my dad, the “streaker”

This is my dad:

He is a proud and accomplished “streaker.” And no, I don’t mean running naked through the streets. He has a streak of running at least 3.1 miles every single day for the past 13 years and 8 months, which is even officially certified by the United States Running Streak Association. In fact, today he is celebrating the milestone of 5,000 days in his running streak!

Think about that. 5,000 days. It is quite remarkable. Is there anything in your life that you have done, or can even imagine doing, for 5,000 days straight?

I am so proud of my dad. I am also super inspired by him. He has taught me so much simply by example. Here are five things I have learned from his day-by-day running streak:

1. Streamline your decisions. When possible, just make the decision once and be done with it.

My dad doesn’t make the decision every single day to go for a run. He has already decided that he will run every day. The only decision left to make is when to go for a run — and, actually, he has streamlined this decision, too, because he runs at around the same time every afternoon. Dad tells me that this is infinitely easier than if he was weighing the choice every day about whether to go for a run or not. Becoming a “streaker” may seem like the most difficult undertaking, but Dad claims it is actually easier to run every single day than to run every other day, or five days a week. Why? Because he has already chosen to run every day. Being a streaker takes the guesswork or decision-making out of it. Of course, there are days he doesn’t feel like running. But he already decided that he will run. So he laces up his shoes and gets out there.

I am applying this principle to my writing and yoga practices. I try to work on my novel and do a simple yoga routine every morning when I get up, just as part of my daily routine. No longer am I trying to decide if I “feel” like writing or moving my body. I just do it, no questions asked. And it has become an infinitely easier and less fraught process! I am always happier after I’ve written, and never do I regret my yoga time.

2. Don’t worry about what others think of you, especially when you are pursuing what you love.

Epictetus once said, “If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish.” There are certainly people out there who don’t understand why my dad runs every day. There are times he has been thought foolish. One specific memory that comes to mind is when Dad flew to England to visit me when I was studying abroad back in college. His flight left very early in the morning, and based on the time difference, he only had a small window of time to get his run in that day when he arrived late at night. So, Dad laced up his running shoes and went for an 11pm run through the narrow cobblestone streets. Some young Brits out partying thought he was crazy and shouted at him, “Bloody Yank, what are you out running for?” Dad loves to tell this story with a chuckle. He doesn’t mind when others don’t understand his passion for running. What matters is that he knows how important his running streak is, for him personally. What matters is that he runs for his own satisfaction and joy.

3. You can do hard things.

Dad runs when it is cold and rainy and when it is blazing hot. He runs on Christmas and on his birthday and every holiday there is. He runs when he has a cold or the flu or a sinus infection or sore muscles. He gets up early and runs before long trips, and once he ran loops around the airport. He runs on vacation. He runs when he is tired. He runs when he is sad and when he is excited and when he is bored. He runs when it is hard. If you had told Dad when he first started his streak that he would run for the next 5,000 days straight, it might have seemed overwhelming. But he has plugged along, slowly adding to his streak total day by day by day, week by month by year. He has shown me that we are all capable of more than we could ever imagine.

4. You never know how many people you are inspiring.

Every day, my dad runs loops around a local park. Running on grass is easier on his joints and muscles than running on roads and sidewalks, and I can imagine there is a meditative quality to running loops around the same park each day, and watching the scenery change slightly with the seasons. He runs so much that he has created his own path in the grass that has become trampled down by his thousands of footsteps. Now, other people use his path in the grass for their daily walks. Children bike through the park on their way home from school and wave to him — they call him “The Path Man.” A little boy came up to him recently and said they look for him every day on their drive home from school past the park. They call him ORM — “Our Running Man.” A few years ago, when news broke about the Boston Marathon bombings, strangers came up to him at the park with relief on their faces — they had been worried he was in Boston, running the marathon.

My dad didn’t begin his streak to inspire others. He doesn’t run every day to inspire others. He runs for himself. And yet, simply by doing what he loves and doing it with passion, he inspires countless people with his dedication and effort. He has taught me that you never know who is watching you and learning from you. When you light up yourself, your light spreads to others around you. When you light up yourself, you inspire others to light up themselves, too.

5. Celebrate the milestones, and also savor the everyday moments.

Today is a big day for Dad. After his afternoon run, he is getting together with friends at one of his favorite local breweries to celebrate the magic of 5,000. It is a day to look back and be proud of what he has accomplished.

