Friday, January 27, 2012

Real Joy, Right Now

I get the "Spirit" newsletter e-mailed to me on a regular basis.  Maybe daily.  Sometimes I don't pay attention, sometimes I do.  Today's really spoke to me because it aligns closely with what I'm trying to achieve for myself this year.  It had a link to an article from O, The Oprah Magazine, July 2000 issue titled, "Real Joy, Right Now".  Here's the link:

It's a short article.  Go ahead and read it. 

Did you read it?  Ok, For those of you not in the mood to hit the Oprah website, I'll summarize:

The gist of the article is (1) everyone deserves real joy in their lives (duh!) (2) the tricky part is finding out what gives us joy and (3) finding ways to make it part of our life. 

All these sound like no brainers.  But I think we sometimes need to be reminded of these things.  This is one of the reasons I like getting Oprah's spirit newsletter.  The article was written over 10 years ago.  I might have even read it at the time, but whatever was going on in my life, it didn't really resonate with me then the way it does now.

But I digress.  The author of said article (Debrena Jackson Gandy) suggests grabbing a journal and taking an inventory of things that really cause you joy. And you're supposed to come up with at least 3 things.  And then later you should revisit your list and figure out what you're doing or not doing that is keeping you from joy.  

A line I really loved from the article was this:

"When any area of your life—and especially your work, since many working women spend most of their days at the office—is aligned with what you find satisfying, 80 percent of the activities involved should bring you joy. Eighty! Right now ask yourself, When I scan every area of my life, how much of what I do is a reflection of what brings me joy? Tell yourself the truth. Do the things you do bring you joy at least 80 percent of the time? Are there disparities between what you say brings you joy and what you actually do? Starting today, decide how you can change this."

I like this.  Really makes you think about what you're spending your time doing.  Now, most of us are kind of stuck with what our work brings us.  I know I'm not in a financial position to just up and quit my job if I feel like I'm not getting 80% joy out of the time I spend at work (and in my case getting to and from work, as I currently have a 90 minute commute - yes, you read that correctly).

The statement makes me feel like my time OFF work is that much more important.  No more pissing away the weekends and evenings doing the same old-same old.  Just like I blogged about before.  We all really need to live out loud and consciously make decisions about how we spend our lives if we really want to get the most out of it.

Just my 2 cents.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Complaint Free World

I often skim through some of the older posts on a number of blogs and websites I follow, and I stumbled across a post from Tim Ferris’ Four Hour Work Week Blog from 2007 ( that really hit home to me.  Tim is the author of the book “Four Hour Work Week” and subsequent follow-up books, and is always interesting and fun to read, even when the things he’s talking about don’t directly apply to my life.

In this case, Tim himself had come across a thought experiment based on a book titled “A Complaint-Free World”, by a minister named Will Bowen.  In his book, Bowen challenges you to try and make it 21 days without complaining, gossiping, or criticizing. 

Wow.  I have noticed at various points in my life that I have a number of negative people in both my ancestry and in my life.  Names will not be named.  They may not know who they are.  I have also noticed, and this is key, I’M ONE OF THEM!!!!!

I don’t want to be negative, I really don’t.  But I’ll remark on something (tv show, song, etc) and then realize afterward that I only noticed the negative thing.  Why is that???

So as described on Tim’s blog, the key to ending the habit of complaining is this:

“ … word choice determines thought choice, which determines emotions and actions. It’s not enough to just decide you’ll stop using certain words, though. It requires conditioning.”

Short but sweet, this means: “fix the words and you fix the thoughts”.

Bowen believes it takes 21 days to recondition yourself to your new non-complaining habit.  The idea he came up with was to give members of his congregation a purple bracelet – kind of like the Lance Armstrong “Live Strong” bracelets.  Each time one of them complained, they were supposed to switch the bracelet to their other wrist and start again from day 0.

Apparently this was a HUGE hit and really made a difference in everyone’s lives.  So they ended up having a website and selling bunches of bracelets and trying to spread the word.  Bowen was on Oprah and The Today Show when he came up with the idea, but I apparently missed out on this whole movement when it originally happened (back in 2007, as near as I can tell). 

At any rate, I’m doing it now.  Starting today.

I’m not going to shell out my meager cash on a purple bracelet, but as suggested by Tim, I’m going to use a rubber band.  Not terribly fashionable, but it should do the trick.

