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 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.
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,
There are some moments in life that have this perfect duality of Happy and Sad to them. They capture many of the beautiful things in life while some how having that tart center of “reality comes to bite you in the ass”. I often admire these situations in life because very rarely is something so emotionally centered that it can share both extreme happiness and sadness within the same activity.
That being said, today I received this Venn diagram from my boyfriend Shawn Vermillion (he likes it when I give him credit for all the awesomeness he brings to the table), and I suddenly knew that there are other people out there that appreciate the beauty of these life occasions that perfectly depict both happiness and sadness.
Original image is actually on a shirt at Diesel Sweeties, which I fully intend to purchase to proclaim my love for such magnificent emotional moments. Hmm, I wonder if this makes me bipolar…
First, a disclaimer, I’m not an economics guru or a politics whiz, so what I’m about to put out here is simply and observation from an American Gen-Y female in the technology and advertising industry. That said, feel free to read on if you’re interested in my perspective.
I was recently reading an article called The Smart Growth Manifesto posted on the Harvard Business blog and I thought it had some great points about smart growth and how we may be able to dig ourselves out of this economic hole we seem to find ourselves in today.
If it’s one thing I’ve learned about making mistakes it’s that there are VALUABLE lessons hidden inside each one that help us grow if only we can understand how we made the mistake in the first place. History repeats itself, and if you don’t understand HOW history happened you can’t evolve your process to avoid those mistakes again.
The Smart Growth Manifesto considers the 20th Century Economy to be based on a poor growth model that was unsustainable, unfair, and brittle. Using what we’ve learned in this 20th Century growth model, the article suggests we move to a smarter growth model that provides sustainability, equality and resilience.
This new “Smart Growth” would be based on four pillars, each of which I really agree with and see happening in many successful start-ups these days. These four pillars are:
- Outcomes, not income. We no longer base our net worth on how much money or product we make, but how much BETTER our lives really are. We need to create meaningful, authentic value that really makes a difference in peoples lives not just how much money we line our pockets with.
- Connections, not transactions. We don’t look at transaction volume alone but dissect how each transaction is connected and how to increase the overall value of the entire system from supplier to manufacturer to consumer by co-creating and collaborating together instead of fighting over “our market share”. We should know that globally our economies are connected and to rise above competition and create relationships for the good of the whole world.
- People, not product. We quit focusing on what makes a cheap product and start focusing on the people who make great products. While you may save money going with the lowest bidder, you also get what you pay for. The people behind great work is what really makes all the difference. We should empower people to learn, create, invent and innovate to help stimulate growth and provide new arenas to build better goods and services.
- Creativity, not productivity. We need to base success measurements on creativity instead of just productivity. Creativity would measure how much NEW value is actually being created as opposed to simply shifting old value around to different markets. This would bolster creation of new ideas, shake up the “status quo” and push businesses and economies to become more resourceful and efficient.
These pillars aren’t only found in economies but in businesses, many new “revolutionaries” are already tossing out the old ways of business for these smart growth ideals. Myself, being in the advertising, internet and technology industries are seeing a lot of new businesses turning the tides of the economic climate that are based on these four pillars. The article states several and I have to seriously agree that when I’m reading these principles I can clearly see them in businesses such as Apple, Etsy, Threadless, Google, and others.
I’d love to hear your point of view on what you think of this article and if this really is a full economic movement to “smart growth”. What do you think?