As a child I was impossibly stubborn. There was a day in Kindergarten where our class went to the airport and they were taking all the kids up for a ride in a tiny four-seater plane. And I decided that there was absolutely no way I was getting in that thing. While I remember the day so clearly, I have zero recollection of my rationale behind not wanting to fly. However I do recall my unflinching tenacity in sticking with my decision: I refused to get in the plane, no matter how much cajoling my teachers did, not even when they told me I could have the coveted front seat. I even remember feeling my hold beginning to soften with that one, maybe it would be worth it, since everyone was going to so much trouble to tell me how great it would be, and I could even have the best seat! But NO. I had decided I wasn’t doing it, and nobody was going to change my mind. I never got in the plane.
Fast forward 30 years and I retain very few of the qualities that stubborn and unsmiling child embodied. For better or for worse, I’ve grown up, and I’m no longer as impossibly stubborn as I used to be. In fact, I often find myself being far too flexible, and my decision-making skills are rather insubstantial – I can be coerced into almost anything by anyone charming and persistent enough to try.
While I don’t believe pig-headed stubbornness is a valuable life skill, I do think that decision-making should be simple, definitive, and not lead to sleepless, anxiety filled nights.
A friend recently lent me some books, including “You Are A Badass” by Jen Sincero. I really didn’t think there would be anything new or exciting for me in this book, since I’ve read everything I can get my hands on by amazingly insightful authors such as Brené Brown, Danielle LaPorte, Pam Grout, and dozens of others. To my delight I found this book to be a fantastic amalgamation of many ideas and tenets I’ve been embracing. There’s a wicked little chapter called “The Almighty Decision,” which I think really hits the nail on the head.
So often, we pretend we’ve made a decision, when what we’ve really done is signed up to try until it gets too uncomfortable.
I TOTALLY DO THAT. I sit on the fence for ages. I ask people on both sides how the grass is. I reach over and wriggle my toes around to see how it feels. Eventually I’ll climb down onto one side, but rarely do I let go of the fence, I keep my hand on that wooden post just in case I see something exciting happening on that other side and need to scramble back over. Sure, sometimes I get enjoyment from both worlds, but most of the time I miss out on the best that either side has to offer because I’m holding too damn tightly to the fence to go out and enjoy frolicking in the meadow.
“I’m a terrible decision maker.” “Making decisions gives me anxiety.” I’ve said both of these things, frequently and repeatedly. It’s time to stop. It’s time to start saying, “I’m a great decision maker!” It’s time for me to actually BE a great decision maker.
I wrote about making the decision to quit my favourite job. How that moment was crystal clear and it was the only time I felt 100% confident that it was what I both needed and wanted to do. It would be amazing if every decision came with that amount of clarity, but it doesn’t, and I need to be able to make quick, decisive choices even when the answer doesn’t come ringing.
This is where we turn back to Jen Sincero, who talks about signing up fully, wanting it badly enough, and, as Winston Churchill said, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” Yep, ok, cool. Then she gets to the good stuff, the How To’s:
In order to do this you need to have the audacity to be honest about what you really want to do, not what you should do, believe it’s available to you regardless of any evidence otherwise, and go for it.
To decide means literally “to cut off.” No wonder so many people are totally freaked out by it! Indecision is one of the most popular tricks for staying stuck within the boundaries of what’s safe and familiar. Which is why a common trait of successful people is that they make decisions quickly and change them slowly. And by quickly I don’t mean that you must know exactly what to do the moment a decision presents itself (although there are those people who do), but rather that you immediately face the damn thing and start working through your decision-making process, whatever that may look like.
If you’re a waffler, or prefer to avoid the process altogether, a great thing to do is practice on the little things to build up your decision-making muscle. When eating at restaurants, make yourself pick something off the menu in under thirty seconds. Once you choose, you are unauthorized to change your mind or your order. Give yourself twenty minutes to go online and research the best garlic press and then make the purchase.
Decisions are not up for negotiation
The whole point of deciding is to stop wasting time and to move forward, NOT to spend time figuring out how you can wiggle out of your decision! It helped me to think of it this way: I’m not going to go home and negotiate about whether or not I’m going to smoke a cigarette just as I’m not going to go home and negotiate about whether or not to snort some horse tranquilizers. I don’t negotiate about snorting horse tranquilizers because I’m not a horse-tranquilizer snorter. Now that I don’t smoke, I’m not going to negotiate about smoking because I don’t smoke.
Whenever I asked all these hugely successful business owners what the secret to their success was, the overwhelming majority answered: Tenacity. Be the last person standing. Wear down your obstacles and excuses and fears and doubts..
GENIUS!!!!!! I never would have thought that you can practice things like being a better decision maker, but it absolutely makes sense.
She also gives an analogy of how birthing your dreams is like giving birth, and it’s pretty spot on. The entire book is worth a read. You can check her out at www.jensincero.com
As for me, I’ve learned that making definitive decisions brings peace and confidence. I’ve also learned that I can get better at making decisions. I no longer tell myself – or others – that I’m a rotten decision-maker. I don’t even tell myself what kind of person I want to be, I just try to be that person.
So when I’m feeling bored and snacky at work, and I’m tempted to sneak a few French fries from the greasy bowl under the heat lamp, I tell myself, “I’m not the kind of person who eats French fries at midnight.”
I think it’s important to remember that being a great decision-maker doesn’t mean you’re ever wrong, or that you never change your mind, it simply means that mistakes are merely learning opportunities, and that if a decision doesn’t feel right any more you give yourself permission to make a different decision.
Get out there and make some life-changing decisions, my friends!!by McKinnley
The energy that flows in and out of and around all of us.
Whether you acknowledge it or not, it is there, and whether you know it or not, you are influencing it. Once you’re aware of it, then you start seeing how it unfolds, and then you learn how responsive The Universe is, and how much she enjoys a good conversation.
A year ago I was working a job that wasn’t just a job, it was my home, my family, my heart, and a huge part of my identity. I’d been with the company for 5 ½ years and I loved it, I had no desire or plans to leave, and felt there was plenty of opportunity for me to remain with them for as long as I wanted. I’d been working in a new role, putting in long hours and a ton of energy, but despite my joy I was craving a break.
I started realizing this when chatting with customers and frequently many would mention being unemployed or taking leaves of absence, and every time I would sigh and respond, “Oh, you’re so lucky, that sounds delightful!” Unemployment generally isn’t something to be jealous of, but the thought of so much free time set off visions of relaxation, travel, and bliss somewhere inside of me. Even as I vocalized my envy, in my head I was aware, “Be careful, McKinnley, or else The Universe will listen, and you do NOT want to lose this amazing job.”
Fast forward a couple of months and a change in management began to drastically affect my workplace. Inexperience, unethical practices, and outright lies plummeted morale, and personally made me both angry and uncomfortable.
At lunch with a friend I talked about the turmoil at work and the emotional toll it was taking. I used her as a sounding board as I considered meeting with the CEO, or confronting the offending management, or taking a stand, or simply putting my head down and hoping it would pass.
Then she asked me, “What do you WANT to do?”
The answer came to my lips immediately, and I swear I could hear a ringing like a crystal bell inside my head. “I want a break,” I replied, surprised with the answer, and with the fierce desire behind it, and with the accompanying tears that flooded my eyes. I didn’t want to hash out nasty “He said She said” confrontations, I didn’t want to suffer in an unhealthy environment, I didn’t want to pour even more time and energy into something that had turned poisonous, no matter how much I had loved it. I had some money saved, summer was just around the corner, I knew I could get another job, and I knew that the absolute best thing for me to do was to take a breather, and then step forward onto an unknown path in the future.
I’m not one for rash decisions, but the ringing clarity of that answer felt so absolutely clear that I went home and drafted my resignation letter that afternoon, then submitted it less than 24 hours later. I never thought I would walk away from that job, and I never thought I could do it so quickly, but somewhere deep inside me I knew with 100% certainty that it was the right thing to do. I can’t remember ever feeling that clear about a decision. It was crystalline. It was magical.
Did it end up being an easy transition? Not in the least. Walking away from that workplace home and family was extremely difficult. Discovering how much of my identity was wrapped up in that company, and the subsequent grasping for a foothold as I created a new path was shocking and disheartening. Watching the place and people I loved so much spiral downwards for a time was heartbreaking.
Was it the right decision? Abso-frickin-lutely. I held onto that moment of clarity with faith and conviction. I thoroughly enjoyed my summer of funemployment more than I ever imagined possible. I trusted that I would weather the shock with strength and come out the other side changed for the better and poised for success.
Now I know that kind of ringing can occur, and that I’m capable of making decisions based on trusting my instinct of what is right for me. That clarity doesn’t occur if you’re not in tune with yourself and The Universe, and so I constantly have to remind myself to stay clear and connected, but the places it can take you are amazing!by McKinnley
“I just know that this is what I’m supposed to be doing. I can feel it in every cell of my body. It feels like it did when I started painting – it doesn’t necessarily make sense, and may not be the “right” timing, but none of that matters.”
Sam is one of the most incredible people I’ve ever met. She’s brave and vulnerable and intense and open and her life is ALWAYS exciting. That doesn’t mean she’s never scared or overwhelmed or that she doesn’t have to work hard or communicate better, it just means that she DOES THE WORK, and it always leads her where she needs to go, into increasingly beautiful moments and experiences.
We talked about that feeling of knowing you’re on exactly the right path. It doesn’t necessarily happen often, but when it does, it’s unmistakeable.
“It’s like choosing one of a dozen glasses. They are of varying sizes and shapes, some are more appealing than others. Some seem better suited to everyday water glasses, but you worry they are too boring and practical, others are gorgeously ornate but you worry they might sit preciously on the shelf. You look them over, you pick them up, you run your fingers over the etchings, you pour liquids in and out, you take sips. Sometimes you don’t do any of that, you just choose one on a whim. And then one day you tap one of the glasses, and it rings. And you realize that glass isn’t actually glass, it’s crystal, and it’s exactly what you’ve been looking for.”
Once you’ve heard the ring of the “right” thing, and felt it vibrate through your being, there is no mistaking what it means, and you learn to seek it out. There isn’t always a crystal glass in the midst of your choices, sometimes you simply have to choose a glass and one will likely be as good as another, but when you strike crystal, there is absolutely no other choice.
As for me, I’m not a great decision maker. I tend to overanalyze my options, and I often have “buyers remorse” once I finally do make a decision. I suppose it can be an asset to see both the pros and cons in almost any situation, but I’m learning that there is strength and peace in quickly making definitive decisions.
Hearing the “ring” can make decision-making easier, but you can also train yourself to become better at making decisions. I’ll tell you about both…..by McKinnley
It’s Sunday evening, although it’s so bright and warm it still feels like afternoon, and I’m laying in my hammock, one arm behind my head, my Tibetan prayer flags waving in the breeze, my iPad balanced on my belly. I’m reading a novel, chosen almost at random and downloaded from the public library – I love technology! and a phrase jumps out at me:
“Our mouths were sticky from red wine and salty duck…”
I’m not a fan of overly descriptive writing just for the sake of being overly descriptive, but this partial sentence – to me – was absolutely perfect.
I clicked off my iPad (this is one instance where technology is somewhat lacking, it would have sounded so much better to say “I closed my book,” and it would have felt much more satisfying in deed..) and closed my eyes, letting those 10 words tumble through my consciousness. The simple imagery they convey, of red lips slick with grease, the tastes of rich meat, crisp skin, velvety wine, the carefree stickiness remaining after a meal eaten in total enjoyment and satisfaction.. Just 10 words, which also encompass joy, passion, connection, and simple pleasures.
Beautiful, truly beautiful.
But sometimes life really is like that, so purely, exquisitely descriptive, and yet so deliciously simple at the same time. Today has been one of those days: I woke up early, without an alarm, to a sky that was clear and already sunny. I stretched and sweated my body through a yoga class, then headed to a café where I sat – side by side, knees and thighs and hands touching – and talked with one of the most caring and inspirational friends I have.
Walking in my front door was itself a pleasure, since my sister and brother-in-law are out of town, leaving me with the house to myself; as someone who’s never lived alone, there’s something so indulgently delightful about stepping into my home, knowing that everything is exactly where and how I left it, knowing that the silence will remain unbroken until I choose to break it, and knowing that the space is completely my own for that bit of time.
I went out to the garden to add some more soil – marveling at how very black it was – to the potted tomatoes, and to use my new, red, watering can – a gift. The sun was warm, but the shade cast by the apple tree cooled my yard to the perfect temperature. I wandered back and forth, enjoying the grass under my bare feet, the distinct, sun-drenched scent of the tomato plants, the slight giddiness of all the vegetable sprouts popping up in not-quite-perfect rows. I sauntered past the lilac bushes, inhaling their heady aroma, then wrapped my hands around a branch of the apple tree and lifted my feet so I dangled off the ground.
My handsome man appeared just as I dropped back to earth, and I greeted him with a very long kiss. His lips were incredibly soft – as always – and tasted faintly of vanilla and mint.
Do days get better than this??
He and I walked and talked, hand in hand. We spontaneously met up with a couple of beauties to enjoy a beverage on a patio, we cooked, we ate, we played.. And there was the hammock, the evening breeze, the novel..
..And the thought that it’s not often I get a day where I don’t have to work, or do any work, or think about work, and how truly amazing that feels. And then the thought that I also don’t have to work tomorrow! Two days, in a row, completely free, unencumbered by work, or any other pressing matter, the idea almost makes me giddy. And THEN realizing that in just four days I won’t have to work at all, I’ll be completely, blissfully FREEEEEEE.. That made me giddy for reals.
#8. I don’t need anyone else to complete me.
I’m rather independent, always have been. I don’t remember ever running to my Mom for comfort, I never got home-sick, I’ve been on my own since I was 18 – paying my own bills, doing my own laundry, taking care of myself. Sure, I’ve been lonely at times, and my life wouldn’t be complete without my friends and family, but I march to the beat of my own drum, with confidence. I may have been (still be?) stubborn, serious and shy, but I’ve never been clingy.
When my ex moved out 16 months ago I was surprised to realize that the thing I missed most was the codependence. Having someone around to share a meal with, to chat about my day, someone who would run to the grocery store with me, someone to play a game of Crib with and then snuggle up on the couch. I missed sharing my life. Cohabitating was actually one of my favourite things about that relationship, and I was broken when I lost it.
Fast forward to a year later and I’m finally comfortable again. I love being able to come in late at night, turn the light on in the bedroom, and read in bed for as long as I like. I’m delighted about not having to confirm my whereabouts and daily activities with anyone. I like making last minute plans, or no plans at all, or changing my mind and making different plans – because I can. I’m happy to spend my rare evenings off of work with my girl friends and boy friends, without feeling any guilt or pressure about ditching a partner. I enjoy eating dinner at 8pm. Or 5pm. Or having a bowl of popcorn at 9pm and calling that supper. My life is my own, well, except for Quinn, she demands feeding every 7 o’clock, but she’s a really good snuggler so I keep her around.
My life is full, and I am happy, comfortable, and doing whatever I damn well please whenever I damn well please – and the things I do are exciting and glorious and fill my spirit with joy. Complaints? None. I’m comfortable in my skin, I’m pleased with the choices I’ve made, I’m thrilled with my day to day existence. Is there a piece lacking? Not that I can tell.
However, this doesn’t mean I’m not looking for Love. Yep, Love with a capital L. Come on, who isn’t?! I REALLY like holding hands, like a lot, and even though I can sometimes coerce my sister into holding my hand, I rather prefer not having to resort to alcohol or music festivals or bribery for a little hand on hand contact. So I guess that means I’ve gotta find Love.
And love I’ve had, in spades. I’ve been incredibly lucky/blessed to have dated some amaaaaaaazing people. Truly, amazing. The things I’ve learned, the fun I’ve had, the connections I’ve made – how does one girl get to have so much awesome in her life?! But no matter how much I enjoyed them, the thought of giving up even one iota of my freedom completely freaked me out. You want to spend another night? You want to keep what in my fridge? You want me to make plans how far in advance?!
Then, out of the seeming blue, along came Someone. Yep, a special Someone, who I wanted to make all the plans with. Who I was coercing into staying another night. And another. Who I immediately set up with their own toothbrush, and subsequently wondered why they hadn’t started keeping extra contact solution under the sink yet. Who I invite along everywhere. Who I can spend 8 solid hours talking to, yet feel completely comfortable spending a day apart from. Huh. Cue the anxiety? Nope. Cue the second guessing? Nope. Cue some sort of drama, internal or otherwise? Nope nope nope. Huh.
Who knows where we’ll end up, this Someone and me. Maybe we’ll part ways in a month, or maybe we’ll be inseparable for the next 28 years. I dunno. And I’m not that concerned, to be honest. Right now is fan-freaking-tastic, and that’s all that matters to me.
But does he complete me? HELL NO!! For him to complete me, we would have to assume that a piece of me is missing. That some integral part of my life was flawed or gaping open until he came along to fix it up.
My life didn’t – and doesn’t – require fixing or finishing. Is he amazing? Yup. Do I want to spend time with him? Always. Does he make me want to be a better person? He inspires me every single day. However, my happiness hasn’t increased since he entered my life, it’s just stretched around to fit him in.
And you know what? I would venture a guess that one of the reasons he likes me is because my life is so full of awesomeness. Here’s a little secret: One of the (many) reasons I like him is because his life is pretty awesome too. I don’t feel like I’m filling any holes. I don’t feel any pressure to say or do or be anything other than me. I definitely don’t feel like I have to make him happy, because we’re both already happy. And I really enjoy having his happy around my happy.
( http://www.marcandangel.com/2015/02/04/9-things-you-should-be-able-to-say-about-your-life/ )by McKinnley
What if you were at a store, picked up a scrub brush for doing the dishes, and the price tag said $12? Seems slightly outrageous, right? Ok, what if the scrub brush looked like a punk rock dude, who’s mohawk tackles your dishes?? And you just know that every time you see him chilling by your kitchen sink you’re going to grin.. Now does $12 seem worth a little extra mojo in your kitchen???
Generally, I’m not a big “stuff and things” person, I’d rather save my money, then spend it on experiences rather than fancy toys or designer clothes, just my personal preference. But I’m also not opposed to putting my money where my heart is.. and if a $12 punk rock scrub brush is going to make me legitimately happier than a $1.50 generic scrubber, then I’m in no way opposed to dishing out the cash. Sometimes a little extravagance is 100% justified.
Like on this guy:
So there I was, 28 years old, leaving my boyfriend, my job, my hopes of being an actor, to drive across the country in my ’88 Nissan Stanza packed with all my worldly belongings, to a city I swore I’d never live in again, to share a 2 bedroom apartment with my (very generous) sister, go back to school, find a new job and, for all intents and purposes, start a new life.
Totally overwhelming, but for some weird reason I felt light. Hopeful. And I remember giving myself a very clear mental talking to: “McKinnley, if you’re going to be 28 and single and living in a new city and starting over again, you need to say yes. To jobs, to opportunities, to dates, to friends… Just say Yes.”
And so I did. I said yes to my first office job. I said yes to activities. I said yes to baby showers. I said yes to parties and hang outs and concerts and movies. I said yes to dates. I told myself I would go on a date with anyone who was nice, brave enough to ask, and who wasn’t totally creepy. I even said yes when it was -30C and it meant leaving my warm house, scraping ice off my windshield, bundling up in a zillion layers, and driving 25 minutes while scraping ice off the inside of my windshield! (The Stanz wasn’t the most comfortable of vehicles by that point in her life)… and then repeating the process later to return home.
Ok, so saying Yes may seem like the opposite of being proactive, but it’s really just another side of it. I realized that being near my sisters, going to school, being a new face in certain places and getting a new job would all inherently bring new people and situations into my life, I just needed to be both brave enough and open enough to say yes. To everything. Sure, someone else was doing the asking, but saying yes definitely required me to DO, because I had to follow up on whatever I’d agreed to! It would have been a heck of a lot easier and more comfortable to say No sometimes, but that wasn’t in the game plan.
Because I was saying yes so often, it wasn’t long before I started becoming a lot more confident in being the one to initiate.
Much to my surprise, I began hosting Sunday night dinner parties. It was surprising because it required me to make plans, invite people, make sure everyone got along and enjoyed themselves, and also cook! None of those were skills that I was inherently blessed with, in fact every single one of those tasks were things that at one point would have given me serious anxiety.
But my secret weapon was a really good friend I’d made. It turned out that she and I made a great team, which helped both of us meet a lot more people and do more cool things than either of us likely would have done on our own. She had a beautiful loft apartment that I never wanted to leave, so it only made sense to try and find excuses to spend more time in it – it was perfect for dinner parties. Plus I was meeting so many people from different areas, but I wanted to start hanging out with more than one person at a time – hello, dinner parties! And because I was inviting people that I truly enjoyed, it only made sense that they would also enjoy each other, so it became less about worlds colliding and more of a merger. Add to that the fact that my friend was a brilliant host, which left me free to scrape together the food and just enjoy myself, while she focused on the guests and their comfort. Her being there to smooth things over definitely made me feel a lot more comfortable and confident in having those Sunday dinners.
If you’ve never hosted a dinner party, it’s an adventure I suggest you try. There’s something about being in someone’s house, eating food they’ve prepared for you with their own hands, and sitting around their table with no distractions that really brings a quicker and stronger sense of connection.
So if you’re one for taking notes, Friend-Making Lessons Number 3 and 4 are as follows:
SAY YES!!! (Duh)
And Find Someone To Tag Team With. Maybe it’s someone you’ve known forever or perhaps it’s someone you’ve just been introduced to, but they’ve got a skill you’re a little bit jealous of. Utilize them and their skills, and pretty soon you’ll both have double the fun and double the friends!
I have a few more India and Nepal travel thoughts and tales still to post, but last week I took a little break and skipped off to Hawaii, so let’s talk about that.
Hawaii. Amazing. It was exactly what I needed. I love it when that happens.
March 11 I posted to my Facebook:
“Today. I’m so perfectly, blissfully content. I haven’t been this happy in months.”
A friend private messaged me: “Not to be rude, but were you not just traveling a bit ago? How could that be not happy?”
I wasn’t offended, in fact I was glad he’d asked: “Yes I was in India and Nepal a few weeks ago. It was an interesting trip, but sometimes cultural travel is more of an experience than a fun time. It was good, don’t get me wrong, but yesterday was filled with perfect weather, amazing food, a gorgeous hike through the forest and up a mountain to a spectacular view, a really cool fish market, tasty drinks, a fun game, lounging by the pool and some of my very favourite people ever.
I was comfortable and excited and peaceful all at once. I wasn’t lonely. I was doing exactly what I wanted and needed to be doing
The past few months have been stressful and sad and lonely… There have been good moments, but yesterday was ALL good moments, and it was very needed.”
Funny, but I didn’t realize how just OK I’d been, until suddenly I was deliciously, delightfully happy. Not that I’ve been unhappy.. The past 6 months have been tough and stressful, but I was never depressed to the point of not seeing the light, of not being able to laugh or appreciate how very much I have.
Comfortable. Excited. Peaceful. It had been awhile since I’d felt any of those things, let alone all three at the same moment.
I almost didn’t go to Hawaii. I’d only been home from my big travel for three weeks and I was just getting settled back into my cozy home life. I was doing lots of yoga and just getting my vibe (and flexibility) back after 5 weeks off. I was going to miss my drum class and a couple of practices, which really bummed me out. And work was cra-cra-craaaaazy. I didn’t see how I could leave again, nor did I want to. But, my plane ticket was already booked, so on Sunday, March 9, I got home from work at 1:45am, 15 minutes later it was 3am (thank you Daylight Savings), I haphazardly packed my suitcase then fell into bed for less than 2 hours of sleep before heading to the airport. Phew.
And then suddenly I was enveloped with perfect 23 degree sunshine, surrounded by some of my very favourite people, and spending my days doing only things I love: hiking, surfing, walking down the beach, yoga, checking out new places (the North Shore!!), playing games, reading, laying by a pool, having great conversations, cooking.. The time was busy, but completely relaxed. It was EXACTLY what I needed, and I’m so glad I went.
Back home again, the buzz has worn off a bit, but like any good drug, I’m chasing that high. I feel my best when I’m up early, accomplishing a lot, spending time in nature, and connecting with people. I can’t do much about the weather here, or the lack of surf, but I can focus on doing things that make me feel comfortable, excited and peaceful. Like drum circles. Planning dinner parties. Buying new books (E-Squared – Nine Do-It-Yourself Energy Experiments That Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality). And daydreaming about owning a surfboard, and only brushing my hair once a month.
There are always ups and downs.. It’s nice to hit a solid up though!
What feelings do you want to chase a little more in your own life? Tell me in the comments – I love conversations and connecting!by McKinnley