Introducing: Free Your Mind Friday Blog Hop

Photo credit: drzx2 via Photobucket

Photo credit: drzx2 via Photobucket

On Kristle’s list of 101 things to do in 1001 days, you will find that one thing she planned to challenge herself with is to answer “50 Questions that will free your mind.” Even though I didn’t put that on my own 101 list, I wanted to join her in the fun and encourage you to do the same.

If you are not familiar with what a blog hop is, this is a great explanation by another blogger: How to Blog Hop

Each Friday I will answer one question from her list. This will repeat every Friday for 50 weeks. My own list got started a wee bit late on my blog because I was busy recovering from my carpet cleaning calamities. I hope that ‘better late than never’ holds true and you will join me!

Here is the list of questions; take them, think about them, write up your answer, and then come back here to link-up with others who will also be participating!

These questions have no right or wrong answers.

Because sometimes asking the right questions is the answer.

  • How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?
  • Which is worse, failing or never trying?
  • If life is so short, why do we do so many things we don’t like and like so many things we don’t do?
  • When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done?
  • What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the world?
  • If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?
  • Are you doing what you believe in, or are you settling for what you are doing?
  • If the average human life span was 40 years, how would you live your life differently?
  • To what degree have you actually controlled the course your life has taken?
  • Are you more worried about doing things right, or doing the right things?
  • You’re having lunch with three people you respect and admire.  They all start criticizing a close friend of yours, not knowing she is your friend.  The criticism is distasteful and unjustified.  What do you do?
  • If you could offer a newborn child only one piece of advice, what would it be?
  • Would you break the law to save a loved one?
  • Have you ever seen insanity where you later saw creativity?
  • What’s something you know you do differently than most people?
  • How come the things that make you happy don’t make everyone happy?
  • What one thing have you not done that you really want to do?  What’s holding you back?
  • Are you holding onto something you need to let go of?
  • If you had to move to a state or country besides the one you currently live in, where would you move and why?
  • Do you push the elevator button more than once?  Do you really believe it makes the elevator faster?
  • Would you rather be a worried genius or a joyful simpleton?
  • Why are you, you?
  • Have you been the kind of friend you want as a friend?
  • Which is worse, when a good friend moves away, or losing touch with a good friend who lives right near you?
  • What are you most grateful for?
  • Would you rather lose all of your old memories, or never be able to make new ones?
  • Is is possible to know the truth without challenging it first?
  • Has your greatest fear ever come true?
  • Do you remember that time 5 years ago when you were extremely upset?  Does it really matter now?
  • What is your happiest childhood memory?  What makes it so special?
  • At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive?
  • If not now, then when?
  • If you haven’t achieved it yet, what do you have to lose?
  • Have you ever been with someone, said nothing, and walked away feeling like you just had the best conversation ever?
  • Why do religions that support love cause so many wars?
  • Is it possible to know, without a doubt, what is good and what is evil?
  • If you just won a million dollars, would you quit your job?
  • Would you rather have less work to do, or more work you actually enjoy doing?
  • Do you feel like you’ve lived this day a hundred times before?
  • When was the last time you marched into the dark with only the soft glow of an idea you strongly believed in?
  • If you knew that everyone you know was going to die tomorrow, who would you visit today?
  • Would you be willing to reduce your life expectancy by 10 years to become extremely attractive or famous?
  • What is the difference between being alive and truly living?
  • When is it time to stop calculating risk and rewards, and just go ahead and do what you know is right?
  • If we learn from our mistakes, why are we always so afraid to make a mistake?
  • What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you?
  • When was the last time you noticed the sound of your own breathing?
  • What do you love?  Have any of your recent actions openly expressed this love?
  • In 5 years from now, will you remember what you did yesterday?  What about the day before that?  Or the day before that?
  • Decisions are being made right now.  The question is:  Are you making them for yourself, or are you letting others make them for you?

Hope to see you back here tomorrow when the link-up goes live!


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What to consider if your husband stresses out while you are away from home

Have you ever left the house by yourself, even for a short time, only to come home to find your PTSD/TBI husband having a tizzy, or in a bad mood, and neither of you really know why?

Photo credit: Dosomething.org

Photo credit: Dosomething.org

I didn’t know it at the time, but in 2008 the clues were staring right at me, smack-dab in the face, and I still couldn’t see it to understand it. Even with four years of practice with this ongoing issue, it took a few more years to fully understand the depth of this problem, let alone learn how to handle it.

Because I wasn’t able to see it, it only made things worse before it would get better.

I wish someone had told me what to look for and how to deal with it. We could have saved tons of stress, resentment, fights and misunderstandings.

I am going to share the insight we’ve had through that discovery process of understanding WHY this happens so hopefully you can learn from it too.

Our history of this problem:

The first year that my husband was home from being a patient in a hospital environment was incredibly hard. The transition out of the military presented many obstacles. He wasn’t the independent person he used to be. He needed help with a lot of things, but sometimes I wasn’t there to assist.

Back then, I ran a business that kept me outside of the home on a full time basis. I found it harder and harder to run my business because my husband needed me more and more, and part of me resented the fact that he couldn’t do simple things.

End result: I closed down my business and became his fulltime caregiver. Once I did that, things became so much smoother for him and for everyone around him. However, I noticed that any time I left the house I would come home to a fully-agitated husband who couldn’t articulate exactly what it was that got him riled up in the first place. In one particular incident, I was gone for less than an hour and came home to the worst PTSD episode I had seen to date.

How I reacted:

At first I resented the fact that I couldn’t leave for a coffee date with a friend for an hour. At times I took his agitation personally. Then I started to wonder if he was showing a side that I had never seen before, a possessive side.

Did he not trust me? Did I somehow give him reason not to trust me? I started to question whether a lack of trust was the reason for it all. (more on that later…)

Deep down inside I knew him better than that, but I was the only one who wasn’t willing to point fingers with blame or accusations. Even friends and family thought he was just a controlling and selfish asshole. All I knew was he was forever changed, and I still didn’t know who this man was that I was married to. I had to learn about him all over again.

I decided to listen to my gut in this situation. I started getting curious and watching his patterns closely. I decided not to take his outbursts personally. I had to set aside my indignation at the mere thought that he was trying to control me, and step outside myself to see the bigger picture.

It seemed logical to me that while I was gone, he was forced to manage things that were too overwhelming. If something required more than three steps to complete, or required fast thinking on his part…he would fall apart even if I was there. The pressure to be responsible for himself with no assistance on my part was just too much on any given day. Imagine the pressure I was placing on him if I was not there in the first place?

It didn’t help matters that in one case, while I went to town to get milk, our son had to use the fire extinguisher to put out a fire in our stove. Why? Because A) My husband forgot about the food he tried to make after the kids asked for a snack, and B) he has no sense of smell to notice the smoke billowing from the next room.

The irony is, that situation DID help us in the end. That day was the turning point of discovery for us to really understand the years of episodes that occurred if I ever left the house.

He was terrified that his inability to prevent or respond to the danger he created would have killed his family in a matter of minutes, and was able to SAY it and UNDERSTAND it for the first time in five years!

Fast forward to today: As a rule of thumb, I am with him 24/7. However, there are times I have to leave the house without him and there is no other way around it. I engineer my grocery shopping to be done just once a month, and our 16-year-old son is in charge while I am away. Even giving my husband reassurance that he wasn’t going to get a chance to accidentally burn down the house, he was still having episodes of stress and agitation, which came in the form of bad moods and lashing out at me later.

After a lot of observation and {gently!} coaxing him to talk about what triggers him while I am gone {which I must emphasize should be done when he is calm again}, we figured out one of the reasons why he got so upset in the first place.

It wasn’t because he was a controlling man, nor was it because he resented me if I took time out for myself. It also wasn’t because he still thought he would burn down the house by accident.

It was because he felt he couldn’t protect me and keep me safe.

Let me be very clear here: Dan is the bravest man I know. He’s also the most tenacious and independent man I know.  The only control he expects of anyone is the control of himself. He is not, nor ever was, a controlling person when it comes to me or the things I do or say. As a highly-trained sniper in the Army, it was his job to protect the innocent and make hard choices about life and death.

That background and military experience will leave an imprint that will last for the rest of his life.

We discovered that while I was gone, he was afraid that something terrible would happen to me and he wouldn’t be there to protect me. The thing he loved the most, his family, was something he felt he couldn’t keep safe if we were out of his sight. It’s one thing to have another adult in charge while I am away, or to have a fire extinguisher in every room, but being completely out of his sight and protection zone was too much for him to contemplate, process and handle.

The key to our discovery is that I had to remember a brain injury will tend to do that to a person.

It was the visions of me being stuck in a ditch, or — God forbid — me ending up in a fiery car crash that set him off. He couldn’t shake those fears of the possibility, even if the logical side of the brain knew better. He intellectually knew I was a safe driver and had a good head on my shoulders if there ever was an emergency, but logic is not part of the equation when you add PTSD or a brain injury to the mix.

Once we were able to narrow down the underlying and subconscious issue, we figured out a way to manage it.

Now when I am on a rare opportunity to be alone on my own, I call him with predetermined times or checkpoints so he knows I am safe. For instance, when I go ‘down the mountain’ to get our shopping done in the Springs (90 miles with only one stoplight in between) I call when I reach the gas station on the way. I call when I arrive at the store. I tell him where my next stop is and call when that errand is over. Then I call again when I am ready to head back home again. Then, right before I pass the last stoplight before getting to my house (which is 45 miles away) I call to say “I’ll be home in an hour.” Each time I call, I can hear the relief in his voice. I can also take that moment to mitigate his fears and say “I love you” before I hang up.

He doesn’t breathe easy until I walk back in the door, but this does help him manage his anxiety while I am away. He knows and I know that he can’t prevent an accident from happening, but knowing I am making progress along my journey means the world to him.

Now, some people will reel at the thought of having to ‘check in’ for simple things like going to a grocery store, getting your hair done, or taking a one-hour coffee break with a friend. I’d venture to say that some would resent it, or feel that it is too controlling on their husband’s part. But I am here to tell you that I do not mind it at all. It’s actually nice to feel loved enough that my absence is noted, or that my presence is appreciated all the more while I am by his side.

He worries because he is afraid. And, that’s pretty normal. We ALL do it every day!

Worry vs. fear

People worry for many reasons. We believe that if we chew on a problem long enough, eventually we will figure out a solution. Worry gives us illusions of control over the future. We dream up worst-case scenarios, thinking we can prevent bad things from happening. Sometimes worrying helps us get things done. For example, we worry about exams, thinking it will help us study. We worry about our appearance, hoping it will encourage us to work out or stick to a diet.

But most of all, and this is a hard concept to grasp…we worry because it makes us less afraid.

Worry is basically a body’s way of trying to suppress fear. However, there is a difference between the two: Fear is an emotional response, much like PTSD. It manifests physically in the form of tension, muscle aches, rapid heartbeat, sweating, etc. Worry suppresses that arousal. It’s the mind’s defense mechanism! It temporarily makes us feel better so we keep doing it.

Unfortunately, it sometimes backfires, because too much worry can take a toll on a person. It adds stress, mental fatigue and exhaustion.

And what does stress, mental fatigue and exhaustion do to someone with a brain injury or PTSD?

It puts them in a bad mood and exacerbates the issue like a big, vicious cycle.