But, you know what? Tomorrow is another day to be proud of. And so is the next day. And the next. I know that tomorrow, Dad will lace up his shoes and savor the everyday magic of day 5,001. Because every run — like every day — is its own unique gift. As my brother Greg likes to say, “Each day is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” Dad truly embodies the maxim to make each day a masterpiece, and I could not be prouder to be his daughter.

Congratulations, Daddy! I love you!

a year of Wooden: week 45

Hi, friends! Hope your week is going great! We are into our final month of this year of Wooden challenge. For December, we’re focusing on my favorite item of Coach John Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: “Make each day your masterpiece.” In other words, we’re tying together all that we’ve learned and all the ways we’ve grown through the past eleven months!

a year of wooden

  • January: Drink deeply from good books
  • February: Make friendship a fine art
  • March: Help others
  • April: Build a shelter against a rainy day {financially}
  • May: Be true to yourself
  • June: Give thanks for your blessings every day
  • July: Love
  • August: Balance
  • September: Drink deeply from good poetry
  • October: Make friendship a fine art {new friends}
  • November: Pray for guidance.
  • December: Make each day your masterpiece.

I believe the foundation of “making each day a masterpiece” is having a true awareness of how you spend your day. Last week’s challenge was to take something you didn’t like about how you spend your day, and fix it. The thing I disliked most about my daily schedule was realizing that I try to multi-task too much! A lot of this is due to checking email throughout the day — yet my inbox still feels overflowing and unmanageable.

This week, I made a few small, simple changes. First, I went through my inbox and ruthlessly unsubscribed to mailers. I realized there were a lot of messages I’d get week after week and just delete them, or not have time to read them, so I took the time to go through and unsubscribe. My inbox immediately felt more manageable.

The second thing I did was try to change how I tackle email. I am a big procrastinator when it comes to my inbox. I’ll receive an email, open it to read it, but then put off replying. So the email sits there, sits there, sits there, with me maybe reading and it and putting it off once or twice more in that span of time, before I finally open it yet again and reply {while feeling bad that it took me that long to reply.} I know, as I type it all out here, it seems like an insanely inefficient system — I don’t really have an answer for WHY I would put off answering emails in this way, other than I didn’t always feel like answering them and it was always easier to just put it off “till later.”

The simple change I am doing now is this: I read an email, and reply to it right then, if at all possible. Occasionally I will need to wait to reply because I will need to do something or research something or write something in order to reply, but I am finding that 80% of the time I can reply right away. Then the email is gone from my inbox, takes up no more of my brain space, and suddenly checking email becomes way more efficient!

workstation

On a related note, I stopped having my email open constantly and instead try to check it only at certain points of the day. In this way, I am trying to turn email into a specific “task” I complete, rather than a constant drain on my time and attention.

I’m not saying my email habits have suddenly morphed into perfect stress-free productiveness, but I have noticed a definite change in the past week with these simple changes.

If any of you have tips on managing email effectively, I would love to hear them!

This week’s challenge is to break down what “happiness” means to you in three specific terms. We all say we want to be “happier” but what does that really mean? It’s different for all of us. For some people, happiness might be associated with feeling strong and capable. Others might associate it with feeling needed. Others might associate it with feeling connected to other people. Brainstorm a list of all the terms that you associate with happiness. Then, place a star next to the three terms that are most important to YOU and your own individual happiness.

We’ll build on this in next week’s challenge!

Question for the day:

  • What is something you disliked about your daily schedule?
  • What small change{s} did you make? What was the effect of these changes?

a year of Wooden: week 44

Hi, friends! Hope your week is going great! We are into our final month of this year of Wooden challenge. For December, we’re focusing on my favorite item of Coach John Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: “Make each day your masterpiece.” In other words, we’re tying together all that we’ve learned and all the ways we’ve grown through the past eleven months!

a year of wooden

  • January: Drink deeply from good books
  • February: Make friendship a fine art
  • March: Help others
  • April: Build a shelter against a rainy day {financially}
  • May: Be true to yourself
  • June: Give thanks for your blessings every day
  • July: Love
  • August: Balance
  • September: Drink deeply from good poetry
  • October: Make friendship a fine art {new friends}
  • November: Pray for guidance.
  • December: Make each day your masterpiece.

I believe the foundation of “making each day a masterpiece” is having a true awareness of how you spend your day. In that spirit, last week’s challenge was to keep an activity log for one or two or three days about how you spend your time — every minute of it! The goal of this was to create an honest assessment of how you spend your days — which is, in turn, how you spend your life.

