Beauty in Books 7

I’d been pondering the best way to talk about my experience at the leadership institute two weeks ago, but it’s hard to put into words. This weekend I read Scary Close by Donald Miller, and that seemed to be fantastic springboard to reflect on another way I hope to start being more intentional this year.

Prior to going to the mid-year retreat for the leadership institute, we read Immunity to Change. (Technically this post could almost be Beauty in Books 7 and 8!) It has a number of case studies, which made it a long and somewhat repetitive read, but it’s been fascinating to put some of the principles into practice.

Essentially the authors contend that there are two ways we can approach change. The first (and most common because it’s easier) is a technical fix. If we’re bad at public speaking, the technical change would be attending a workshop or signing up for more speaking engagements. If you’re trying to lose weight, the technical fix is eating less and exercising more.

Generally, though, those technical changes fall short of what we really need to make a true change. Instead we should be seeking an adaptive change, which is more focused on the mindset. More specifically, you start to explore those underlying fears and assumptions that make you hesitant in the first place. What holds you back from public speaking? Are you afraid of coming off as dumb? Of not appearing well-versed or eloquent? And where did some of those fears originate?

The authors encourage individuals to find those underlying (and often false) assumptions and beliefs so that they can begin to start challenging those in small ways. It’s a way of asking yourself “what’s the worst that could happen for speaking up?” and over time realizing it’s typically not the worst case scenario you envisioned.

How does all of this relate to the leadership institute? On the second day we got the results of a 360 leadership assessment, which is feedback on eight specific domains from your boss’s boss, boss, peers, direct reports and an “other” category. Using that information, we each identified our “blind spots” for leadership, selected one particular area to work on and dove into discovering what our underlying assumptions are that hold us back within that area.

The catch and challenge is that we did this in groups of four. Three times. We actually had to vocalize our weaknesses and explain where they came from, often delving into emotional territory.

But let me tell you, this was life changing. It’s a huge opportunity to practice vulnerability and authenticity.

That’s why Scary Close seemed like such a fitting read for me. It’s hard to show up and be seen for who you really are, not just the mask you sometimes wear. As Miller did and captures throughout his book, it’s important to explore why you wear a mask in the first place. His book, to me, was almost a memoir of putting Daring Greatly and Immunity to Change into practice. And this statement seemed to illustrate why it’s so important to me:

“Can you imagine coming to the end of your life, being surrounded by people who loved you, only to realize they never fully knew you?” (pg. 140).

Similar to that, Miller also mentioned that “if we live behind the mask we can impress but we can’t connect.” (pg. 171) It really makes me stop and think about how I’m presenting myself to the world, and even those close to me. My 360 results shows that above all else, I place a high value on my relationships with people. But to what degree am I genuinely connecting versus impressing and trying to have all the answers? And if I’m not showing my real self, why?

It’s still a work in progress for me. As Miller points out time and again, this is not an easy feat. “It involves deconstructing old habits, overcoming the desire to please people, telling the truth, and finding satisfaction in a daily portion of real love.” (pg. 217) But it’s so worth it. Slowly be surely, I’m learning that it’s okay to let my guard down and that real love (with anyone, not just in the romantic sense) isn’t conditional. That alone has been a bit lesson for me.

And if there’s one thing I’ve really learned from this whole experience, it’s this:

“Sometimes the story we’re telling the world isn’t half as endearing as the one that lives inside us.” (pg. 22)

Somehow we just have to muster the courage to put it out there and be seen. And that’s what I’m hoping to be more intentional about moving forward.

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Technology bust

I picked probably one of the worst weekends to go technology free. What I thought would be a relaxing experience ended with me angrily throwing in the towel and cursing the entire situation (namely my stubbornness and stupidity). But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Last Wednesday I decided I was going to unplug for the weekend. Part of me wanted to be able to cross it off my 30 Before 30 List, but mostly I was looking forward to a break. My brain was on professional and personal overload for most of January, and I hated that I felt so glued to my phone and laptop between the whole house-hunting process and deadlines at work. A break from all the screens and keyboards is just what I needed.