His doctors know about these issues. Luckily they don’t find it to be a cause for concern right now to insist on treating him with more medicine {in a world of the VA over-medicating our veterans, this is huge!}. Yes, too much worry can be addictive, but there is good to be appreciated in this case. It’s considered growth on his part to not only identify and articulate his fears and anxiety, but they congratulate us because we found a mutual ground to manage the situation in my absence that we can both live with. They also understand that my calls inject a level of mindfulness into the equation.

Mindful… what?

Mindfulness. It teaches us to distance ourselves from our worries and stop engaging with them.

In short, mindfulness is the ability to take thoughts that enter our consciousness and ultimately let them go. You acknowledge those thoughts but you do not react or attach emotions to it.

Mindfulness. A topic worthy of another post entirely. (I really hope you click that link) The point I need to make is it’s another key to unlocking this mystery of how to handle my husband’s stress while I am away, both for him and for me.

So in summary, the more regularly I call him to check in, the more I break the cycle of worry and the more he can focus on letting it go. The more mindful I am, the more mindful he will be, and the better the both of us are overall.

We reduced his worry based on natural fears. That’s the best anyone can do!

But what if it really is a trust issue?

Well, let’s go back to my own initial reaction. I figured he didn’t trust me. I had to step outside myself and look at the bigger picture and not take it personally.

Could you blame him if he felt he would lose you to another man? Even if he doesn’t come right out and say it, it’s there.

He’s not the same man he used to be. There are others out there that are not broken. He probably feels like a burden in some way, and how easy would it be for you to just find someone else when he is not looking?

It’s not because you’ve given him a reason not to trust you. It’s not even because he doesn’t trust you.

It’s because he knows you deserve the very best, and he’s not feeling like he’s meeting that criteria to begin with.

If you are dealing with this issue, I encourage you to do as I did and really think about what may be going on that you might not see. Please don’t jump to the conclusion that your husband is just being an asshole, or controlling, or that he is just being a big old baby. Go easy on him.

I’ll be the first to tell you that it is annoying. It’s even frustrating to the point of wanting to scream sometimes. How can one simple thing like leaving the house be. so. HARD?

Ironically enough, he needs time away from you as much as you need time away for your own needs. Think about that. You have to find a way to make that time apart workable for the both of you.

Here is my advice:

Don’t take it personally. Breathe deep and put it into perspective. It’s likely not a matter of anything negative at all. It could be that he loves you so much that the very thought of living a life without you is too much to think about in the first place.

And that, my fellow caregivers, makes you the luckiest woman in the world.

If you are having trust issues or feeling resentful, if my advice doesn’t help resolve the issue soon, I encourage you to seek couple’s counseling so that you can find a better way to get to a happier place. We had to learn this through trial and error and it was damn hard, but fortunately for us this obstacle was fueled by a kind heart and an open mind to get us to the other side.

I am hoping I helped you find yours… but I know you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t have both of those things in the first place. <3

Sound off! Do you have this issue with your spouse? Did you find ways to cope with it, or are you still trying to understand is in a bad mood for no reason at all? Share your experiences and questions here. If it is something we have worked through, I’d love to share ways on how we dealt with the same issues too.


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EDOE Rule #3: Stacking your habits so they stick

“Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into smaller jobs.” ~Henry Ford

Before we can move on to the ‘what-the-hell-do-I-do-with-this-massive-to-do-list-that-makes-me-want-to-cry” portion of the Extreme Do-Over Experiment, I have to tell you that nothing I share from this point forward will work unless you learn (or re-learn) some basic rules.

Let’s review the first two rules. They may seem counter-intuitive to making any progress, but they are key to making things work in this experiment:

Rule #1: You have permission to give up

Rule #2:  Remember, it will get worse before it gets better

Today, as long as you are ready …and find (because you read them) that the above rules aren’t as depressing as they seem, we will begin the very first stages of doing something with that to-do list.

Problem:

As a caregiver who has no structure to her day, and even if I did have structure (ie, a job or requirement to be in the public’s eye) it would be derailed at any given moment. Things that came easy for everyone else didn’t come easy for me.

Things like:

  • Brushing my teeth before noon, if at all. (gross, I know!)
  • Getting dressed. Like, beyond my pajamas kind of dressed.
  • Working on my to-do list of 250+ items

Yeah. The moment I wrote out the list of things I needed and wanted to do in my life, I wanted to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over my head and hide forever.

I wanted to give up. I wanted to procrastinate.

It was just. too. much. Too much to think about. Too much to do. Too much to worry about. Too many things that may never get done.

I am guessing you are at that point too, wondering if this experiment is even worth following!

I asked myself at the same point of this process:

If I couldn’t even get to the most basic elements of each day, how was I supposed to tackle everything that I had to do? Great googly moogly, I’ll NEVER get this list done in a lifetime!

Well, I gave up to be honest. BUT, I didn’t give up trying. I found a way.

First I had to find out what made me tick and why it never worked in the past.

I give a lot of credit to the FlyLady in her system, as her home management program is founded on stacking habits and creating routines based on established zones of your home. However, it was not for me. I had fallen off the FlyLady wagon so many times I couldn’t count. It left me feeling like a total failure, wondering what the missing piece of the success puzzle could be.

There was no motivation on my end to rehash what I knew would only work part of the time.

There had to be a better way.

I first heard about kaizen, the Japanese word for “continuous improvement”, somewhere back in one of my college business courses. I later read it from a different perspective in Tony Robbin’s book Awaken the Giant Within.

Though it is arguably a philosophical word by definition, kaizen is often (as was the case during my class) applied in business situations, whether in management or manufacturing, to continually improve the way in which a business runs, and therefore the overall profitability of the entire operation.

Tony explains it further in his book:

“By the way, kaizen is based upon the principle of gradual improvement, simple improvements. But the Japanese understand that tiny refinements made daily begin to create compounded enhancements at a level that most people would never dream of.”

