a guaranteed way to make a girl scout smile

Have you noticed? It’s Girl Scout Cookie Season!

Every time I run errands, or simply drive around town, I see them: tables set up with glittery posters and a rainbow of colorful cookie boxes, and girls in green uniforms, cheerfully and patiently selling their wares. Girls in pony-tails and braids. Girls with braces and girls with gap-toothed smiles. Girls who remind me of Céline, who fill my heart and break it at the same time.

Céline was an extremely proud Girl Scout and, apparently, a cookie-selling legend. Every year in college, we would order cookies from her to support her old troop. She kept boxes of Thin Mints in the freezer. I’ve always been partial to the Shortbread and Samoas {…or, should I say, Caramel deLites?}

These days, in many ways, my eating habits are a lot healthier than they were back in college. I eat fewer processed foods and zero frozen dinners. I cook meals from scratch frequently. Instead of fat-free rice cakes and cheap booze, I fill my grocery-store cart with fresh produce and healthy fats. And I’ve cut back drastically on sugar.

Maybe you’re like me. You want to support the Girl Scouts, but you simply don’t need a bunch of cookies in your pantry.

Or maybe you DO love buying, and eating, Girl Scout cookies, which is also great. As Robyn, one of my favorite nutritionist bloggers, puts it: a healthy diet means you eat cake AND kale. Nutrition, variety, and pleasure — these are things we should receive from what we eat. Food is not just fuel, it’s also something to enjoy.

In any case, whether you plan to buy one or one-hundred boxes of Girl Scout cookies, here is a guaranteed way to make a Girl Scout smile. This is something Céline learned from her experience as a Girl Scout, and something she would do whenever she came across a green-vested girl selling cookies. Now it is something I do in her honor — one of my favorite ways to remember her.

girl scout cookies

Step One: Ask the Girl Scout what her favorite cookie flavor is. {She will think you are asking her for advice about which kind of cookie you should try.}

Step Two: Buy a box of whatever her favorite type of cookie is.

Step Three: Hand the box to her and explain it is a gift for her to enjoy. Here’s what I say, “My friend was a Girl Scout and she told me how hard it was to be selling all these cookies without being able to eat any yourself! So these are a treat for you to have. Keep up the great work!”

Step Four: Enjoy all the warm fuzzies filling you up inside.

One Final Note: This is not only a way to make a Girl Scout smile, it is a guaranteed way to make yourself smile, too. 🙂

Happy Friday, friends!

some thoughts on simplicity

Even though my year of living simply challenge is technically over, I have fallen completely in love with minimalism and simplicity. It is not just a new year’s resolution or a goal with a finish line; it has become a way of life for me. Living simply reduces my stress and makes my life more joyful. By clearing out what does not matter, I am better able to focus on what matters most to me.

I was talking to my sweetie the other day about how this is such a busy season of life with planning our wedding — but even as the words left my mouth, I realized: it is always going to be a busy season of life. There is always going to be an excuse or a reason to justify being busy.

For example, just thinking about the past few years of my life: it was always a “busy season” because I was…

  • finishing up my thesis and earning my graduate degree
  • moving across the country to California
  • starting my John Steinbeck Fellowship
  • getting to know a new-to-me town
  • dating, and then entering into a new relationship
  • starting up my tutoring business
  • finishing my novel manuscript
  • editing my novel manuscript
  • looking for a new apartment to move into
  • moving into a new apartment with my sweetheart
  • and now, planning our wedding

I know that as soon as we celebrate our union and no longer have wedding planning on our plate, other things will pop up to take its place: new jobs, new responsibilities, moving again, starting a family, etc etc etc…

When I start to feel frazzled, it is a sign for me to step back. To refocus and remember what I am working towards and what is most important in my life. I have learned that, if left unchecked, clutter will creep back into my life. My mindset will creep back into that unfulfilling frame of justifying busy-ness and measuring my self-worth based on my productivity. Definitely not a recipe for a happy life! When I notice this happening, I gently remind myself to breathe my way back to simplicity.

I have compiled these quotes to turn back to when I need a reboot. When I am feeling tired, stressed out, and in need of inspiration.

