You Mean There Is No Finish Line?

Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. wrote in her book Mindset, “once a problem improves, people often stop doing what caused it to improve.Once you feel better, you stop taking your medicine.” She continues, “But change doesn’t work that way. When you’ve lost weight, the issue doesn’t go away.” “These changes have to be supported or they can go away faster than they appeared.”I AM DOING EXACTLY WHAT DR. DWECK DESCRIBED!!!…and I have done it so many times before. Wow this one is challenging!

My real life example right now is exercise. As many of you know, I have been training hard for the past year. It was challenging, but, it felt so good to be strong and vibrant. In my mind, I was determined to keep up that same level of exercise after I crossed the finish line at a recent event, but the past two weeks have not played out that way at all.

After achieving a goal, I have faced a big challenge and I wonder if you have dealt with this as well?

It has been my desire to stay “fit” after I cross the finish line, but I also want to move forward on other plans as well. Suddenly though, I realize I do not have the time or energy for both, so the fitness level I had just reached has started to slip. Another example is losing weight. Losing weight is tough stuff, but as the pounds come off, we feel better and better. Losing weight requires a tremendous amount of energy and focus. It is easy once we reach our goal to think we can move on to other things and not give our eating the same amount of attention. Unfortunately, when it does not get our focus, the scale starts creeping back up again. Yes, I think we can get into some level of “maintenance mode” with our goals, but I am having to face the fact that they will still require a lot of my energy.

This makes me sad, I’m not going to lie. Because I have a lot of things I want to accomplish and I want them all to happen NOW! But reality reminds me that I only have so much time in a day, and I only have so much energy I can put forth. Therefore, I am grappling with a truth that I do not like. If I want to put forth time and energy to stay healthy, and reach other goals in life:

  • First I have to choose which areas are most important.
  • Second, I have to limit the number of them that I pursue at one time.

It’s giving the most of my energy to a few big, important things, instead of spreading myself out trying to do a lot of little things. I still plan on accomplishing my goals, but it might just take a little bit longer to accomplish all of them. I guess it’s the bucket list concept.

Wow, the paring back continues. In the past I have talked about removing non-essentials, but I never imagined I would need to cut back this much. I will have to be honest with you, this process of paring back also brings me hope, hope that I can accomplish some things that are big and important to me. Trying to move forward on so many things at once in the past has drained some of the hope out of me. I do have a lot of great things to look forward to in life, they will simply take time and focus.

Please share with me your thoughts on this cutting back stuff. Feel free to comment below or send me an email. It is not easy stuff, and I am still trying to figure it out too. I would love to hear your thoughts, even if you do not agree. There is so much I can learn from each of you!

Here’s to a great week ahead trying to figure out this BEST life stuff!

I feel like I’m letting everyone down.

It is a horrible feeling to feel as though we have let others down in our lives. Is there a solution? Is there a way to live our BEST life and manage to be everything to everyone? I think we all know the answer to that, but it is not easy when you are in the middle of it.

As I was driving home for lunch one day this week, I was listening to a friend’s message sharing a story of a woman in her life who was feeling overwhelmed and brought to tears this past week. When my friend talked to her, she simply said “I feel like I am letting everyone down.”  As I continued to drive home, my heart broke for this woman, but, also exposed in me a very similar feeling. I too felt like I was letting a number of people down this week, and it was a horrible feeling.

I would love to come to you with an amazing solution to this problem, but I do not know of one. In fact, I was laying in bed last night coming to the realization that there was nothing more I could do this week. I did what I felt like I could do and sometimes that is simply going to fall short of the expectations of others. I forced myself to acknowledge what I did accomplish and find a way to be okay with falling short in other areas. It was hard to accept, but, once I did, I was able to relax and give myself a break. I felt my shoulders relax, not even realizing how tense I had been. I realized the longer I felt the guilt and pressure of letting others down, the more depleted I felt. I realized the more I focused on letting others down, the bigger that feeling grew in my mind and the worse I felt.

I certainly don’t want to make light of letting others down because many times it is our own choices and over-commitments that get us into those situations in the first place. It is not something I want to do often, because it does hurt others as well as me. I did find, though, that it is not healthy to ruminate on it either. I tried to learn from the experience so that I do not do it again. I got a good night’s rest and tried to treat the new day as a fresh start.

I know I am not going to be perfect, but I am going to try to put the past in the past, and try to live my best and give my best each day.

Here’s to being kind to ourselves! We are amazing individuals giving life our all. Let’s keep our heads up, give today our best, accept the fact that we won’t be perfect, and know that tomorrow is a new day with new opportunities.

Anything I Can Do, You Can Do Better

I have been able to accomplish some fun things in my life, and I am here to tell you that you are capable of accomplishing even more than me! I believe you can!

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I am super proud to share with you today, that this morning I was able to participate in, and complete, my first sprint triathlon!!!! I am sitting here is my recliner, unable to move my legs, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to write my blog post.

Today was a sweet day because it has not been a smooth road to get here. I am going to jump back to this weekend, this time last year. Myself, my husband, John, along with some of his co-workers, were scheduled to ride our bikes in a great charity ride here in St. Louis that raises money for cancer research. Just before this fun weekend, I bulged a disc in my lower back. I went from training rides to barely walking. My back kept me off of my bike for months, also causing me to miss a full weekend ride that I had planned with some wonderful ladies. But I had a dream of participating in a triathlon so I decided that December was the time to get a pass to the local rec center, start to swim  and run and be ready for a local Triathlon in April. Hee Hee, wishful thinking! The bulged disk flared up with a vengeance in the early part of April. My dream was put on hold even longer. Finally today, one year from my original bulged disc experience, I jogged over the finish line and reached my goals.

There are a number of things that I did to reach this goal, and I believe with everything in me, that you can do the same to reach your goals and live your dreams.

I did not allow my setbacks to be permanent, and neither should you! There is going to be a weakness in the area of my bulged disc for the rest of my life. I could have seen that as a defeat and stopped. But I knew deep down that I could do something to make myself stronger. I knew this was not a stopping point, but was the start of something new. Yes, I cannot do some things that I used to do, but I have discovered so much more that I can do and want to do, and that is what I focus on. I have found ways to grow and become stronger. Whatever setbacks you have experienced in your life, don’t let them stop you. Try some new things, become creative and see what new opportunities open up for you.

I learned what I was doing wrong, made adjustments, and so can you! I was doing a lot of things wrong, and my bulged disc was a result of many of those things. I learned what I was doing wrong, and what was causing me pain. I learned the new and right ways of doing things and kept moving forward. Those same principles apply to whatever you are trying to move forward in. If what you are doing is not working or is causing mental, physical, emotional, spiritual pain, identify it and try something new. I am constantly making adjustments is my life, and so can you!

I kept doing more of the right stuff, and so can you! Once you discover the “right stuff” to help you succeed in life and your endeavors, do more of that. Fill your life with the right stuff. This will be different for each of us, but pay attention to what works for you and do it!

I prioritized it, and so can you! In the past month or so, I have talked about our essentials in life and our non-essentials. I explained that even though a triathlon is not on most people’s “essentials list” it was on mine. This is something I wanted to do for many reasons and in order for me to make it a reality, I had to prioritize it. Many times we say we want to do something, but until it is placed at a very high priority, it will probably not get the time and attention it needs. If you want to accomplish a goal or live out a dream, you will need to make it an essential and most likely remove something else to make room for it. Boy this is not easy, but it is possible. You can prioritize your essentials to make things happen.

I am celebrating a great accomplishment today. I want the same for you! Please know that whatever I can do, you can do as well, and I think, even better. It takes work, but you can do it!

Here’s to accomplishing great things, resting in our favorite chair afterwards and living our BEST life!

And…..ACTION!

Is there any area of your life where you feel fear? Is there a situation at work? Do you have a big decision to make? Have you committed to something, but feel fear as the deadline approaches? Fear is a part of our everyday lives. The question then, is how do we live with fear and still live our best?

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Fear is a part of our makeup as humans. Fear keeps us aware of things that might harm us and allows us to respond to find safety. There are a lot of things that are out of our control in the world we live in, but there is a lot of fearful things that are within our control to change. That is what I want to focus on in this post. What fear is within our control to change and what is the best strategy? I believe it is ACTION!