The past few months, I’ve already started making a conscious schedule choice to get up around the same time most mornings and go to bed around the same time most nights. That has helped a lot with my daily routine, feeling refreshed, and waking up naturally without needing an alarm. I also do not “waste” time watching TV or surfing the Internet; I watch a handful of TV shows very intentionally and do little-to-no online shopping. So those were the “gold stars” of my schedule! 🙂

However, looking at my detailed daily run-down, I saw there in very clear letters something that I already knew about myself, but didn’t really want to face — I try to multi-task too much! Anyone else have this problem? I know productivity experts warn against multitasking, but for some reason I still chase that “busy busy busy” feeling. And what happens? I’m rushed and burned out and empty, feeling like I’ve gotten nothing done all day. A lot of this is due to checking email throughout the day — yet my inbox still feels overflowing and unmanageable. Something needs to change!

Atos - Zero Email - Zen and Stress

This week’s challenge is to take something you didn’t like about how you spend your day, and fix it. Maybe you feel rushed every morning getting ready for work, and a simple change of waking up ten minutes earlier or not hitting snooze will change the pace of your mornings entirely. Or perhaps you’re always saying you want to read more, but you tend to spend evenings watching TV just because it’s on — that could change if this week, you make a conscious choice to turn off the TV and read in bed for half an hour before falling asleep each night.

I’m eager to hear how this week goes for you! And remember, this isn’t about overhauling your entire schedule in one week. We’re all about the small, little-by-little, day-by-day changes here. Pick one small thing to change, do it every day, and see how you like it. We’ll check in again next week!  

Question for the day:

  • What is something you disliked about your daily schedule?
  • How might you make a small change to create a different effect?

a year of Wooden: week 43

Hi, friends! We’re officially three days into December, which means we are moving into our final month of this year of Wooden challenge!

For the month of December, we’ll be focusing on my favorite item of Coach John Wooden’s 7-Point Creed {which you may have been able to guess from the title of this blog!}… Make each day your masterpiece. In other words, we’re going to be tying everything together — all that we’ve learned and all the ways we’ve grown through this challenge the past eleven months!

a year of wooden

  • January: Drink deeply from good books
  • February: Make friendship a fine art
  • March: Help others
  • April: Build a shelter against a rainy day {financially}
  • May: Be true to yourself
  • June: Give thanks for your blessings every day
  • July: Love
  • August: Balance
  • September: Drink deeply from good poetry
  • October: Make friendship a fine art {new friends}
  • November: Pray for guidance.
  • December: Make each day your masterpiece.

Before we move on to December, let’s wrap up November, when our focus was to pray for guidance. Last week’s challenge, in honor of Thanksgiving, was to pray about everything you are grateful for and journal about your feelings. After a week of praying about everything that I am grateful for, I felt filled with abundance and joy. On a related note, I wrote an essay for Chicken Soup for the Soul about the wonderful life changes I experienced from the simple act of counting my blessings each night while falling asleep. You can read it here!

Moving into December, I think the foundation of “making each day a masterpiece” is having a true awareness of how you spend your day. What is your daily routine? Once you know all the details and idiosyncrasies of your routine, you can work on squeezing all the richness out of your days as possible. 

In that spirit, this week’s challenge {which was inspired by one of my favorite bloggers, Nicole Antoinette} is to keep an activity log for one or two or three days about how you spend your time — every minute of it! For example:

  • What time do you wake up?
  • What time do you go to bed?
  • How often do you check your email?
  • How much time do you spend browsing the Internet or watching TV?

It might feel a bit cumbersome at first to keep track of your day like this, but it is an important step. You are creating an honest assessment, there on paper in black and white, of how you spend your days — which is, in turn, how you spend your life. Be as detailed as possible!

And be honest. There’s nothing wrong with watching TV or playing video games; be honest and keep track of how you feel. If you notice feelings of guilt or discomfort about any parts of your daily routine, take note of those feelings. We’ll unpack all of this next week!  

Question for the day:

  • How did last week of praying for guidance go for you?

mid-week meditation #10

Hi there, everyone! How is your day going? It’s been H-O-T here in Ventura this week — temps are up in the 80s, which feels super hot here because we don’t have air conditioning! Don’t usually need it with the cool ocean breeze and fog. I’ve been working in the dining room all day, which is the one room in our house that seems to get a bit of a breeze. Dad and I went out for lunch today — partly for a fun meal out, partly for some air conditioning! 🙂 We went to one of my favorite restaurants, a Japanese place called Kabuki. I got two sushi rolls and chowed down on the complimentary edamame. Yum!

sushi

I’m savoring these final days at home with my parents before heading back up to my life in the Bay. The rest of the afternoon was spent working on my novel, visiting my Gramps, and baking a loaf of pumpkin bread to deliver as a thank-you to the local newspaper for running a guest column I wrote a couple weeks ago.