I hope they bring a bit of calm and sunshine into your day, too!

sunset at home

beautiful quotes about simplicity

“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is a nobler art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials.” — Lin Yutang


“Most [people], even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finest fruits cannot be plucked by them.” — Henry David Thoreau


“There is no Minimalist Rulebook. We’re all different. The things that add value to one man’s life may not add value to yours. So hold on to that hair straightener, those colorful socks, that collection of angel statuettes—but only if they are appropriate for your life. Only if they serve a purpose or bring you joy.” — The Minimalists


“Give your most precious people your most precious gifts: love, time, effort, and attention.” — Greg Woodburn

{This idea can also encompass all of your most precious things in life: dreams, passions, projects…}


“For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin — real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way. Something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last in dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.” — Fr. Alfred D’Souza


“Defining routines and systems is more effective than relying on self-discipline. I think self-discipline is overrated. Allowing yourself the option to do what you have not decided to do is disempowering and asking for failure. I encourage people to develop routines so that their decision-making is only applied to the most creative aspects of their work, or wherever their unique talent happens to lie.” — Tim Ferriss


“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” — Epictetus


“We can use Twitter and Pinterest and Google+ to enrich our lives and the lives of others, to communicate and share in ways we’ve never been able to communicate before. Or we can get stuck in social media’s Bermuda Triangle, careening from Facebook to Instagram to YouTube, lost in the meaningless glow our screens. We can use our smartphones to photograph gorgeous landscapes, message loved ones, or map out directions to a distant national park (or—gasp!—to make phone calls). Or, we can use that same device to Twitch: to incessantly check email, thumb through an endless stream of status updates, post vapid selfies, or partake in any other number of non-value-adding activities, all while ignoring the beautiful world around us.” — The Minimalists


“Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of your own past, out of your affections and loyalties, out of the experience of humankind as it is passed on to you, out of your own talent and understanding, out of the things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something. The ingredients are there. You are the only one who can put them together into that unique pattern that will be your life. Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you. If it does, then the particular balance of success or failure is of less account.” — John Gardner


 

Questions of the day:

  • Which of the quotes above strike a chord with you?
  • What are your favorite quotes about living a meaningful life?

gratitude in the midst of grief

Hello, lovely people! Thank you for taking the time to send such sweet messages and words of love after my last post. It helps to write about Celine, her incredible life, my memories, our friendship; about all the ways I miss her and all the ways she impacted my life.

Her funeral was this weekend. I flew down to Los Angeles and returned to the Bay Area yesterday morning. To be honest, in many ways I was dreading Celine’s funeral. I knew that attending her funeral would make her death seem more real, and a part of me wanted to just keep living in denial, pretending that Celine is off adventuring around the world as she so loved to do. {Have you ever met a 26-year-old who has been to 37 countries??}

me and celine

It was a surreal and sad and emotional and exhausting weekend… but it was a beautiful weekend, too. In the midst of such overwhelming grief, I was not expecting to feel grateful. But I was struck by moments of stunning gratitude, like slivers of sunlight bursting down through the rainclouds.

Here are some things I am grateful for:

  • Celine was pursuing her dreams, living a life she loved. She lived with urgency and passion. She did not put off her dreams until some indeterminate future. She was not working at some miserable job she hated. She was happy.
  • As many said at her funeral, Celine lived more in her two-and-a-half decades than many people do in 80+ years. The priest asked us to think about all the things Celine WAS able to do during her lifetime, instead of focusing on what she didn’t do. I think that is good advice.

celine funeral

  • Celine’s brother Cameron, who was also in the car accident, is headed for a full recovery. He is home from the hospital and it felt like a miracle to be able to hug him at the funeral.
  • At the time of her death, Celine was having a really amazing time in India. Cameron showed us dozens of photos and videos on his phone of the two of them smiling and posing and being goofy. Celine was radiant. It was a comfort to see her so filled with joy in her final days.