Conquering fear with action is not a Jen Regan original idea. I have read this concept in countless books and articles. The concept has been around and taught for so long because it works. All you have to do is try it once to experience its positive effects.

Recently I needed to discuss an issue and a potential solution with someone in my life. The person I needed to talk to is a wonderful person, but, because she is a person of authority in my life, I was not sure how she was going to respond.  I became very nervous about the discussion. Because she was very busy, I wanted to wait until the time was right, but as the time passed, I became more nervous. It seems silly, but as she became available, I knew the time had come to approach her and my heart started pounding out of my chest. As with fear, I wanted to run the other way, but I told myself “just do it, NOW!” So I called her and asked if she had a few minutes to discuss something. I was still nervous, but I dealt with my fear with action. The outcome of the conversation is not relevant here. What is relevant is that I felt a huge amount of relief when I took action. The fear was gone and I know that I took control of it instead of allowing it to take control of me.

Here are a few things that I have found helpful with regards to taking action against fear.

Take action as quickly as possible. The longer I hold off, the more stress I fee and there is a greater chance of me giving in to the fear and not taking action at all. Now, I do believe in taking time to think through things and not rushing into them, but once I have made a decision on how to proceed, I try to take action as soon as possible.

Don’t allow the fearful thoughts to take control. Take control of your mind and remind yourself that you are very capable of handling the situation. I feel fear frequently because I am trying to stretch myself in a lot of areas of my life. As you continue to take baby steps towards your goals and dreams, fears will crop up as well. Many times we question ourselves and our abilities. If I am confident in the direction I want to take, even though I may not know completely what the future holds, I have to fill my mind with motivating thoughts. I have to remind myself that I can do what I need to do. I have to take action in my mind to fill it with good thoughts, and in turn, push out the fearful thoughts.

I acknowledge the great feeling that action against my fears brings. After I had the nervous discussion mentioned above, I walked away, caught my breath, smiled and said “Good job Jen!” Celebrate your successes! Give yourself some positive reinforcement. It takes a lot of courage to take action against our fears. We deserve some kudos! Taking action against our fears is not easy. I do believe that the more successes we rack up, the more our mind remembers that we will make it out the other side. Regardless of the outcome, we can and should be proud of taking control and taking action.

Fear is a part of life, even our BEST life. Here’s to taking action, taking control, and being proud of ourselves as we continue to move forward in the areas that are most important to us.

The Experiment

This past week I had decided to take on the challenge of trying to fill my time with the essentials and remove the nonessentials from each day. I learned three important things from my experimental week.

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  1. An essential does not always need to be work. I can find myself thinking that essentials always have to involve me doing something productive or making progress in an area of my life. This week, I was reminded that this is not always the case. Fun, play and rest are all essential at times, and it felt great to prioritize those things this past week. Have you been able to fit some fun into your life this week?
  2. I found one particular area that distracts me and tended to pull me away from my essentials. That one area for me, is projects around my house. I LOVE TO HAVE A CLEAN AND TIDY HOME! Did you catch the emphasis there? The challenge with this is that housework is never done. It kills me when I just finish cleaning the floors and I look down to admire my work and find something I had missed. Because my housework is never done, I could spend all of my time on it and never get to anything else. I do love to have a clean house, but there is so much more that I want to fill my life with. This week I had to label some of my housework as a nonessential for now so that I could spend time on other important things. Do you have one area that pulls you away from your essentials?
  3. It was nice and important to spend my time on my essentials, but it did not feel earth shattering. I think I was expecting my life to feel AMAZING when I focused on my essentials, but it did not feel all that much different. You are probably asking “Jen, what’s the point then?” Don’t get me wrong, I was able to move forward on some important things this past week. I guess what I realized is that moving forward on my essential things was still hard work, and there was no applause from the crowd for that hard work. It was the right thing, but felt pretty ordinary, and that is okay. 

My experimental week was good. In my heart, I know it was the right thing for me to do in order to focus on areas that I want to move forward on in the future. This week was just the start of a lifetime of trying to fill my time with essential things and eliminate the non-essentials. I acknowledge now that it is not always going to be easy and filled with applause, but, in the long run, I will get to where I want to go because I stayed focused and eliminated distractions. I wish the same for you!