The same ideals can be applied to you.

The first rule is to learn how to slowly and incrementally stack your everyday habits, starting with the most important ones.

But wait a minute. Isn’t that what I just said was the foundation of the FlyLady system? Creating habits? Why, yes. Yes I did.

So what is the difference?

The difference is found within the word “improvement”.

When I reflected on all the reasons why my days would become derailed, most of which I had any real control over, I decided to improve some things first.

Shining my kitchen sink every day through the FlyLady system may be admirable, but if I was too exhausted to clean it, what was the point?

The first thing I did was identify the absolute MUST items that had to happen each and every day.

1.  I had to take care of myself.

  • I had to brush my teeth every day. At least twice.
  • I had to get dressed, even if it meant getting into a new set of pajamas.
  • I couldn’t ignore my health.

2.  I had to take care of everyone else.

  • In order to take care of everyone else, I had to take care of me first.
  • Remember rule #1.

I later discovered some other things I needed to do, but I focused on just that one rule first.

Here is what happened.

  • I wanted to give up in all the wrong ways when I looked at the big picture. It was too overwhelming. When I looked at a smaller picture, the one thing I could control and improve, I began to feel empowered.
  • Things got worse before they got better. But when they got better, they were incredibly better. I wished I hadn’t procrastinated and had just done it sooner.
  • Once I started working on ME, realizing that I had limiting beliefs stemming from my upbringing that made me feel selfish if I did anything for myself, I was able to do more and give more to those around me.

The first thing I did was create small habits and build off of them. BUT, those habits started with me. Not my house. Not my to-do list. Not my family. NOTHING but me.

From here on out, no matter what is on your ‘to-do’ list you created in Step #4, you will be working on first things first: YOU.

From there I will show you how I built off that one habit, stacked it with everything on the to-do list, and whittle away at each thing one by one. We’ll get into the limiting beliefs we carry as well, and start giving them up so we can all get to a better place in our lives.

So, are you new here? Thanks for joining me. :)  Are you following along since it started? Tell me in the comments below! While you are at it, be sure to check out the full series of topics of the Experiment or click the graphic below!


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EDOE Rule #2: Remember, it will get worse before it gets better

Before you get too far into the Extreme Do-Over Experiment, I need you to think about this:

You know how you step into a room in your house and find it is a total mess? Perhaps you made the mess. Perhaps other people did. Either way, it’s got to be cleaned and organized.

You decide to tackle it and get it back in order. What happens before the job is done? Most likely it gets messier in the course of pulling things out of their places to put them back in order again. The mess may also spill over into other rooms in order to put all that crap away where it belongs. You also need to identify the junk that just needs to be tossed out forever and put it in the trash where it belongs.

Your life is just like that messy house and all the rooms in it.

This process is very similar. You are going to be assessing your life here. It’s going to get messier for a few days, weeks or even months before all the pieces start coming together in an organized fashion. While you clean up one ‘room’ of your life, things may spill over into the other ‘rooms’ of your life.

Stick with this. Don’t get discouraged!

Right around Step #4, you’ll hit a brick wall. You’ll want to give up. You’ll get overwhelmed. I know I did.

But, I learned how to give up in all the right ways.

As long as you take your time and go at your own pace, you’ll get to a place where things start coming together. Naturally. Just remember, it will get worse before it gets better. But when it does, it will be the do-over you have been wishing for!

If you would like to see the full list of topics in this series, including the rules and steps, click here: Announcing the Extreme Do-Over Experiment!


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EDOE Rule #1: You have permission to give up

“Never, never, never give up.” ~Winston Churchill

I call bullshit, Sir Churchill.

Society has conditioned us to think we would be a failure if we gave up. Let’s look at what the dictionary tells us:

Definitions and examples of “give up

  • To surrender: The suspects gave themselves up.
  • To devote (oneself) completely: gave herself up to her work.
  • To cease to do or perform: gave up their search.
  • To desist from; stop: gave up smoking.
  • To part with; relinquish: gave up the apartment; gave up all hope.
  • To lose hope for: We had given the dog up as lost.
  • To lose hope of seeing: We’d given you up an hour ago.
  • To admit defeat.
  • To abandon what one is doing or planning to do: gave up on writing the novel.

Let’s look at it another way:

We all have to give up at some point or another, or we’ll go crazy or kill ourselves in the process of trying too hard. Whether it is giving up things, ideas, or ceasing forward movement on any action, it’s a necessary element of life.

Did you happen to notice that not everything on that list was a bad thing?

We have to give up bad habits at some point. We have to drop everything in our plans to accommodate the unexpected, more urgent issues. We have to give up bad ideas; things like..oh..that we have to be perfect at everything in order to be a success. You also have to give up in order to be devoted to any one thing completely.

Instead of giving up in a bad way, do this: Promise yourself you won’t stop trying. Take whatever break you need, but come back to your goals, desires and needs when the time is right.

This experiment did not work until I learned that it was okay to give up.

If I was having a bad day, I gave up my plans and made it better. I remained kind to myself, my well being, and those around me.

If I needed a nap but my to-do list was growing, I gave up the to-do list to focus on my self care. In turn I was twice as energized to work on my list after I had proper rest.

If I needed to give up some things in order to focus on other things, I gave those things up. Perhaps temporarily. Other times entirely.

If my husband (or kids, or anyone else) was having a bad day, I gladly gave up my plans to assure their day was as much of a success as possible. I didn’t give those plans up entirely; I just restructured them into another day instead.

If I felt inspired to write, I would write. I didn’t look at the to-do list because I had already built it into the structure of my day. I just moved everything else around it. In the end, I didn’t have to give anything up.

Go right ahead. You have full permission. Give up as much or as little as you want, as often as you want.