(I should mention that while I went technology free, I still used my Roku to stream movies and Pandora. Primarily I wanted to get away from the constant information overload the false sense of productivity I typically get just for keeping up with emails. Plus the thought of not having any music or noise in the house for an entire weekend creeped me out a bit.)

At 5:40 p.m. on Friday, I shut my phone off and shoved it into a drawer. And up until about Saturday afternoon, I felt really great about not using that or my computer. I didn’t feel as rushed and suddenly my to-do list seemed a lot smaller since I couldn’t use my laptop. Time that would have been spent on pinterest was instead spent reading with Hurley curled up right next to me. Even playing with Hurley was better since I wasn’t texting or refreshing my facebook feed in the other hand.

But imagine my surprise when it started snowing around 9:30 on Saturday morning and by 3 p.m. was still going. Last I’d checked my weather app, there was only a small chance of snow flurries on Sunday. Imagine my bigger surprise when the cashier at HyVee later that afternoon said we were supposed to get 4-5 inches.

Sure enough, I woke up to 7.5 inches of wet, heavy snow on Sunday morning. I dug myself out (slowly and painfully) with plenty of time to get ready for BodyCombat. And that’s when I lost it.

After braving the slick streets, I got to the gym only to find out all classes had been cancelled — except for a special two-hour BodyCombat session being held so two new instructors could tape a class for their certification process. Naturally that was wrapping up in 30 minutes. It goes without saying that I wasn’t amused as the gym manager told me all of this. “Didn’t you get the email or see our update on facebook?”

Under normal circumstances, yes, I would have. I would have been at the two hour class. Or I would have nixed it entirely had I known how crappy the roads and weather were. But I wasn’t about to go into my whole “I’m technology free this weekend!” spiel with this poor guy. At that moment, I’d had enough.

In the end, I did make it a full 48 hours without a computer and I was just a few hours shy of reaching that point with my phone. But at what cost?

It’s one thing to take a break from the constant consumption. That part I didn’t mind. What I didn’t like, though, was feeling in the dark when it came to my safety and schedule. The power went off twice on Saturday night. We were in a winter storm warning and then a wind advisory. The interstate was closed, meaning the middle’s volleyball tournament in Omaha was cancelled. And I knew none of this because I wouldn’t let myself cave and turn on my damn phone. In this particular instance, ignorance was not bliss. It was annoying frustrating and, frankly, just not smart.

Perhaps once the weather and crappy roads aren’t a thorn in my side (which probably won’t be until next weekend…) I won’t feel as bitter about my technology free weekend experience. I mean, the first part of the weekend was quite successful. It was nice to prioritize my time and attention in a different way (which I know Hurley loved). There was certainly some value in unplugging and giving myself that break.

If nothing else, I’ve learned a valuable lesson (don’t screw with Nebraska winter weather) while gaining insights about how I use technology in my everyday life. I feel better knowing that, at least with my phone, it’s moreso about meal planning, grocery shopping lists, checking weather and making plans with people. The time suck that is my laptop could use some work, but I know that’s something I can be more intentional about this year.

For now, though, I’m off to use the wonderful thing that is technology to see if my spin class is still going to be held tonight. Imagine that!

Blogging briefs

I’ve been torn about how much to blog about my #intentionalblogging challenge. It’s been helpful, though I’m not sure how interesting it is for my readers (not that blogging for 21 straight days would have been all that interesting either…). I figured a middle ground would be to write a brief synopsis of what I’ve done and discovered throughout this process.

Day 2: Subject, Theme & Objective

For this we were supposed to drill down our subject (what you blog about), theme (your specific area of focus) and objective (what you want to accomplish). This is something I’ve struggled with for awhile and will probably continue to do so. I’d say I primarily blog about my life as a twentysomething and what I’m doing (DIY projects, 30 Before 30, reading, cooking) to enhance it and/or find more meaning. Worded like that, it seems like an incredibly tall order. It also doesn’t seem very specific, but I think I’m able to strike a good balance in the range of topics I cover and how I present it.

