focus, and drive regarding what to blog about on aprilholle.com.
- I’ve been getting a lot of questions from good friends on how in the hell I can do so much and still manage to be healthy, sane and above all else happy.
- I’m also searching for a way to log my personal goals in a transparent, socially motivating way without having to be in everyone’s face about it.
So, without further ado, I want to tell you about the “I’m Sorry” & the Vacation Piggy Bank Experiment.
I used to have a really, REALLY nasty habit of apologizing for every little thing in life that would inconvenience, disturb, upset, or even affect other people. I say “used to” because its a habit that’s come back to haunt me from the past, something I thought I had broken myself of, but some how it’s come back with a vengeance.
Here are some examples of this horrible habit in action:
- I apologize for a meeting being held up even though it was someone else’s fault, or when no one else in the meting would even notice we were starting late.
- I apologize for other peoples laundry not getting done because I didn’t remind them even though they didn’t ask me to remind them in the first place.
- I apologize for being honest about my feelings because I know they really change the outcome or previous decision someone else has made. I feel guilty for making them have to revise their own thoughts and to have to second guess their own conclusions.
While this may just seem like me being really careful about other peoples feelings, I realized that it was just a plain unhealthy habit to have. Why? Because I realized that when I was REALLY saying to myself were some of the following things:
- I am unworthy of the time, energy, and effort that another person wanted to put into me or was already expecting to put into the situation.
- I not only expect of myself what I expect of others, but I feel I need to perform at a level of efficiency that’s inhuman.
- I should forgo my own opinions, thoughts and feelings, because they’re not as important as anyone else’s, from my greatest enemy to my best friend.
What this talk really boils down to is a self-esteem issue, which I’ve known about myself for a considerable amount of time and actively work on every day. So, it’s time to fix this bad habit up to keep working on building myself up instead of breaking myself down. My man and I have been looking into these kinds of things we’d like to change about ourselves with the others help, and he came up with a great idea!
The Vacation Piggy Bank
Each time I apologize for something that isn’t an honest to goodness apology, I owe the Vacation Piggy Bank a dollar. Then, when we get enough money, we’re going to put it towards a fun trip! The money is going to a good cause and helping me save, but it’s also painful to have to spend that money apologizing for things that really don’t need an apology.
So far the experiment is working! We’re a few weeks in and already I’ve seen a drastic improvement on the number of times I apologize in a day. I’m noticing that I spend more time checking in with myself before giving in to my subconscious temptation to tell myself that I’m responsible for every little tiny thing that could make the world worse off. This experiment is also helping me put these “daily crises” into perspective, now I ask myself, “Does this really matter? In a year, 5, or 10 is anyone even going to remember this moment/problem?” I’ve gone down from 20 (the day I started the experiment) to 3 or so apologies a day now. (I told you I did it alot!)
Now that I know it’s working and I’m seeing some good results I’m in search for a REAL Vacation Piggy Bank so that I can have something tangible to look at and interact with to keep up this new tradition. I’m on the look out for a really cool looking piggy bank I can deposit my “I’m Sorry” money into. I’ve found a couple of really good ones so far, but if you know of someone / some place that makes really cute Vacation themed piggy banks lemme know, because I’m on the hunt.
Also, I’d like to hear from you about how you think I can make this experiment stick in the long term while I keep working on boosting that inner self-esteem and push out the bad nasties that keep me down from what I want to accomplish.
My car has been running on empty for almost two days now, I seem to notice that I do this a lot and I chalk it up to my experiences at gas stations as to a reason why I let my life be possibly hindered by running out of gas rather than to take ten minutes and fill up. Below is just one of these experiences that shape this consumer behavior.
I’m pretty busy today dodging from salon appointment to home to do some work in time to get back out on the road to get to a meeting. I have been running on empty in the car for two days, so I decide to stop at the am/pm on the corner of McClintock and Southern in Tempe, AZ to get some gas quickly before I head back home.
I’m not a real big consumer of am/pm because they seemed to be a leader in a movement I noticed a few years ago where gas stations started charging their customers extra to pay by debit or credit to cover their fees from credit card companies to process these cards. Thanks guys. Anyhow, so I stop in to this station because it was close by and recently completely renovated and I thought I’d check out if the experience had gotten any better. I pull in, and I notice flaw #1.
