"People are like stained-glass windows.
They sparkle and shine when the sun is out,
but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed
only if there is light from within."
-Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

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Remember the Seinfeld episode where the character George wants a nickname? But George doesn't just want any nickname. He wants to be called "T-Bone." In the end, he's stuck with KoKo, named after the signing gorilla.

I wasn't a huge Seinfeld follower, but I do remember this episode, probably because I could relate to George's desire for a nickname. And like George, a name like Sara doesn't provide too many creative options. Oh, sure there's the shortened "Sar" or occasional "Sar-Bear," but as I child I longed for a second name—an alter ego—that set me apart. Something that identified me as being "special." (I suppose this is why I’ve always preferred to go by my full name, Sara Rae.) On several occasions as a child, I tried to give myself a nickname. But, like George's experience, the names never stuck. Nicknames, I've come to realize, aren't something you find, but rather, find you.

But there was one nickname, given to me in high school by a friend, that I’ve always sort of liked. "Sparkles." Ok—so I think this guy liked me and the name was a way to flirt with me. And, if I’m brutally honest, I did sort of have a crush on him, too. But it was a situation where our timing was always off, and to take the relationship any further would've risked ruining a really great friendship. So in a way, this special name was enough to set me apart, to make me feel special. But more than that, I liked the reason behind the nickname. When I finally asked him "Why Sparkles?" he replied, "Because you do. You're always up to something. You're always on the tip of some new idea. You've just got that sparkle in your eye."

This friend saw something in me that I wasn't able to see for myself back then. I can't recall ever feeling all that “sparkly” back then. Stil, he saw it. And the nickname, "Sparkles" has always carried a very tender, special meaning for me not because it was from this person, per se, but because it captured all that I already was but couldn't see for myself.

It's Wednesday, which means it's also Wishcasting Wednesday over at Jamie Ridler Studios. Today’s wishing prompt is ever so appropriately "How do you wish to sparkle?"

To draw inspiration from Elisabeth Kübler-Ross' quote above, I wish to sparkle from within.

I wish to sparkle from a secure sense of inner beauty.

I wish to sparkle not because others say I do but because I feel and see that sparkle for myself.

I wish to sparkle no matter the circumstance, but especially during life’s darkest moments. After all, isn’t it on the darkest nights that the stars shine the brightest?

Your One Step

The upstairs hallway in my parents’ house is lined with framed photos of my sisters and me on our first birthdays. Below each photo is a plaque engraved with our name and the meaning associated with it. You’ve probably seen such name plaques at craft fairs.

But what if you could name yourself? And what if that name didn’t have to be something “conventional,” but wildly original and descriptive of your creative spirit? I wonder, what would you call yourself?

Well, happy creative birthday! Today you get to name yourself, and create a name plaque to go with your new creative identity.

Choose a name—a word perhaps—and write it on a plaque. The plaque could be a piece of poster board, a paper plate, a scrap of wood…whatever you have nearby. Below your new name, write the meaning of it. Feel free to use the dictionary meaning of the word you chose, or make up your own definition. Perhaps you’d prefer to accompany your new name with a mission statement instead of a description. Be creative! Be daring! Be YOU!

 
 
“This is the true joy in life:
being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one;
being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself
to making you happy.” 
-George Bernard Shaw

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When you’re in the trenches of seeing a dream through from a teeny sparkle in your heart to your great big reality, it’s easy to slip into...do I dare say it?...a state of selfishness.

I don’t think it’s done deliberately. In fact, most creatives are the exact opposite of “selfish.” We’re givers (sometimes to a fault). We’re fixers. We live by a deep-seeded belief that we have something inside of us that must be shared with the world.

Still, we can become so driven to see our dream through and so focused on the to-do lists attached to that dream that other priorities can unnoticeably slip into the backseat of our lives. Our mantra becomes “I must do this,” “I can do this,” “I will do this.” And then, when things don’t work out quite right, when we become frustrated, angry even, we mistakenly conclude that we aren’t working hard enough, when really those feelings are a gentle nudge telling us some other aspect of our life has swung out of balance.

This was the case for me just yesterday. I was feeling energized. Hopeful even. I’d submitted my resume for another potential freelance opportunity and a book idea struck like lightning earlier in the afternoon. Yes, the gears had kicked it up a notch; I felt as though I was clipping along toward my new reality a little faster than before.