Now Dad’s having a Guinness (he fell in love with Guinness while he and Mom were in Ireland) and I’m trying out a cider I spotted in Trader Joe’s… has anyone else tried pineapple cider?! I’ve never seen it before, so I couldn’t resist. It is a bit of a strange combination — apple-y plus tropical-y — don’t know if I’d get it again, but fun to try something new!

pineapple cider

Before I close up my computer and start prepping dinner, here’s a meditation for you:

small daily choices

Question of the evening:

  • What are small daily choices that make you feel renewed?

year of kindness challenge: week 39

year of kindness button

Happy October, friends! Hope your week is off to a fantastic start! I woke up with a little sore throat this morning, so I’ve been trying to be extra gentle to myself today and {fingers crossed} keep from getting sick. I’ve been downing green tea like nobody’s business! 🙂

Organized tea

The Week 38 Kindness Challenge was to let someone go ahead of you in line. I let people go ahead of me in the security line at the airport last week on my trip home from visiting Holly in Nashville, and I also let people go in front of me in line at the grocery store and the drugstore. On my trip into the city on Sunday, I let people go ahead of me onto the BART train … it meant I didn’t get a seat, but I enjoyed standing and looking out the window at the beautiful autumn leaves as the train zoomed along. I also saw a number of young men get up to offer their seats to elderly passengers, mothers and children. It warmed my heart!

This past week’s kindness challenge made me think of a sermon I heard over the summer about how moments of grace can happen in the midst of the most mundane daily activities. Our pastor spoke about a mantra that she repeats while washing the dishes or doing laundry or, yes, waiting in line at the grocery store: “Even here.” Even here, even now, even in the most chaotic and hectic days, goodness and grace and kindness can blossom. I certainly felt filled with happiness and connection this week every time I let someone go ahead of me in line. It transformed a chore into an opportunity for grace. Where can you find opportunities for grace in the margins of your daily life?

The Week 39 Kindness Challenge comes from my wonderful blogger friend Danica at It’s Progression: Write a letter {or an email or make a phone call} to a former teacher of yours, thanking them for the influence they had on you. This would also be a wonderful activity to do with children. If you are a teacher, turn it around and write a letter to a former student of yours who was really special. Teachers are such an invaluable, tireless and huge-hearted part of society and in my opinion they are not thanked nearly enough for all they do! Spread the kindness and gratitude this week!

As always, blog about your experiences and include your links in the comments section below, or feel free to send me an email at dallaswoodburn <AT> gmail <DOT> com.

Have a wonderful week!
– Dallas

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year of kindness archives:
– week 1 challenge: donate items to those in need
– week 2 challenge: leave quarters & note at laundry machine
– week 3 challenge: write & send a kind handwritten note
– week 4 challenge: give hot chocolate to someone outside in the cold
– week 5 challenge: do something kind for a neighbor
– week 6 challenge: deliver valentines to a nursing home
– week 7 challenge: donate to a food pantry
– week 8 challenge: donate toiletries to a shelter
– week 9 challenge: post a kind note in a public place
– week 10 challenge: do something kind for a child
– week 11 challenge: thank someone in a genuine & meaningful way
– week 12 challenge: deliver baked goods to a fire station
– week 13 challenge: give someone flowers
– week 14 challenge: donate books
– week 15 challenge: reach out and spend time with people
– week 16 challenge: smile at everyone you meet
– week 17 challenge: pick up litter/trash
– week 18 challenge: write a kind note to a mom figure in your life
– week 19 challenge: leave an extra-generous tip
– week 20 challenge: donate blood/join bone marrow registry
– week 21 challenge: visit a cemetery and pay respect
– week 22 challenge: practice a little patience
– week 23 challenge: call 3 loved ones on the phone
– week 24 challenge: do something kind for a senior citizen
– week 25 challenge: pay for someone’s public transportation
– week 26 challenge: volunteer at a food pantry or soup kitchen
– week 27 challenge: send a care package to someone in the military
– week 28 challenge: give at least one compliment every day
– week 29 challenge: do a favor for someone else
– week 30 challenge: scatter lucky pennies around a playground
– week 31 challenge: mail an empowering postcard
– week 32 challenge: plant something
– week 33 challenge: donate school supplies
– week 34 challenge: give a sandwich to a homeless person
week 35 challenge: compliment a salesperson to their manager
week 36 challenge: leave positive feedback
week 37 challenge: do a household kindness
week 38 challenge: let someone go ahead of you in line

marvelous monday: the magic of to-do lists

There’s something about the way my brain works that makes me really drawn to lists. These lists permeate my life and range from the motivating {goal lists, markets-to-submit-my-writing-to lists} to the mundane {grocery lists, thank-you-notes-to-write lists} but no matter what the topic, it all boils down to this: lists make me a happier and less-stressed person.