Flaw 1: Poor support column placement.
When I go to get out of my car, there is a support column RIGHT where I would open my door out to. So even though I parked a decent distance from the pump, I still can barely get out of my car. I manage to squeeze out of my car door and go to start filling up. I notice Plus #1.
Plus 1: Pay at pump, yaay convenience for me.
The pumps now take cards at each station instead of at the main pay column in the middle of the pumps. This is helpful to me because I don’t have to go to the pay column, stand in line to pay, etc. I also don’t have to go inside. So I enter my card details, agree to pay the extra fee to use a debit card. I go to the pin pad and there’s a flat label that says Yes and a flat label that says No next to the push button number keys. I assume I push 1 for yes and 4 for no. I push 1 for “yes” and it goes to the next screen, a.k.a. Flaw #2.
Flaw 2: Don’t up-sell me when I just paid you a bunch of money to already do something I think should be standard.
The next question is, “Do you want to buy a car wash?” Ok, I get this, you’re trying to upsell me. You want to offer me a added bonus that I would enjoy. Great, but don’t offer this to me when you just charged me for something I think should be standard when I purchase from you. I can appreciate your gesture out of context as my car is dirty, but I really don’t have the $ or the time.. also you never told me how much extra it would be so no I’m not going to say yes. Here comes flaw #3.
Flaw 3: Inconsistent interface outcomes.
I push four for “no”… the pump beeps at me but the screen to upsell me the car wash is still there… I push four again… this time two beeps from the machine but still nothing happens to get me through the payment process on the screen. Why when I pushed 1 for “yes” it worked but now when I want to use 4 for “no” it won’t? Is this a shitty way to make people have to buy a car wash, do I have to just to pump my gas? So now I think my pump is broken. Shit. Just as I move to get back into my car and go to a different gas station, here comes a guy that has a blue polo on. I’m like oh what’s this guy want? He’s about to be flaw #4.
Flaw 4: Sales guy disguised as customer support.
He’s a decent looking guy, looks trust worthy and decent so I’m not thinking that I’m going to get kidnapped or mugged by talking to him. He smiles, taps on my window (which has some dings in it) and says, “You know, we can fix your windshield for free today if you like.” What? Ok, nothing is for free. I look at him puzzled (and a bit annoyed that he’s selling me while I’m having trouble with the pump) and retort, “What’s the catch, nothings for free?” And he says, “Well you have insurance, probably full coverage or glass coverage, you pay a premium every month that isn’t used.” and he continues, “Since Arizona is a “Driver not a fault state it’s automatically covered in your premium every month.” Ok, what the hell did he just say? Is he trying to sell me a premium monthly service, is he trying to say that it’s already covered in my insurance, don’t I have to pay the deducible before insurance will cover it? I just get more confused and then realize I’m not even HERE for glass service. I say, “Look I’m really not interested, I’m really busy and I’m just trying to get some gas but this pump doesn’t work it just keeps trying to sell me a car wash that I don’t want.”
This one could have been a plus (just like the car wash), but the way it was handled just felt wrong. You’re right those dings in my window bother me, and yea I do want to get them fixed easily and cheaply but they don’t bother me enough to go to an auto-shop. But don’t say things a free when people know the money comes from somewhere. I would have been much more inclined to talk to him about doing it today (if I weren’t so busy) or at a later date if he would have told me more about the service and how little it would cost since they work with my current insurance to take care of the cost.
Also, tell your sales people to approach people while they’re waiting for gas to be pumped after they’ve finished the transaction with the pump. It was so hard to listen to him while I’m trying to figure out why the pump won’t work. But lets get back to the story…
He says “Oh, I see this problem all the time, let me help.” Incoming Flaw #4.
Flaw 4: If you know something is broken, for the love of God fix it.
This is another situation where it would be a plus if he were just offering help , but he sees this issue all the time, why don’t they just fix it? How many customers does it take to drive away with a bad system before you stop to fix it? I understand if only a few people have this issue, but for the sales guy to notice that he helps people with this issue all the time and then to not fix it.. what the hell.