Once home, I plopped myself down on the living room floor and started working out some of the details for the book idea. My husband was in the adjacent kitchen at the computer.

“Honey, what did we budget for household items this month?” he asked.

I answered.

“And what about restaurants and entertainment?” he asked.

I answered again, this time just a wee bit irritated at the break in my concentration.

“Do you know what our cell phone bill will be next month?” he asked.

“No, because we don’t have the bill.” I replied…this time fully irritated.

He started to say something else, but I rudely cut him off.
 
“I really don’t want to talk finances right now,” I snapped. “Can’t you see I’m trying to make use of what little time I have this evening so I can actually make some progress on my goals.”

Ouch. I heard the selfishness in my voice before the sentence was completely out of my mouth. I, I, I. My, my, my. It was all about me. My husband works full-time, too, and yet he was choosing to use this time he had at home to go through our monthly budget—something I’d been asking him to do with me for the past couple of weeks. Ok, so his timing wasn’t the best, but he was still choosing to put “us” before himself.

My dream to fulfill my purpose as a writer and artist started out as something for “us.” After all, a happier partner (me) leads to a happier marriage, doesn’t it? And with a non-conventional job there would be more flexibility and freedom in our life to do all the other things we’ve talked about doing: thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, move to and experience new places, raise bees and try our hand at making and selling natural, hand-crafted soaps, write books, make art…live life simply and happily.

It appeared that the stress, fatigue and frustration that go hand-in-hand with the joy, excitement and fulfillment of working on a dream had the upper hand in this moment.

This isn’t all about me, I reminded myself. This is what living life as my authentic, creative self and using my gifts can bring to others, be it my marriage, my husband, my family, my friends, the world.

Today, the Wishcasting Wednesday prompt over at Jamie Ridler Studios touches on this idea of micro versus macro. The self versus others.

“What do you wish for the world?”

The question takes the focus off the ego, and instead asks us to look for a deeper, further-reaching component to our dream and creative aspirations.

What do I wish for the world? My reflex response would be peace, followed by love and all with a healthy dose of understanding. And while I do wish for all those things, I think they come under a bigger wish: a wish for us all to see the world through someone else’s eyes.

If we all took a moment to shift our perspective and see a situation from another person’s vantage point, we might begin to cultivate greater awareness of others’ needs. We might be able to recognize our common ground before our differences. We might be able to see the beauty and depth in differing opinions, and stop saying someone else is wrong just because we think we’re right.

To cheaply borrow from John Lennon, you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one.


Your One Step:

Today, take a break from your dream. That’s right, you heard me. Put down the pen, close the laptop, cap that tube of paint.

Today, I want you to use some of the time you’d normally give to your dream, and use it to bring some light and love to someone else. Don’t worry. You can still bring creativity into it.

Write a letter—a real, honest-to-goodness, tangible, written-on-paper letter—to a loved one you don’t see very often and decorate the paper with doodles, color and embellishments. Bake a special dessert for your sweetie. Invite a friend for a cappuccino or a latte, and draw designs in the milky foam using a toothpick.

Shift your viewpoint and look for the ways your creative sparkle can light up someone else’s world.

 
 
“Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea,
never regains its original dimensions.”
-Oliver Wendell Holmes

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How is the start to your week going? I hope this Monday finds you feeling rejuvenated, inspired and ready to embrace the week like a fresh, blank page in a new journal.

Anyone who knows me personally knows Mondays can be a challenge for me. I love the weekends and the extra time it gives me to work on my dream. But on this particular Monday, I’m feeling pretty hopeful. And I give full credit to Project 180 and the steps it’s motivating me to take.

On Friday, I sent a query letter for a travel story idea. Now I’m playing the waiting game, anticipating the publication’s response. And while that’s exciting (and a bit scary), what really has me feeling charged about this particular pitch is the fact that I was able to take an old idea, a travel story I wrote last year, and turn it into a brand new idea for this different publication.

The concept of taking something old and making it new again isn’t a novel concept for me. I love the challenge and creativity in finding new uses for old things. I do it all the time with Re•Told Journals, my line of vintage book journals and other shabby-chic, upcycled creations. But this marked the first time I took that concept and applied it to my writing projects. I’ve read dozens of articles about writers who take a previously published piece of work, dust it off, tweak it here, redirect the angle a bit there and—viola! A brand-spankin’ new story emerges that can now be published elsewhere.

Ah…the beauty of recycling.

Even without knowing whether this particular publication will be interested in the story idea I pitched, sticking my toe in the water of repurposing past projects has inspired me to go through my files and see what else I can resurrect. My miner's hat is on and my pick axe is in my hand—I'm all set to see what new ideas I can uncover.


Your One Step:

My college journalism professor would tell students new story ideas lie in the common thread that links two completely unrelated ideas. So how about you? Can you find the shared link between two unrelated ideas or forms of creativity to make something new?

If you’re a writer, is there a fresh angle to a story you’ve written? If writing fiction, this might mean playing with the point of view. If writing non-fiction, feature writing for example, can you give it a new slant? Can you find a way to link a story about yoga to a parenting magazine, or a story about social media to a publication about genealogy?

Not a writer? If you’re an artist, is there a way to breathe new life into an old painting? Can you create subsequent paintings to make it part of a series. Or, can you find a new use for a certain medium or tool?

If you knit or crochet, can you turn a scarf into a shawl or a stuffed toy?

This week I challenge you to look at one piece of writing, art or material and ask yourself, what else can I do?

I’d love to see what you come up with, so please feel free to share in the comments to this post or post a link to your blog.

 
 
"Happiness is not a matter of intensity
but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony."
-Thomas Merton


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When I got the assignment to write a story about life balance, I couldn't help but think someone definitely had a sense of humor. Me? The girl who flies by the seat of her pants, the girl who's had a reputation for burning the candle at both ends since the fifth grade, the girl who wishes her body didn’t require sleep so she could use those few hours for something a little more productive...this is who you want to write a story on life balance? **Pause.** **Think.**  **Nod.** Well, OK then. Let's get writing!

My favorite aspect about freelance feature writing is that I'm always learning something new. I was fairly certain I'd  be doing my fair share of learning with this assignment.

With each life coach, psychologist, holistic health professional and yoga instructor I interviewed, I realized all of them could be talking about me when they described they're typical client.

I've been so busy "doing" these first 20-some days of Project 180 that I've started to lose my sense of "being." I'm tending to my many projects like a series of spinning plates that are on the verge of toppling over and shattering everywhere. Instead of feeling inspired and motivated, frustration and panic has settled over me. I want to get back into my workout routine, but that takes away from time that could be spent writing or creating journals. I want to ease into the day with prayer and meditation, but I didn't get around to packing lunches the night before. I want to get into work on time (without "bending" the speed limit the entire way), but—oh!—just 15 more minutes of sleep, puh-lease!

I knew bringing my dream into reality was going to require work. But this—head pounding, chest tight, stomach queasy, nerves on edge—WOW! I'm beginning to question if I'm really cut out for this whole crazily creative, entrepreneurial path I embarked on. I mean, I'm only 22 days in. I could still turn around.

Then I remembered something one of my story sources, a wellness coach, had said.

"If you want to get yourself to where you want to be, you have to look at the mind, body and spirit together."

Where was my mind? Disorganized chaos. A nonstop flow of thoughts. Negative.

Where was my body? Tired. Not exercising. On overdrive.

Where was my spirit? On hold. Weary. Starving.

Yep, a classic picture of imbalance if there ever was one.

So I whipped out my handy index cards—seven of them to be exact—and at the top of them wrote the days of the week, Monday through Friday, leaving Saturday and Sunday flexible and open for relaxation and creative serendipity. I scheduled out the weekdays. I immediately blocked off 7-8 hours of sleep (body), 9-1/2 hours for my day job and commute time, and two hours for the basics (getting ready in the morning, making dinner and daily basic housekeeping.) That left me with 4-1/2 hours to foster a greater sense of balance while dreaming up some creative magic.

It didn't seem like much time at first, but oh what a little creativity can do. Take a look,..

Learn the Meaning of Enough:
Dedicate the day to two projects, and two projects only. Dedicate an hour to each and realize this is enough (the rest will still be there tomorrow). For me, it works best to use the first hour in the morning before work. Going into work knowing you've already invested in your dream makes any day job more bearable. The other hour is placed in the evening. And just like that, I've put in two whole beautiful hours devoted completely to my dream.

Call It By Name:
Assigning those two hours a specific focus keeps my mind from wandering to the other items waiting in the wings on my "to do" list. I've even heard of creative magic makers who take this step as far as giving each day a catchy name, like Marketing Mondays or Writing Wednesdays to really drive home that idea of focus. Others will write down that hour’s focus on a Post-It note or index card and keep it in sight while working…just in case thoughts begin to drift. Do whatever works for you...just stick to the task at hand.

Just Be:
If we're always "doing" we burn out. After all, there is a reason we're called human beings. We need to take time to just be, to feel our bodies, to move, to explore the world around us. That's why one hour of my day is now dedicated to something enjoyable, calming and soothing. Reading is something I love to do, but as a writer definitely do not read enough. Now that I've barred myself from purchasing any more books until I read the ones already lining my bookshelves or serving as make-shift living room furniture, I figured it's time to start reading. So half an hour a day is dedicated to reading. (I'm starting with The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.) The other half hour is spent catching up with my favorite blogs, checking in with friends on Facebook or watching a television show or playing a game of Scrabble with my husband.

Make Every Moment Count:
I spend over an hour every day commuting to work, which made me think, "What can I do with that hour to make it work for me?" So I loaded my ipod with spiritual and inspirational podcasts for the drive to work (feeding the spirit), and creativity podcasts and other "educational" programs for the drive home (feeding the mind). And during that half-hour lunch I get each day at noon, I head out to my car, journal in hand and spend 30 blissful minutes moving the pen across the page (feeding the spirit and mind)

Get Up and Move:
When you add up the time, I'm still left with two full hours—ample time to take a spin class, crank out a long run followed by some strength training, develop my fairly new yoga practice and still have time to drive home from the gym, shower up and get on with the rest of my day. Exercise makes me feel alive, strong and confident, which is why I know I need to make it a priority in my life.


Mind, body and spirit. Work, rest, play. When these areas are moving together in synchronicity that’s when we begin to feel alive. That’s when we can settle into our creative groove and let the magic happen.

But it takes practice. It takes some trial and error. It takes a little self-love and self-acceptance when you do fall of track. But did a few bumps and bruises keep you from learning to ride your bike as a child? Nah! In fact, I wear my skinned up and scarred knees as a sign of courage—proof that I am willing to fall down and get back up however many times it takes.

Live Creatively!
Sara


Your One Step:

My creative cohort, friend and life coach Jeanette Stevenson uses the most beautiful illustration in her workshops for living life in balance. She asks someone from the group to demonstrate the yoga tree pose. As the person stands on one foot with the sole of the other foot placed against the inner thigh of the supporting leg, she asks the group to look closely.

What we notice are the teeny, tiny, mini micromovements the person is making to maintain their balance and grace.

Maintaining balance in life or a creative endeavor, she says, is much the same way. To create a life of balance we must be able—and willing—to make small adjustments as needed. To move this and shift that in order to make sure the mind, body and spirit are all getting adequate nourishment.

What micromovements can you make today?

Can you get up just five minutes earlier to meditate on a favorite quote, positive affirmation or verse of Scripture?

Can you take a night off from checking Facebook and call a friend instead?

Can you let the dishes sit in the sink while you play a game with your child or spouse?

Can you turn off the television to read, write a few pages in your journal or work on a piece of art?

Sometimes it’s the tiniest shift in our movement that creates the greatest ripple effect.


 
 
“We are not weak if we make a proper use of those means,
which the God of Nature has placed in our power.”
-Patrick Henry

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I was thinking that I might fly today

Just to disprove all the things you say

It doesn't take a talent to be mean

Your words can crush things that are unseen

So please be careful with me, I'm sensitive

And I'd like to stay that way.


These are the opening lyrics to the song “I’m Sensitive,” by singer-songwriter Jewel. It’s a song I first heard back in high school, and one I secretly dubbed as “my theme song” because, well, I’m sensitive. And, I think I would like to stay that way, thank you very much.