Here’s to living our BEST, one day at a time!

Give It Your Best!

Whatever you decide to do, whatever you consider to be essential, whatever makes the cut, give it your best!

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A friend of mine is a part of an organization that means a lot to him. Just recently, there was discussion about how important it is for their participants to volunteer to make the organization strong so that they can impact lives and make a difference in the world. Even though I do not have the same conviction about this particular organization as he has, he made me think. Whatever we decide to do, whatever we decide to put our heart into, let’s do it well.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about eliminating the non-essentials in our lives. Once we do that, we are left with a bunch of wonderful things. Things that are very important to us. Once we have defined our essentials and refined our lives to remove the non-essentials, then it is time to give our all to what we have defined to be our most important things.

How can we make the shift from filling our time with non-essentials to living our best life focused on what we have defined as most important? I am writing this blog post the Friday night before going into the long Labor Day weekend. There are a bunch of things that I have thought about doing this weekend, but even I am asking myself, “What is most important?” “What should get most of my time and attention this weekend?” As I sit here writing, I am changing my plans for the weekend. I want to fill it with my essentials.

This is an interesting process to go through. If you can take a short moment of time out of your busy schedule, try to think about your day a little differently. Think about what is most important to you and start to fill your time with those things. I have always heard the best way to get rid of a bad habit is to start a good habit. Well maybe the same is true here as well. Maybe the best way to stop spending time on non-essentials is to start spending more time on what is most important.

Life is an experiment right? I think I have my experiment for the next week. I am going to try to fill my time, as best I can, for the next week with what I consider to be essentials. I am going to journal as I move through my experiment and come back next week with my report. I would love for you to join me and let me know how it goes. As a subscribers, you have my email address. Send me an email with your thoughts and experiences.

Well, I can say I have started right now, because writing this blog post is one of my essentials. It warms my heart to share my heart with you. Next I am going to bed at my normal time and getting a good night’s rest so that I have a ton of energy for tomorrow. Stay tuned until next week to read the exciting saga of Jen Regan’s life of essentials!

Here’s to doing what is most important and giving life our BEST!

It Can Be Life Changing!

Do you know that it is never too late to learn? Seriously! We can learn new amazing facts and statistics, but we can also learn a new way of living. If something we are doing in our lives is not working well, we can learn a new way of doing it. We are not limited to what we know today, the sky’s the limit! Learning new things can be life changing!

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I have the dream of one day publishing a book, even many books. As I began dreaming a few years ago, I started to look into what it would take for me to do such a thing. Soon, my dream spawned into the idea of owning my own business, enabling me to better encourage others to live their best lives. Suddenly though, I found myself overwhelmed by my lack of knowledge. I started looking at resources to help me in my pursuits, but again, I found that there was SO MUCH I NEEDED TO LEARN! I had a decision to make. Keep moving forward, or be content with where I was in my life at that point. I love my life right now, but I want to go after my dreams, so learning became a priority.

I am going to keep this blog post short and sweet as we move into the holiday weekend, but I want to encourage you to never give up, keep making the changes you want to make in your life. It might be taking control of your “out of control” schedules. It might be getting a good night’s rest. It might be going back to school. Or it might be saving more money for the future. I don’t think it takes much time and effort for us each to list at least one or two areas that we want to improve in our lives. Just remember that you are capable to making those changes a reality. Let me repeat that. You are capable of making those changes, and I believe learning something new is an essential step in the process.

Have a great weekend! Here’s to never giving up, and learning new things to live our best!

What’s Essential?

If we want to accomplish something in our lives or start something new, one of our greatest barriers is not having enough time. The questions then is,  how do we move forward in our goals? How do we make our dreams a reality? How do we move forward?

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I might have you trained well in my philosophy to say “ Baby steps Jen, that is how we move forward” and I don’t disagree with that. I do know though, that even baby steps take time. What I am trying to figure out is how to make more time for the areas that are most important to me. This will then give me more time for more baby steps, continuing to move forward, steadily,  towards what I want to accomplish.

What I am working on right now, is to find more time to identify and remove non-essentials in my life. Non-essentials generally fall into the category of “good” things in my life, not “best” things. I think all of our lives are filled with a lot of “good” things, but they do indeed fill up our time. I am trying to differentiate between the “good” and “best” and distill my life down to the essentials, the BEST!