So, I accept his offer to figure out the “trick” to getting this pump to work. At least it will make him quit trying to sell me a service I don’t even know how it would be paid for. He goes over to the push button interface, and instead of pressing 4 for “no” he actually presses on the flat label “No” and like magic the screen is gone. Flaw #5.
Flaw 5: Inconsistent interface.
Why would all the numerical keys be push button but the “yes” and “no” be completely flat. They weren’t even raised even a little! If you’re going to have buttons to interface with the system, make them look all the same! So, on the next screen comes flaw #6.
Flaw 6: Don’t offer something (pay at pump) that just doesn’t work.
“This card is not accepted.” I look at the sales guy and he says “Eh, that happens all the time too, the card reader doesn’t like some cards, try again.” Flaw #4 strikes again! I slide my card again, and the screen says “Please come inside to pay.”
At this point, I’m over even wanting to buy gas here. I excuse myself from the sales guy and get back into my car, still on empty, to drive to a Shell station several blocks away. Shell an interface I can use (all flat buttons) but charges me for use of my debit card, but at least I can get gas and not be up-sold to every five seconds while I try to figure out an insanely unusable interface.
This is my answer to Pam Slim’s “Your Ideal Life” exercise (pg 65) in her book, Escape from Cubicle Nation. Which by the way, I highly recommend.
I live in a self-renovated historic bungalow with original hardwood floors and a fireplace that keeps us warm in the fall and winter months. The climate is temperate, and we enjoy the long growing season. Outside, the birds eat out of a feeder and play in a water fountain in my backyard garden paradise that I created myself with the help of my father (who is really the one with the green thumb). The neighborhood is reasonably quiet, but every so often is broken with the sounds of playing children, music and people having hearty conversations during back yard barbeques. The neighbors are extremely friendly and down to Earth. We often get together for neighborhood barbecues, coffee in the morning on each others porches or drinks in the evening. The main city center isn’t too far away from our community, allowing us access to downtown if we want to go out on the town or attend a business meeting.
I treat myself with dignity and respect, allowing myself the time to enjoy doing things that don’t always involve financial profit. I allow myself to appreciate life in the finer details that money can’t buy. I am proud of my life and my accomplishments.
With my husband
I have a loving, supportive husband, he and I are good friends and really look out for one another, a partner who sticks by me through the tough times (which are reasonably few) and celebrates the great times. Someone that can appreciate the value of communication, understanding, respect, trust, love, and happiness. We make our relationship a priority. If conflict arises, we sit down immediately and talk about it calmly. We give each other room to pursue our own interests, without laying guilt on each other. We are physically affectionate, and give each other positive verbal encouragement all the time.
With my kids
I have two great kids whom I provide love and guidance to, teaching them about my experience with the good and the bad all while not being too serious considering they’ll get enough of that when they’re older.
With my friends
I have a great group of people I call friends all over the world that I can depend on for support, guidance and a good night out.
With my family
I’m so blessed to have my dad living under my roof. He is my most favorite person in the world and it’s great to be able to share his remaining life with me and our family. I’m extremely close with my siblings and even though I may live far away, they know they are still close to my heart. We still make time to visit and to call each other to show we care.
With my clients
The people I do business with are good people with great ideas wanting to make a difference in this world. Passionate and driven to do the right thing, they trust my expertise to help them in their mission. They aren’t in business for the money it makes but for the drive they have inside themselves to create and serve their customers and communities to the best of their abilities. These people compliment me by being a sounding board for my business decisions, help build our businesses together and remind me why I do what I do.
I sleep well at night and wake up each morning rested and ready to take on the day. I live an active lifestyle – finding time to take nature hikes with the kids, garden, walk the dogs, go out dancing or relaxation through yoga and pilates practice. We have a great time cooking healthy meals at home or learning about ethic cultures while eating at local restaurants. My body feels alive and youthful since I started focusing on my overall health – mentally, physically, and spiritually. I don’t sweat the small stuff and I am no longer stress junkie. I respect myself by allowing myself time to reflect, stop and enjoy just for the sake of enjoying something. To make time for me and my passions that I do merely for the fact that they make me happy.