Oh, and as Tim did when he did this experiment, I’m also going to add cuss words to the mix.  I do have a bit of a potty mouth, though I’m WAAAAAAAY better then I was back in college :-).  Still, I recognize that I need to eradicate the profanity.

Will keep you posted on how it goes.  And if anyone wants to try it along with me, dive in and let me know how you’re doing!


Edited to add:  Decided to use a pony-tail holder instead of rubber band.  Much more attractive.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Mark Twain Rocks

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. "
- Mark Twain, American writer

Received this in an e-mail this morning.  Really catches the spirit of what I'm trying to do right now!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Dreaded Comfort Zone

In order to make "living big and enjoying life" a major goal, you have to not only do more of the things that you enjoy right now, but also expand your fun list! 

If the last post was about what makes me happy now, then today's is about what I need to do to go above and beyond.   So I decided to brainstorm even more ways I can incorporate more fun and, well, exuberance, into my life.  They include:
  1. Surfing
  2. Sailing
  3. Kite surfing
  4. Snow skiing
  5. Traveling
  6. Running road races (5K, marathon)
  7. Learning more languages (Spanish. Italian. German. Relearning the French I've probably forgotten. Japanese? Chinese? More?)
  8. Sustainability and self-sufficiency (i.e. learning practical homesteader type skills, like canning, making my own soaps, lotions, cheese, yogurt, sprouts, etc).
  9. Volunteer for an environmental and/or other charitable organization
This is not my bucket list.  I've started one, of course (who hasn't?!), but the above items are more general, easy to achieve lists of things I want to learn and do in the near future. 

Over the past couple of years, I've done some reading about goal setting and "finding your true self", and the first step is always to picture yourself in the future and imagine what your ideal life would look like.  When I performed this little exercise for myself a while back, these were elements of that vision.  I've known for a while that these are things I'd love to have as part of my future life - being more active, learning new skills, etc. 

So the big question is, what stopped me from getting started on these things ages ago?  In some cases it's money.  Let's be blunt, as much as I'd love to take my kids to see Machu Picchu this summer, it's not going to happen.  Not this year. I'll be planning for the bigger ticket items, you can be sure.  A key element that makes something a goal instead of just a dream is a schedule.  A timetable by which you plan to achieve your goal.  So that's going into my ongoing goal development process.

But as I looked at my list the other day, I realized there are several things I could have started doing ages ago.  One example? Running road races. I've always been an off-and-on runner, so why have I never run a road race? 

Here it is. . . I'm admitting something I've never said out loud:  I was nervous.  Scared I wouldn't know where to go, what to do, I'd look like a big fat outsider who doesn't belong running a road race. 

Now this is just plain silly.  I know this intellectually.  Runners are generally friendly people.  There will be signs.  There will be people of all sizes and shapes.  I KNOW this!  I read Runners World, for heaven's sake!  So why did I feel this way?  I know why.  I'd become mired in the dreaded "comfort zone".

I am making a vow right now (on this blog that probably only two people are reading). . . one aspect of my personality that I'm SERIOUSLY going to challenge during this year of living exuberantly is my fear of stepping outside my comfort zone.

You know we all do it.  Well, most of us, I think.  But I HATE it!  It's probably one of the reasons I don't travel off the beaten path very often.  Or go to stores and restaurants I'm not familiar with often enough.  You get stuck in your comfort zone and suddenly realize you haven't done much that's adventurous in years!  Frankly, it's ridiculous.  What's the worst that could happen? 

One of my new mantras shall henceforth be:  "Screw it, Let's Do It" (as quoted from Sir Richard Branson in his book of the same title.)  Deep?  Profound?  Maybe not, but it is catchy - and pertinent!

So ...  (drum role, please)... As my first step up out of my rut, I have entered a 5K road race, to be run on February 11, 2011 in Jacksonville, Florida!!   It's a 5K associated with the 26.2 with Donna marathon which benefits breast cancer awareness.  Maybe next year I'll do the marathon :-).

The link here (5K Your Way Rookie Running Training Plan) directs you to the 5K training program I am generally following from the website (which I highly recommend, by the way).  I'd fallen out of the habit of jogging regularly, so I figured I'd do this right and follow a predetermined plan, in the hopes of avoiding the dreaded shin splints that often have plagued me in the past.  I am on week 5 of the program, though will admit I started on week 4, as I already had been running some - just not consistently.  I run Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.  Anyone want to train for one with me, by all means, let me know!

