I don't usually cross-post between my websites, but I really want you to read this book. I think it has a lot to contribute to the internal conversation I've been having. Beginning with Sea Change, and continuing on (at varying intervals) through the "What's On My Mind" section. This was posted originally on my work blog:
This year, I’m giving all my girlfriends a copy of Marcus Buckingham’s book, Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently.
I first heard about this book from Danielle LaPorte. I had purchased a digital copy of Danielle’s Firestarter program for entrepreneurs, believing that the language of entrepreneurship is the most helpful approach for what professionals in the arts community “do.”
Before I pass any program on to clients, I try it out for myself. Without getting too touchy-feely, let me just say that I wasn’t really prepared for how deeply some of this reading would affect my own thinking. 2010 was a tough year. I cracked open the Firestarter sessions and Marcus Buckingham’s book in the middle of tough projects, tough family concerns, budget adjustments, and generally murky waters. I’m not healed, exactly, but I’m definitely Thinking. With a capital “T.”
Because Marcus Buckingham asked me a question that really hit home: “How can you design your life so that, week by week, it strengthens you?” You know this question in your heart. What we’re doing – straddling the chasm between work and what we really love – in high heels – is hard. Really hard. And chances are, no one really understands exactly how many compromises you make each day against your art, your health, or your soul in favor of making a living and taking care of others, or how much that drains your spirit.
Buckingham says, “You can’t do this…[you become] disconnected from the specifics of who [you] are, and what [you] need, and allow your lives to be led by other people’s wants. And just like that, they slide into a harmful life-pattern, a self-reinforcing downward spiral that is as devastating as it is commonplace.”
The concept of “balance” is useless, argues Buckingham. To pursue “balance” is to spend your life searching for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It’s never going to happen if you run a business and you’ve got a husband and kids. It’s a waste of time to even try for balance. It’s also the end product that all those other work/life self-help books seem to be selling.
The yellow-brick road is a path of attention. Pay attention to the moments that strengthen you in work and in life, and make the effort to create more of those strong moments. They’re all you get, so make as many as you possibly can.
To get there is a life task, and you’re going to have to figure out who you are, what drains you, what makes you stronger, and how you are allowing the expectations of others to shape your world. Then, Buckingham helps you sketch out a plan to imbalance your life toward your strengths.
It’s powerful stuff, because it’s all about finding (or rediscovering) YOUR truth. We’ve been raised to respect the judgments of parents, teachers, and friends about our abilities above our own self-assessment.
Other people’s expectations for you can be extraordinarily persuasive, and they can waste years of your life. I always thought I was a rebel, but I think I spent the first ten years of my career trying to be the person my mother thought I should be. (And no, it still didn’t make her happy with me.) In the end, my truth leaves me with just a few skills and a few choices – good ones – and if I’m paying attention to my truth, I’m freed from the burden of confusion about what to do next. I know who I am, I know who I love and what I love and that points me toward what I want to do.
“Look closely and you’ll see that only a very few choices actually honor your truth. These very few choices are the ones you must make. And when you make them, it will be with the confidence that you are being true to the truest part of you. Acceptance of who you are cures you of excess choice.” –Marcus Buckingham
Buy this book. There is a Kindle edition and a special chapter about husbands. And yes, Marcus Buckingham does tell you how to go about identifying your “strong” moments.
When you’re ready to talk about it – let me know.
Am I healed? Definitely not. I'm still the ball of anixety that I've always been. But I'm a little more sure of myself. A couple of people have asked about my approach and all I can tell you is that the first thing on my list this year was to, "Stop Being Thoughtful." It seems like such a horrible thing to say, but my love and loneliness for far away friends was crushing me. And, the fact that I spent $1100 on postage in 2009.
I still think about everyone from far away but I am a lot less likely to drive 11 miles to the UPS Store, photocopy the article, and drop it in the mail. I haven't mailed baked goods to anyone in months. I think when my [dementia-suffering] mother threw my Christmas wreath in the garbage - the one I thought would be fresh and pretty for Christmas and could hang on the door and cheer her up in the nursing home - I felt a lot better about this decision. I would send things, mostly not knowing if people want them or not, assuming they would react the way I do when I get personal mail - with *!joy!* But sometimes they really don't give a crap and they throw it in the garbage. So maybe not sending things is o.k.
Second on my healing list was to "Take the Medicine." My hormone problems have made me insulin resistant, something I [conceptually] struggle with because I am a relatively active person. I'm not a Person of Walmart, My doctor prescribed a low dose of Metformin a few years ago and after my oophrectomy, I decided to stop taking it. Long story short - not taking it just isn't going to work for me. This year I learned that to feel good and be healthy, I have to take this medicine. So I'm taking it, and eating the way I'm supposed to, and I do feel better.
Third, "Do What YOU Need to Do First." That means, I work at my business or find time to exercise whether or not I've got houseguests. Which I do, most of the time. I cannot afford to lose a week's salary every time people visit. Mike heads up to his office for the day and no one bats an eye. Or the time. I've spent countless hours waiting for people who couldn't tell me exactly what time they plan to arrive. This year, I've decided that I am not such an essential part of this picture that I can't step out for an hour and squeeze in some time for fitness. They can mix their own martinis and sit out on the deck until I get home.
Fourth, "Get Help." I hired a housekeeper for 12 hours a week. I don't always feel like its worth the money, and I don't like it when she's belting out hymns while I'm trying to work, but I know that I've spent a lot more time in the art studio and having fun with my family the last few months, and living without the feelings of bitterness and resentment make up for the money that is going out the door. I hired a personal trainer. One who is awesome, understanding about previous injuries, imaginative and flexible. Mary is all about finding ways for me to work out at home, by myself, with inexpensive equipment. Love her. Love her "hotel room" circuits for travel, love the TRX, love our phone calls.
The rest...I'm still thinking about and working on. What are you going to STOP doing in 2011?