But I didn’t always view my sensitive nature as one of my strengths. In fact, I spent most of my adolescence and early 20s trying to change what I saw as a serious character flaw.

Growing up, I was told on more than one occasion, “You’re too sensitive, Sara.”

Hearing that cut through my tender heart like knife, which I thought only reiterated what everyone else saw in me. I was, indeed, too sensitive. I needed more backbone, I needed a thicker skin, I needed switch off my emotions. But try as I might, I couldn’t. And after many failed attempts to change my sensitive nature I realized something that literally rocked my world...

IT’S FREAKING AWESOME TO BE SUPER SENSITIVE!!!

Being super sensitive isn't a character flaw at all! Actually, it's one of my greatest strengths!

Being highly sensitive allows me to feel more intensely, to love more deeply, to dream more colorfully, to care more compassionately, to live more fully, to write more richly, to experience absolutely everything on a level that is compounded compared to what most people experience.

I refuse to look at the negative aspects of this trait any longer, and instead focus only on the blessings it brings me.

For instance, when I write a story, I can feel every single emotion my characters might experience in a certain scene, which only breathes more life into them.

When I conduct an interview for an article, I can meet the person I’m speaking with wherever he or she is at, which I’ve found makes them more comfortable sharing their story with me.

When a friend is hurting, I hurt too, which allows me to offer genuine compassion and empathy while still providing them with strength they can’t give themselves at the moment.

When someone is lonely, I not only remember but feel the hollowness from my own experiences with loneliness, and it makes me quick to offer friendship.

The reason it hurt so much to be told I was too sensitive wasn’t because I had a serious character flaw. It hurt because, essentially, I was being told not to be me. In my mind, what I really heard was…

You’re too Sara, Sara.

My sensitive nature is part of my core. It runs through every single fiber that makes me who I am as Sara Rae. It doesn’t make me wrong, or bad. It makes me, me. Why would I want to change that?

Over at Jamie Ridler Studios, today’s Wishcasting Wednesday prompt asks, “What gifts do you wish to share?”

I wish to share my sensitivity, because I do see it as a gift now. And it’s that gift of sensitivity that fuels so many other gifts I wish to send out into the world: my writing, my stories, my creativity, my passion, my perseverance, my dedication, my friendship, my compassion, my love and my time.

Leaning slightly toward the “heightened” end of the sensitivity spectrum allows me to feel everything in the deepest recesses of my heart. And it’s there, in that tender spot where all the emotions collide with amplified sound and sensation that my authenticity resides.

Your One Step:

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “Our strength grows out of our weaknesses.”

What trait or characteristic might you be viewing as a weakness when, in reality, it’s one of your greatest strengths?

Take some time to journal about this trait and the ways it has actually benefited you.


 
 
"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."
-Theodore Roosevelt

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"If I could get paid for just generating ideas, I wouldn't need my day job," I joked recently with a friend.

Sometimes my thoughts feel like a Jackson Pollock painting—splatters of color and creativity flung this way and that in random patterns across the canvas that is my mind.

Generating ideas and new, creative projects is not a problem for me. Every day seems to bring some sort of "What if I tried ______?" or "Wouldn't _____ be cool?" aha moment. But taking those exciting "Aha's! from intangible concept to I-can-see-and-touch-it reality can be a struggle.

It's not because I'm incapable of taking the ideas from point A to point B. While I may not know all the answers up front, I do know how to ask questions to find the answers. I do know how to reach out to others who may have the answers. I do know how to take inventory of what I already know to happily discover that I do have some answers. And guess what? You have the ability to do all this to. You know how to ask questions. You know people. You even know more than you think you know.

The quote at the beginning of this post is one of my favorites because it reminds me we are never without resources. We are never truly stuck.

Let's try the quote on for size, shall we?

First, clarify the goal. Keep in mind it doesn't have to be specific or polished. Just name your heart's desire in its current form. Then turn each part of the quote into a question to define the steps you can take to reach your goal.

If I use myself as an example, it might look something like this:

What's my goal?
To support my family through my writing.

What can I do?
-Make my writing a priority by making for it by setting limits on other activities.
-Submit one story idea a week to various publications.
-Enter one writing contest a month.
                           