And yes, I've already done today's run, and it rocked. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

How do you become exuberant, anyway?

So where did I get this whole idea of living exuberantly?  I was actually reading a news story online about Sir Richard Branson that mentioned his views on “exuberant living”.  It seems to me it should be easy to enjoy your life when you’re a billionaire, but really, most billionaires seem pretty boring.  Richard Branson, though – he knows how to LIVE.

His favorite sport is kite surfing.  He’s attempted world records for circumnavigating the globe in a hot air balloon.  He has his own private island (  He has his own SPACESHIP, for goodness sake (well, its in development, but STILL!).  So he’s kinda my hero now.
I thought to myself, yeah, the man has some money, but there are a lot of people who seem to have that love of life who aren’t billionaires.  So I asked myself, how does one become exuberant, if one isn’t already?

Now I like to think I’m a fairly cheerful person.  I like to laugh.  I laugh a lot.  But at the same time, I do have a dark side – who doesn’t?  Not a serial killer-type dark side, of course (yet!), but I can definitely be grumpy.  That’s one thing I want to work on – keeping the grump at bay.  I don’t feel like I exude “living-life-to-the-fullest” on a day-to-day basis, you know?

It seems to me one of the best ways to LIVE, LIVE, LIVE (as Auntie Mame would say) is to figure out what you like to do and then do more of it, as a start. (And if you don’t know who Auntie Mame is, you should Google “Mame Dennis”, and then go rent the movies and/or read the books – you can add that to your list of New Year’s Resolutions).

So here’s a quick and dirty list of things that make me happy:
  1. Hugs from my kids
  2. Being at the beach
  3. Walks in the woods
  4. Reading a book outside
  5. Yoga
  6. Gardening
  7. Long hot baths
  8. Red wine
  9. Jogging
  10. Watching space documentaries (yes, I know this marks me as a complete geek)
  11. Riding my bike
Arguably, I do too much of #’s 7, 8 and 10, though at least it means I’m clean and know a lot about astronomy and planetary science, though often with a slight buzz :-).  However, I know I don’t get enough of most of the others.
Since Exuberance-by-Policy will be my goal for the year, I’m going to make conscious decisions to do more of the things that make me happy.

Had a good start this weekend, when we took our kids to the Jacksonville arboretum (  It was lovely.  Temperatures in the 70s and we all enjoyed being out in nature, though my kids were loud enough to scare away any actual wildlife that might have been in the area.  Still, it was a lovely afternoon!

Becoming Exuberant!

What does exuberant mean?  Exuberant can be defined as follows:
— adj
1.  abounding in vigour and high spirits; full of vitality
2.  lavish or effusive; excessively elaborate: exuberant compliments
3.  growing luxuriantly or in profusion

(this from, which cites the Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition 2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009)

Now that’s pretty dry.  What does it mean to me?

Live big.  Have fun.  I love the term from above – VITALITY. 

My goal for this year (and henceforth, to be honest) is to become exuberant. Why? How did I decide on this? 

I’m 41.  Been living a life that’s had its ups and downs, like most everybody else. But I’ve gotta be honest. The last 5 years or so, I’d just been plodding along. Or at least that’s how it felt to me.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been some WONDERFUL things happen in those 5 years – I have three great kids and we’ve had a lot of fun and made some great memories.  But me personally?  I felt like the vision I had originally had for my life wasn’t really happening the way I had thought it would, and frankly, I was pretty sure I didn’t want that life anymore anyway.   But I wasn’t sure what I did want. 

So I’ve been giving it some thought, and I’ve realized that what I really always wanted, was Joie de Vivre.  Love of life.  I realized that the vision I had for myself as a kid, and then teenager, and then young adult, was really less about what I did for my living, and what specific successes I saw, but more about the kind of person I wanted to be. 

And, you know what?  I’ve got some work to do!  But it’s fun work!  I am dedicating this year (and more!) to rediscovering fun.  I want to Live Big!  Become Exuberant! 

Disclaimer:  There will no doubt be lots of exclamation points in the coming year’s blog posts.  Should you find this offensive, back slowly away from this site right now :-)!