What does this look like?

  • The first thing I have learned is that this is a very individual and personal process. What I may define as essential for me may be non-essential to you, and vice versa. It is important not to compare ourselves with others. We can use others as examples, but at the end of the day, we each have to decide and be comfortable with what is essential to us. I have asked myself if training for my triathlon is essential for my life right now. After putting some thought to it, I have decided that it is essential for my physical, mental and emotional health right now. I can almost guarantee that training for a triathlon is not essential to you. Your essentials will be very personal to you.
  • The second thing I have learned is that things change over time. Things that I may define as non-essential at this time might be able to be elevated back to essential in the future. It is up to each of use to decided. I play the upright bass, but I have put the bass down for almost a year now. It does make me sad that I have not played it, but I know in my heart that it is a non-essential right now. Here in a few months, my plan is for that to change. After my intense training for my triathlon is done, the nights start getting longer and the weather starts getting colder, it is my plan to prioritize my bass playing again. If you have to set something aside for the time being, know that it can be picked back up at a later date.
  • Non-essentials take different forms. So far I have found non-essential thoughts that need to be removed from my life. I have found non-essential possessions, aka clutter, that needs to be removed. I have found non-essentials in my schedule that need to be removed. Non-essentials are anything that fall into the category of “less than best”.

How do we move forward on our dreams and goals by eliminating non-essentials?

  • I have found that identification of non-essentials is the first and most challenging step. I have spent the last 5 months asking myself what I can remove from my life, what is non-essential. It has been a slow process of many baby steps to identify the many “good” things in my life that I am willing to give up for the “best” things. In the end, we have 24 hours in a day and we have to make choices. If we want to find time and move forward with our dreams and goals, non-essentials will more than likely need to be removed.
  • Removing non-essentials is the next step which takes time and that is hard to find in our schedules as well. A non-essential I recently removed from my schedule was my container garden. The past few years I have set up a container garden on my back deck. I did the same this last spring, but with a very different schedule this year and very dry weather, my container garden required a lot of time and attention that I just did not have. Instead of being an enjoyable experience, it became a burden. I decided that, for now, the container garden needed to be closed down for the year. It took time to do that, but it has brought relief in the long run.
  • Next, I keep an eye out for the next non-essential that needs to be removed. Just this week, we had some small renovations done at our house. In the process, I have had to move some things around and find new homes for a few things. It has come to my attention through this process, that it is time for me to say goodbye to some non-essential possessions. It feels like I am drowning in clutter right now. My plan for the next week or so is to identify and start to remove some of the physical clutter from my space and life.
  • Lastly, we have to be on guard for non-essential creeping back into our lives. I think the more we spend time focusing on what is most important to us, the easier it is to identify the things that are non-essential, but we still have to watch out for them in our lives.

The end result to all of this is to spend as much time and energy focusing on what is most important in our lives and removing the things of less importance. This is hard and it is a process, but as I am finding out, I will not have time for the areas that I want to move forward in unless I make these hard choices.

Join me in focusing on the “best” and working to remove all of the non-essentials in our lives.

Home Sweet Home…Again

As I scanned my calendar over a few  weeks’ time, I noticed something kind of strange. I had a weekend coming up that was EMPTY! There was nothing at all schedule for this weekend. What will I do? This is such a rare occasion, I was almost paralyzed in disbelief.

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As that weekend approached, I decided to make sure it stayed empty, and doing so was not easy. In fact as it got closer, I had to be very intentional about saying “no” to the numerous invitations that came my way. As of Friday night, I still did not know what I was going to do with my time, but one thing I felt was the need to stay home. I followed that desire and it was exactly what I needed.

I love my home, but I can even dread coming home to it at times when there are dishes stacked up, piles of laundry that need to be done, floors that desperately need to be cleaned, and a dead container garden because I neglected watering it. There are weeds that need to be pulled, bedding that needs to be washed and mounds of paperwork that needs to be filed. I love my home, and there is nothing I want more than to enjoy being “at home” there.