What do I have?
-The Writer's Market book—a plethora of publishers, publications and contests to which I can send my writing.
-Control over my schedule.
-Connections—reach out to them and return the favor when they need help.

Where am I at?
-In a day job that pays well so I can save for my future and fund future training and learning opportunities.
-In a position to use my current clips to fuel bigger projects.
-Writing regularly for four publications with which I have an established rapport.

Breaking those great big, crazily creative ideas down into more manageable bite-sized pieces makes them look exciting and doable, not scary and impossible.

It redirects my focus.

It calms my anxiety.

It boosts my confidence.

It brings me one step closer.

Your One Step:

Want to give it a try?

Write down the following quote in your journal or on a blank index card:

"Do what you can, with what you have, with where you are."

Below it write your goal. This can be a long term goal, a monthly goal, a weekly goal or even a daily goal. The size of the goal isn't what matters, but the progress made toward it.

Below your goal, write the three clarifying questions:

What can I do?

What do I have?

Where am I at?

For each question, shoot for at least one step, but be careful not to overwhelm yourself. Creative beings tend to have this habit of getting so excited about a goal or a dream that we try to accomplish more than we reasonably can without experiencing burn out. I'd suggest limiting yourself to three steps per question.

Write down those steps.

Refer to them often.

Cross them off your list as achieve them.

Celebrate them.

Move forward.


 
 
"Your body is free but your heart is in prison. To release your heart, you simply reverse the process which locked it up. First you begin to listen for messages from your heart—messages you may have been ignoring since childhood.
Next you must take the daring, risky step of expressing your heart in the outside world. As you learn to live by heart, every choice you make will become another way of telling your story. If you stop to listen, you’ll realize that your heart has been telling you so all along."
-Martha Beck from Finding Your North Star


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I knew this day would come eventually. So the fact that it's here doesn't really surprise me. But it doesn't make me any more ready for it either.

Tonight I hit a speed bump on the path of my 180-day journey. I'm feeling so very small and ill-equipped. And my dream? Well, it seems so very big and unattainable.

I know I'm making progress. I witnessed that progress first hand today as I conducted an interview for my very first story with my newest freelance client. But tonight, as I struggle with getting fonts to cooperate on the new Web site I'm building, as I feel a twinge of panic when I think of all the tax information I need to learn, as I wonder what on earth the next step—the right step—is, I begin to question if I can do it.

Am I really cut out to lead a life less ordinary, and a life more creative? Or is it nothing more than a silly childhood dream, and I should just accept my lot of being that ordinary gal, working an ordinary day job, living an ordinary life.

Ugh. The though makes me want to cry. I can feel the tears sting the back of my eyes just thinking about never getting beyond ordinary.

And then I remember something said during today's interview.

"What do you want? What do you need?"

These are the two questions this particular life coach asks her clients when they come to her for help finding their north star.

I think someone or something was trying to send me a message through today's interview. Feeling rather tender and withdrawn, I couldn't help but think this life coach could be talking directly to me—not just giving me insights and direct quotes for my article.

So what do I take from it? Well, for starters, I'm taking a deep breath...and maybe self-medicating just a tad with some divine tiramisu frozen custard. But after that I'm going to ask myself the questions I'm dubbing the Dynamic Duo.

Number one: What do I want?

I want to lead a life less ordinary...one that even makes me say, "Man, that's cool!"
I want a career that's built around my life, not the other way around.
I want to support my family through my writing, my words, my creativity.
I want simplicity.
I want to live near the mountains and in a climate that lets me enjoy the outdoors more than four or five months a year (without the risk of sever frostbite).
I want control of my schedule.
I want more time to enjoy my family and life.
I want to explore and travel.

Number two: What do I need?

I need a career that requires and embraces my passion for writing and creativity, a career as a freelance features writer and author.
I need a consistent exercise routine.
I need to learn.
I need to feel free.
I need a way to generate more income through my writing.
I need room to breathe.
I need to find my voice...and feel comfortable using it.
I need to embrace my fear.
I need to take the leap.

Whew! Even this simple act of declaring my wants and needs makes my heart feel a little lighter. I do know what I want. I do. And I bet you know what you want to.

