One Day At A Time? Imagining post Covid life.

During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, imagining the future seemed downright scary, if not impossible.

The undeniable uncertainty of the virus, along with the chaotic state of our society, seemed to demand we move toward the One Day At At Time, philosophy.

Planners and long-range thinkers surrendered. Those who had always tended to lived within the NOW, were more prepared to ride the anxious wave of uncertainty. 

Imagining a future safe hug from a distant loved one,

or a trip abroad,

or the sweet kiss of a grandchild,

was about as much forward thinking as many of us could handle.

Enough hope to light our way.

But thanks to a medical miracle, the world began opening up, albeit amidst continued divide and tragedy. 

A new kind of normal in which to navigate.

Some of us began to hope. To plan. To move forward.  To imagine a post COVID future.

Are you making travel plans? Saving for retirement? Revisiting your New Year’s goals? Starting a creative project? Moving?  Switching careers? Filing for divorce?

As we sort through the wreckage, many of us are re-evaluating our pre-pandemic life. Now seems like a ripe time for life renovation, no matter the losses. Even small repairs can reap enormous benefits. 

The uncertainty has always been there, just easier for us to deny. Worrying about the future isn’t helpful but planning, even if it’s just day-by-day, can get you there eventually.

This is how I feel about my novel-in-progress. I’m getting closer each day. But if I think too far ahead, I begin to imagine all the potential obstacles, the chance for failure.

I choke.

To temper the overwhelm that comes from looking too far forward, I recall E. L. Doctorow’s quote:

Pretty good life advice for us all at the present moment.

Do You Need An Accountability Partner?

 

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Do you have something big you want to accomplish but haven’t?  Do you have trouble sticking to a long-term goal?

Last month, I wrote about finding inspiration when you are creatively stuck. One reader wrote me that she has no problem finding inspiration. “I’m filled with creative visions.  My problem is always follow-through, especially when the going gets rough.”    

As a writer, I relate to this predicament. Ideas come easily to me. The beginning stage of writing a novel is kind of like falling in love—everything is new and exciting.  Possibilities abound.  But sticking with it through the long haul inevitably means experiencing frustration, disappointment, and dry spells. And yes, sometimes loneliness and despair.

Whether you’re trying to write your first book, save for retirement, lose 20 pounds, or train for a marathon, staying on track is the hardest part.  Meeting any long-term goal requires continual motivation, discipline, and fortitude. Let’s be honest–who has an abundant supply of these traits?

If you recognize yourself here, then you may benefit from an accountability partner. An AP is a trusted individual who holds you responsible for achieving your goals. In working with an accountability partner, you identify goals, then come up with a short-term plan of action. You then report your progress through regular checkpoints via email, phone, Skype, or in-person.

An accountability partner can also offer:

-Advice and perspective

-Ideas and resources

-A listening ear

–Support and motivation

–Brainstorming

Sometimes, an AP is just a kind soul who volunteers 15 minutes a week to keep you on track. Then there’s the reciprocal partnership in which you serve as each other’s AP. Psychological research backs up its effectiveness. Just finding a partner with whom to share your goals increases the likelihood that you will achieve them. It’s  a lot more fun to take a daily power walk with a friend than go at it alone for 45 minutes. Knowing you must check in with your weight-loss buddy each week makes it easier to pass up that chocolate donut. Reporting your daily word count to a fellow writer keeps you glued to your laptop (and off Facebook). 

By working with an AP, you are harnessing the power of positive peer pressure to motivate change.

Tips for finding an Accountability Partner:

Look to a trusted friend, neighbor, co-worker, classmate, or family member. If you’re a writer, try posting a request on a writer’s forum. Check out local writer’s groups. Network at a writing conference.  

Tips for Making it Work:

—Know what you want to get out of the partnership.

—Find a partner who is looking for similar goals/results.

—Find a partner who is in a similar place of experience.

—Decide on the method and frequency of communication.

—Be honest.

—Be willing to invest equally in the relationship.

 I recently found my AP—or I should say, she found me.  Connie and I live 800 miles apart.  We email and talk on the phone. We share goals and next action steps. We identify challenges and offer each other feedback. Why is it always easier to help someone else with her problem areas? Though we are working on different types of writing projects, the process is similar.  We both must make time for our writing and avoid distraction. We both need to track our word/page count. We both must troubleshoot and problem-solve. 

Since I have a lot more writing and publishing experience than Connie, I’ve had to identify the areas in which she can best help me. I won’t be looking to her for critique—I’ve already found someone for that.  Rather, it’s the act of stating my goals out loud to another human and reporting my progress that matters.  If I don’t complete my stated goals, Connie helps me figure out why. Her coaching background offers me techniques for deciding which projects I should invest my time in. In turn, I suggested that we each track our time and keep a Got Done list.  Already, I’ve noticed an uptick in my productivity.