celine and cameron india

  • Celine’s family has been so generous in their grieving. They are giving all of us who loved her plenty of time and space to pay our respects and say goodbye. Spending time with her family and friends, sharing stories, laughing about her zany antics, and remembering all the love she showered on the world, was exactly what my heart and soul needed.
  • Being able to spend a few days with other people who knew and love Celine felt like being able to put down a heavy backpack I hadn’t even realized I was carrying. To me, one of the hardest and strangest parts of grieving is navigating the real world — everyday tasks, errands, work duties, small talk — while within you this deep loss is throbbing, an unacknowledged wound. Surrounded by people who were also grieving Celine, it felt like we all shared the same subtext. Even when we weren’t talking about her, we were. Even when we were laughing about some random memory, underneath it we were all saying the same thing: I can’t believe she’s really gone.

joie

  • Seeing people I hadn’t seen in a long time, hugging them, and crying with them, was more of a comfort than I could have imagined. I was happily surprised to see a few acquaintances from college who came to pay their respects. It felt really meaningful to see them there. Even people who did not know Celine very well were still deeply touched by her life.
  • My brother came with me to the funeral and the cemetery, and held my hand the entire time. He is my rock. The whole weekend he was sweetly, protectively attentive — for example, at the church when I was in the restroom for a little longer than normal, he asked Holly to go check on me to make sure I was okay. He is thoughtful and caring, a wonderful listener, and always there for me. I don’t know what I would do without him.

me and greg

  • I will never forget the moment I walked into the church and glimpsed Holly at the same time she turned and saw me. I just remember running to her. I was shaking as we held each other and cried.
  • The service was beautiful. Celine’s cousin Anne-marie and Holly both gave lovely readings. Celine’s friend Claire gave a stunning eulogy that captured her perfectly. The songs were perfect; I will never again hear Hallelujah without crying.
  • After the funeral, Celine’s family held a reception at their home, and towards the end a few of us made our way up to Celine’s bedroom. It felt surreal, yet peaceful, to be sitting up there among her things. So many memories! In her closet was this teal mermaid dress that I’m not sure anybody but Celine could pull off:

teal mermaid dress

  • Celine’s mom gave each of us some of her things to take back with us. I was so grateful to receive a Valentine I had given Celine freshman year of college {she kept it all these years!} and a note Holly and I wrote her during the Geology class the three of us took together junior year. Celine’s mom also gave me some gorgeous bracelets of hers and her rainbow purse that makes me smile whenever I see it.

celine purse and bracelets

  • Mostly, I keep feeling grateful that Celine and I were good. I knew how much she loved me. She knew how much I loved her. I wish we had more time together — SO much more time — but I know that more time would not have changed the essence of our friendship. I have no regrets. There were so many words as-yet-unsaid, so many stories that haven’t happened yet that I wish I could share with her… but at the same time, when you get down to what really matters, there were NO words left unsaid. My last message to Celine, about two weeks before she died, said simply: “Thinking of you. ❤ Missing you. <3” Her last words to me were: “I miss you so much!! more updates soon, love you!!”
  • The day of the funeral, my fourth-grade teacher {who is now a dear friend} sent me these words that have become a new touchstone in my faith:

Love is so much bigger than the vessels we live in

and somehow it lasts even after the vessels wear out.

ocean

a year of living simply: week 3

Hi everyone! Apologies for my delay in posting… I was out of town visiting my friend Holly in Nashville! We had an amazing time, as we always do when we’re together. I just love this girl so dang much!

me and hol sunshine

Most of yesterday was spent trying to get my life back in order after being away for nearly 3 weeks {visiting my parents in Ventura before my trip to Nashville}… unpacking, laundry-doing, and prepping for the various teaching & tutoring sessions I have this week! Aaaaand perhaps spending some quality time with my sweetheart, who has returned safely from his adventure in Kenya, hooray! I’m so grateful that he had a fantastic trip, and that he is home safe and sound.

allyn kenya with kids

Now… onto this week’s simplicity challenge! Over the course of the year, we’ll be focusing on various meanings of simplicity: in our possessions, routines, spending habits, projects, relationships, food choices, and more. We’ll rid ourselves of clutter — physical, mental, emotional. We’ll reflect on what truly matters to us, and why, and what we hope to do with that knowledge.

year of living simply

Last week, the challenge was to ruthlessly unsubscribe to unnecessary emails. I first went through and unsubscribed to the various spam/promotional email lists I’m on that I haven’t bothered to unsubscribe from even though I never open them and am wholly uninterested. That was the easy part.