Your One Step:


If you've recently hit a road block in your own path, why not give this exercise a try? Get out your journal or a blank index card and draw two columns. At the top of one column write, "What I Want." Above the other write, "What I Need." Now, set a timer for five minutes, and go, go, go jotting down the things you want and the things you need.

Once you have your list, you may want to read it aloud. Hearing your own voice declare your heart's desires can make them all the more real. Refer to the list often, daily even, to remind yourself of why you are working so hard for your dream. Let your wants and needs guide your day-to-day decisions so each day brings you one step closer to the fabulously creative life you were meant to live.

 
Setting Limits 03/02/2011
 

“Yesterday is a canceled check; tomorrow is a promissory note; today is the only cash you have—so spend it wisely.”
-Kay Lyons


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Time is a funny thing isn’t it? So often we complain we don’t have enough of it…but last I checked the world’s clock hasn’t changed. There are, and always have been, 24 hours in a day. (Unless, of course, you observe Daylight Savings where you lose an hour one day a year in the spring and gain an hour one day a year in the fall, but we won’t go into that here.)

So why is it that some people seem to accomplish so much in their day…their week…their year? I think it has something to do with the saying, “time is money.”

Think about it…in order to save money for the things you want, be it a vacation, a house, a rainy day fund, you have to create a budget. You have to set limits on your spending in order to make your money work for you.

I think our time is much the same way. The more I observe the people who are making their 24 hours work for them, I am not only astounded by the amount of work they crank out but intrigued by how they do it. I’ve come to the conclusion that they are able to do it because they assign their time a set value. And once assigned a value, they budget that income to make the most of it. Just as we choose what will—and will not—be bought with our money, this group of magic-makers sets limits on what will—and will not—receive their time.

Over at Jamie Ridler Studios today’s Wishcasting Wednesdays prompt asks, “What limits do you wish to set?”

I think you know what I’m going to say.

I wish to set limits on my time.

I wish to assign my time a value, to treat it like money, a limited resource, to spend only on the things that will give me the greatest value.

For me, that means mapping out a visual cue for how I want to prioritize and spend my time. On of the first things promising reporters learn in journalism 101 is a concept called “the inverted pyramid.” It’s visual tool used by journalists and other writers to illustrate the placement of the most important information first within a text, followed by the second most important information and so on.

If I were to follow the inverted pyramid format to budget my time, my spiritual and emotional well-being would be placed at the top. This would mean my top priority of the day would be spending time praying, meditating, reading and journaling—the activities that feed my soul and help me gain a clearer perspective on my day.

The second and third tier would be dedicated to “family time” and “physical health,” respectively.

The third tier goes to my writing. Some might question why I didn’t make this my top priority. My reason is that in order to have something to give to my writing and art I need to make sure I’m taking care of myself on a spiritual, emotional and physical level first. If I go into my writing running on empty, my writing will be empty as well.

The fourth tier is shared by the “must-do’s” (the day job, household chores, and the basic responsibilities of living a grown-up life) and the “like to-do’s” (lunch with friends, going to the movies, hiking in the woods, etc.)

The fifth, final and smallest tier goes to the time-wasters—those “check-out” activities that provide the brain with a break, but don’t offer much more in the sense of a return on my investment. Into this category goes time spent on social media, surfing the Internet, watching television, unnecessary shopping trips and the like.

If time is money, how will you spend it?

Your One Step


Is it time you put yourself on a time spending budget, too?

If so, try keeping a spending log of how you spend your time over the next three days. It doesn’t have to go into great detail. Just write down the activity and the time you spent doing the activity. If you’d like to take this exercise one step further, consider jotting a quick note about how you felt after you did the activity. Did those 30 minutes on Facebook leave you feeling connected and fulfilled or did you feel guilty that you didn’t use them to go for that run you promised yourself earlier in the day?

After doing this exercise for a few days, you’ll have a pretty good picture of where you spend your time. Now is the time to be honest with yourself. Is your activity log an accurate representation of your values and goals? If it doesn’t match up, try creating an inverted pyramid of your time. (I drew mine on a blank notecard so I could carry it with me in my wallet.)

Refer to your inverted pyramid as a gentle reminder whenever you get the urge to spend those precious minutes on an activity that won’t give you much in return. You might be surprised at how the savings add up.