I initially gave up around step #4 in this experiment. I became overwhelmed. But, I didn’t give up trying. The irony is, once I started giving up in all the right places, the experiment became a success.

Once you are ready to move on in the experiment, I encourage you to read the full list of the series (to date), which can be found here. Take your time with this and go at your own pace. Give up if you need to, take as long as you need, but don’t stop trying.

…I hope to see you as successful as I have been!

 


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Extreme Do-Over Basics: What this experiment isn’t

Before we get too far into this experiment, I think it is important to let you know what this experiment isn’t.

What you can expect (or not expect) from the Extreme Do-Over Experiment series:

I needed a life management system that served as a blueprint to take back control of my life, but it needed to be a blueprint of my own creation. I didn’t want someone else to tell me what to do. My life is not the same as someone else’s life, nor was anyone else’s life just like mine. What I needed was a reliable process for finding my own solutions so I can share with others how they can do it too.

This experiment is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ system. It is shared so you can see the evolution of my process, for finding my own solutions, so others can do the same. It is not a 30-day program, or a top-10-things-you-need-to-do kind of program. It is a foundation for continued learning, is self-adjusting, and a collection of possibilities that can be toggled to fit whatever circumstances come along the way.

I needed to create a system for myself that was flexible enough to absorb all the little ‘oh-crap!’s of the day and still keep me on track.

This experiment will not have a fixed schedule. It will be based on routines and habits, where the chaos and unexpected can fit in without derailing the entire day. It will focus on the mental shifts we need to make so that any circumstance, any situation, can be dealt with in a focused and sustained way.

I needed a calmer, more gentle place in my life where I was free to do, or not do, my list of things to do. I needed to find a place in my life where all those nasty little “should’s” in my head would retreat into the background and not consume my thoughts. I needed permission to let life, especially the ‘creative’ parts of my life that I had given up on finding, could happen. Generically. With no schedule or sense of being forced.

This experiment will not create a sense of failure based on the number of things left on any to-do list. It will not dis-empower; rather, it will create empowering thoughts that create momentum to pursue my life on my terms, not someone else’s. Small accomplishments turn into bigger accomplishments. This is a snowball system of sorts. But in a good way.

Time is my most precious, and perishable, asset. Time is finite; it’s the one thing you can’t ever get back and it’s the great equalizer among us all. I felt like we all deserve to live with the absolute certainty that we’re getting the most from each moment.

This experiment will not facilitate or endorse any wasted time, money or energy creating systems that are better left on the cutting room floor. In other words, this experiment will not be used to spend all your time setting up systems with no time left over to use them. It’s not complicated. It is based on some kinds of systems, but they are simplistic ones.

This experiment is about creating my own happy ending.

What kind of story do you want to live?


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You may ask yourself, well, “How did I get here?” and “How do I get to a place called Anywhere but Here?”

You keep your head down and you hustle and hustle, and you wake up one day and wonder: How did I get here? ~Queen Latifah

We hustle and hustle…but sometimes we get lost in it and we wake up one day wondering, “How did I get here?” Or, we may ask ourselves, “How did 30+ years pass by so quickly since this completely relevant video was created?

 (RSS subscribers, click the link to see the Talking Heads video)

Spending time versus wasting time

We got here because we allowed ourselves to waste time instead of spending it.

I know I did.

This revelation is coming from someone who doesn’t get sucked into the boob tube very often. The first year we moved to Colorado, I could count on ONE hand how many hours I watched TV – for the entire year. I don’t watch soap operas. I flip the channel to NatGeo when reality TV comes on. I found it incredibly odd to spend any amount of time parked in front of an appliance that shows images of other people living fictional or dysfunctional lives when I could be living my own life instead.

I avoided mulling around the mall to ‘kill’ time and my budget. I never dreamed of overstructuring my children’s schedules and strip them of time to create, imagine and explore. I planned my grocery shopping so I went only once a month instead of every other day. I didn’t work outside the home any more, and hadn’t done so in years.

You would think with that approach I would have all the time in the world compared to everyone else, right?

Wrong.

I was wasting time, not saving it.

I wasted it in many ways. I would spend 20 minutes looking for a pencil sharpener (opting to use a pen instead), or a gift card (opting to pay with a credit card instead), or razor blade refills (opting to get only one leg shaved in the end).

On deadline-driven projects, I’d wait until the last minute to get it done, exhausting myself with an all-nighter that left me feeling like crap for two more days. I’d leave my house 15 minutes late for an appointment, run into traffic, then get to my destination so late that I had to reschedule.

I would spend every waking hour persevering over the ‘to-do’ lists in my head instead of being fully present to enjoy the moments playing out before me. I skipped sunsets because I was frantically trying to defrost meat for dinner, serving the meal so late that I was too tired to eat it. I was responding to emails with apologies for missing information, deadlines, or meetings.

I let my inbox dictate my focus, accumulating nore then 300 interruptions in a single 24-hour period. I would answer the phone without fail, regardless of what I was working on, leaving me to walk in a circle for 5 minutes saying, “Now what was I doing?.

When I just needed to dumb down and veg out (AKA escape) I would spend hours on Facebook reading 100% of everyone’s posts, getting only 2% of value in the end. By the time the article “13 Things Your Housecleaner Won’t Tell You” that I contributed to in Reader’s Digest went to print, my own house had gone to shit. I know how to clean house. I ran a successful business with well-trained employees and was a peer mentor to others in the industry. Yet, here I was…months later…and I couldn’t keep my own house clean.

All my good choices were negated by other bad choices.

Among all that chaos, I would remember how I wanted to spend my time. I wanted to read books at my leisure. I wanted to explore the new area we live in. I wanted to start a blog. I wanted to eat three meals a day, bathe regularly, pamper myself from time to time, and I wanted a decent night of sleep. I wanted to learn how to garden, learn photography, exercise on a regular basis and just have a friend over for an afternoon coffee break.