The harder part for me was unsubscribing from lists that I am genuinely interested in, but simply don’t have time to read. I realized that I have remained subscribed to these emails because I blindly hoped that some mystical future version of me would one day find the time to conscientiously read through them — even though I know that isn’t true, and even though the slow trickle of them piling up and piling up in my inbox stresses me out. I think this relates to the “Fear of Missing Out” phenomenon that is so prevalent in our social-media culture. I think I was worried that if I deleted an email newsletter that I was interested in reading without actually going through and reading it, I would “miss out” on something important. But no, what I was really doing was to open these emails and scroll through, skimming them mindlessly.

So, this week I ruthlessly unsubscribed, choosing to remain subscribed to only those email lists I fully, genuinely *love* to read, the ones that consistently add value to my life. I told myself that if I missed any one of them, I could always resubscribe. But, not surprisingly, I don’t miss any of them. It might sound silly, but the simple act of unsubscribing and taking back a portion of my inbox has made me feel freer and more at peace. Email isn’t as big as a chore as it once was. And that’s a step in the right direction!

workstation

This week reminded me of the whole point of minimalism: clearing away all the stuff that isn’t important makes room for what truly IS important to you.

This week, let’s continue our digital de-cluttering: go through and organize your photos, deleting any unnecessary duplicates or “bad” ones. My photos on my computer are a jumbled mess of random folders, and my photos on my phone are a disaster zone — I never delete any! This week, I want to get these all straightened out. The beginning of the year is the perfect time to organize your photos, so you’ll have a system ready to go for all the photos you’ll take in 2015! 🙂

I’ll leave you with this insightful post from The Minimalists that I thoroughly enjoyed: “Thomas Jefferson’s 10 Rules for a Good Life”

Questions of the morning:

  • What emails did you unsubscribe from this week? Was it easy, or more difficult than you envisioned?
  • What digital clutter do you struggle with?

a year of living simply: week 2

Thank you so much for your kind words and enthusiastic support of my year of living simply challenge, which I launched here last week! I’m so excited to be embarking on this fulfilling endeavor with all of you 🙂

Over the course of the year, we’ll be focusing on various meanings of simplicity: in our possessions, routines, spending habits, projects, relationships, food choices, and more. We’ll rid ourselves of clutter — physical, mental, emotional. We’ll reflect on what truly matters to us, and why, and what we hope to do with that knowledge.

year of living simply

Last week, the challenge was to identify one or two or three things that you tend to over-purchase, and write out a pledge not to purchase any more of these items for the next month {or however long feels good to you.} Personally, I have a weakness for over-purchasing tea, stationary/notecards, and pretty, flow-y scarves. I pledged to purchase no more of these items for myself during the entire year of 2015, or until I use up the embarrassingly large stash that I currently possess.

I must admit, I was a little surprised at my impulses to purchase these items, even during the first week of the new year! Especially tea. I realized I tend to visit the tea aisle whenever I’m at the grocery store, just to check out if they have any new flavors or any good sales… even though I definitely do NOT need to buy more tea because I have more than enough to last me for a good long while! So, I made a conscious choice not to even stroll down the tea aisle. I did not want to tempt myself. Same with stationary. At Trader Joe’s the other day, I refrained from even browsing their card display. Instead, I used two cards I had already purchased for friends’ birthdays, and used notecards I’d purchased after Christmas last year for all my Christmas thank-you notes. It may seem like a little thing, but it feels like progress!

kind notes

The challenge this week relates to digital clutter. I don’t know about you, but I spend way too much time struggling with my email inbox that constantly seems to be overflowing, begging for my attention, distracting me from the important tasks I truly want to be working on. I have gotten better about responding to email right away, instead of putting it off and letting it sit in my inbox for days. But I still have a ton of email clutter that stresses me out whenever I open my inbox.

