Real Talk Thursdays: when quitting is okay

I am a quitter. In fact, I just quit another job, the third job I’ve quit in fifteen months. I quit running and hiking this year. I quit committing to social activities that I didn’t want to go to. I even quit wearing mascara every day. That’s a lot of quitting. And you know what? Today, I’m here to say that quitting is not always a bad thing.

There’s a lot of negative connotation around being a quitter. Quitters are lazy and lack perseverance. Quitters don’t get as far. Quitters have a fixed mindset. As humans we like to categorize things.  Something can’t be both good and bad, and therefore we’ve determined quitting is bad.  I’m not saying quitting is always a good thing, but I do believe there are times when quitting might just be the best possible thing for you to do.

Here’s my incomplete and rough-around-the-edges list of when quitting might actually be the best thing you’ve ever done:

1. When what you’re doing is getting in the way of what you really want to do (this applies at work and outside of work)

2. When the only reason you’re not doing what you really want to do is because you’re afraid

3. When the only reason you’re doing what you’re doing is because you feel like you have to, are supposed to or should be.

4. When sticking with whatever you’re doing is causing you more harm or good

5. When your heart is telling you that quitting is 100% the right choice…even if some people around you don’t understand it.

Join me in proudly declaring that you are also sometimes a quitter. Join me in being compassionate with yourself when you’re a quitter in a situation  where it’s truly the best option. Quitting isn’t (always) synonymous with giving up, with lacking perseverance, or with being a good-for-nothing bum.  Also, join me in agreeing that sometimes, when it’s the right thing to do, quitting just feels pretty f’ing fantastic.

Three cheers for being the occasional quitter!

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Monday Musings: when you don’t want to write

There are days when I’m bombarded with ideas for this little space, when I will write multiple posts in a day and actually feel good about them.  And then there other days, days when I can barely generate an idea worthy of a paragraph let alone a whole blog post. If I had to categorize today, it would definitely fall into the latter.

A million (I exaggerate, but you get my point) people have written about writer’s block, how to work through it, how to stick with the process even if you don’t want to. Those topics have been covered, and I have nothing remotely illuminating to add to the discussion. You don’t need to hear one more person tell you that when you don’t want to write, you should just keep writing.  Not only that, I don’t for one second believe anyone comes here to get tips on writing.

Not wanting to write is really just like not wanting to do anything else. Sometimes at work I don’t want to work. I don’t want to design a new workshop. I don’t want to go to that meeting with the obnoxious person from [insert team name here]. I don’t want to reply to that slightly passive aggressive email with a diplomatic response.

Sometimes at home I don’t want to do my laundry, or wash the dishes, or make my breakfast or lunch or dinner, or clean the bathroom (which right now is in desperate need of a cleaning), or make my bed, or sweep up the alarming number of dust bunnies that are multiplying in every corner of my home, or start to pack up stuff for our next move, or do anything at all other than curl up on the couch and watch Friends on Netflix even though I’ve seen every episode at least ten times.

Sometimes at the gym, I don’t want to add more weights to my back squats. I don’t want to hop on the treadmill for running intervals.  I don’t want to suffer through negative pull ups. I don’t want to do one more goddamned push up. And I sure as hell don’t want to risk yet another injury relapse with an improperly executed dead lift.

So yeah, there’s a lot of things I don’t want to do. And yet I mostly do all of these things, sometimes well and sometimes just well enough to say they’re done. I’m guessing I’m not alone on any of this. We all balance our moments of sheer brilliance and get-‘er-done-ness with our moments of utter laziness.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that sometimes we just need to cut ourselves some slack. We aren’t always going to want to do everything on our to-do lists and that’s okay. You never know, maybe if you just cut yourself some slack you’ll still get some of your work done (but not all of it), you’ll still get in a decent workout (but not quite good enough to justify that piece of cake), and you might even knock out a 500 word blog post when you had no idea what to write about (but it’s just not your best).

Monday Musings: 4 weeks to go

Ever since we bought our place in Vernon, it’s seemed like something so incredibly distant.  We bought back in July knowing that our place wouldn’t be ready until January at the earliest.  That seemed a lifetime away. Even as we sold our old place and moved into a rental in October, January still seemed like a million years away. Then our possession date got pushed back to March and I really started to feel like we were never going to make our move. Long story long, it’s never felt like our move was coming any time soon.

Now we suddenly find ourselves just four weeks away from a scheduled possession date. That’s four weeks to get our place packed and reorganized, get everything organized to move into our new home and, most importantly, to say goodbye to the people and place that have been our network and home for the vast majority of our adult lives. As we start to make lists of things to do and people to see, and slot those people in to dates, it’s clear that there’s really not much time left at all.

I’m generally pretty pragmatic about such things in life. I’ve moved a lot, left people behind a lot, managed the logistics of big moves more times than I want to remember. There’s steps to be taken and things to be done.  In some ways it’s old hat to me, but what never gets familiar is that sinking feeling when you realize: right…things are actually going to change in a really big way. 