Then I felt like a failure for not getting around to that ‘someday’ in my head.

I wasn’t spending time doing anything of value. I was wasting time.

Period.

This is how I got here

Instead of spending an hour a day organizing my things and reducing my things, I would spend two hours a day in frustration and defeat trying to find them.

I procrastinated enough times that I was left with exhaustion and frustration, and spent twice as much time getting things done.

I allowed interruptions to get in the way. Between the thoughts that circled in my head on a constant basis, the emails dinging every time one appeared in my inbox, and the phone getting first priority, I literally had thousands of interruptions each and every day.

I lost my focus. I didn’t dream, plan, or do.

I spent more time apologizing instead of making sure things got done.

I argued with my husband for 30 minutes instead of taking 10 minutes to plan a date night out.

All that wonderful free time I created to let my children imagine, create and explore…was spent without me.

All those things negatively affected my finances, my patience, my relationships, my home, my self care, my health, my marriage, my ability to parent effectively, and my sanity.

Time went by quickly. I lost track of what time I was spending, and where. I forgot to invest my time in all the right things and avoid all the other things.

But I am fixing it

I started by being honest with myself. Instead of ruminating in the past or trying to escape my present, I started thinking about the future. I got in touch with how I feel about where my life is and where I am going.

But the most important thing I did was be honest with myself.

Do I look in the mirror and like what I am seeing? Do I look in the rear-view mirror and feel fear or become paralyzed over things that happened in the past? If I know what I want and can be honest about it, is it what I am actually doing? Do those two things even match up in any way?

Photo credit: Geek.com

Here’s how we all need to fix it (AKA your assignment for today):

It’s time to gear-up and slap yourself. To make the self-slappage easy, I’ve even made a list of question to ask — many of which I’ve been pondering as well.

  1. What is most important in my life? People, or things?
  2. What can I afford to lose?
  3. What will I gain instead?
  4. When I look at my schedule, who owns it — me or some hideous monster I’ve created?
  5. Is the time I’m taking to do everything IN my calendar worth the dollars I’m getting paid for it?
  6. Am I even getting paid for it?
  7. Am I really running a business? If so, am I running it like a business or a free clinic?
  8. With whom do I work that I’d like to work more?
  9. With whom do I work that I need to work less with/for?
  10. Is everything in motion with the right kind of motion — or is it just making me so fucking dizzy that I don’t know where to look when I stand up?
  11. What nonsense am I infusing into my brain each day with reality TV shows, soap operas, negative news stories, Facebook drivel or other such fluff that can be equally spent on things like relationships, dreams or income-producing activities?
  12. Am I doing what I love?
  13. Am I doing what I love for the right people?

These may seem like simple questions, but asking ourselves these things helps keep us from getting complacent. Questions like these keep us honest with the only person who matters: ourselves.

Before I tell you how to take the next steps I created in the Extreme Do-Over Experiment, you need to do this one thing:

Spend time asking yourself these questions. Don’t waste time by avoiding them.

This may take you only a few hours of reflection, or it may have to come to you over the course of weeks or months, but you have to be honest with yourself and ask these very simple questions.

Otherwise, if you don’t you’ll stay right where you are, and that’s not getting you to your final destination to Anywhere but Here.


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Extreme Do-Over Basics: {Step 2} Define the roles in your life

Each month in the Extreme Do-Over Experiment I’ll be sharing a special focus. The first month is about Taking Stock of our lives. The first few weeks of my shared experiment will cover the basics and foundation of making the Do-Over work.

On my last post I explained how I learned to identify the roles in my life. This was a very important step in getting my life back under control. If you are joining me in this journey, you should have your list of roles ready for the next step. But first, I have to tell you why this list even matters:

Newsflash! “Someday” isn’t a strategy that works very well

Problem: There were so many things I had to get done in a day, let alone find time to get around to all the things still forming on my ‘someday’ list’. I also couldn’t find a clear answer to the question “What do I want to be when I grow up?”

Solution: In early 2012, I made a “to-do” list of all the things *OFF THE TOP OF MY HEAD* that I knew I needed to catch up on. This did not include things like “change sheets” or “mop floor”, but rather…projects that I have fallen behind on. I stored all those things in my head each day for the last few months, thinking “I’ve got to get that done as soon as I have time”.

The list had 62 things to do on it.

Can you believe I spent every hour of every day stressing about these open loops of things to do, but never getting around to doing them? Talk about wasted energy, added stress, and a constant feeling of failure.

The list really woke me up to some harsh realities. Here was my final assessment of that massive to-do list:

  • Now, I dare anyone to walk around and function with 62 things they need to do floating around their head. Like I said, it did not include all the ‘regular’ things that had to be done…just extra things that had to be done. Putting it all on paper and on my calender really put into perspective how much information overload I have on any given day.
  • Another interesting fact: None of those 62 things were for my own benefit. Maybe residually I would benefit, but not directly to my own benefit. I am beginning to see a trend here…. No wonder I have high blood pressure and too much stress.
  • The sad reality: Every day I had these items nagging me, popping up in my brain at all times of the day (especially at night when I am trying to go to sleep!) and constantly reminding me of how far behind I get each day, which then leads to negative thinking about how much I must suck to let all these things go. After adding up the estimated time needed to get these things done (or at least started) and putting them on my calendar, just the ‘deadline-driven’ items means I have about 120 hours to come up with in the next three weeks.

The list created a new problem: I got overwhelmed and depressed when I realized there was no humanly way to get it all done. I got so stuck in where I should start that I became paralyzed. I could barely find time to get a shower or brush my teeth most of the time. How was I supposed to do anything else in my day, let alone find time for the things I wanted to do?

My natural reaction was to learn better ways to manage my time. You know, create a better schedule to get it all done.