So the challenge for this week is to ruthlessly unsubscribe to unnecessary emails. You know those emails you delete without opening? Or those newsletter-y, informative cause-based emails piling up that you are theoretically interested in, but haven’t opened in weeks months because you don’t have time to read them? Or {for me} all the emails from literary journals with links to stories and essays and poems that I want to read, that I’m blindly hoping some mystical future version of me will one day find time to conscientiously read, even though I know I won’t?

This week, take five minutes to unsubscribe and ruthlessly delete these unnecessary mass emails you never read. See what it feels like not to get these emails for a week. If there happen to be any you miss, you can always go back and resubscribe after the week is over. For now, try it out. I’m excited to hear how it goes for you!

Side note: here is an insightful and thought-provoking post I read this week with a secret to being more productive {hint: it’s doing less, not more!}

Questions of the morning:

  • How was the first week’s challenge for you? What did you pledge not to purchase any more of for the time being?
  • What digital clutter do you struggle with?

a year of living simply

Happy Monday, everyone, and welcome to our new subscribers! Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to visit my little corner of the internet. I am grateful that I get to spend my time with you!

On today, the first Monday of 2015, I’m excited to debut this year’s week-by-week challenge! These year-long series have become my favorite component of blogging. I learn and grow so much, especially thanks to the comments, insights, and support from all of you!

  • In 2013, we did a year of kindness, completing a unique random act of kindness every week.
  • Last year, I hosted a year of Wooden, where we followed the teachings of Coach John Wooden to add meaning to our lives in a variety of areas.

In looking over my goals for this year and thinking about how I hope to grow and where I would like to be as I type to you a year from now, I kept coming back to one word: presence. I want to be more present. I want to be aware of, and grateful for, every moment of this unique and amazing life. Sometimes it feels like life is rushing by so very fast, in a flurry of social media and distractions and texting and constant “busyness”… I want to slow it down. I want to savor it. I want my days to be made up of beautiful moments, not long to-do lists.

making a life quote

Next, I started thinking about fellow bloggers who make me feel excited and inspired. There are many — too many to name right now! — but a consistent theme of their posts is authenticity and simplicity. Paring down your life in order to make space for the things that TRULY matter.

Something lights up in my soul when I think about that mission. Simplicity. Time. Space. Room to breathe, and learn, and grow, and simply be.

And so, with delight, I present to you the yearlong blog series for 2015…

year of living simply

Over the course of the year, we’ll be focusing on various meanings of simplicity: in our possessions, routines, spending habits, projects, relationships, food choices, and more. We’ll rid ourselves of clutter — physical, mental, emotional. We’ll reflect on what truly matters to us, and why, and what we hope to do with that knowledge.

Here’s hoping that by the end of 2015, we will be less stressed, more present, and simply happier in our slightly simpler lives 🙂

For this first week, the challenge is to identify one or two or three things that you tend to over-purchase. What are your spending weaknesses? Maybe you have a bajillion candles around your house. Or twelve different salad dressings in your fridge. Perhaps your jewelry box is crammed with earrings because you can’t resist getting a new pair every time you go to Target. {Which is entirely understandable; they do have super-cute earrings at Target.}

Now, once you have your over-purchase weaknesses identified, make a pledge not to purchase any more of these items for the next month. Or two months. Or six months. Or year. Or however long feels good to you.

Write this pledge out on a piece of paper. Sign it. Date it. {I know it might feel silly, but trust me — signing a contract with yourself makes you much more likely to take it seriously and follow through on your promise!}

Personally, I have a weakness for over-purchasing:

  • tea {I’m sure none of you are surprised about this one} 😉
  • stationary/notecards
  • pretty, flow-y scarves

I am pledging to purchase no more tea, stationary/notecards, or pretty/flow-y scarves for myself during the entire year of 2015, or until I use up the embarrassingly large stash that I currently possess. {Even with all the tea I drink, I’m not sure I’ll be able to get through the entirety of my tea stash. We shall see!}

tea stash

I was tempted to put “books” on my list, too, but since I am a writer and have friends who are writers, I want to be able to purchase their books and support them without going against my simplicity pledge. So, “books” are sort of half on my list — I’m certainly planning to work my way through the giant stack I have beside my bed before deliberately purchasing any more books to read, but I reserve the right to purchase books written by my friends or colleagues or mentors or blogging buddies, etc. Oh! And I’m planning to review a book related to simplicity/minimalism on here every quarter, so I might have to purchase a couple of those books!