This new relationship is a work-in-progress.  The only challenge so far is that Connie and I really enjoy talking to each other, so phone meetings go off in many directions. Maybe this just means that, in addition to finding an AP,  I’ve made a new friend.

Have you worked with an accountability partner? If so, what were the results?

What I learned in 2014

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I’ve already admitted that I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions. 

That doesn’t mean I don’t reflect, though, on the past year. A day older, a day wiser–hopefully.  When you start thinking about all that happened to you in the past year–the good, the bad, and the ugly–you may come to see that you are indeed a bit wiser.  

So this New Year’s day, I asked myself: what have I learned in 2014?  

Without going into the details of how and when I learned these things, I’m simply sharing the list.  Maybe one of them will resonate with you.

  1. Family really matters. Make the time.
  2. Say the things you need/want to say to the people you care about. Now.
  3. If you’re not sure what to do or say to someone in pain, just listen to your heart and take a chance.
  4. Coffee dates are better than Facebook chatting.
  5. Learn to identify what is trivial before the trivial takes over your life.
  6. You cannot write the script for the universe.
  7. The only one who can make time for pursuing your dream is YOU.

I guess most of us already know these things deep down. It’s just that our daily clutter has a way of obscuring their truth.  Then we forget.  

 When you think about what you’ve learned (instead of where you have failed), the needed changes are more likely to fall into place. And to stick.  

So my only “resolution” for 2015 is to carry-over what I’ve learned last year.  That’ll be enough work.

What about you?  What have you learned last year?

Spring Cleaning Your Life

photo_spring-cleaning1It’s a very busy time of the year for traditional Jews. We are cleaning like crazy trying to rid our homes of any spec of hametz–aka “leavened bread” before Passover which begins, Monday night, March 24th. That means cheerios on the car floor, crumbs in the couch, backpacks, and the dreaded kitchen. We will sweep, vacuum, wash, and scrub to make our homes “hametz-free” for 8 days.  All this may sound a bit obsessive, and it is, but all part of “turning over” the house to Passover.  Call it Extreme Spring Cleaning.

At the same time, the rabbis caution that we shouldn’t focus completely on just the physical preparation: we have to prep ourselves. We need to get rid of the “spiritual hametz“–the parts of ourselves get in the way of growth. Think addictions. Bad habits. Negative thoughts that enslave us.

For me, personal hametz is an ongoing battle with perfectionism.  Perfectionism makes me my own worst taskmaster. And since Passover is a time of freedom and redemption, letting go of perfectionism is a fitting goal. (Notice I didn’t say “perfect” goal?) 

When I learned that Passover is considered another Jewish New Year, I figured it was a good time for spring cleaning your life.  If you didn’t make New Year’s Resolutions on Dec. 31st, maybe the arrival of spring is a more meaningful time for you to make changes.  A non-Jewish friend told me she makes her resolutions in the weeks before Easter since that is a time for rebirth.  Another friend says he takes stock of his life every year on his birthday. What a great idea!

Do you have a special time of the year for renewal?

New Year’s Resolution Check-up–Are you still there?

March 8thWe are 67 days into the new year.  So how are your resolutions going?

Have you  made progress on the goals you drafted?  Or have you opted out already? If so, you have plenty of company. Researchers estimate between 40-50% of those who make them, fail.

Just after my wrote my last blog post, I noticed that everyone seemed to be writing, talking,or  tweeting about setting goals and resolutions.Turns out, it ain’t easy to form new habits and stick to our goals.  Why?

Human nature and our brains.

I found this research so fascinating that I’ve decided to pursue my Ph.D. (Productivity and Habit Development.) During the upcoming months, I’ll be reading several books and articles on the topic of productivity, habits, and goals. Then I’ll recap my findings here just for you. I’ll try out some of the recommendations, too, and share my results.

The first book I recommend is Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals by Dr. Heidi Grant HalvorsonSucceed cover Dr. Halvorson is a speaker, psychologist, author, and expert on motivation.  She uses brain and social science to explain why some people succeed and some don’t at achieving goals in every day life. Dr. Halvorson writes in an engaging style and uses examples from her own life. She’s funny, too.

What I really liked about this book is that the author shows how conventional thinking about goals can sometimes be counterproductive.  For example, we hear a lot about the importance of visualizing–think Oprah–making dream boards, thinking positively, imagining our success.  The problem with this strategy, according to Dr. Halvorson, is that we don’t have a realistic picture of the steps we will take or the obstacles we’ll encounter along the way.  We don’t visualize how hard achieving our goal will be!

This certainly resonates with me as I think about the unfinished draft of my new novel that I thought I’d complete last summer.

I invite you to join my in my 2013 Ph.D program.  Please share your ideas, experiences and recommendations.