My search for time management tips and tricks lead me to Amy Lynn Andrews book Tell Your Time.

In her book she touches on this issue of identifying our roles in preparation for learning how to manage our time wisely. As important as time management is, we are putting the cart before the horse if we don’t know where our time should be spent.

I had an “Ah-HAH!” moment, to say the least.

I was making excuses and didn’t even realize I was doing it. I DO have the time. We all have 24 hours in a day, no more, no less. Time is finite.

I repeat: I DO have time — if I make time for all the things that are important to me.

I also realized that even if I was the kind of person who stayed on top of my daily to-do lists (which I could do until a few years ago) or miraculously found myself bored in my day because my to-do list was finished, it still wasn’t getting me to where I wanted to be in life.

What I did to fix that problem:

I had to define my priorities by understanding what roles I wanted to have in life, THEN find a way to balance them so they got equal attention in my daily list of things to do.

Even though I had come to the conclusion that I needed to come up with 120 man (or, in this case, woman) hours to get everything done, I took a different route.

I sat down and DEFINED the roles that needed my attention in life. As much as it was nagging me, that to-do list had to wait.

I started with answering these questions:

“What do I want to do when I grow up? Where do I want my life to be now, or in the future?”

Here are the descriptions of each role that I came up with, some of which I borrowed from Amy Lynn’s list.

Role Description Goal
Self I am an individual with a mind, body, and soul, all of which need to be cared for. If my self is unhealthy, all of my other roles suffer. Putting myself at the top of the list is not an indication that what I want always comes first. To the contrary, I put myself at the top of the list so that I am well and strong enough to attend to my other roles without being distracted by the ailments that come with an unhealthy self.(Quoted from: Andrews, Amy Lynn (2011-07-27). Tell Your Time: How to Manage Your Schedule So You Can Live Free (Kindle Locations 300-302). Amy Lynn Andrews. Kindle Edition.)
Wife I am a wife. I am committed to marriage for life. My goal is to honor my husband’s dedication to his family as a provider, a leader, and an influencer of our roles within our family.  I want to spend the next 50+ years in a meaningful and connected relationship built on trust, effective communication, a nurturing spirit and a mutual friendship.
Mother I am the mother of three children.  I want to bring them up in such a way that they turn into responsible, independent, ethical, happy, capable and effective adults.  I choose to be a proactive parent than an reactive parent.  Time with my children is precious and should be cherished for the gift that it is.  My children have been stripped of many years of their childhood, and with what little time they have left in their age of innocence, I wish to provide them with memories that will sustain in their hearts and minds for their entire lives.
Caregiver I am the proud wife of a wounded warrior, who sacrificed so much in duty to his country.  I am dedicated to improving his quality of life, providing peace of mind, and making sure he knows his contributions mattered.
Dreamer I would love to travel more and share my views of the world in a broader scale.
Business Owner I am a business owner. This is good for my family’s budget, and the satisfaction it provides helps with my role of “Self.”
Advocate I want to empower those who are overwhelmed, educate those who are unaware, and inspire those who are indifferent.  I not only wish to impart a positive impact on my community, but I wish to impart a positive impact on the world, leaving a legacy of change that lingers long after I am gone. I wish to network into broader circles in the military blogger community.
Home Manager Being a stellar home manager is not something I’m dying to be remembered for. I am only interested in a tidy and smooth-running house as much as it contributes to a happy and pleasant home life for my family. This is one role I don’t particularly enjoy, however for our family at this time, I have chosen to be the point person for the home managing responsibilities. I include it on this list since it requires a fair amount of my time and energy.  (Quoted from: Andrews, Amy Lynn (2011-07-27). Tell Your Time: How to Manage Your Schedule So You Can Live Free (Kindle Locations 315-318). Amy Lynn Andrews. Kindle Edition.)
Author I want to successfully launch and publish a traditional book, starting with the Walter Reed Story and move on to multiple non-fiction topics.  I also want to learn how to self publish smaller (and profitable) e-books as a way to reach my audience in a timely fashion.
Home Owner I want to improve our living situation to provide respite, comfort, and solace in a retreat-like setting, so that we may open our doors to others to do the same. I want to aggressively pay off our mortgage through multiple income streams and build a stand-alone home that allows our existing living space to become guest housing that provides privacy for our family as well as our guests.
Blogger I want to use my blog as a tool and platform for my advocacy:  to inspire, educate and empower my readers through the use of wisdom, insight, experience with practical tips and tricks. My personal brand will be built on trust, transparency and humility.

Your assignment for today:

Step 1:  Take your list of roles that you identified in Day 1. Write a description of each of those roles. Use the above examples as your inspiration if you need to, but take your time to dream about where you want to be now, or 5 or 10 years from now. By doing this you are giving your life importance and meaning. Think of it as writing a business plan for your life. Your roles are now tangible when you put them on paper. It is your VISION STATEMENT.

Step 2:  Now write out up to three goals you would like to achieve within those roles. Each item must do one of three things: Simplify your life, Improve your life, or allow you to better Enjoy your life. This step is NOT something you will find anywhere in Amy’s book. I created and modified her advice because the levels of stress I was dealing with was going to kill me if I didn’t focus on fostering three positive elements in my life. Her advice works great for busy people, but I am more than just a busy person.

And so are you.

I did not share my entire list of goals here because mine will not be the same as yours. I just wanted you to see where I was going with the process. However, I will give you an example that I think we can all relate to:

Under my role of Home Manager, I listed these goals:

  1. Sort household goods and donate excess items. (This would simplify my life and improve someone else’s life)
  2. Develop and implement better schedules and routines: Daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly. (This would improve my life)
  3. Rework our budget. (This would help us have more funding to put toward more enjoyable things in life, or help us plan better for the future)

Once you are done, pat yourself on the back. Because…

Congratulations! You just wrote your life goals.

Now you have the foundation in which to proceed with an Extreme Do-Over of your life. It’s already working for mine!

In the next segment of the series, we’ll address what to do with that pesky to-do list. :)

 


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The basics: {Step 1} Identify the roles in your life

Each month in the Extreme Do-Over Experiment I’ll be sharing a special focus. The first month is about Taking Stock of our lives. The first few weeks of my shared experiment will cover the basics and foundation of making the Do-Over work.

I spent 8 months creating this method. I had a lot of false starts before I perfected a plan that not only worked for me, but will work for anyone who follows along.

Today I will cover Step ONE. This will take some serious thought, but I promise you’ll feel so much better after you get it down on paper. Take your time and let yourself mull things over. This is not a race, nor is it a quiz. It will be unique to you and your circumstances, and it will fuel everything you do from here on out.

[Read more...]


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The “Extreme Do-Over Experiment” Begins!

Today is the first day of the “Extreme Do-Over Experiment” series.

What is the Extreme Do-Over Experiment, you ask? I’ll explain:

One cold December morning in 2011, I woke up and realized that my life wasn’t going as planned, despite how hard I worked. I wished for this one thing:

Can I please have a do-over?

Does that sound familiar to you?

I think we’ve all thought that at some point in our lives. When we can’t take it any more, we take a good inventory of our life and ask, “What the world l happened to me? Is this what I want for the rest of my life? Why in the hell can’t I get ahead?”

That’s when we wish for a do-over. We want to fix it, make it better, see it through. We just want a second chance to make it right again.

And that’s exactly what I am doing.

The Extreme Do-Over Experiment is a memoir-based journey of self discovery and finding answers to problems in day-to-day life. Consider it a documentary of sorts: Each week I will share my experiments in practicing a better way to live my everyday life – filled with insight, humor, honesty and resources to help you do the same.

This journey, taken slowly, amounts to extreme changes over time. Never underestimate the power of small changes, one by one, stacked up over days, weeks and months. You may be surprised where you end up in a year.

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” ~ Mark Twain

Please join me. You’ll be glad you did.

The Journey
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
 into the world determined to do
the only thing you could do –
determined to save
the only life you could save.
Mary Oliver

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Announcing: The Extreme Do-Over Experiment

Do you wish you were happier? Would you like to figure out ways to find contentment and control in your daily life?

Perhaps the duties of being a mom, wife or caregiver, or the stresses at work are consuming you. Or maybe you’re just not satisfied with the status quo and want to reclaim a passionate, purposeful life.

Are you looking for that second chance to do things right? Are you stuck in the midst of chaos and among issues you cannot control?

Happiness is more than a state of mind – it is a skill to be learned and practiced.

Like many of you, I wanted a second chance to do things right.

My wish for a ‘do-over’ included five main areas of my everyday life: Home, Health, Relationships, Finances and overall Quality of Life.

If you’re ready to focus on yourself and think about small changes you can make in your life, to boost your happiness and finally find balance and control, you can follow along in my journey called the Extreme Do-Over Experiment. The Extreme Do-Over Experiment  is my brainchild where I transform my own life bit by bit, day by day. Each day in this series I will address the key areas of my life that I wanted to change. Then I will share the journey of how I managed to change it, what I learned, and how you can do it too.

If you are ready to join me and get started, here’s what you will need to know:

The Extreme Do-Over Experiment begins!

The Basics: What this Experiment isn’t

Food for thought: How did I get here and how do I get to a place called Anywhere but Here?

First things first: Steps to create your own weekly planning retreat {I put this on my calendar and do it every Sunday}

10 tips to get you out of a crisis mode: how to infuse simplicity and self care on an emergency basis

Top 10 tips to do for when the going gets tough

If you are having a bad day, read this…

The Rules of the Experiment:

Rule #1: You have permission to give up {in all the right ways!}

Rule #2: Remember, it will get worse before it gets better {but when it gets better, it’s incredibly better!}

Rule #3: Stacking your habits so they stick {it’s easier than you think!}

Rule #4: Learn how to be flawesome {there is no right way, just your way}

Rule #5: Find your weapons of mass distraction {seriously easy tips here that will save you from tons of interruptions}

Rule #6: Add margin in your life

Rule #7: Take a tactical pause in your life

Taking Stock of Your Life:

The Basics: {Step 1} Identify the roles in your life

The Basics: {Step 2} Define the roles in your life

The Basics: {Step 3} The Big Brain Dump

The Basics: {Step 4} Getting your brain dump on file [with free worksheet]

The Basics: {Step 5} Create a calendar system that works for you

The Habits:

The basics of taking care of you

{DIY Project} Create a Do-it-Yourself Pampering Kit

Adding Margin: Getting better rest

Organize and pay attention to your health (with my “no diet or exercise” approach)

Helping others create habits and routines

Cut nagging time down to a minimum: Easy reminder system for those with memory problems

Staying organized

Prioritizing Your To-Do List: Getting the Right Things Done using 5 simple questions

How old is your oldest item on your to-do list?

The 2 most important things I do to keep my sanity each day

Challenges:

From piles to (almost) paperless: The Great Paper Purge

Introduction: Taming the paper monster

Step 1: Setting up your master filing system

From Piles to {Almost} Paperless: Next step – Rough sort your piles

Tying up loose ends

Menu Plans:

{Guest Post} January Meal Plan, Recipes and Shopping List (with free printables)

My “getting my schtuff together” diary:

2012

Reducing my distractions even more

Muddled Mind

2013

The excitement (and relief) of the New Year

About that meltdown I had on Facebook the other day

Guilty as charged

Starting where I stand

Taking a ‘time out’ from the chaos

Oh what a difference a year (or two) makes!

(more will be added as we go…check back often or subscribe to my RSS feed for updates!)

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