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“The best thing for being sad is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails.” ~ Merlin to young King Arthur in T.H. White‘s novel “The Once and Future King.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been in a funk. Feeling down, reevaluating what I want from life, and basically trying to remember what I’m passionate about. Not one to sit around for long, I took this blog and starting writing, and researching, trying to learn something and finding ways to put me in a more positive frame of reference so I could continue on my creative and personal journey, and figure out “what I wanted to be when I grew up.” So I believe it is no coincidence that when I needed it most I decided to open Olympic Gold Medalists Nikki Stone‘s book “When Turtles Fly” and start reading, not really knowing what awaited me inside …

On May 1, I will be featuring Nikki in a new monthly series on my blog Renaissance Moms. Since I plan to focus my interview with Nikki on her success as a mom, business woman, aerial skier and more, I don’t know how much of that interview will focus directly on the actual book (thought I definitely will touch on it), so I thought I would dedicate some time to the “When Turtles Fly” on the pages of my blog by documenting my journey through its 276 pages.

The book is broken into seven main sections: passion, focus, commitment, overcoming adversities, confidence, risk, teamwork/support. Each section is filled with stories of accomplished athletes, businessmen/women, philanthropist and more, followed by an exercise for the reader courtesy of Ms. Nikki Stone.

PASSION

“If you don’t develop a passion for what you do, you won’t be able to vault any of the other hurdles (in your life).” ~ Nikki Stone

According to Nikki, that passion I’ve been looking for comes from one’s “soft inside.” In order to find my passion I’ll have to dig deep inside to that soft, mushy, stuff within, and remember what it is I love!

As I immersed myself in the stories of Lindsay Vonn, Chet Huber, Johann Koss, Michael Lynch, and William “Bing” Gordon, I became inspired by their passions for skiing, driver safety, speed skating and philanthropy, the Olympics, and Electronic Arts. I began to feel the fire within reignite as I scrolled through my list of lifetime passions in my mind, and became excited to continue reading.

Do things you hate first

The first task I encountered was to come up with a list of five things I didn’t like to do, and tackle those tasks before 11 a.m. Being the procrastinator that I am, there was plenty to add to that list, but I focused on five:

1. Exercising: I love being fit, I hate doing what it takes to get there because starting again after being so athletic in my youth is the hard.

2. Beginning/completing my writing assignment surrounding my young adult novel: I think the fear of possible writer’s block is resulting in creating the block itself.

3. Laundry: In a family of five it accumulates fast, and I detest the chore, especially the folding and putting away.

4. Grocery shopping: I’m not a fan of any type of shopping so I put this off for as long as can, and then my meals for dinner often fall short, because I lack the necessary ingredients to create something new.

5. Cooking dinner: I love cooking, I hate figuring out what’s for dinner. If I have the groceries I need, then planning dinners can be easy and I can get them started in the a.m. so I’m not dreading the 4 p.m. “stop everything” time of day to figure it all out.

I began implementing some of these changes yesterday, and taking Nikki’s suggestion to do what I hate first. Dinner was planned and meat was marinating by 10 a.m. I still didn’t grocery shop, but I did get my Easter shopping done which is always left for the last minute. I began my blog, but realizing that it’s something I love and can do at anytime of day or night, so I decided that I would write my blogs in the afternoon or evening from now on (and my readers will get the blog posts the next morning, probably earlier than they would usually). That leaves room to get my novel writing done in the morning, enjoy my coffee with my husband before he leaves for work, and then do the dreaded exercise thing afterward, with a new twist. I decided to mix it up a little too and involve Murph in the process, because I am passionate about him, so maybe working out with Murph would help make me passionate about getting fit! Laundry, well, it’ll get done when it get’s done.

Positive Thoughts

The next activity required some help so I had to wait for my husband to get home to help me. Nikki asked me to to look at my attitude and see how it was affecting my productivity, how it could affect my ability to tap into my passions.

The activity required me to hold my arms out to the side and think of something really depressing. That was easy with the death of my father-in-law and grandfather still pretty fresh. I threw the death of a couple of my beloved dogs in their for good measure and had Mark push my arms down while I tried to resist. They went down.

Next I had to do the activity again but only think of things that inspire me and bring me joy and happiness. Again, easy — our upcoming vacation, my kids, my husband, writing, the lake, Murphy, and the list went on. Mark pushed again, again my arms went down. I don’t think that was exactly the intention of the exercise, but I got the point:

Positive, happy, inspiring thoughts = more energy, more productivity, more passion, more success.

Negative, self-defeating, sad thoughts = giving up, no energy, no motivation, no passion, limited success.

Look at your acheivements

Next up, Nikki told me to look at my achievements and write down my top five. She said that many of those achievements would line up with the things I love. I thought about that for a while, and found that list came pretty easily, too:

  • Being a multiple time All-American and state-championship swimmer in college.
•  Having my children and being a mom.
•  Obtaining my LICSW, and working as private-practice psychotherapist.
•  Winning an honorable mention award for my short-story fiction in fourth-grade, and continuing to get compliments through middle school and high school for my writing.

And the winner is ...

•  Playing “Annie” in the school play in fourth grade (I also wrote the modified screenplay), and having the courage to try out for the school play my senior year in high school and getting a part. (I ended up leaving the play after my softball coach basically told me if I missed practice for the play I wouldn’t be able to be captain, a decision I have always regretted.)
•  Having the courage to begin again at 35 and apply for a job as a freelance writer at a newspaper, and getting it.
  • Moving up in that job fairly quickly to become a Special Sections editor, and then an Assistant editor.
  • Quitting my job at that same newspaper 4 1/2 years later to pursue other writing opportunities.
  • Beginning my blog.
  • Designing my son’s bedroom renovation, and seeing it come to fruition
  • Seeing my artwork displayed on my grandmothers apartment walls as a middle-schooler.
  • Graduating from college with a degree in Psychology and a minor in Creative Writing, and from a Masters Degree Program with a Masters in Social Work.
I know that’s more than five, but as I began to think of some of my most memorable accomplishments I realized that as far back as I could remember a lot of those accomplishments  involved my love of being creative — singing, writing, drawing, decorating. Others involved my love for children, helping others, and sports!

Nikki said that if you look closely at that list of accomplishments many of them will align with what you love, what you’re passionate about. And she was pretty right on!

Remember your childhood dreams

Looking at my list, I realized that many of my greatest accomplishments occurred when I was in fourth grade (I also mastered the Rubix cube that year). I believe a lot of that had to do with my teacher Miss Winters, because out of all my years in school I can still remember nearly everything we did in that classroom! We put on skits in Spanish. We had a Halloween “scavenger” hunt where you had to complete some task (some Halloween math sheets, a craft, write a Halloween-themed story, etc.) before you could move onto the next creepy location — a haunted forest, a graveyard, and other truly Halloween-y venues until you landed at the Haunted House at the end of the trail. So much fun!

We did book reports in front of our classmates, and we put on a full-scale musical of “Annie” that I had written on my grandmother’s old typewriter for fun while she and my parents played cards one night. Miss Winters worked with my on cleaning it up, and she included me in picking the cast. I wanted to cast my friend Michele as Annie, an obvious choice as her hair was red and she could sing as well as the rest of us, but Miss Winters insisted I give it a try. What an incredible teacher, and I believe she had a lot to do with helping to create my passion for writing that still exists today!

My childhood dreams consisted of writing and performing and being creative. For a while I also wanted to be an Olympic swimmer, but that passion was never as strong as my desire to be creative and write. I remember wanting to perform and sing so badly that I begged my parents to leave a swim meet in Rhode Island when I was 8 or 9 so I could go audition for “Annie” in New York City. That never happened, but I remember being so angry because I truly believed I could do it, and couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t just up and leave everything and swing on over to NYC. What would have happened if they had? What did I learn because it hadn’t?

I also wanted to be able to write like Dr. Seuss. I still know "Green Eggs and Ham" by heart!

 Reinvent yourself or change your routine

This whole blog has been about reinventing myself by finding exploring all aspects of my “real” self. I’ve been trying new things, and tapping into my passion for writing, and connecting with people, and I am loving every minute of it. I am so excited everyday to sit down in front of my laptop, and figure out what I am going to blog about that day. I am never at a loss for ideas, and I have never experienced writers block.

I continually change my routine, because I get bored with the same old, same old, and I think that is definitely a must-have component of whatever I decide to do with the rest of my life.

So armed with Nikki’s advice, I woke up this morning 5:30 a.m., hit the snooze for a while, but headed downstairs and browsed the Web for a while (procrastinator!), but I didn’t settle down and begin my first Chapter of my young adult novel with 461 words written pages by the time Mark joined me for coffee. Then I chatted a relaxed about our plans for the day, and sat down to complete this post. Now I’m off to exercise Murph, and myself, by hiking with a friend, and then onto benefiting from some more of Nikki’s wisdom in the pages of her book.

I wonder if I can keep this up. It seemed to work today, and I feel like I’ve accomplished so much already today and it’s only 8:15. That can’t be a bad thing at all!

Next up: FOCUS! Ugh … this should be interesting.

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