And the mother of all lists is the to-do list, which I write pretty much every day. I kinda feel bad for the to-do list. It gets a bad rap. People complain all the time about their to-do lists. {Sometimes I feel like people compete on the lengths of their to-do lists just to have more complaining leverage!} But I think the to-do list can be a really wonderful tool to boost your feelings of motivation and accomplishment, not to mention your sense of organization over your time, work and daily life.

The trick is to use the to-do list in a way that helps you, not hinders you. You want the to-do list to make you feel good about yourself, not stressed out or overwhelmed.

I think the first step in coming up with an effective to-do list system for your life is to take an honest look at how you spend your time. Is there something you wish you were doing more of? Is there anything you feel like you waste time on that you wish you wouldn’t? How much free time do you feel you have every day/week/month? Honesty is crucial here! I think the biggest mistake people make when writing to-do lists {and believe me, I am guilty of this too} is putting waaay too much on the list, more than anyone could possibly get done in a day, and then feeling bad about themselves when the day draws to close and there are still a lot of un-crossed-off items on the list.

So, Tip #1: Be honest and realistic with yourself.

Another thing that works for me is to break to-do list items up into categories of “big” and “small” … sometimes these categories morph into “things I need to do but keep putting off” and “things I need to do and actually like doing.” Then I try to even out these tasks throughout the week. In a perfect world, I’d do at least one “big” task every day, and one or two “small” tasks. When life gets hectic, a good balance for me is to aim for three “big” tasks every week, and maybe 6-8 “small” tasks.

Here are some examples of “big” tasks on my list this week {i.e. things I want to keep putting off but shouldn’t}: get my car in for an oil change; put some items up on Craigslist that I’ve been meaning to sell; go through my closet and weed out clothes to donate.

And here are some examples of “small” tasks on my list this week {i.e. things I should do and don’t mind doing}: go to the Post Office to send out play submissions with upcoming deadlines; try a new recipe I found for Morning Glory Muffins; write & mail a couple thank-you notes; order prints of photos from a recent trip Mike & I took to Chicago; hang up a new picture I got for the guest bedroom.

At the beginning of every week, I jot down a list of the “big” tasks and “small” tasks I want to get done that week, and then every day or every other day I choose a big task and a couple small tasks to tackle. This works for me because:

  • It really helps me focus on one thing at a time and not get overwhelmed by all the things I want to get done
  • It helps me structure the week {for example, maybe one day I’ll focus on running all my errands to save on gas & car time}
  • It makes it much harder for me to put off or procrastinate on certain tasks because I’m just focusing on one per day or one every two days.

There are also a few tasks on my to-do list every day! These relate to bigger goals I want to accomplish in the year. For example, one of my goals is to read 52 books this year, so reading time is on my to-do list every day. I also have a goal of writing at least 400 words every day {which I track on this super-motivating free website www.joesgoals.com — can’t recommend it enough!}

Chores I designate on a weekly basis, and I go through phases. Sometimes I like having a “chore/cleaning day” where I try to get all my cleaning/laundry/dishes/housework stuff done in a single swoop. Other times I’ll go for a few months when I prefer splitting up chores into smaller tasks that I will do day-by-day. I think it’s all about what works for you, how you’re feeling, and what your free time/schedule is like.

For years I’ve saved envelopes and written my to-do lists on the backs of them. Then Mike got me this pretty notepad from the $1 bin at Target — isn’t it adorable? How can you not be excited to tackle your to-do list when you write it out on paper like this? I still save envelopes though because I am always writing lists and I like to be eco-friendly!

It can also be helpful to keep a pad of paper somewhere you pass by every day so you can write down ideas or reminders when they first strike you. {If I don’t do this, half the time I completely forget!} I keep a notepad on the fridge where I jot down items to get at the store, reminders to myself of things to add to my list or places I need to be:

Do you write to-do lists? What sorts of tips work for you? What do you find helpful when organizing your daily or weekly tasks?

Have a marvelous week!
Dallas