Setbacks and setups

Zaimu Challenge

A wise person once said,

A setback is just a setup for a comeback.

Now, I didn’t really have a setback, and I’m not looking to come back from (or to) anything. But I heard this phrase in my head as I got myself in gear late this evening.

Today was sort of a bust as far as productivity goes. Because of my work schedule, my Mondays are usually pretty streamlined and predictable. But because I didn’t set myself up for success last night, I paid for it in lost opportunities.

I’m up later than I’d like to be, but I am syncing my Garmin to be ready for my run tomorrow. After that, I’ll mix my endurance formula and lay out my running gear. There are a couple more things I need to do to get my projects ready to hit full stride first thing, and then it’s off to sleep for early rising (4:45am).

 

In progress

Running Buddha, Temple Building, Zaimu Challenge
Ajee’ Wilson

Today I ran another 4 miler. I don’t generally run two days in a row, but rain is forecast for tomorrow, so I had to get it in.

I had modest goals – namely maintaining yesterday’s performance with the addition of a slightly faster warm up mile.

To my surprise and delight, I crushed it.

I pushed the warm up mile and was progressively faster on all miles thereafter. I even dropped my average pace by 30 seconds.  That’s pretty shocking, and in truth, I hit my target. As in, what I expected to be doing after a couple of weeks of effort.

Next steps? Keeping this up long term, and not just as a quick trick a couple of days here and there. I’m still taking breathers on mile four, so I’ll also plan to build endurance for speedier runs.

I’m excited to see my mind and body work together to create an outcome. This is one of the things I most appreciate about running. It shows me I can visualize and enact things in the real world.

Now to apply this to projects in progress…

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Read about Ajee’ at the 2014 Penn Relays here.

Keep on keepin’ on

Running Buddha, Zaimu Challenge

Today I woke up on time, then promptly fell asleep.

I strive to wiggle out of bed around 4:45, but this morning’s rain gave me permission to push that back. Since I couldn’t run as I intended, I slept instead.

Despite the extra sleep and snuggling with my boo, I was still sleepy throughout the day. I blame the rain and subsequent clouds. I perked up later on when the sun won out.

Allyson Felix

Reminding myself of yesterday’s victories, I scheduled and scored some today by eating a frog early and then making my way through some easier, yet still dreaded, tasks.

I also planned my approach to an ongoing project so I can stop making excuses and gain momentum. There are still a couple of things left to do before calling it a day, but I can claim today’s W already.

What are you doing today to ensure tomorrow’s success?

Difficult, possible

Zaimu Challenge

Today I had plans and stuck with them. This isn’t always the case.

Some days I jump right to work with no plan, and other days I have a plan but never commit to it.

These are bad ideas, and  yet human nature, decision fatigue, and/or any other number of life events sometimes make it difficult for me to use the tools that work best.

Difficult, but by no means impossible. It’s time to stop letting difficult win.

Every now and again I remind myself of some of the most productive years of my life, the early 2000s when I taught elementary school. I was relentless with my planning and execution, my organization and classroom management. Things ran like clockwork, and the momentum was enough to keep me going to the next round. Working this way was not a chore. It was fun. In 2013, I wrote about this noting:

I’ve long since left the classroom, but I’ve found that, to the degree I prepare the night before (cleaning, planning, organizing materials, etc.), I can expect a high-energy, productive day. One wonders why I don’t do this all the time. I’m writing this post as a reminder to do just that.

Here I am again, writing this as a reminder to myself… Take a few minutes, plan ahead, and commit to one small victory each day.

Get ‘er done!

Zaimu Challenge
Dig deep. Get ‘er done!

Sometimes the day just slips away. Or the hours of the day more specifically. Today was one of those days.

I can’t exactly say I was productive – at least if we’re only considering deliverables or output. Simply put, I don’t have products to show for my time.  But I do have mental space cleared and three project plans in the works.

Moreover, I updated my goal list, transforming it to include bigger, yet more concrete goals. I even changed the name, now calling it a Victory List.

We’re nearly halfway done with 2016. It’s time to get it cracking! How are you doing on your 2016 goals? What will you do to make them reality?

Getting Free

Personal Narrative

It’s such an amazing feeling – freedom. Freedom from my own thoughts of limitation. Freedom from an old path. Freedom from what no longer serves me.

I’ve felt this freedom in recent days, swelling in a joyful crescendo this evening. To celebrate and reaffirm my recent decisions, I started tossing and recycling items long outdated. Tomorrow I get to cart them away.

There’s new space in my garage where anchors used to be. There’s new energy and mental clarity where there was once clutter and dread. It’s wonderful.

Embracing my true self.
Embracing my true self.

Even an individual at cross purposes with himself is certain to end in failure. Yet a hundred or even a thousand people can definitely attain their goal, if they are of one mind. ~Nichiren

Although many quote this passage from Many in Body, One in Mind to highlight the second half, I reference it most often for the first. More than once, I’ve found myself wavering about a decision. I have clear thoughts about where I want to go, but take steps at cross purposes with my own desires. It’s like stepping on the gas and the brake the at same time. You don’t go anywhere, and if you do, it’s a jerky, unpleasant experience.

It’s liberating to choose life over fear. Now it’s time to be who I’ve always said I wanted to be… 

Next steps

Personal Narrative
sesimbra sidewalk
Nic taking steps in Portugal.

I long held on to something that was once a good stepping stone and source of support but it turned into something… much less productive. After a couple of years it became a crutch. And over the past few months, and most clearly the past couple of days, I realized it was more like an anchor.

In Nichiren Buddhism, once you realize you’re in a less than ideal situation, you seek to understand your role in it. You take responsibility and try to transform it. Hendoku iyaku, or changing poison into medicine, is a powerful approach. But it doesn’t work if you try to transform the wrong thing. You can’t change other people. You can only change you.

I’ve felt stagnant and frustrated for quite some time, but ultimately, I was allowing an external situation to weigh me down. I was the one holding on, and in effect, creating my own stagnation. My outlook and resulting actions were the poison I needed to change.

And so, Thursday, I resolved to let go. And Friday, I started the wheels in motion. Today I am overjoyed, looking forward to next steps.

On Mission

Productivity

You will not find your mission by standing still. The only way to find it is by challenging yourself in something – I would almost say it does not matter what. Then by making consistent effort, the direction you should take will open up before you quite naturally, just as wide, new horizons open up before someone walking up a hill. Little by little you will come to understand your mission. That is why it is so important to have the courage to ask yourself what it is that you should really be doing right now, at this very moment.

It is likewise important to set your sights high. The greater the tasks you chose to take on – one step at a time – the more rewarding and joyful your life will be. A person with a strong sense of mission is a source of light. For such a person, there is no darkness in the world.

– A Sense of Purpose in A Piece of Mirror by Daisaku Ikeda

Departing Aspen, the view from my airplane window.
Departing Aspen, the view from my airplane window.

Two days after my 41st birthday, I ventured to Aspen, Colorado. I had never visited the state, nor participated in a Socratic seminar. Most of the texts we digested in preparation for the week-long session were “classics,” yet foreign to me for one reason or another. In more ways than one, the experience was an education.

Although I wrote primarily of the texts and our conversations around them, I also made heartfelt connections. Several of the women stand out, and two of them left me with words of encouragement related to mission. I spoke with them separately and about very different things, yet their guidance was quite similar. Although I “know” what they shared, it was a warm nudge and a great reminder to take action. Do the work, don’t just think about it, or wonder about it. Don’t just dream it. Live it.

If you discover an idea in a moment of inspiration, that’s your story to tell. Tell it! ~Stevie Kallos

Hermana, we are in this world together to create the opportunities that matter. ~Lisette Nieves

In short we all have something to contribute – something to do. Not only that, we don’t have to walk that road alone. Allies are nearby if we are open to them.

So it’s Monday, which is a great day for beginnings. It’s time to get moving. What is your work? How will you be productive this month, this week, this day?


Here’s the round up from the series:

  • The Aspen Seminar. Things get underway this evening and I plan to document my experiences while I’m here.
  • Opening. We just concluded the opening session of the seminar. We’ll be here another six days so there’s a lot in store.
  • First Full Day. Today’s session was on human nature. Our readings included Aristotle, Hobbs and Darwin.
  • Toklat. Today’s readings investigated individual rights and liberty.
  • Three Poisons. In Nichiren Buddhism, the three poisons are greed, anger and foolishness.
  • Over the Hump. Our morning focus was equality and social welfare. Notably today also featured poetry, fiction and writings from women.
  • Antigone. Perhaps the highlight of the day was our late afternoon performance of Antigone.
  • Leading from Within. Today was the closing session of the Aspen Seminar.

On puzzling

Personal Narrative, Productivity

crowd pleasersSo we puzzle. The kids are gifted puzzles for birthdays and what have you, and the four of us sit around at various intervals and piece them together.

Our latest enterprise? Tour de la Tour, a 1000-piece Crowd Pleasers that features countless bikers who are dressed alike and are engaged in sometimes similar, oftentimes strange activities. This puzzle is sort of challenging, yet also sort of easy because many of the pieces have tell-tale images:

  • A small red bell on a bike that’s otherwise the same as all the other bikes.
  • A black shark fin in a stretch of sandy pathways.
  • A dark sheep in the middle of all the ivory ones, and so on.

I’ll have to admit, this puzzle has drawn me in more than the others we’ve done so far. Perhaps more than the others, all at once, the eyes no longer cooperate. Suddenly you simply can’t find the edge of that yellow brim on that rounded edge even though you’re sure it’s somewhere “over there.”

The smart ones walk away, and do something else for a while. Perhaps housework or homework or work work. And as you return to consider the puzzle once again, the edge of the yellow brim practically leaps into your hand, as do those other three pieces you saw but didn’t recognize during your last round at the table.

Creation is like that. Or doing anything that requires serious engagement. Sustained focus is helpful and even necessary for some projects or tasks (or conversations), but there comes a time when too long on task leads to diminishing returns. It’s helpful to take a break in the action, put some distance between you and the activity and returned refreshed, ready for a new perspective. And in fact, when I’m working, I’ll often turn to puzzles to clear my head, shift my thinking, or change my energy levels.

What about you? Do you enjoy puzzling? Are there any strategies you use with puzzles that you apply to daily life?

Free write

30 Day Blog Challenge, 30 in 30 April

I’ve set a timer for 5 minutes and I’m just typing stream of consciousness.

I had so many plans when I woke up, and I’ve been working through them, but, well, you know how it goes sometimes. A few interruptions here, a fire to put out there, and it seems there’s been a lot of busyness, but not as much business.

That’s fine. I can still check a few items off my list and create a clear plan of action for tomorrow based on what I accomplished today. And really, that’s the best you can do on any given day. Since the fourth agreement is “always do your best,” I can close out the work day in peace and look forward to a productive day tomorrow.

Me & Blue, after my 1st run in 2013.
Me & Blue, after my 1st run in 2013.

Speaking of tomorrow, I’m excited because I think time and weather are on my side. If I’m correct, I will run my first miles of 2014! I’ve missed running. And although I need a new pair of running shoes (I never really bonded with the old ones), it’ll be so lovely to get outside and get fresh air. Running is one of my favorite forms of exercise for many reasons, and I have some new goals/approaches in store for the running season. I’ll let you know how it goes…

Time up!