Off Balance – My Year’s Most Inspiring Read

The Year’s Most Inspiring Read

Off_Balance I’m listening to the audiobook version of Matthew Kelly’s Off Balance: Getting Beyond the Work-Life Balance Myth to Personal and Professional Satisfaction, and it’s probably the most inspiring title I’ve read (or listened to) so far this year.

Why? Because the author doesn’t just talk about how you can change your life, pursue your dreams, blah, blah, blah. He actually did it…and he changed his life in a way that makes sense to me. He talks about changing his whole life, taking into account both the personal and professional, which he says are integrally intertwined.

I like the idea of running away to a Caribbean island as much as the next gal, but the truth is that I’m probably not ever going to decide the benefits of island living outweigh the costs. In fact, I don’t even think changing addresses is worth the cost, at least not for the next few years–even though I’m a country girl at heart and have never felt quite settled in our suburban environment.

But, like Kelly, I’ve identified my priorities, and family is one of the top items on the list. So as long as it’s best for my family to stay where we are, here we’ll stay.

I’ve also identified creative writing as a top priority…and that one is easier to let slide. Kelly’s book gave me “mental ammunition” in my daily battle to prioritize my writing time.

The Balance Myth

Having examined the issue extensively, I have come to the conclusion that people don’t really need or want balance. As an idea, balance sounds desirable, but…if you delve a little further and get people talking about what that balance looks like, you will discover that what they want has very little to do with balance. – Matthew Kelly, Off Balance

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Top Ways to Notice and Celebrate Success

Do YOU Remember to Celebrate Success?

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Image: Helga Weber/Flickr Creative Commons

This past week, this blog has turned out to have a celebration theme. I think this is because I recently realized how bad I am at celebrating–as evidenced by the fact that I just had my first book published and nearly didn’t stop long enough to notice it.

Voyagers in Space_Reading A-Z Level S Leveled Book

I know, you’re probably wondering how I could possibly fail to notice when my first book came out? It was a combination of factors. I wrote the book for a subscription-based service that provides leveled reading material for classrooms–so although the book was very professionally produced, 1) it will only be available in PDF format, and 2) it will only be available to people subscribing to the Reading A-Z program.

Still. Five years ago, getting a book published–no matter the format–would have sent me over the moon. It was definitely worth a bit of celebrating!

Fortunately, I noticed what was happening. It made me wonder, though: how often does this happen? How often do I get so caught up in the next goal or project, or just the day-to-day busy-ness of life, that I miss celebrating success along the way?

And am I the only one who does this? I doubt it! Humans have the ability to become inured to the good things in our life, a process called hedonic adaptation.

In other words, it’s perfectly normal to reach a much-anticipated goal–only to have the thrill of reaching it fade as you turn your eyes to the next milestone.

Ways to Celebrate

So what’s a writer to do? Have no fear–here are four tried-and-true strategies to help you notice your forward motion along the way: 

  1. Record your goals. What are you trying to accomplish as a writer? Write it down, big or small, and post it on your wall. With a destination in sight, you’ll have an easier time knowing when you’ve “made it”–and knowing when to celebrate the accomplishment.
  2. Keep a progress log. Did you ever see a child’s height marked on a wall? Each year, the line moves upward, over time recording growth to adulthood. If you interact with that same child on a daily basis, though, it would be nearly impossible to see any height change. In the same way, it’s far easier to see your growth and progress when you record each milestone along the way.I started keeping a handwritten progress log in one of the sections of my Arc notebook, and it’s helped me see forward movement in my current WIP. Very encouraging, since some days it feels like I’m making no progress at all!
  3. Practice gratitude. Did you know that repeated research shows that spending as little as five minutes a day keeping a gratitude journal has a measurable positive effect on happiness and life satisfaction? Gratitude is a skill that can be learned, and by applying it to your writing life, you will improve your ability to notice the positives (such as what you’ve accomplished) as well as the negatives (such as what you haven’t finished yet).
  4. Savor success. Noticing when you reach a milestone on your creative path, however, is only the first step: you also need to stop and enjoy the success. In her book, The How of Happiness, positive psychology researcher  Sonja Lyubomirsky lists savoring life’s positive experiences as one of the key “Happiness Activities” that can enhance happiness–and potentially thwart hedonistic adaptation.

Celebration: it sounds like such a simple, fun thing to do, and yet it can be easy to forget! Do you remember to celebrate milestones in your creative journey? What strategies do YOU use?

Please share in the comments!

Things to Love About Life…or: Why Stress Hurts Performance

This post is part of an ongoing series (first mentioned here) about looking for what’s going right in my writing life. It’s so easy to focus on everything else, don’t you think? On rejections, failed queries, long hours, or negative feedback…and yet, when we start looking for it, there are so many things to celebrate. I have an ulterior motive in all this: to increase my “positivity,” as defined by Barbara Fredrickson in her book of the same name. (Take the positivity quiz here.) Positivity is like a many-fingered vine, its tendrils twisting through our mood, productivity, family harmony, stress responses, creativity, and more. Join me in my journey to boost positivity, and along the way find more joy in writing and life!

It’s really hit me this week: when I write about what I love about the writing life, I’m writing what I love about life.

Tatters-smileemoticon Photo by Tatters:) on Flickr Creative Commons

When you think about it, the two aren’t that different. When I struggle with mood in my daily life, it’s often because I’m struggling in my writing life and vice versa. When I search for what’s going “right” in writing, the very act of looking shines joy on the rest of my life, too.

And as tempting as it is to claim that this connection exists because I’m a writing creative-type, I see this relationship everywhere I look.

Our feelings of success or failure at work spill over into our lives outside of work. The result? Stress hurts performance, creativity, and productivity.

Positivity in one life arena pulls us up, whereas negativity in another life arena drags us down.

John Medina sums it up in his book Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School:*

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Things to Love About Writing

This post is part of an ongoing series (first mentioned here) about looking for what’s going right in my writing life. It’s so easy to focus on everything else, don’t you think? On rejections, failed queries, long hours, or negative feedback…and yet, when we start looking for it, there are so many things to celebrate in the writing world as well. I have an ulterior motive in all this: to increase my “positivity,” as defined by Barbara Fredrickson in her book of the same name. (Take the positivity quiz here.) Positivity is like a many-fingered vine, its tendrils twisting through our mood, productivity, family harmony, stress responses, creativity, and more. Join me in my journey to boost positivity, and along the way find more joy in writing and life!

Travel, manatees, crabs and mangroves—from the past two weeks’ posts, you’re probably starting to think that I have this amazing, glamorous life of travel and research.

Andrew StawarzPhoto courtesy of Andrew Stawarz, Flickr Creative Commons

And I do! For about…one week a year.

The rest of the time, I bet my life looks pretty much like yours: I carve out writing time between kids, dogs, husband, friends, other work, volunteering, writing group, reading, laundry, cooking, cleaning…you get the idea!

The writing life is one filled with hard work and occasional hair-pulling, but if you know where to look—or maybe, if you know how to look—the writing life is one filled with things to love. I love this series of posts, both because it encourages me to look for the joy in writing and because I’ve gotten to share so many of YOUR writing successes:

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