I want to end with this lovely quote from one of my favorite minimalist bloggers, Courtney @ Be More With Less:

Questions of the morning:

  • Is there anything you tend to over-purchase or have a weakness for purchasing?
  • What would you like to focus on during this year of living simply?

a year of Wooden: final wrap-up

Hello there, friends! Now that we’re into 2015, I’ll be embarking on a new year-long challenge on Monday… but first, I wanted to do a final post wrapping up this amazing year of Wooden challenge.

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

December’s final challenge was to brainstorm a list of activities for each of your three happiness terms. This was really helpful for me — I now have a list of tasks that are guaranteed to make me feel happy and fulfilled. If I ever feel bored or unsure what to do, I can look at this list and come up with a game plan quickly. For example, doing yoga is something that makes me feel connected; volunteering at my church makes me feel helpful; and writing a page of my novel-in-progress makes me feel productive. This, in turn, makes me feel happy.

Looking back over the year, it has been quite a fulfilling journey!

year of wooden collage

I was looking back in my journal from the end of 2013, and I found an entry where I asked four big questions to the universe. These were issues I was really struggling with, causing me uncertainty and worry. They were:

  • How will I know when I meet the person I am meant to be with?
  • Where am I supposed to be living at this time of my life?
  • What is the next step for my career?
  • How can I give more to others?

Now, a year later, all of these questions have been answered for me:

  • I met my sweetheart and felt connected to him immediately, and our relationship has opened up a beautiful new definition of love in my life.
  • I have created a community of friends and connections, personal and professional, in the Bay Area, and — for now at least– it feels like home to me, where I am meant to be living in this season of my life.
  • I feel much more confident in my writing and teaching career, and satisfied with my decision not to pursue a Ph.D. but instead to write what I want to write, what makes me come alive.
  • And I have become involved with a multitude of service and social justice endeavors through my church, which has become one of the cornerstones of my life.

three grand essentials

I thought I was happy a year ago — and I was. But now I feel a much deeper happiness: a happiness that stems from being at peace. I feel secure. I feel connected to my inner self, and to the greater world outside myself. I doubt I would be feeling this way if not for the growth, reflection and discipline of this yearlong challenge. I am so grateful for the insights and teachings of Coach Wooden, one of the wisest human beings to ever grace the world with his presence. Though this official “year of Wooden” is drawing to a close, I will carry these principles with me for the rest of my life.

I want to leave you with one of my favorite-ever quotes from Coach Wooden:

wooden success quote

Here’s to striving, day by day by day, to become the best we are capable of becoming… and celebrating the journey along the way!

Question for the day:

a year of Wooden: week 46

Hello there, everyone! Hope your week is going splendidly, and that you are able to take some time for yourself in the midst of the craziness of this holiday season to reflect on what matters most in your life.

We are into our final weeks 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.

Last week’s challenge was 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. Last week, your challenge was to rainstorm 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.

After much reflection and soul-searching and self-honesty, here are the three terms I came up with for my own sense of happiness. To me, feeling happy is feeling:

  • connected
  • helpful
  • productive

For this week’s challenge, brainstorm a list of activities for each of your three terms. For example, for me, doing yoga is something that makes me feel connected; volunteering at my church makes me feel helpful; and writing a page of my novel-in-progress makes me feel productive. This, in turn, makes me feel happy.

A quick note: I want to make sure to note the difference between happiness and pleasure. Something that makes you happy might not necessarily be 100% pleasurable as you are doing it. And that’s okay. That’s the way it should be. For example, I do not usually feel joyful as I type every word of my daily writing goal. Writing, for me, is happiness, but it is also difficult. Hard work is hard! Work is work! But the right kind of work leads to a greater sense of joy and fulfillment… the sturdy, beautiful kind of happiness that lasts.

Question for the day:

  • What are the terms that you chose for your own individual happiness?
  • What activities could you do to make you feel this way?

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?