person holding dandelion flower

What if you are enough; what if you have enough

At about this time two years ago, I read What if this were enough? a book of essays by Heather Havrilesky. After a prolonged self-improvement/professional development rampage, I was having a bit of an existential crisis and that somehow led me to Havrilesly’s book (along with Oliver Burke’s delightful The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking and Anne Lamott’s essential book, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope).

My kitchenette remodel notwithstanding, I have started to train myself to be satisfied with what I have and who I am. Our society is a bit relentless and promoting the ongoing pursuit of acquiring more and more and becoming better and better. It’s exhausting. 

We all need a time out. Or maybe we just need an out. 

Something about this book sticks with me in a way that others often don’t. It’s a cautionary tale about striving for a perfect state of perfection. Havrilesky reminds us there is no ideal version of us waiting in the future. All we have is our imperfect selves in the imperfect now.

You don’t need to be thinner, richer, better dressed, a fancier car, three vacation homes, new jewelry, an Instagram-curated life to love yourself as you are right now. It’s a standing invitation that we can accept at any time.

So why not now? Love yourself. You can still grow and improve if you want to, but you deserve love right now. 

Check out this PBS Books interview with Heather Havrilesky.

Coffee cup on a white background

The Minimalism Experiment Continues

Now that I think about it, I’m not sure how I stumbled upon The Minimal Mom on YouTube, but now I’m a regular viewer. I have taken many small steps toward minimalism, including reading The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker. I now know that I misunderstood a key tenant of minimalism. It’s not the same as minimalism in art, and it doesn’t mean forsaking all possessions (although it might). It means having enough. It means having what you need.

I can now see that my particular challenge is in having multiples (10 pairs of jeans, three sets of flatware, five Christmas trees, three sets of queen size sheets …. and we no longer have a queen-sized bed!) and also in keeping things that I no longer need either because they are nice or because I spent a lot of money on them. But they don’t pass the “do I need this?” test.

Here’s the interesting thing: now that I have started, it’s becoming increasingly easier to let go of things. This video on coffee cups (at the 9:44 mark) really hit me because I love coffee, and I have many, many coffee cups. So many that some that go unused. She mentions that coffee cups need to fulfill their purpose. But I only use a small subset of my coffee cups. That means I had about a dozen cups that weren’t fulfilling their purpose. WE CAN’T HAVE THAT! Coffee cups must fulfill their purpose! 

And now I can’t stop. We’ve Freecycled and dropped off two loads at Goodwill, and two stacks are waiting by the door. 

And I have found that by taking away what I don’t need, I see what remains more clearly. And I appreciate it. And it stands out and all remaining coffee cups are fulfilling their purpose.

Cover Photo by Weronika Karczewska on Unsplash

Red envelope on a golden yellow background.

Put it down in a letter to yourself

Holidays and the New Year are times for rituals of introspection and reflection. I think we can all agree that 2020 did a number on us. These exercises are both inspired by a coaching friend. 

The high five list is your year-in-review list–what did you do well? What deserves a high five? Take 10 minutes and see if you can come up with 10 things to add to your 2020 High Five List. 

I feel pretty strongly that if ever there was a time to lower the bar, it’s 2020. If you kept a decent stock of toilet paper on hand, give yourself a high five for that.

The letter to yourself I learned about last year. You write a letter to yourself and tuck it in with your holiday decorations to be opened in a year. I did write the letter and completely forgot about it until I unpacked the holiday bins a few weeks ago. I thought the letter would be one long joke given the dumpster fire of a year that we’ve had, but I was pleasantly surprised at the many things I did and learned. The goals I set for 2020 weren’t all for naught. 

Aurora meeting in Kirkjufell, Iceland by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

The syllabus of life

I had this thought recently about creating a syllabus for life, a list of things to learn, and read and do. It’s more work than a bucket list, perhaps, and there will be many tests, but it’s good work if you can get it. 

  • Know yourself.
  • Learn to love yourself. 
  • Exercise.
  • Eat well and develop a healthy relationship with food. 
  • Find and respect your boundaries and limits. 
  • Volunteer.
  • Learn another language.
  • Travel outside your comfort zone. 
  • Keep learning.
  • When starting something new, remember you will suck at it. Push through the suck.
  • Consider your spiritual life. 
  • Know that you are enough. 

What’s on your syllabus of life? 

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Photo by Edu Lauton on Unsplash

Negotiation, Creativity, and Inner Peace

I always have a stack of books and a long list of online classes. Here’s what’s come to the top in the last month.

I just finished Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator. My big takeaway from the book is that negotiation is a big part of our lives, and our aversion to it doesn’t help us in the long run. Voss builds on the research of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky–I wasn’t expecting a continuation of Thinking, Fast and Slow when I reserved this book at the library. Check out his talk at Google for the TL;DR alternative:

I am a big fan of LinkedIn Learning and just finished Banish Your Inner Critic to Unleash Your Creativity with Denise Jacobs. I attended an online summit several months ago and heard Denise speak about the inner critic. Then about a month ago, she was featured on a LinkedIn live event on creativity. 

I have been making my way through How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie (best known for his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People). As Jen Sincero of You Are a Badass fame would say, it’s an old-timey book. What surprised me is how relevant a book first published in 1948 feels in 2020. Carnegie’s work is filled with practical advice and was amazingly well-read and dedicated to helping people improve their lives.

Photo by Edu Lauton on Unsplash

Stylish woman working on a laptop. Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash

Keep Learning

I am a big fan of LinkedIn Learning. Many of the video segments are 5-10 minutes so almost everyone can fit a little bit of training into their day. I find that even when the topics are familiar, these online classes offered a great refresher and even new insights. 

LinkedIn purchased a few years ago, and you may still see it referenced that way. was my go-to source for software training for a very long time.

Here are some of my favorites:

LinkedIn Learning may be available through work as a professional development opportunity or as an electronic resource through your local library. Check it out!

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash

Black lab listening with cocked head. Dogs are the best listeners.

The Listener

Sometimes I talk too much, but mostly I don’t. I’m a listener. I listen to understand. Listening is also a gift I can give to others. I have observed that many, many people are longing to be heard. And to be understood.

In times like these, it feels especially important to listen: listen with an open heart and an open mind. To be prepared to be wrong and to make mistakes – and to be humbled. We need to listen for the ways that we need to change, the actions we need to take, and the reparations we need to make. 

Many people are waking up to a reality they have long avoided. And many people have suffered too long in that reality.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash