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Mom Guilt: What It Is & How You Can Beat It!

Mom Guilt: What It Is & How You Can Beat It!

Mom guilt has haunted me since I first became a mom 9 years ago.  My daughter made her appearance mid-semester of an intense nursing program.  I had been nervous about the impending birth since the positive pregnancy test.  It wasn’t necessarily the birth itself I feared, it was not graduating from the program.  Nursing programs have strict attendance policies (for good reason!) and I was terrified that I would miss time and be forced to drop out.  To make matters worse, I lived an hour away from the school I was attending.  This meant two hours tacked onto each class or clinical day.  Two hours of essentially non-productive time spent away from my daughter.

Mom guilt, fueled by a lack of sleep, school stress, and the pressures of adjusting to being a mom, elevated daily.  I had been driven to build this career long before her birth but it now seemed a selfish use of my time.  Wouldn’t she be better off with me constantly tending to her every need?  How many moments with her would I miss while learning to care for complete strangers?  What was the point of putting myself through the torture of the commute, school, and clinicals?  Would it really pay off in the end?

Mom guilt is real and crippling.  It is an insidious negativity which clouds your thinking and steals your joy.  For many moms, guilt is at the root of anxiety, feelings of overwhelm, and depression.  Even worse, feelings of guilt can drive behaviors such as addiction and perfectionism in an attempt to relieve the discomfort they cause.  But what causes mom guilt?  And more importantly, what can you do about it?  This post explores both topics and gives you actionable steps to take in healing from mom guilt.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

Cause #1: Role Juggling

Wife, mom, employee, chief cook, home organizer, family coordinator and the list goes on.  And on and on and on … indefinitely.  Moms today juggle SO MANY ROLES.  Each role comes with its own set of responsibilities and challenges.  There’s simply no way to give your all within each individual role without impacting the others.  Conflict between the roles is inevitable. 

And then there are the expectations.  Everyone has an opinion about expectations related to the various roles you hold.  Your employer expects you to produce quality work.  Maybe your husband expects you to cook supper every night.  And your children expect help with their homework every night. 

You might also enjoy reading How to Find More Time in Your Day.

You also have expectations of yourself.  Expectations which hold your performance in all these roles to a certain standard.  The expectations you have for yourself can be heavily impacted by the expectations of others.  And in many cases, all these expectations are not rooted in reality and are completely unattainable.  The gap between expectation and reality is only worsened by the next cause, social media.

Cause #2: Social Media

Take a minute to look through your favorite social media feed.  Chances are, you will see flawless selfies, free of blemishes or wardrobe malfunctions.  Smiling kids and laughing babies.  Married couples smiling as they enjoy yet another date night free from conflict and petty arguments.  In short, you will see perfection.

But social media is not reality.  Behind those photos are filters, fighting kids, and the same expectation conflict you face on a daily basis.  We are all waging the same war between who we are and who we think we should be.  It’s just that this side of ourselves is often conflicted and not as pretty as any of our other sides.  This side never gets posted.

The constant exposure to everyone else’s “perfection” adds to the already unrealistic expectations you hold for yourself.  If left unresolved, all this pressure eventually leads to guilt.  It seems as if everywhere you look, moms are crushing it.  They’re packing organic lunches, volunteering for field trips, and taking strong positions against screen time for their kids.  Their home-based businesses are thriving and they’re vacationing multiple times a year.  Meanwhile, you’re left trying to remember whether you washed your hair this morning and arriving late to work.  AGAIN.  Social media leads directly into the next cause, comparison.

Cause #3: Comparison

Seeing perfection wherever you turn naturally leads you to stop and examine your own life. And let’s face it … being a mom is hard! It’s not as if we are magically handed parenting instructions at the birth of our babies. I had never even changed a diaper prior to the birth of my daughter. There were so many aspects of being a new mom that I felt completely unprepared to face. Not to mention the fact that all of those personal struggles you feel which are totally separate from being a mom are still there. You’ve now just added more uncertainty to the existing pile.

You might also enjoy reading 4 Steps to Ditching the Comparison Mindset.

Uncertainty piles on top of uncertainty and you soon find it difficult to be sure of anything anymore. Influenced by the expectations, opinions, and false perfection of all the other moms out there, you begin to question EVERYTHING. Your choice to continue working, how your kids spend their free time, your relationship with your spouse, and even your ability to take time for yourself.

Given the influences of social media and the comparison factor, it’s no wonder mom guilt is such a pervasive issue today. But what can you do about it?

Mom Guilt Solution #1: Self-Care

The first step in kicking mom guilt to the curb is self-care. You NEED to make time for yourself. I know what you’re thinking. Your schedule is packed as it is. If you’re anything like me, your plate is already brimming with tasks from the break of dawn through well after dark. How can you possibly add something else to the mix?

I get it. Your gigantic “to-do” list seems way more pressing than taking an hour out of your day to workout. Work was crazy busy today and you’re exhausted. The kids need help with homework and dinner is in an hour. Taking time for you feels selfish in the face of all that needs to be done. Will taking time out for you really make a difference?

Absolutely! Taking time out for yourself on a daily basis will change your outlook. It will boost your mood, give you confidence, and improve your ability to deal with stress. Taking the time you need reminds you of the person you are deep down inside. It revives the woman you were before anyone called you “mom.”

Although the concepts are the same, self-care looks a little bit different for everyone. We all benefit from a relatively balanced diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep at night. But the piece that really sparks life and meaning for me is following my passions. Remembering to include time for activities which are meaningful to me makes me a better mom. When I have time to pursue these pastimes, I am calmer, more self-assured, and can face the stress of the day. In fact, identifying meaning in what you do is so important that it’s the next solution for combatting mom guilt.

Mom Guilt Solution #2: Find the Meaning

Our tendency to juggle so much as moms leads us to hone in on only those aspects of a situation which need to be fixed. If we focused on every single detail of every situation, our minds would explode. Although our brains like the automation, focusing on the negative naturally tends to block out the positive. After awhile, this can impact your entire mindset.

But there are simple ways to flip the guilt into useful energy. The first is by becoming aware of your thoughts. Often mom guilt manifests itself as intensely vague feelings disguised as anxiety, fatigue, feelings of overwhelm, and depressed mood. It’s only when you take the time to clearly identify and work through these feelings that you can begin to heal.

Journaling can be incredibly helpful in getting the vague thoughts and negative feelings out of your head. The act of writing them on paper and seeing them in black and white adds a dose of reality that attempting to process in your head simply can’t. Incorporating a daily practice of journaling either right away in the morning or before bed allows your brain to release the negativity.

Journaling can also help you to begin identifying negative thought patterns, themes, and triggers. After seeing your thoughts on the page, look for the influences of comparison and unrealistic expectations. At this point, ask yourself whether there is any truth behind the source of guilt. Once you’ve identified the answer, flip it to the positive. Here’s an example illustrating the technique.

After my daughter was born, I struggled with the decision to continue the pursuit of nursing. It felt selfish and caused intensely negative feelings which clouded all my thoughts and significantly impacted my joy. I fixated on the amount of time I was away from my daughter as a negative and refused to acknowledge any possible benefits.

The truth of the situation is that although I was required to spend time away from her, I was also pursing a meaningful career. It’s simply not realistic to think that you can spend every waking moment from now through eternity with your child. Role modeling the importance of pursuing goals, making a contribution to society, and the value of an income are incredibly important. In this situation, focusing on the meaning of what I was doing eventually helped me overcome the vague mom guilt which tried to creep in.

You might also enjoy reading Find Your Why.

I love journaling because it’s an individualized activity. It’s time for you to work through the core of whatever is triggering mom guilt for you. Keep in mind that mom guilt triggers are incredibly variable from mom to mom. An incredibly strong trigger for one mom might not even phase another. This is because moms and families in general are unique. This brings us to the next solution.

Mom Guilt Solution #3: Do You

No one else in this world has had the experiences you’ve had. There isn’t a mom on this earth who has the child(ren) you do. Is it then realistic to think that what works for one mom is reasonable or acceptable for you?

There are obviously many common themes to parenting and the ability to check in with other moms who have had similar experiences. But at the end of the day, you have the ability to take in the information and make the best possible decision given what’s in front of you. What works for one mom may not work for you.

Let go of comparison. Stop the social media scrolling. Remember all those unique things which make you and your family special. Revel in those. Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. Make the best possible decisions you can make and don’t worry about the rest. Always look for ways to be better but give yourself grace in the process. Know that you are doing your best and simply let go of the rest!

Goodbye Mom Guilt!

As long as there have been moms, mom guilt has been a very real thing. We have been given a huge gift in our children but this comes with responsibility. It’s not something to be taken lightly. But we must also remember to enjoy the gift. Laugh, love, and find the joy. Stop fixating on the negatives. Although all moms experience some degree of mom guilt, it is possible to not only overcome it, but turn it into something useful. Besides journaling and becoming mindful of your thoughts, here are a few more actionable tips in transforming your thinking.

  • Find other moms you can relate to. It’s really important to have support in your journey. Parenting is so hard! Chances are, there are moms out there who are just like you who can provide encouragement, laughter, and boost your mood.
  • Find a counselor you feel comfortable talking with. Counseling is incredibly helpful because it provides an outside perspective on your inner world. Sometimes we get too tied up in our own thinking and are unable to see the other side. Family and friends often have their own perspectives and expectations of you. They generally mean well but are therefore unable to provide unbiased opinions on your inner world. A counselor can help you sort through your mom guilt in ways other people can’t. If you are struggling with anxiety and depression rooted in mom guilt, please reach out to someone. You don’t have to struggle alone!
  • Journal about your feelings on a regular basis. It’s important to get your negative feelings out but it’s equally helpful to look for what’s going well. Where are the areas you are excelling? What are you proud of? Where are you growing? Keep these positive thoughts at the forefront so you have a bank to draw from when your thoughts trend toward the negative.
  • Take time to pursue activities which are meaningful for you. If you’re not sure what that is, try something new. Sign up for a class. Read a book. Get into a Facebook group about a topic which interests you. Life is about getting out there and trying new things. Becoming a mom doesn’t take away your right to continue growing as a woman!
  • Stop the mindless social media scrolling! Social media can add value to your life but only if you’re mindful about how you’re using it and the impact it has on your outlook.

If you’re looking for even more advice on how to overcome negativities in your mindset and outlook, check out this book. It’s full of motivation and inspiration encouraging you to overcome whatever is holding you back! There simply aren’t enough words to describe the impact this book had on my own life and my ability to re-frame mom guilt. It’s a life changer!

I hope you’ve found this post helpful on your journey toward leaving mom guilt in the past. The truth is that all moms struggle with guilt at certain points but what matters is what you do with the struggle. You can let it overwhelm you or you can reach out and get help. There are ways to turn it around but you have to make the choice.

I’d love to hear about your experience with mom guilt! Do you have helpful tips and tricks on reversing the negativity? Comment below with your thoughts on this post. Now go out there and be the awesome woman and mom I know you are!

Break Out of Your Routine with These 70 Ideas

Break Out of Your Routine with These 70 Ideas

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” This timeless quote by Eleanor Roosevelt dares you to embrace adventure! Adventure is great if you’re Captain Jack Sparrow but what if you’re a mom just trying to make it through the day? Is there any benefit in embracing this mantra? And if so, how do you break out of your routine enough to enact it in your everyday life?

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

Mom Life is a Circus

If my roles as a wife and busy mom who works full-time have taught me anything, it’s that life is crazy! On most days, keeping up feels completely impossible. It’s almost as if I’m juggling 7 balls while trying to hula-hoop and jump rope simultaneously.

Needless to say, the circus act which is my life often transforms itself into anxiety and feeling overwhelmed. When these feelings take over, my natural tendency is to attempt balancing the anxiety of the chaos with routine. Routine feels safe. It adds an element of predictability which is otherwise difficult to find amidst the chaos of life.

Routine is my antidote to anxiety.

You may also enjoy reading Mom Guilt: What It Is & How You Can Beat It!

I often find myself equating something new or different with bad and scary simply because the outcome is unknown. Routine on the other hand tends to involve the same elements. Mixing the same elements time after time equals the same (or similar) outcomes. Routine = predictability.

Or at least that’s how it theoretically works in my mind. Logically, I know that life is unpredictable. We can never plan for all the possible unexpectedness we’re hit with on any given day. Nonetheless, routine continues to be my response to the constant change inevitable to life.

Consistency, Routines, & Success

Although there are drawbacks to being a routine-oriented person, there are also definite benefits. The biggest actually involves success. The truth is that success always requires effort. True success doesn’t happen overnight and has nothing to do with luck or chance. Consistent effort performed over time transforms itself into routine. Success is then built on the routines constructed from consistent effort. See how that works?

Consistency in small actions snowballs into bigger routines and eventually, huge successes.

Here’s an example of the consistency, routine, success cascade in action. Let’s say you want to get back into shape again after a long gym hiatus. You set a start date for your new goal. You’re committed to break out of your routine of skipping the gym. Obviously new running shoes and workout clothes are a necessity! As is the renewal of your long expired gym membership. Your schedule is crazy busy already but you decide that your gym time will be at 5 a.m.

You may also enjoy reading How to Find More Time in Your Day.

Your start date finally arrives and you roll out of bed at 5, tired but excited about your fitness goals. You get dressed and head out the door. The drive to the gym is a short one and after parking, you select the latest episode of your favorite podcast and walk inside.

As it’s been awhile since you last worked out, you’re hesitant at first. You soon hit your stride and motivated by your podcast, have a great workout. You’re feeling slightly more energized than before and feel proud that you were able to break out of your routine.

Although day one went well, you know that the journey doesn’t end here. Unfortunately, it will take more than one day to return to being able to easily run 3 miles or lift without feeling completely spent the next day.

When you initially begin chasing this goal, you will need to make the conscious choice to wake up and sweat. After a period of time however your conscious choice simply becomes something you do. Hitting the gym in the morning will start to feel automatic. It builds into a routine which eventually transforms your health.

If you are that person who thrives on routine, it can be much easier to transform an activity into another piece of your routine. But if you happen to be that person who tires easily of doing the same things day after day, you need to be much more creative in figuring out how to consistently incorporate something new.

Same Old, Same Old

Routines are such a theme for me that my day even begins with eating the same exact breakfast. To be honest, part of the reason why I eat the same thing is because then I don’t have to try to come up with something different. I go through periods where I struggle with meal planning for my family and my kids have eaten way more happy meals than I care to admit. As my kids generally prefer to eat breakfast at school, I definitely do not want to put the time and energy into planning something new for myself. After all, I have gradually adapted my breakfast over the years into the ultimate ratio of protein and carbs to keep me full until lunch. Why mess with something that works?

But could there actually be a benefit in figuring out how to break out of your routine?

Research suggests that our brains are wired to form routines because forming pathways of familiar behavior frees up space for processing other types of information. 

When considering it from this angle, it probably is a good thing that I eat the same exact breakfast because I have plenty of extraneous questions and information to process thrown at me by my kids prior to 7 a.m. every morning. 

“Mom!  Where are my library books?  More milk!  I don’t want to wear that!  Is it going to be warm enough to wear shorts?  But I don’t want to wear pants!  Did you sign my folder?  Can I have candy for breakfast?  My tablet isn’t working!  More milk! Fix my tablet!  I can’t find my library books!  But I don’t want to wear underwear!  More milk!”  All this in the span of about 15 seconds from all 3 of them simultaneously. 

My brain has clearly decided that in order to survive and get myself as well as 3 children out the door every morning, a certain amount of automation is necessary.

Break out of Your Routine to Avoid Feeling Stuck

Stubbornly clinging to routine is not always protective though, especially when it blocks us from growing and changing into new and better versions of ourselves. Routine can keep us stuck where we are and prevent us from growing and changing into new and better versions of ourselves. It can keep us stuck where we are and prevent us from meeting new people, exploring different interests, and leading awesomely fulfilling lives.

Routine feels safe and gives a false sense of control over our lives. I once read a statistic that most car accidents don’t occur on unfamiliar roadways but rather those that are only within a few mile radius of one’s house most likely because we let our guard down due to this false sense of security in the familiar.

Breaking out of routines helps prepare us for the unexpected in a way that the “same old same old” never will. Another bonus of leaving the familiar behind is that trying new things becomes easier and easier. I can tell you that since I’ve started actively looking for new experiences, especially those that scare me, it has become less and less scary to say yes.

Stepping outside routines also improves creativity because it challenges us to think in new and different ways. So how does one go about breaking away from their deeply ingrained routines and comfort zone? Surprisingly, it can start with only a few very small changes. You never know how the incredible ripple effect of trying something different may impact your outlook and life until you give it a try.

So go ahead and give something a try! There are 70 ideas below to spark your creativity. Some are big while others are small. A few can easily be incorporated into your daily routine while others are perfect for weekends. Most can also easily be accommodated adapted for kids. There are also plenty of ideas if you’re looking for fulfilling self care practices. Check it out now!

70 Ideas to Break Out of Your Routine

  1. Drive to work by a different route.
  2. Ask a friend you haven’t talked to in awhile to meet up for coffee or dinner.
  3. Take an art class.
  4. Read a book. If you’re looking for recommendations, here is a suspenseful read from one of my favorite authors. Here’s another one which has a completely unexpected twist at the end. And if you’re looking for a series, I wholeheartedly recommend this one. I had a seriously hard time putting it down!
  5. Start a blog.
  6. Try a restaurant you’ve never tried before.
  7. Spend an afternoon in the park.
  8. Go for a run in an area of town you’ve never been before.
  9. Get a group of friends together and sign up to play a sport you enjoy.
  10. Strike up a conversation with a neighbor you haven’t met before.
  11. Learn to play an instrument.
  12. Actually get your kids together for a play date with someone you’ve always talked about doing it with.
  13. Get involved in a small group at your church.
  14. Volunteer somewhere.
  15. Go for a bike ride.
  16. Make a quilt.
  17. Start a scrapbook.
  18. Bake cookies for your neighbors.
  19. Cook something completely different for dinner.
  20. Go to a concert.
  21. Try out for a play.
  22. Involve your kids in an activity you enjoyed as a kid.
  23. Make a smoothie.
  24. Take a yoga class.
  25. Plant a garden.
  26. Take your kids to a movie.
  27. Take a week-long break from Facebook and connect with your friends in person instead.
  28. Spend a day in a city you’ve never been to before.
  29. Start looking into your family history.
  30. Take a family trip to a county fair.
  31. Listen to a personal development podcast.
  32. Go for a train ride.
  33. Commit to shutting off all electronics and spending quality time with your family each day.
  34. Start a home-based business.
  35. Find a coach.
  36. Tell your family how much you love them.
  37. Pay for a stranger’s coffee.
  38. Support a friend’s home-based business.
  39. Plan, shop for, and cook a dinner with your family.
  40. Go for a jog with a friend.
  41. Hire a babysitter and have a date night with your spouse.
  42. Plan a vacation.
  43. Get a massage.
  44. Have a family game night.
  45. Call a family member you haven’t talked to in awhile.
  46. Take your family bowling.
  47. Go for a trail ride.
  48. Re-create your favorite coffee drink or restaurant meal at home.
  49. Take a nap.
  50. Find a personal trainer.
  51. Visit a museum.
  52. Go to a play.
  53. Start keeping a journal.
  54. Start your day by listing 3 things you’re thankful for.
  55. See a movie in theaters.
  56. Take a class about a topic or hobby that interests you.
  57. Try meditation.
  58. Find a new workout routine.
  59. Join a club.
  60. Make a craft with your kids.
  61. Do a puzzle.
  62. Drive around and look at Christmas lights.
  63. Come up with a family (or personal) mission statement.
  64. Paint that room in your house which has been begging for an up-do.
  65. Transform your hair with a completely new cut and/or color.
  66. Have your make-up professionally done for date night.
  67. Go through your closets and donate anything you haven’t worn in the past year.
  68. Plan out and cook a 3-course meal for your family.
  69. Look for opportunities to use your talents in a meaningful way.  Check out Top 3 Reasons Why You Need a Creative Side Gig.
  70. Sit down and color with your kids.

It’s Your Turn!

I hope this list has inspired you to try something new and break out of your routine!  Even small changes can have huge impacts on your outlook!  I am an introvert by nature and reaching out for new experiences has also encouraged me to open up and get to know others in ways that I have never done before.  As humans, we need the support and encouragement of others but cannot just sit around and wait for this to magically happen.  We need to take action toward building our own supportive tribe and growing as individuals otherwise we will forever remain where we currently are in life.  Now go out there, break out of your routine, and let me know how this article has impacted your life in the comments section below!

Identify Your Strengths to Improve Your Impact

Identify Your Strengths to Improve Your Impact

Wisconsin roads in the winter are a nightmare. Snow-covered ice means finding yourself spinning your wheels without going anywhere. Life can be exactly the same way. There are so many directions to take but which will make the greatest impact? Clarifying your direction starts with the ability to identify your strengths.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

“If you spend your life trying to be good at everything, you will never be great at anything.” – Tom Rath, author of Strengths Finder 2.0

Gain Clarity to Identify Your Strengths

The act of gaining clarity on ourselves is tough. This can be especially true when trying to identify your strengths. Maybe you feel constant conflict within yourself. You have a vague sense of your natural strengths but also feel misaligned. It’s almost as if lacking clear definition causes unspoken imbalances elsewhere in your life. You wonder why you feel like a square peg in a round hole.

It may seem counterintuitive but you simply can’t solely rely upon yourself to provide feedback. You need outside input to provide a more clear picture of yourself.

Ideally, this feedback comes from a trusted source; someone who has your best interests at heart. Someone who is insightful and motivating. The type of person who has a thorough understanding of the various types of strengths and their applications. Although you may be lucky enough to have such a person in your life, many people do not.

If you are one of the lucky ones, cherish this relationship. Chances are, you have both seen benefits from insight provided by the other. Use the StrengthsFinder 2.0 as a tool to help each other identify your strengths. Motivate each other to actually apply the information in your lives.

Building Upon Strength vs. Overcoming Weakness

Growing up in America, I have always been conditioned to believe that anyone is capable of accomplishing anything. All you need to do is put in the work and you will see the reward. There are countless movies and books highlighting the heroine whose only desire is to accomplish that one huge goal.

The heroine is the underdog who no one expects to win and must overcome almost insurmountable odds to accomplish her goal. In many cases, the heroine spends her time overcoming some type of weakness. The significant disadvantage interferes with her ability to earn the degree, win the match, or land that leading role.

But what if all this effort toward overcoming a weakness is a waste of energy? Wouldn’t it make more sense to start with an area of strength rather than attempting to overcome weakness?

Let’s Look at a Case Study

Take Elle Woods from the movie Legally Blonde. Throughout the movie, Elle’s passion for all things fashion and lifestyle is evident and she initially enrolls in a fashion merchandising program.

Unfortunately, her boyfriend dumps her and heads off to study law at Harvard.

Determined to win him back, she puts in an incredible amount of time, effort, and energy to earn a spot in the same Harvard program.

She flips her life upside down to pursue the ultimate goal of winning her boyfriend back. Elle does this while pursuing a degree polar opposite to the one she had initially enrolled in.

Elle successfully graduates from the program and realizes that her ex-boyfriend was actually a selfish jerk the whole time. Despite the ending, I have always been left wondering whether she truly was happy in her decision to become a lawyer.

I know what you’re thinking. The movie is typically known as a light-hearted comedy. Is there really a bigger message to take away from it? But hang with me for just a minute.

Although a degree in law is a distinguished and often lucrative career, is there a tiny part inside of her which wonders whether she made the best choice? Would she have been happier pursuing a degree more in line with her strengths and interests? Or whether she could have attained even greater heights?

Fashion was the crossroads of talent and passion for Elle. She put forth incredible effort to overcome her weaknesses in the pursuit of law. Just imagine how a career in fashion, an area of strength, could have blossomed! Imagine the impact you could have if you clearly identify your strengths!

Put a Name to the Strength

Prior to discovering the Strengths Finder 2.0, I had never taken the time to name my own strengths. I chased after various pursuits with only a vague sense of my strengths.

Chasing after anything and everything means you say “yes.” All the time. Lacking clear direction significantly contributes to anxiety and fear of missing out. After all, what if I say “no” to that one thing which could be the game changer? The result is feeling pulled in a million different directions without significant impact.

Have you ever stopped to think about what it takes to be truly great at something? Not just mediocre or moderately acceptable but absolutely outstanding in one particular area? Think Olympic athlete. Your favorite author. Rob Thomas (we can agree to disagree if he’s not your fav …).

The most talented people in the world are generally only known for one thing. It’s not typical for someone to be known as both an enthralling musician AND a captivating author.

Greatness requires hours upon hours of intense focus and a desire for growth. Depending upon the goal, tough decisions, sacrifices, and saying “no” to anything not in line with the ultimate goal are also required. As is correct identification of one’s initial talents and skills.

Using StrengthsFinder 2.0 to Identify Your Strengths

The need to correctly identify your strengths to improve your impact is clear. You may, however, be wondering how the StrengthsFinder 2.0 can help. This book contains a link for an online quiz which reveals your individualized strengths. Following the quiz, refer back to the book for insight on how to incorporate your strengths to increase your impact.

My personal experience with StrengthsFinder 2.0 began with a podcast. I was immediately intrigued and knew this had the potential to improve my impact and provide clarity to my direction.

After taking the assessment, I was shocked! The results put words to what I had always vaguely known about myself. I would compare the feeling to the satisfaction of finding a missing piece of a puzzle. You know it’s there. It’s distinctive shape fools you into thinking it will be an easy one to find. Hiding amidst the jungle of other pieces it just continues eluding you. You have almost convinced yourself that it’s missing; gone forever. Suddenly, you spot the piece and with satisfaction, tap it into place.

Take this opportunity to put another piece of your own puzzle into place.

If you’re not yet convinced about the need to identify your strengths, consider this. Think back to when you first learned to write. Most of us are naturally drawn to write with either the left or right hand. If you spent your time in line with your natural tendency, your attention could then shift to learning how to write letters. Eventually you can focus on the improvement of your handwriting. If, however, you spent your time fighting your natural instinct to be left-handed and attempted to switch to the right, all your time and energy would be spent forcing your hand to accept the role thrust upon it. It would take much more time and effort to get to the point of improving your handwriting.

It’s Time to Take Action

Unless you have taken time to shed light upon your strengths and weaknesses, you will have a vague sense of where you are naturally drawn. But in my experience, vague is completely useless. Vague gets us nowhere.

Be the heroine of your own life. Start with your strengths. Stop trying to overcome weakness. Think about how much farther ahead you will be simply by starting with areas in which you already excel. Stop being the square peg in the round hole.

Take this opportunity to learn more about who you are and what makes you amazing! Check out this post for inspiration on making decisions and this post for my best advice on how to stop caring what everyone else thinks. I truly hope that you find the StrengthsFinder 2.0 as life-changing as I did and would love to hear all about it in the comments below!

How To Find More Time in Your Day

How To Find More Time in Your Day

Do you ever wish there was an extra hour in the day? Think about all the amazing stuff you could accomplish in that extra time! What if I told you that the extra hour is real and that it’s actually possible to find even more time in your day?

I know what you’re thinking. Your gigantic daily “to-do” list is running through your head, reminding you that school pictures are today, your kindergartener is on the hook for snacks, and you have a dentist appointment at 4. I get it and I’m right there with you. Life is hectic! But if we don’t take the time to be intentional and do the things which bring the spark into our lives, what’s even the point?

Finding more time is a topic I have obsessed over basically since I first became a mom eight years ago but this preoccupation has intensified over the past three years, courtesy of the graduate nursing program I recently completed. Graduate school coursework on top of maintaining my role as a wife, being a mom to three littles, working, and trying to keep some shred of self-care was no small feat.

Despite the insanity, I learned to make each and every second of my day count. Sometimes finding more time is simply a matter of carefully evaluating whether time is effectively being used. A great place to begin is with time spent in the car. We do a fair amount of driving on the weekends and since my husband generally drives anyway, I began bringing my reading assignments with wherever we went. I was amazed at how much material I was able to cover this way.

And for those times when I was the driver? Podcasts and audible books nicely maximized my study time during those solo drives. I tried listening with my kids in the car but they loudly objected to hearing about the cardiac system and effective managment of heart failure. I can’t say that I really blame them.

Taking a closer look at my daily schedule also revealed chunks of time which were not being used effectively. I was shocked to realize just how much time was spent surfing social media once I began paying attention to how my time was being used. Opening the rabbit hole of Facebook or Pinterest only resulted in possibly hours of truly unproductive time which was no help when it came to finishing papers or preparing for exams so my time was better served staying off social media altogether.

I also began finding ways to make necessary household tasks both faster and easier. At times, a mindset shift was all that was needed. If I approached the task with an expectation that it would only take 2 minutes to do, it was much easier to actually accomplish it within that time frame than if I told myself it would take forever. There are so many times when I talk myself out of doing something because I tell myself that it will take FOREVER but if I approach it from the angle that it will ONLY take 5 minutes, it’s much easier to dive right in.

Shifting your mindset is incredibly helpful when you know there’s a task which needs to get done but you are procrastinating doing said task. I use this trick of telling myself that I only need to work for 15 minutes on the task but will put forth all my focus and energy into it for a brief period of time. Once 15 minutes goes by, I am always surprised at how much progress I have actually made. This trick sometimes works in sucking me into the task and on many occasions, I have finished the task in that one session. Shorter tasks can obviously be accomplished in less than 15 minutes but sometimes bigger projects are also completed sooner than expected with this technique.

And speaking of saving time … I recently tried the WalMart grocery pick-up app and it truly is a life saver! That store is such a time and energy suck for me so I truly appreciate the ability to simply choose my groceries on the app and they are ready to be picked up when it’s convenient for me. My only regret is that I didn’t try it sooner. It is an incredibly exhilerating feeling to know that I never have to step foot inside the store again!

An obvious place to find more time in one’s day is by getting up earlier. This one was a struggle for me when I started graduate school because I also had a 3 month old preemie who only slept about 3 hours at a stretch. He had a three week NICU stay and we never perfected breastfeeding so I was frantically trying to keep up an intense pumping schedule on top of everything else. Sleep was incredibly precious and elusive in those days!

Needless to say, getting up earlier than I absolutely had to was not an option at that time in my life. I definitely would not recommend trying to find more time by impacting your sleep cycle if you have an infant. You need sleep to survive. It’s one of those basic necessities. Get all the sleep you can and find other ways to prioritize your time if you are at that stage in your life.

Once my youngest started sleeping and I stopped pumping, I realized that I had a treasure trove of time in the hour before my kids awoke in the morning. I generally used this time to hit the gym because it actually gave me more energy for the day and I found that I slept better at night. Listening to motivational and inspirational podcasts during this time changed my mindset from negativity to one of positivity and personal accomplishment. I suddenly felt as if I had even more time to accomplish my personal goals and self-care tasks.

Regardless of the stage of motherhood you are in, I hope you found these suggestions helpful. Even despite these tactics and mindset shifts, I still have days where the hours tick by so quickly that it’s unbelievable and at the end of the day, I’m not even sure what I accomplished. Life is messy, chaotic, and hectic and on those days all you can do is be thankful for the time you’re given and do the best that you can do with what you have. I’m always looking for ways to be more mindful of my time and would love to hear your thoughts on how you manage the insanity that is life so please feel free to leave a comment below!

Music Memorization For Pianists

Music Memorization For Pianists

Can we talk shocking revelations for a minute? Despite studying piano from the age of 7, I had never memorized a single piece of music until college. Not “Hot Cross Buns” or “Jolly Old St. Nick.” Not even Beethoven’s Sonata Pathetique which I played at state solo and ensemble when I was in high school. No music memorization whatsoever for this gal.

In no way do I blame my beginning piano teacher for missing anything in my early musical education. I have always been very headstrong and I’m sure that I met attempts at encouraging music memorization with resistance. And I honestly did not take lessons seriously when I was younger. I loved to play and learn new music on the instrument! I never gave much thought to truly developing my skills or the incredible benefits that memorization brings to overall pianism. In fact, I had never considered a career in music until I entered college.

Check out this post to learn more about my musical journey.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

Sight Reading and Music Memorization

I am also a strong sight reader which often translates to less reliance on memorization. I could simply play the notes written on the page so there was no need to memorize. At the time, I saw no reason to go further in-depth into music memorization than that.

Flash forward to college and suddenly I was expected to memorize my pieces for periodic performances and evaluations every semester. When first confronted with this information, I had absolutely no idea where to even begin this seemingly monumental task. At one point, I vividly remember my professor handing me a sheet of paper with tips for memorization. Although some of the tips made sense, I still found the information disjointed and unclear.

Even after reviewing any information I could find on music memorization, I still had a ton of questions. “But how do I go about transferring the written notes on the page to technically accurate and emotionally compelling performances?” It all seemed so vague. I honestly felt that I would never excel at memorization because in all my 18 years, I had never before done it. Surely it was too late to learn now.

Challenges with Music Memorization

Somehow I pulled myself through my degree, painfully memorizing as required. Despite fulfilling the requirements of the degree, I never fully grasped the bigger picture of memorization. Memorization enables learning a piece to the point where it truly becomes a part of you. In those days, I relied heavily on muscle memory. As discussed below, this is a technique which often fails when in the midst of a high pressure performance situation. At the time, I had no understanding of the different types of memorization. I also had no understanding of how different types of memorization work together to truly solidify memory and strengthen performance. Even though I eventually succeeded at memorization, it remained a task which I despised and I never felt as if I truly mastered it.

After my college graduation, I continued to freelance as a church organist. I also accompanied for everything from high school choirs to singers and instrumentalists competing in solo & ensemble. Accompanying doesn’t require music memorization and as my life became busier, I put it on the back burner.

Benefits of Music Memorization

About a year ago, I decided to once again expand my solo pianistic skills. I absolutely love pieces from the Romantic period, especially composers such as Frederic Chopin and Sergei Rachmaninoff! I therefore focused on these pieces. After all, what’s the point of learning a piece if you’re not absolutely in love with it? Check out this post for a piece which steals my heart every time! As beautiful as I find these pieces, they are incredibly difficult. In most cases, memorization is required to deliver a performance worthy of their distinction.

Once again faced with the prospect of music memorization, I began searching for any information I could find on memorization. My ultimate goal was to facilitate more solid music memorization and therefore better performance.

First things first … let’s talk about different types of memory.

Muscle Memory

Repetition leads to muscle memory. Creating muscle memory requires a great deal of time and many repetitions. Our brains are constantly looking for ways to automate activities in order to use as little energy as possible. Muscle memory is a great example of automation in action and was the type I solely relied upon in college. Unfortunately, this also resulted in my very tenuous grasp on performance.

Automation does allow for increased attention to the other aspects of creating music however there are also drawbacks. This is especially true if this is your sole form of memorization. The biggest is that if anything impedes your muscle memory during a performance, you’re stuck. If you have no other forms of memory, picking up again with only muscle memory is incredibly difficult. It can be nearly impossible to resume where the slip occurred and continue on as if nothing happened. Unfortunately this is also the least secure type of memorization. It is the first type of memorization to vanish under pressure.

Visual Memory

Looking at information creates visual memories. It is this type which allows you to hear a word and form a picture in your mind.

Visual memory is similar to muscle memory in that it is subject to high rates of recall error. This type of memory is also especially prone to errors in the face of contradiction. Imagine you’re playing through a section of a memorized piece. Suddenly, you question whether the melody travels up to the C or C#. Doubt begins to creep in. You then make a note error two entire measures prior to the note in question. Unless you have a photographic memory, it is nearly impossible to use strictly this type of memorization. Despite the drawbacks, visual memory can be a useful type of music memorization in combination with the other types.

Auditory Memory

Auditory memory is similar to the other three types in that it relates to one of our senses. In this case, it is the sense of hearing rather than those of touch or vision.

This type of memory allows you to recall the piece even when you are not actually playing it. Auditory memory also enables you to anticipate your sound prior to even playing a note. Developing this type of memory is an incredibly useful skill beyond its function in memorization. It does, however, require time and a great deal of practice. Having a solid auditory memory of a piece in conjunction with the kinesthetic and visual aspects solidifies your memory. It is also extremely helpful when engaging the next type of memory, analysis.

Analysis

Although music theory is not always the most engaging subject, it provides an excellent foundation for creating memory through analysis. Knowledge of key signatures, harmonic structures, and cadences can all be helpful beyond passing a music theory test. It can help with memory of a piece through enabling you to improvise a section if your memory does falter.

The ability to find your way through a memory slip contributes in a huge way to confidence on stage. Take just a minute to think about the different types of memory we have discussed. Consider approaching a performance guided only by your finger memory of thousands of repetitions. But suddenly, a baby in the audience starts crying. How would you know where to start up again once distraction strikes? The same can be said of memorizing music strictly through vision. With analysis to back you up, you have the confidence of knowing you could improvise through any potential slip-ups!

Let’s Get Started!

Combining various aspects of each of the four types of memorization creates solid memories of the piece. It also facilitates better performances. Below, I outline the process I use to create solid memorization of a piece. If you’re new to music memorization, start with an easy piece below your current playing level. Memorization can be challenging! Take this opportunity to become proficient in memorization by downgrading the difficulty of the piece.

Your first task is to analyze the piece starting with form. Chunk the piece into sections and determine whether any of the sections are repeats. Do key signatures or time signatures vary through the sections? What about tempo? Does the piece remain in the same tempo throughout or does it have contrasting tempos? How should dynamics you shape dynamics? Spend some time analyzing the harmonic structure as this will make memorization easier.

Engage your auditory memory by listening to the piece several times and write down the emotions it evokes. Dig into the history of the piece to determine the deeper meaning behind its composition. Was it composed for someone in particular? Or perhaps to commemorate an occasion? Are there political undercurrents? What was happening in the composer’s life at the time? Consider the historical context in which the piece was composed. All these details can work together to enhance your understanding of the piece. This information later transforms your performance from mediocre to memorable.

Break it Down to Small Sections

Once you’ve analyzed the various aspects of the piece, it’s time to choose where to focus your memorization efforts first. I typically pick out the most challenging part of the piece to focus on first. You may decide to start at the beginning or even the end. The key to memorization is only attempting memorization of small pieces of information at a time. When first starting out and depending upon the difficulty of the piece, this may only be a note or two. Break the entire piece into smaller chunks of between 2-8 measures and work to memorize each individually. Memorization solidifies over a period of time. Attempting to shove too much in your brain in a short time period only results in a jumbled mess.

I simply cannot over-emphasize the importance of attempting to memorize only small sections per day. The other alternative is to work in short time increments repeatedly throughout the day. The most important concept is to allow your brain to rest in between sessions. If you don’t, your hard work will be for nothing. Your brain will simply jam the information into a jumbled mess instead of creating usable memory.

The Temptation to Read vs. Memorize

If you are the pianist who sight reads well, this is where the challenge really begins. I struggle so much with memorization because my tendency is always to read the notes written on the page. Producing the notes on the piano without written notes in front of you requires different thinking. You therefore have to employ different tactics to bring forth a completely new type of thought process.

When I first began memorizing again, I had to put the music I was memorizing away from the piano. It’s otherwise too tempting for me not to look at! This tactic forced me to visually remember the note pattern to play it. It otherwise forces me to get up and look at it. And let’s face it … we all have a slightly lazy side which prefers to continue sitting whenever possible! While looking at the notes you are memorizing, try to hear in your mind how this will sound. When you go back to the instrument, focus in on how the part sounds. Continue to visualize the notes while you play so you can further solidify your memorization.

Life Hacks Useful for Music Memorization

Track your memorization progress by putting check marks behind each measure as your memorize. When you have tough practice sessions, look back at all the progress you have made. This will motivate you to continue making progress!

Never under-estimate the importance of sleep on your brain’s ability to assimilate this information into your working memory. Memorization is an incredibly active process which requires your full attention. It will therefore be infinitely more difficult if you are not well rested.

In line with this is choosing a time of day when you are most alert. As a working mom of three, I can’t always practice during my ideal times. If you also find yourself in this boat, be patient. Lower your expectations about how long this process will take you. You’re juggling so much right now! Does it really matter whether it takes one month or five to memorize that piece you love so much? The only thing that really matters is that you keep making progess in your goals.

And speaking of making progress … I’m always looking for other great resources on the topic of musicianship to propel me forward. I stumbled across this book a few years ago and have taken an incredible amount of knowledge away from it! From practice tips to performance anxiety to musician wellness, there’s a wealth of information to be gained in it!

Memorization is a skill much like learning to play an instrument. The more you do it, the better you become at it. When you do it correctly, the reward is elevation to a level of musicianship not otherwise attainable. It also comes with a sense of pride in that you are accomplishing something which is meaningful and fulfilling.

Now get out there and start memorizing something! Drop a comment below on what you’re working on and whether you have also struggled with memorization. I’d also love to hear whether you have your own tips and tricks on memorizing!

Top 3 Reasons Why You Need a Creative Side Gig

Top 3 Reasons Why You Need a Creative Side Gig

Side gigs have always intrigued me. They represent another side of you, a side which may not be immediately apparent to others. An opportunity to break away from the person you are for 40+ hours each week.

Don’t get me wrong. My 9 to 5 is great (most of the time anyway!) but it does not completely fulfill my desire to contribute. Sometimes we have a tendency to be so completely wrapped up into our identity at work that we forget we are actually so much more. I believe that everyone has been given a creative gift of some sort and whether that is painting, crafting, or singing, there are opportunities everywhere to turn your creativity into a side gig. Although there are arguably dozens of reasons why you need to pursue a creative side gig, this post outlines my top 3.

1. Creative side hustles make you a more well-rounded person. Sure. You may be great at accounting, being a nurse, or writing contracts. But what about that tiny voice inside reminding you that you used to be really great at ____ (you fill in the blank here with whatever creative activity applies to you)? Remember the feeling you got when you pursued that activity? And how about the extra skills which came along with it? Wouldn’t it be great to hone in those skills again? Along with creativity comes a host of important aptitudes such as ingenuity, problem-solving, and perseverance which may actually benefit you during your work day.

Despite my current day job as a nurse practitioner, my first course of study was actually a liberal arts degree in music. People often give me funny looks when I tell them my background because it seems worlds apart from where I am today however I have always valued the lessons taken from my first degree. Music taught me to never give up on something you think about every day because it adds purpose and value to your life.

Through the course of this degree, I also learned that you get out of life what you put into it. If you work dilligently and with focus, you will see positive results. Lastly, when gauging progress, you can only make comparisons to yourself. Everyone has been given completely different skills sets but only you can sift through to figure out how to optimize your individual gifts. Comparison to others is useless and only serves to discourage you from your individual progress. These are incredibly valuable lessons which are beneficial regardless of the path I ultimately chose.

2. Doing something completely different pushes you outside your comfort zone and inspires growth. When was the last time you said “goodbye” to your comfort zone? Was it last week when you took a cooking class? Last summer when you signed up to run your first half marathon? Or maybe it was ten years ago when you took a yoga class?

You will never make progress or grow as a person by continuing to do the same old thing day in and day out. Growth requires challenge of some sort. You have to be vulnerable, put yourself out there, and possibly even experience failure to become a new and better version of yourself. Even if you didn’t feel exhilerated or even moderately intrigued by the activity, at least you tried it and perhaps realized that it actually wasn’t your jam. Congratulations … You are now that much closer to finding your actual creative outlet!

3. Who doesn’t love extra income? There are opportunities everywhere to collect a paycheck for everything from knitting cute baby outfits to being the bassist in a band and playing local bars every Friday night. Maybe you’re an amazing violinist and also excel at teaching others. Check into offering violin lessons to others who want to learn. People out there are looking for your specific type of creativity and are willing to shell out for it. Don’t keep them in suspense any longer!

I hope this post has gotten you thinking about the possibilities out there. Maybe you already have a creative pursuit in mind or maybe you still have no idea what that would even entail. Either way, take a few moments to clarify what your next action step toward pursuing creativity would involve. Granted, my time is valuable as it is divided among being a wife, mom of three, and working full-time, however freelancing as a pianist and organist makes it so much more fulfilling and meaningful. It’s truly the icing on top of the cake!

Do you have a creative side gig? If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

4 Steps to Ditching the Comparison Mindset

4 Steps to Ditching the Comparison Mindset

“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.” -Zen Shin

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

It was Friday night. My hubby and I were doing our typical but very sophisticated Friday night thing. I was attired in the very latest of fall fashions with hair and make-up perfectly done while my husband was similarly decked out. Minus the hair and make-up, of course. We were headed to one of our favorite top-notch hang-outs downtown for wine and live music but had just enough time to stop and snap a pic commemorating yet another highly successful date night.

Just kidding. We were actually lounging on the couch, he attired in athletic shorts and I in my favorite pajamas which unfortunately happen to have a gigantic hole in the crotch. Some type of sports ball was playing in the background and he turned to show me a Facebook pic. A married couple we know was doing exactly what I described in the first paragraph and the thoughts started rolling through my mind.

“They always look so happy. I bet they never bicker about household chores or the kids. And they are always dressed like they walked out of a fashion magazine shoot. We’ll never be as happy or as successful as they are.”

Social media is a double-edged sword. One side facilitates communication with friends and family. But the other side displays everyone else’s highlights and greatest accomplishments for all to see. And I am as excited as the next person to see professional family photos, job promotions, and brand new baby photos but sometimes my mind goes to a dark place of comparison.

Suddenly everything that I’m doing (or not doing) somehow seems inferior and everybody else is having all the fun. Everyone else is prettier or more successful or has their lives way more put together than I do. Surely no one else forgets school picture day. No one else can possibly forget parent teacher conferences or to send a snack for the kindergarten class. Those pictures of one isolated moment don’t only reflect perfection in that moment but also in all areas of life.

Inevitably this line of thinking then brings me to comparison and ultimately, scarcity. As if there are only limited amounts of beauty, organization, or love in the world and I am definitely missing out because my Facebook feed doesn’t highlight lovely photoshopped versions of myself and my family doing artsy, sophisticated hobbies. There cannot possibly be enough love or beauty to go around for everyone and especially not for someone who has no idea how to capture a decent selfie.

Have you ever caught yourself in this same trap of negativity? It starts innocently enough with five minutes of scrolling here and then ten there. Suddenly, you realize an hour has gone by and you’re feeling anxious and depressed with no idea why.

In my own life, I’ve reached the conclusion that comparison sucks the joy right out of living. Not only that but thoughts that resources such as success or admiration or even hard work are limited and only bestowed upon a very select few people are closely tied with thoughts of comparison. The entire package is a devastating blow to positive progress in your life if you’re not aware of the insidious nature of these thoughts or how they’re tied together.

Comparison leads directly into scarcity because the very nature of competition implies multiple people going after the same thing. Only one person goes home with the trophy. We are all driven by competition to various degrees and therefore it is a natural progression of our minds to see other people’s success and almost subconsciously reach the conclusion that we will never attain that level of success because that person already went home with that trophy. There isn’t room on the Olympic podium of life for more than one person to have success in a particular aspect of life.

But the truth lies in the fact that there is no finite amount of success, love, beauty, or talent in the world. These qualities are out there in such abundant amounts that they can never be used up. Furthermore, one person’s beauty in no way diminishes your own beauty. We have all been given a specific set of interests, talents, and abilities to share with the world. The only fair and valid competition is that which exists between the person we are right now and the person we either used to be or the person we are evolving into.

Just as there are infinite amounts of the incredible qualities which make life worth living, so too is the truth that you are on a completely different journey than anyone else. No one on this earth has had the exact same life experiences, setbacks, influences, or education that you have. No one else in the world is faced with the same questions and decisions about which path to choose. You are unique and beautiful and deserve to free yourself from the self-defeating mindsets of comparison and scarcity.

Challenge yourself to grow in the areas which are important to you and minimize comparison and scarcity by taking action on the 4 steps listed below:

  • Spend time reflecting upon where you have been, where you are now, and where you want to go
  • Set goals which are measureable and have clear action steps
  • Periodically check your progress toward those goals
  • Celebrate your successes and learn from your mistakes

Having a clear sense of your own goals, priorities, and successes makes celebrating the accomplishments of others easier because you have outlined a road map for your own life. You know where you’re going and how far you’ve come. You embrace celebrating your own achievements as well as the knowledge which comes from missteps. It’s incredibly easy to be sucked down the rabbit hole of comparison and suddenly lose focus of all your own progress but you have something to share with the world and although it may be vastly different than what others are doing, it has value. Don’t let your progress be stalled by competition and scarcity.

Only by celebrating your achievements and maintaining a mindset of abundance can you truly ward off the trail of negativity which can be precipitated by mindless scrolling. Start being mindful of how you feel when spending time on social media and take steps to alter these behaviors if you find it puts you in a negative space. As the saying goes, “Ain’t no one got time for that.”

If you find yourself struggling with the flip side of comparison, which is fear of what others think of you, check out my previous post about freeing yourself from the opinions of others. It can be a tough mindset to change but absolutely crucial for a happier and more joyful life. And if this post hit home for you and you’re ready to take an even deeper dive into mindset, click the image below for more information on one of my favorite inspirational books by down to earth, tell it how it is Rachel Hollis.

Never forget that you have value in simply who you are as a person regardless of your profession, accomplishments, or talents. You are amazing!

I’d love to hear about the impact this post had on your mindset! Leave a comment below with new revelations or ways you plan to implement this into your daily life.

Living with Intention: The Busy Mom Version

Living with Intention: The Busy Mom Version

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

Have you ever been initially intrigued with an idea only to find out that it actually didn’t fit into your life as advertised? One example from my own life is the Bacon Express. I dislike cooking bacon and therefore never make it but my husband is obsessed with it. To clarify … he is obsessed with the eating part, not the cooking part.

This past summer we were walking through a store when my husband spotted the Bacon Express, a device which advertised the cooking of bacon as mere child’s play. Since it was on clearance, we took the plunge and brought it home. We used the Bacon Express a couple of times before we became disenchanted with this product advertised to make our lives easier.

Our first issue was how long it took to cook an entire package of bacon. The device was so small that you could only fit about 5 pieces on at a time, a highly inefficient feature when trying to cook for a family of 5. Our second issue related to its cleaning. One had to practically dissemble the entire device to clean it, which wasn’t necessarily the issue. The challenge arose when I realized that I clearly lacked the engineering degree required to re-assemble this thing. Highly disappointing.

A similar experience occurred when I became interested in living with intention. The idea is that you essentially take a long, hard look at your life, figure out your values, and re-align your activities based upon those values. Intentional living captivated me because it facilitates an alternative goal setting method and I’m a sucker for anything and everything related to goals. Once I became aware of the concept, I set out to uncover how I might incorporate living with intention into my own life.

Although some of the advice I found was helpful, some of it was clearly not adapted for a busy working mom of three kiddos. Ideally, I would love all the time in the world to sit and brainstorm about my values and how to adapt my activities to reflect said values. But let’s be real. I work 40+ hours a week and have primary responsibility of the housework. Quiet reflection time is almost non-existent in my world.

Becoming a mom comes with a whole package of things no one really wants to do but nonetheless, must be done anyway. Who really wants months of sleepless nights, loads upon loads of more dirty laundry than a small army could ever produce, or hours of whining and crying from a small being with so many of your own best and worst traits? No one wants that.

And yet, we endure these unpleasantries because any negatives are vastly outweighed by the gift of caring for and raising our babies. It’s true that we sacrifice so much but they also give abuntantly in return. This is the struggle in balancing all that comes with motherhood with pursuing your own goals and this is the spirit in which I present my advice to other busy moms looking to live with intention.

I know you also have goals. Whether they are personal, relational, or professional, goals inspire growth and come in all shapes and sizes. Spend actual quality time with your kids. Plan weekly date nights with your husband. Drink water. Read a book instead of watching Netflix. Get more sleep at night. Take up a new hobby. Try a cycling class. Cook dinner instead of eating out. Any one of these activities has the potential to improve your life but if you’re anything like me, the days fly by and keeping up with everything you’re already doing feels impossible. How can you possibly add one more goal, no matter how small, to your already packed schedule?

1) Take a careful look at what you’re already doing right now. If you are currently raising little ones, making sudden, sweeping changes to your lifestyle is most likely not feasible. But you can find tiny pockets of time here and there to spark larger change. Is there anything on your daily schedule which isn’t serving you? Although you may not be thrilled with your job right now, what small steps can you take to make an alternate one a reality? Or maybe you find yourself with more screen time than you care to admit. Do you feel energized and engaged after spending all that time interacting on social media? Or could you find a more productive use for your time?

Some parts of your daily routine may not necessarily be your first choice in how your time is spent but are important to the stage of life you are in. This is one of the ones I struggle with because I have all these goals and a constant feeling that there is never enough time in the day. Meanwhile, my time is sucked up by housework, driving kids to and from various activities, and grocery shopping. Hardly inspirational.

But then I remind myself that this is a season of life. Seasons don’t last forever and although they are very necessary aspects of raising kids, there are always ways to free up time here and there. Remember … you’re looking for tiny pockets of time and not hours upon hours. Grocery pick-up apps are everywhere now and are a complete timesaver! There are cleaning services out there which will come and clean your house while you’re at work. Consider carpooling with other trusted parents to and from sports and other activities.

2) Plan ahead and budget your free time carefully. You may only get a few minutes of quiet time here and there but plan this out in advance so you know exactly what you should be doing with that time. In my own life, I have found that a paper planner is the best way to stay on track with my goals. I searched high and low to find the planner that I currently have and absolutely love it because it provides space for monthly goal planning including the ability to highlight my top priority for that month. Each day of the week has space to write a daily goal as well and I use this to come up with daily motivational messages for myself.

Intention always precedes accomplishment. Think about it. When was the last time you accidentally cleaned the bathroom? Or ran 3 miles? What about that time you just kinda sorta earned a degree. Or how about the time you unintentionally ended up at the movies with your hubby on a Saturday afternoon? Ok, maybe that one could actually be unintentional but the desire to strengthen your relationship through quality time together is most definitely intentional. Accomplishing a goal, no matter how small, must always start with the intention to do so and putting it down in black and white makes prioritization much easier. Click the picture below to check out the planner which smoothly incorporates intention into your already crazy schedule!

3) Seek accountability in becoming more intentional about your goal. About a year ago, I decided that I wanted to become better about learning new piano repertoire. My practice habits in the past were terrible and I had never been great about consistent practice. It was always hours of sporadic practice here and there which never amounted to true progress.

I knew that if I wanted to improve, I would need accountability so I began searching for ways to make myself accountable. It was then that I stumbled upon an app which logged your practice time and counted up consecutive days of practice for you. This app changed my practice habits and I became obsessed with daily practice because I loved seeing the consecutive day count go up. Even if I only had 5 minutes a day, it didn’t matter because it still counted.

Find accountability for yourself in accomplishing your goal. Accountability will keep you honest and will inspire you to take action even on those long days when the work never seems to end and everybody wants more from you than you have to give. It may be a tracking app, a friend, or your spouse but find whatever makes the most sense for what motivates you and get moving on putting this into place

I get it. Change, even if it’s the best possible change, is hard. But what about that nagging voice inside reminding you of your goal to run the half marathon this fall? Or the one reminding you about how accomplished you feel after making a homemade meal for your family? What about that stack of personal development books you ordered last fall but never got around to reading? And the memories of those date nights in your pre-kid days? Wouldn’t it be amazing to bring that magic back again?

Living with intention is a powerful technique to hone into what matters to you and then going after it with everything you have inside. Without intention, a goal is simply a wish. A pipe dream which will never come to fruition. It is a road map for previously uncharted territory. When you lack intention, you are dragged in a million different directions and are unsure whether any of them are what you actually want. I sincerely hope that these 3 actionable tips for incorporating intention into your daily living are helpful and inspire you to chase after your goals even as you chase after your babies!

Elegie in Eb Minor

Elegie in Eb Minor

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Pianos are my jam! I am a total piano nerd and there’s nothing that excites me more than reading about pianos, looking at pianos, and playing pianos. Although I’m a sucker for any music involving the instrument, my interest lies espeically in the classical piano repertoire.

I am so passionate about bringing these pieces to life and pianos in general that I am devoting a section of Only Getting Better to this very topic. You can expect regular posts about a variety of piano-related subjects and updates on what I’ve been working on.

The very first piece I’d like to introduce you to is by my all-time favorite composer, Sergei Rachmaninoff. The piece is Elegie in Eb Minor, Op. 3 No. 1. An elegie is a somber piece often considered to be a lament for either a tragic event or a death. Rachmaninoff composed the Elegie in Eb Minor in 1892 at the age of 19 and it is one of five pieces published under Opus 3, another of which being his infamous Prelude in C# Minor.

Rachmaninoff is known for keeping his life extremely private and in the biography Sergei Rachmaninoff: A Lifetime in Music written by Sergei Bertensson and Jay Leyda, a quote by his daughter sums this up: “I remember well how he once said to someone in my presence that words are useless for such a purpose – that all he felt and experienced was told far better, more clearly and truthfully in his compositions, and also found expression in his playing.” The Elegie is certainly a hauntingly beautiful expression of intense emotion. Click the link below and I hope you enjoy my performance of one of my favorite pieces within the piano repertoire!

https://akbradley.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/elegie-in-eb-minor.mp4

Find Your Why

Find Your Why

Decisions. You are hit with a million of them every day. Some are straightforward but others are fraught with challenge and seemingly impossible solution.

“What’s for supper tonight?”

“Which daycare will provide the best experience for my kids?”

“Can I see myself building a life with this person?”

“What do I really want to be when I grow up?”

Regardless of the question, it seems that everyone around you has an opinion about your decision. Chances are, your kids won’t be thrilled about your decision to make broccoli cheese soup and ham sandwiches for supper. Your in-laws may feel that the new daycare location is too far from their house. Although you can clearly picture a fantastic future with the person you’re dating, your sister loudly objects to basically everything about them. Every single person in your life asks how you will possibly make money with your chosen college major.

Sound familiar? Teaching your kids to expand their palate is an area of resistance that if you’ve been a parent for any length of time, I’m guessing you expected. Despite their protests, your decision to proceed with the dinner of your choice is completely unswayed. But what about your sister’s protests about your dating choices? Or the career field you choose to devote your passion, time, and energy into? How do you navigate decisions with larger ramifications without feeling like you’re settling or giving up a piece of yourself in the process?

My previous post outlined the impact opinions can have on your self-esteem but the other piece of the equation is having a solid foundation in your “why.” In other words, you need to spend time clarifying the motivation behind a particular decision. If you don’t have a grasp on the “why” behind your decisions, it is much easier to doubt yourself and give in to the endless array of opinions.

Keep in mind that not every decision is worth putting the extra time, effort, and energy into clarifying. Reserve your brain power for decisions which may cause controversy and inner doubt. The very biggest decisions which have the power to propel your life in one direction or another. Decisions such as whether to confront your fears and chase after your biggest dreams or live with the regret of not trying.

And my advice for the other decisions? Those smaller ones which truly have no bearing on who you are or your goals? Practice letting them go. For example … you’ve been working all day and are completely physically and emotionally exhausted. Dinnertime is right around the corner and the hamburger you bought at the beginning of the week has gone bad. Stopping at the grocery store at this point in your day would push you over the edge of whatever remaining sanity you have.

Takeout. Mac & cheese. Spaghettios. Whatever your go-to quick fix dinner which requires no crazy 5 pm grocery store lines entails. Unless of course you are one of those people who finds relaxation in the act of grocery shopping. Then by all means, shop away. Or maybe you revel in the opportunity to concoct a meal from a random assortment of pantry items. Whatever your jam, this type of decision will have no bearing on your life five minutes after finishing your meal so do yourself a favor and make the decision which fits best into your evening.

But when faced with a potentially life-altering decision, you’re going to need a better “why” than justifying takout after a long, hard day. You’re going to need a “why” which motivates you during the tough times and inspires confidence under even the toughest scrutiny. Figuring out your “why” up-front fills in gaps about the overall importance of this decision to you personally, useful information when faced with confrontation.

Spend time reflecting upon not only the decision but also your own core values. What are the qualities you feel are integral to making you, you? Will this decision violate your core values? Self-reflection looks different for everybody. Maybe it involves journaling. Or maybe you think better during your morning commute. I do some of my best thinking on the treadmill before anyone else in my house is even awake. Give yourself the space and time to truly dig into the pros and cons of the decision you’re facing and to determine your feelings on the subject.

Figure out the motivation behind your decision. Is your decision motivated by passion, love, and a deeper sense of purpose? Or is it motivated by insecurity, self-doubt, and a complete lack of confidence in the existence of other options? If your motivations are the former, I’m willing to bet that you’ve reached a solid decision with a strong “why.” If, on the other hand, you feel your motivations are out of self-doubt and insecurity, it’s time to re-examine the “why” to ensure it actually serves you and the person you aspire to be.

Decisions are never easy. At the end of the day, not everyone in your life will agree with your decisions. But if you have put in the time to thoughtfully consider the various aspects of the decision, your own core values, and the motivations behind them, you can rest assured that you have arrived at an airtight “why” which will serve you when the going gets tough.