The objective is admittedly a bit selfish. I’m a firm subscriber to the belief that “I never know what I think about something until I write about it.” My journal allows my to have a more stream-of-conscious, emotional outpouring of what I’m going through at that particular time. With blogging, though, I’m able to distill information and see the bigger picture. What did I take from a particular book or article? What goals am I working on and why? What lessons have I learned?

Through all of that, I hope to connect with and inspire others. Maybe not through specific actions, goals or advice, but rather through the encouragement to think about the big picture. What does “the good life” encompass? I’m also a firm believer that well done is better than well said. I don’t just want to talk about great plans I have for my life. I want to actually show people how I’ve been able to move forward, overcome obstacles and what my sources of inspiration were throughout the process. I guess it’s my small way of dabbling into life coaching, blog style.

Day 3: Finding my Voice

This was another one of those exercises where I read the challenge and I wanted to blow it off. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Is the message/voice I’m hoping to portray actually coming across as that? My response rate (nerd alert) wasn’t terribly high so I probably didn’t get the full impact of it, but I still appreciate the concept. I was supposed to ask five people to describe me and/or my writing, then write something that embodies what people have said.

Like I said, my response rate was low. But given those responses and also conversations I’ve had throughout the years with people about my blog, it seems to be a genuine depiction of who I am. I talk about the things I love and the things that inspire me with humor and (supposedly) a natural flow of conversation. And really, that’s what I strive to do.

I want my blog to be a conversation. Unbeknownst to me until I was part of the leadership institute, one of the things I value in my own life is approachability. On a professional or personal level (so whether we’re talking evaluation concepts or DIY projects) I want people to see me as approachable. That’s something I hope my blog embodies — a sense of genuine conversation and connection. Hopefully the actual writing portrays that, but if not, I feel like I’m on the right track now that I’ve discovered more clearly what I want my blog and message to be about.

Day 4: Why Blog? 

I lucked out in some ways because the launch of my blog was part of a Juneathon challenge. For thirty days I was supposed to run (or do some form of physical activity, since running wasn’t — and still isn’t — my thing) and then blog about it. That’s probably how I started to develop the mindset that a blog was a way to hold myself accountable.

As that wrapped up, the blog became a way to capture that transition from school to the “real world.” Without school and extra-curricular activities dominating my life, where was I going to focus my energy? What were my hobbies and interests? Based on other books and blogs I’ve read about the twentysomething experience, I’m not alone in that search and that identity struggle. Blogging was a way to feel like I had a roadmap and was making progress in something.

Now I think I blog to promote intentional living — striving to find that myself and encouraging others to do the same. How am I going about creating the type of life that I want? What does the good life mean to me? It also captures the ups and downs of that search. I’m not an expert and don’t claim to have all the answers. My blog helps keep me humble and, as I discovered through the day 3 activity, allows me to relate to others.

Like I said, it’s a tall order, but that’s where my interests seem to fall and writing about those topics comes naturally to me. And let me tell you, it’s a heck of a lot easier and more fun to write this than research papers (though I suppose I still do a variation of those from time to time…).

Day 5: Break from Writing

This was very needed, especially given I was in the car for a good four hours. We were also challenged to post comments on five other blogs. Connecting with the blogging community is a bit outside of my comfort zone, so this was a good challenge. I probably didn’t total five comments, but I did visit a dozen or so new blogs.

Day 6: Blog a List

That will be forthcoming. I’ll confess I’m cheating a bit with the list, but it very much holds true to what I blog about and has been a staple feature for about a year now. (Any guesses on what this list is?!)

This #intentionalblogging challenge has definitely been a bit more challenging than I envisioned, but it’s also been incredibly helpful. Lots of introspection, primarily done during the writing of this very post (so maybe it is a good thing I decided to create a brief synopsis of how the challenge has been going). One week down, two more to go!