A move to a new city shakes up all the comfortable, routine patterns of your life. It’s little things, like your local grocery store, the place you go to get a bottle of wine when you realize you’re out of wine, where you find the best coffee, who makes the best donuts, or where you go when you want an ultra satisfying dinner out.  But it’s also the big things, like being able to call up a friend and see her at the drop of a hat, like realizing the Sunday family dinners (which, ironically, were mostly hosted on Saturdays) that you used to have monthly are at risk of never happening again or at very least will require some serious logistical masterminding, like realizing we’ll have no family closer than a four hour drive away from us, like absolutely everything being new and different, even if only a little bit.

Don’t mistake this as second-guessing our decision to move. I couldn’t be more excited to go. I’m excited for the potential positive impacts to our lifestyle and to our careers, and incredibly excited to be so dangerously close to all of the wine. But one can be excited for the future while still experiencing a feeling of heavy loss for all the good I’ll leave behind, of which there is a lot.  Amidst the excitement of leaving, and all the waiting and having it feel like it took forever to get to moving day, I carry a bit of that heaviness and grief with me every single day. And I know that feeling of loss will continue to grow over the coming weeks as I start to realize that every time I see friends or places I love, it’s one visit closer to not seeing them in person as often.

In some sense, it is beautiful, this conflict between excitement and sadness. It tells me that this place and its people matter to me and that I need to make sure that I stay connected even if at a distance. It tells me that, even though I am leaving, there is a lot of potential to expand the people and places I love once we (finally!) get to Vernon.

Monday Musings: on trial by fire

I have a love/hate relationship with trial by fire. My reptilian brain sounds alarm bells at the thought of being thrown into the deep end without a life preserver. My experience, however, tells me that when I’m thrown in the deep end I actually tend to learn the most and the most quickly. Not only that, they’re the times when I’ve been forced to come up against and change some deeply held beliefs about myself.

The thing with trial by fire is that it forces you to figure something out quickly. The alarm bells are fleeting because you simply don’t have the luxury of time to slowly think through your options and extensively weigh out the best way to respond.  You’ve got to figure it out. Right now. And then you have to come to terms with the choices you made in that moment.  More often than not, my game time decisions are just as good, if not better, than ones I’ve agonized over.

I am a homeowner, a designer, a career coach, a facilitator, and a strength training enthusiast, all because of trial by fire. I was thrown into all of these roles thinking ‘that’s not me’ but by virtue of being forced to disprove myself, I have come to realize that these things are all very much me. Sometimes trial by fire is the fastest route to seeing new possibilities in ourselves. But it’s not the only route.

Ultimately I’m starting to see that trial by fire is actually just about trusting my gut in moments that require immediate action because the answers and ideas are already there. I’ve been working with a coach lately who flies against my conception of conventional coaches–which I love–and the more I work with her, the more I’m seeing a powerful pattern: when I’m forced to do something, I find a way. Even when it’s uncomfortable, even when it goes against what I believe to be true about myself, even when I think I have no idea how to do it, I will get it done.

While I like to tell myself that I need time to think things through and  to process information before making big decisions I’ve also noticed that the more time and space I have to think about things, the more likely I am to experience immobilizing anxiety and fear.  The end result: I’m stuck in the same place with the exact same story. And the pattern repeats.

As I’ve been digging into this pattern, I’ve realized I’ve spent years asking myself the wrong question. I’ve been asking myself how can I light a fire under my ass to replicate the trial by fire feeling as a means of forcing me to challenge my stories.  What I really needed to be asking myself is how I can question my stories and trust my gut in the calm of comfort. All along, I have been missing the fact that I would be better served to rewrite my story out of want rather than necessity.  I don’t need external pressure or the replication of external pressure to get stuff done. I need to quiet the noise, open my heart and listen.

Onward and upward I go.

Monday Musings: on ending 2017 and moving into 2018

Happy new year everyone! I hope you all had as wild and crazy a new year’s eve as we had over here, and by wild I mean barely making it to midnight and spending most of the evening attempting to complete an infuriating puzzle that claimed to be for ages 6+. I want to know who these 6 year old puzzle wizards are, because we are 38 and the struggle was real. Visual-spatial perception is so not my jam.

Alas, that is not the point of today’s post. Today is New Year’s Day, which likely means no one is reading this. For many, like me, today is the last day of holiday vacation glory and tomorrow signals the return to work. Ugh. But before that, it’s always fun to take a look back at 2017. I mean, where did the year go? I had more career low points than I’ve ever had in one year, which were thankfully balanced out by many high points in my personal life.  My injury continued to plague me, but the upside is that I’ve finally (I think) wrapped my head around my new definition of fitness. In other words, 2017 had a lot of ups and downs for me, which mostly balanced out in favour of the good.

If I had to describe 2017 in three words, they would be: change on steroids. I moved to the suburbs, started a new job, quit that job, took four glorious months off of work, sold a house, bought a house, started another job, moved into a temporary rental, contemplated quitting the new job many (many) times, recognized that the new job is serving its purpose right now, and completely revamped my approach to fitness.  I’m exhausted just reading that.  And that’s just it, although there was a lot of good in 2017, I can also say that it was a tiring year. Change is tiring.