I work both alone and with several different teams of people that vary from time to time. Allowing me to continuously create valuable relationships with a variety of people over a expansive network of industries. I work both from my home office and on the road as I travel once every one to two months for different speaking engagements. My schedule does vary quite a bit, allowing me flexibility in my day and to work when I really feel the motivation and to relax and not stress out if I’m just not feeling it between 8 AM – 5 PM. This also varies from week to week but with some lead-way, so that I can comfortably plan a few weeks in advance.
Nature of Work
I am blessed that I get to create and teach at the same time. I enjoy the strategy I do for clients and the analysis of the success of that work. I, through presenting my work, am allowed the opportunity to teach my clients how they can make their business better through more than just marketing, but through meaningful client interactions that can benefit them as well as the customer they’re looking to reach. Then overseeing the implementation of that strategy over many networks of integrated communications to put that plan into action. In addition to still creating, I also teach people within this process how to excel their ability to make these connections through design, communication, strategy, process and finally analysis which invariably leads to revision in most situations to increase each connections success. I enjoy solving real problems with ethical solutions in a way that is accountable and reliable. I help bring people together in a cohesive team that allows for better efficiency while allowing more honest, open communication among team members.
I make enough to help our family (costs split between husband and I based on % of income, dad also pitches in) to be comfortable in our 4 bedroom / 2 bath house, with the kids and a couple of trips a year, nothing crazy just your standard family vacation on the cheap, maybe skip a couple years and go some place exotic that requires a passport. I have benefits with my job, some of them people would call perks – insurance through either my husband’s full-time position or through our own insurance, my flexible schedule allows me to usually be around to pick the kids up from class if they’re sick at a drop of a hat, I can work mostly at my own time and set my pace, and even sometimes clients trade out for extras such as hotel stays or clothing. My income does fluctuate at times depending on the type of work I’m doing, but I have enough in savings (3-6 months of expenses) to wait out the dry times. I have a great credit score that I keep up on, I am extremely reliable with my bills and pay my contractors not only on time but maybe even a bit extra for an awesome job well done. Besides the house, I’m debt free and only have a credit card for emergencies for the business.
So what do you think? Am I asking too much?
A soapbox about Phoenix community, but first, a video about ants.
Last night I was talking to my father about the Climategate, Cap and Trade and other world issues all of which are way way bigger than either of us, and all I had was one question, how can I help? Then dad mentioned a lesson he had shown me many years ago, “Remember the ants we used to watch when you were a kid? We need to be more like them, instead of fighting and trying to move in all different directions, we should group together and work to solve the problem.” If ants can do it, why can’t we?
Lately I’ve been hearing the rumblings of a revolution, and I love it. I hear empowered passionate voices of community members looking for value, acceptance and critique, and I embrace it. And I ask of you, get behind it, because it’s YOUR community we’re creating, you simply have to be a part of the creation. We don’t all have to “start” something to be a part, but show your support for ideas, movements, businesses and groups that share your vision in for the Phoenix community and the world. Here are some examples:
- Eat local, try Liberty Market or La Grande Orange
- Pitch in and volunteer your time/services, if you hear of someone working on something you want to be a part of or have ideas for don’t be afraid to commit to helping that group
- Donate to local start-up sanctuaries trying to make a difference like the Toys for Tots drive at Gangplank or donating items and services to Fractal/Dojo Collective
- Ask for help, are you working on an idea or have a movement you would like support with? Don’t be afraid to ask for help, there are so many people in our community that want to make a difference you just have to connect with the right ones
- Buy your books locally (and perhaps even used), try Changing Hands Bookstore or Bookmans next time
- Thank them, if nothing else, find something you support, go up to that person/organization/business and thank them for what they do for your community and your way of life
- Share your ideas and your actions on how you support your community here and elsewhere
With all that I’ve said here, I want to thank all of you, you make up such a wonderfully rich diversity of community for me. I will continue to support the Phoenix community and I hope you’ll join me. I’m not asking you to change the way you live or how you live it, but to be thankful and support those who provide you with the that way and those means. Appreciate what you do have and support the change you want to see where ever you are.
With All My Love,