About DakotaLizzie

My fears were correct in that I apparently didn’t fully understand the #intentionalblogging challenge. Instead of blogging for 21 straight days, participants are challenged to focus on one specific thing on their blog each day to enhance it. Day 1 focused on the about me page.

My initial reaction this morning was, “eh, who cares?”

But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. I thought about the 171 (now 172) followers and the fact that I only know maybe two dozen of them in real life. It makes sense if I’m bearing my soul on my blog, I may as well give a little background and biographical information.

Enter the About DakotaLizzie page. It’s very much still a work in progress, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. The theme I’ve selected in wordpress isn’t making it easy to make the page link clearly accessible (like scroll to the very bottom of the page and in the right corner you’ll see a drop down menu that will allow you to get there…). Regardless, it’s there and I’m feeling really good about it.

If I’m going to be intentional about my blogging, it may as well be about the whole thing, right?

Another #challenge

I think I’ve reached a new level of crazy. Just last night, I signed up for yet another social media-esque challenge.

For the past 83 days, I’ve continued the #100fitdays challenge on Instagram. I blogged after starting it that I wasn’t sure I would stick with it. As the days went on, though, it became increasingly harder to just stop. “I’m already at day 43. Why stop now?!” I can’t say it’s had the effect I wanted it to when I signed up for the challenge, but I’m oddly glad I stuck with it.

The other challenge has been less daunting time-wise, thankfully. Prompted by the little, I decided to do the #30DayBookChallange on twitter. I haven’t been as diligent about that, primarily because it’s hard for me to commit to favorite books. It’s even harder when I haven’t read much fiction in the last couple years, making it difficult to select a favorite male character, for instance. But I’m 8 days away from wrapping up that challenge.

Perhaps being in the final stretch of both challenges is what prompted me to take on a new one. I think it will bring a bit more meaning and accountability than #100fitdays, or at least I hope it will. It may even be more enjoyable for my followers, too.

Starting this week I’m taking on the #intentionalblogging challenge (I have to confess I’m over the hashtags, though). Essentially I’m striving to blog for 21 days in a row this month (at least that’s the gist I picked up from the website. I’ve been seeing different descriptions from comments on the facebook group dedicated to the challenge, so we’ll see…).

I can’t quite tell you what prompted me to hit submit with my blog information. Many bloggers, including the guy who created the challenge, are writers. They often use blogging as a way to become more disciplined in their work and to practice their craft. That’s not necessarily the case for me (and not because I’m scared of the word writer or wouldn’t classify myself as such). What is true for me, though, is what the challenger also found through his blogging experience:

I started writing with greater clarity, understanding myself and what I wanted out of life, and ended up changing some people’s lives in the process.

That’s why I blog. I write for me, and also for the off-chance that one of my 171 followers (only two dozen or so of them I actually know) connect with what I’m saying, either because it resonates with them or creates the “a-ha!” moments I love so much.

In some ways I feel like my blog is the truest sense of myself, at least the introspective part. Not only that, but there’s also an accountability piece that I likely wouldn’t have otherwise. I could easily write down my 30 Before 30 list in a journal or craft something onto scrapbooking paper. But then I could guarantee you I’d have a much less chance of success with it.

Blogging has somehow become more than just a hobby for me. With all my traveling and random events going on in September, I missed having that forum. It’s time to dedicate more time to it, if only for my own sanity. Plus (speaking of that 30 Before 30 list) this will help me meet my larger goal of hitting 500 blog posts (only 62 to go after this post!).

Maybe all of this was subconsciously going through my mind when I decided to sign up for the challenge. We’ll just have to see what those 21 days hold. I’m sure a few days into it I’ll feel like I’ve got no original content or inspiration, but that’s when you have to dig deep. And with my year of daring myself, I am no stranger to that!

New challenge

From the moment my old kickboxing/spinning instructor posted this link for #100fitdays on facebook, I knew I had to commit. How could I not?

The question was which venue. I didn’t want to constantly be posting on Facebook and I didn’t necessarily want a public Twitter account (I feel like I get a ton of spam follower requests there).

In came Instagram. I’d already been toying with the idea of getting it since one of my co-workers raves about it. Why not test the waters with the app with this challenge?

What primarily attracted me to #100fitdays is that it’s focused on making one healthy choice each day. Often times I feel like I get overwhelmed when I think about living a healthy lifestyle — avoid too much Diet Coke, make sure to get in a hard/good workout, eat three healthy meals, drink plenty of water. The list can be never-ending for a Type A overachiever like myself. It’s exhausting and somewhat defeating.

And not that I won’t strive to do most of those things on a daily basis, but I think the beauty (at least for me) is that with this challenge, I can focus on one “win” each day. Maybe I get in eight full hours of sleep on a work night. Perhaps I try a new workout class or a super healthy recipe. The little successes add up, and I also think it helps build momentum to keep making those healthy choices day in and day out.

It may get redundant to post a photo each day, but I’m hoping that’s an accountability piece that I don’t necessary have right now. And if nothing else, it’ll be a good venue to post even more photos of my yellow labrador and his BFFL (best friends for life) Mocha. They’re just too cute!

H&M

Feel free to follow along my #100fitdays journey with the icon below. Or just check out the dog photos. He already helped me with Day 1.

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Embracing positive change

A week into my July goals, I’ve decided to switch gears. I still like the original list so I may make that my focus for August, but I know my efforts this month need to be in other areas (gotta love self-introspection). Instead of embracing life lessons I’m going to embrace positive change in my life (somewhat ironic given I’m changing my goals).

Put words into actions: It’s one of my guiding principles (“well done is better than well said”) yet I’m not all that great at it. Lindsay and I had a really great conversation yesterday about her class Monday night (I probably should just sneak into the class for as much as I talk about it…). The professor made a comment that more often than not, what people feel is a direct result of their own actions. Instead of having long, drawn out conversations about how someone is feeling, it’s better to focus the conversation on what you can do to change that feeling. If I’m feeling unhealthy, for example, it’s likely because I’m not working out or eating right. Instead of sitting around talking about how unhealthy I feel, I need to do something about it. My goal is to minimize my time spent venting about how frustrated or lazy I feel and instead make strides to improve that mood. Less talk, more action.

Practice positive thinking: Speaking of practicing what I preach, this could use some work. Last night I taught a segment on positive thinking and I realized that while I’m relatively good at being upbeat (my co-leader jokingly commented that it was a good thing I was the one teaching that component), that optimism is directed toward others and not myself. And it doesn’t even have to be related to the big things in life. Spinning is a great example for me lately (let me tell you, ladies and gentlemen, spinning is 90% mental). Going into an exercise class or even going into work is going to be a heck of a lot harder if I’m going into it with a negative mindset (“this is hard! I’m tired!”). Who wants that? And if I’m continually saying that out loud, who wants to be around that? It’s time to step up my positivity. Negativity and cynicism aren’t a good look on me anyway.

Be proactive in relationships and more direct with communication: If you were to look up the word passive aggressive in the dictionary, you’d probably see my picture. I know it’s ineffective at best, but old habits die hard. I’m trying to look at it from a new perspective to see if I can’t curb some of those negative impacts (I’m telling you, it’s ineffective at best). In some ways I’m relating it back to the comment Lindsay’s professor made. If I’m feeling upset or frustrated that I haven’t talked to a sister or friend, then I should be proactive about making that connection instead of being passive aggressive. If someone’s made a comment or done something that hurt my feelings, I need to address it instead of stewing about it and making that person jump through hoops to understand why I’m distant. At that point the ball is in my court and I need to do something about it, even if it means talking about my feelings (which seems a little contradictory to the first goal, but trust me, that part is needed for me).

These goals aren’t as measurable or concrete as I’d normally like, but they’re actually serving as my trial run for the second half of the year. These three things are pretty big over-arching changes I want (and probably need) to make in my life, and that was the intent of my monthly/yearly goals and theme. Let’s hope I can embrace positive change for the month of July and beyond!

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