What I’m about to say is probably going to sound contradictory. Even though 2018 will be another year of big changes, I’m super excited for it. Bear with me on that one. Yes, I just said change is tiring, so why would I want more of it? Well that’s the weird thing about change. Whether change is good or bad, it’s equally tiring to me.  But at least the changes on the horizon are ones that I’m excited about. So bring on the change, 2018. I’m ready for ya!

Mid-Week Tangent: how the other half lives

I’d like you to imagine a world in which you roll up to the airport a mere 15 minutes before your flight, and in which you walk straight through a quiet and empty terminal without any thought to removing liquids and laptops and shoes and belts, boarding the plane with only a cheerful introduction from the pilot (with a handshake to boot). It sounds like a fantasy world, doesn’t it? But my friends, this world exists, but only, and this is an important only, for the other half.

This week, I took my first and likely only trip on a private jet. In a word it was brilliant, and such a stark contrast to commercial aviation.  I would include a picture of the magical vessel, but realized that the picture I took might give away the company I work for. Suffice it to say, if this is how the other half lives, perhaps I should have worked about 1000 times harder in my career.

At first I thought I was super fortunate to step foot onto the corporate jet. As a relative peon in the corporate machine, I have no business being there. I am merely fortunate that my role occasionally requires attending meetings with senior executives, and sometimes those senior executives don’t have time to dilly dally with commercial air travel when those meetings occur in Minnesota. I now realize that there was nothing lucky about this experience because from this point forward I will be plagued by the memory of idyllic private jet travel whenever I suffer through commercial air travel’s laundry list of unpleasantries, such as:

–arriving at the airport 1-2 hours before my scheduled flight time, forced to kill time surrounded by screaming children, loud talkers and seat hoggers. Did you catch that earlier when I said you can arrive 15 minutes for a private jet? Even for an international flight. 

–suffering the indignity of airport security with its rules and formalities and tiny liquids bottles stowed only in regulation-sized, clear plastic bags, and hand swabs and pat downs.  You better bet you can carry liquids of any size on a private jet. Family-sized shampoo? Go for it!

–rushing to fit in one more visit to the bathroom before boarding time because you know that it’s not worth it to take a chance on the washrooms on board. Guys, do you know how big the washrooms are on private jets? I could turn around without hitting a wall or sink or toilet. I mean, I could’ve done a full lunge in there. And we had a real towel to dry our hands on. Contemplate that level of civility for a moment.

–jockeying for position during pre-boarding by corralling myself into the appropriate zone like some of sort of cruel caste system.  How can I forget being personally greeted by the pilot as I waltzed onto the plane without line nor formality?

–needlessly turning my phone onto airplane mode, stowing my bags under my seat, or putting my laptop away during take off or landing. Imagine the liberation of having your purse casually tossed on the couch directly adjacent to your chair (yes, as in a standalone chair).

–snacking on nothing but a tiny bag of pretzels and some club soda instead of a custom-ordered meal eaten with actual cutlery and cloth napkin. Ugh.

–walking through multiple and seemingly endless wings of gates to find your way to customs only to be greeted by an agent I’ll tactfully describe as no fun, who will ask you a million questions in a way only customs agents can (i.e. the way that inspires total anxiety even when you have done nothing wrong). I didn’t even have to leave my cushy, on-board chair to clear customs. They came to me, and I didn’t have to answer a single, damn question. A simple glance at each passport sufficed. That’s the sign of power and wealth which, to be clear, I had only by association in that moment.

I’m sorry if I’ve just ruined commercial aviation for you, especially as we near the holiday season when chances are you, like me, will be hopping aboard a plane with the masses, crammed into a middle seat between a crying baby and chatty Cathy. It wasn’t my intention. I just needed to open your eyes to a world of air travel beyond what you and I are likely to experience and, yes, it is every bit as incredible as it sounds.

Monday Musings: putting the time in

Today’s post is really just a thought, but one that’s been nagging at me this week as I continue to drag my feet on putting any real time into my career exploration.

I wouldn’t expect to get better at anything without practicing or putting the time into it. I don’t expect my golf game to get better this Winter as I hide from the rain and cold (i.e. binge-watch Netflix) instead of hitting the greens. I don’t expect my running to get better any time soon given that I’m doing no more than running isolated laps in between sets of plyometrics. I don’t expect a book to read itself; I know I have to sit with it and digest page after page of the written word.

I also know full well that career exploration takes time. I was a career counsellor for years and I work in career development. The first thing I tell anyone who asks “what should I be doing?” or “how do I develop in my career?” is that there is no replacement for putting the time into really defining what matters to you, your financial goals, what you’re good at, etc. etc. etc. It is not quick work and it can also be very challenging work, but it’s work that only the person can do for herself.

Still, I seem to be sitting here more days than not expecting an answer to magically fall from the sky of an alternate universe where one doesn’t need to put in the time. It is hurting no one but myself, of course, and yet that is arguably the worst person to hurt. There is no replacement for putting in the time. I’m talking to myself when I say ‘repeat after me: there is no replacement for putting in the time.’