The Antidote to Overwhelm

I may have bitten off more than I can chew.

I signed up for three different coaching programs that each demand their own Herculean effort to complete and for one month, October, they all overlap.

I certainly wouldn’t have planned it this way had I been in charge of the master plan.  But often times one thing leads to another and several doors fly open at once.

The seemingly innocent challenge I took up in January to write 500 words a day for 30 days set me up for a year of upping the ante. I figured if I could do that, I could do just about anything.  So I started doing stuff.

By showing up, being accountable, and being visible, brave new worlds have opened up to me. When the information is so valuable, so life-changing, so timely, it doesn’t make sense to wait until it all fits nicely into my schedule.  Such is the case with my coaching programs.

And here’s what I’ve discovered about overwhelm.  The antidote to overwhelm is not giving up, but engaging in something whole-heartedly, completely, passionately.  Right now I have to fire on all cylinders in order to keep up.  From what goes into my mouth to what comes out of it, I’m acutely aware of the impact on my energy level.

Although it’s easy to complain, the only thing I really have to do is prioritize. Daily. Hourly.  This means giving up bad tv and carbs and regularly working outside my comfort zone. It means going the extra quarter mile. It’s really not a bad trade considering what I’m getting in return.

It’s a bit paradoxical.  When I have no energy, the last thing I think about is adding more to the mix.  However, if I add an experience that is so compelling, so enticing that I am leaning towards it, it has the ability to energize all areas of my life.

My guess is you’ve had a similar experience.  If not, the next time you feel like throwing in the towel, try picking up a project instead.

Whether it be something as simple as challenging yourself to get more steps each day than the previous day for 7 days in a row or organizing your parent’s love letters or creating a guest blog post, see how your new interest infuses your day with enthusiasm, curiosity, and a sense of adventure.

Be sure to give yourself a time frame that pushes you out of your comfort zone but not over the edge. Knowing that the project will last “x” number of days or weeks adds the urgency that tends to dissipate when there is no due date.

It is also incredibly helpful to have someone to hold you accountable who might also be doing the same thing or has been there, done that, and is willing to coach you through it.  In my coaching programs I have either a team or peer coach to check in with and that has been invaluable.

Certainly there are things we must do for ourselves.  But there are many things we shouldn’t do without support.  We have the collective wisdom of the ages at our fingertips.  Accessing it has never been easier.  As Barbara Sher said, “Isolation is a dream killer.

In a few months I will be launching the online course (Read It & Leap! ) I am creating in one of my coaching programs.  In it I share several secrets about taking small leaps to move you into a life that is the antidote to overwhelm – an engaged, inspired, involved existence.

If you’d like to know more about it, email me with the word Leap! in the subject line and I will be sure to let you know when I roll it out.

In the meantime, I’d love for you to share your antidote to overwhelm in the comments below.

Live and Learn

When asked why I write, my answer is always the same.  I cannot not write.  Like eating or breathing, writing is essential to the way I metabolize life, the best way I know how to make sense of it.

I also love to read.  Reading has taken me places I could never get to on my own.  Reading makes me feel less alone, less quirky, less peculiar and more compassionate, more human, more adventurous.

Sometimes I read a line or passage so beautiful or eloquent it stays with me and shapes my entire day, month, even years.  Knowing that the right words at the right time have so much power, I couldn’t think of a better super power to have than wielding words.  Okay, an invisibility cloak would come in handy.  Especially after wielding the wrong words. 

Many years ago I read  Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg.  I was also reading The Artist Way by Julia Cameron.  These books became my bibles, turning my life upside down and setting my writing mission on fire.  Because both of these authors lived in or around Santa Fe and Taos, I decided I must live there as well.  Clearly, the muses gathered there.

Santa Fe is a creative mecca.  My love affair with the landscape and the culture and the people who find their way there makes it the home of my heart.  I did some major healing there and often pine after it the way one pines after the great love that got away.

But I also agonized over every aspect of my life there.  I struggled financially, I had my heart broken more times than I care to recount, and my career floundered.  I was determined to make my living as a writer but I was drawn more to the mountains than the blank page. Housesitting gave me a place to stay, but it didn’t provide a paycheck, insurance, or a benefits package beyond being young, healthy, single, and free to pursue whatever dream of happiness I could mortgage my future on.

But bills have a way of coming due and even detours eventually lead us back to the beaten path. I returned to the Midwest  and reinvented my writer’s life around a “real job” and a solid foundation that has allowed me the freedom to attend blogger conferences, pursue coaching certifications and online business schools, and occasionally take a trip back to my old stomping grounds or discover new ones.  

Last week Bob and I took a day trip to Madison and made a stop in Mt. Horeb, home of one of my favorite eating establishments, The Grumpy Troll and a one of a kind shopping experience at  The Duluth Trading Company.  We happened to walk by a bookstore and in the window was a new book by Natalie Goldberg called The True Secret of Writing.

As you might imagine, I love bookstores.  Quaint, locally owned corner bookstores are especially dear to my heart because they are so rare now.  So I made a beeline into the store, snatched the book out of the window, and told the owner how this writer changed my life and prompted a move to The Land of Enchantment.

He then shared with me how he moved from New England to Wisconsin and how content he has been living in the land of happy cows and cheese and trolls.  Mt. Horeb is overrun with trolls. As their website claims, it’s the troll capital of the world, right off the troll way.

Books create instant relationships, a safe gathering space for ideas to mingle.  The same can be said for movies, music, video games, weekly television series, or fantasy football leagues.  We’re all looking for a connection, a way to relate to each other on some common ground that might eventually lead us to the uncommon ground where we really get to know ourselves.

So this morning I was reading from The True Secret of Writing and just like when I read Writing Down the Bones, I was so moved by the words that I jumped out of bed and started writing.

This morning’s topic was determination and how we all hunger for certain things and how that hunger, that heat, that disturbance continues to pull us forward to become more of ourselves.  Honestly, the need for continuous quality improvement in my life often gets on my own nerves.  Enough, already.  I’m tired.

Then I got a glimpse of  Jake, our throw-the-ball, throw-the-ball, throw-the-baaaalllll brown lab, who relentlessly pursues whatever ball has not managed to end up in the Maquoketa River.  He is my determination role model.  I refuse to roll over and play dead.

As long as I’m here, I have work to do, words to write, universes to explore.  So I get up, get over myself, show up on the page, and practice writing.

 Writing allows me to make ideas real, dynamic, interesting.  It amazes me that I have lived this long and can still discover something mind blowing every day.  I just have to stay curious and open and engaged. Easier said than done.

So I’ll leave you with this excerpt from The True Secret of Writing.  May this help you stay connected with your desire to initiate whatever change you are longing to make whether it be sustaining a twelve pound weight loss or communicating honestly with your spouse or children or coworkers or completing a degree, a 5k race, or a good book.

First we admit in our heart of hearts it’s something we sincerely want.  And then we move toward it.  Sometimes we fail for a week, a month, a year, a decade.  And then we come back, circle the fire.  Our lives are not linear.  We get lost, then we get found.  Patience is important, and a large tolerance for our mistakes.  We don’t become anything overnight.” – Natalie Goldberg, The True Secret of Writing

I’d love to hear what you hunger for.  Share if you dare in the comments below.