As I woke up on Saturday morning, after sleeping in a little late, I decided to start with the laundry. As it was going, I jumped over to the dishes for a little bit. Then started to tackle the floors and so much more! Some may say that this is a waste of a day, but I say this is exactly what I needed, and I think we all need this every once in a while.

Here is what my day at home provided for me, and will provide for you too:

It allowed me to have full control of my time. So often our lives are dictated by many other schedules like work, school, extracurricular activities, family, church, etc. We get in the mode of going where we need to go, when we need to go and no longer have control over our time. That was not the case on my day at home, I did what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it and it was refreshing.

It allowed me to take control over those things that were nagging at me, aka, my dirty floors. When something is not the way it should be, it nags at us. It could be a cluttered office, weeds that have taken over your landscaping, or dirty floors in my case. I took the time on my day at home to tackle my nagging projects and it felt great!

It made me feel productive. Doesn’t it feel great when we have a productive day at home or at work? It almost feels like we can take a deep breathe and breath easier. This is not the feeling we get when we are running around with our heads cut off all weekend. My day at home felt productive and great!

It allowed me to enjoy my home again. When all was said and done, the laundry was done and put away, the floors were clean and a number of other odd jobs were done, I was happy to come home again. Don’t get me wrong, I did not finish everything on my “ To-Do” list, but I did take care of those things that were nagging me. Our homes are supposed to be a place to come for rest. My day at home allowed me to restore that feeling of being “at home”.

I do not have children, but I think these days at home are refreshing for them as well, even though they may not want to admit it. I remember days growing up that my mom put us to work in our rooms, usually cleaning out our closets. It was a lot of work, but at the end of the day, it was nice to have a clean and organized space. Maybe end the day with a special meal and a great family night.  Home and family are great things to prioritize.

Having a day at home is great medicine for you and for your family. You may not be as lucky as me to have a free weekend “pop-up” on your calendar, but you can be intentional about blocking off a day or an entire weekend. It will require some intentionality and saying “no” to some good things, but it will all be worth it in the end.

Here’s to being at home again!

An Ordinary Wek

I am writing this blog post on Wednesday night, the night before it is to be posted. My original plan was to share an article that I had saved quite a while ago, but just got around to reading this week. When I went to find for the article online, it apparently is so old that it is not longer available. I am sitting in my recliner thinking about what I am going to share with you this week. Hmmmm. It’s been a pretty ordinary week.

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I read an interesting article today and it make me think about the next “step” in the process of baby steps. So far this year I have been thinking about and taking just the next baby step. Life has been crazy busy and that is all I could handle. That is ok, in fact that is great and better than no steps at all, but this article suggested thinking about and planning out the next two or three baby steps. I realize I cannot do this in all areas of my life, but I think I am going to start to try this in at least one area that I am trying to move forward in. I will let you know how it goes.

I have been trying to read more articles this week. The articles I am reading are focused around one of the areas that I want to grow and do great things in the future. Monday morning I read one and today I read one. It has not been a huge thing, but it is more than what I had been doing, and they have really enhanced my week. I am going to try to keep it up.

I have spent time with some great people. Sunday I spent the day with my parents, sister and her family. I have taken some nice evening walks with my husband, John. Tonight I had dinner eating some yummy ribs with a dear friend, and I have more great times with great people planned for the rest of my week. Oh, and I can’t forget my cuddle time with my puppy.

I also have to share that I was quite cranky Monday and Tuesday of this week. I don’t want you to think that my life is all rainbows and bunnies. I did not have a good attitude for a few days.

I guess my point to this blog post is to let you see that I live a pretty ordinary life, but I still plan to do extraordinary things. I try to keep learning. I keep taking baby steps. I spend time with great people. I even get cranky. Whatever you want to do in life, no matter how ordinary it might look, be proud of it and go for it. Be true to who you are, be kind to yourself, and keep going!

I hope you have a great rest of the week! Good or bad, we will keep plugging away, right? Here’s to living our BEST ordinary life!  

P.S. An amazing lady named Beth takes time each week to edit my blog posts. Since I am writing this the night before, she will not be able to do her magic on my post. Sorry for any spelling or grammar mistakes, and thank you Beth for always making me look good and for making my weekly blog post a positive experience for everyone. I plan to be back on track next week, but Beth has heard that many times from me before. : )